Elisabeth Stöppler, what is the idea behind Ich geh unter lauter Schatten, the opening production of the Ruhrtriennale 2022?
Elisabeth Stöppler: Basically, this production revolves around the process of dying, the transition from this world into an afterlife or another sphere. We ask ourselves: Is this moment of dying only a brief moment from which we then wake up somewhere else? Or does dying and this transition actually begin much earlier in our respective life processes? Certainly depending on whether and how strongly we make ourselves aware during our lifetime that we are finite. Or whether we mainly try to live only in this very moment and suppress death as a fact. Whether we only live in this very moment or permanently confront death already describes two extremes in dealing with dying and shows how individual it is – which is why in Ich geh unter lauter Schatten we also tell the story of four women who dare the transition in the most different ways.
There will be compositions by Gérard Grisey, among others. Can you tell us more?
ES: The compositions by the spectral composer Gérard Grisey entitled Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil – Four songs to cross the threshold has become the centre of the project, both musically and in terms of content, around which we circle music by Claude Vivier, Iannis Xenakis and Giacinto Scelsi. In those compositions, Grisey has not only shows an incredible range of texts, but has also captured in sound a highly complex amplitude of the most diverse emotion, temperature, vision and longing, which originally had to be mastered by one singer and which we will now attribute to four singers, the main protagonists of our narrative.
What role does the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum play in this production?
ES: The Jahrhunderthalle Bochum in its gigantic dimension becomes a realm of shadows, similar to Limbo in Dante's Divine Comedy or Hades in Greek mythology. The four women descend into this underworld and act out their dying – which means for us that they die as they lived, because we deliberately do not draw a line there. This realm of shadows (represented by 12 choral soloists of Chorwerk Ruhr, a speaker and the musicians of Klangforum Wien) is diffuse, boundless, a vast nothingness. So we looked for a stage space that consists of nothing. And we dealt with the specific venue accordingly...
Hermann Feuchter: We try to incorporate the elements of the hall into our construction: Steel, iron, lattice. There will be four monumental footbridges for the four women, transit routes into the shadow realm that needs to be explored. Theatre can simulate this unimaginable, can manage to represent the state of this transition, of which we all know nothing. Through four women we show what touches us all: They walk the path that we all have before us, and which will be different for each of us. The metal struts of the footbridges are not theatrical decoration, not a stage set, but real, materialised directions on which people set out.
ES: If you look long enough, you might get the feeling that the hall is collapsing in on itself, that it is morphing out of itself into another dimension, like a perceptual disorder, a shift in perspective...
So this opening production of the Ruhrtriennale 2022 will be very special in many ways?
HF: It will be a demanding sound space all of its own, no question about that. There will be nothing routine about it, but in all areas, visually, scenically, acoustically, we will push the limits of what is possible, audible, visible. We want to try to create a singularity with this creation, which can only exist in this space at this location.
The music, when we engage with it, sets us in vibration. We are a part of it, all of us. And we dare to step into the unknown, into nothingness, into something completely new.
Ich geh unter lauter Schatten, from 11 August 2022, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum