Photo - Sebastian Bolesh
Sasha Waltz’s choreographic opera, Medea, brings together the storytelling power of contemporary dance and classical music to tell a timeless tale of isolation, desperation, passion, and murder – a story which has fascinated and haunted audiences throughout history.
With a low persistent piercing siren, the dramatic (and impressive) drop of the draped blood-red curtain, and the reveal of a stage empty except for bodies slowly writhing and rolling towards us, the quiet menace and foreboding which we expect of Medea was beautifully established.
The initially excitable opening-night audience was impressed, spontaneously erupting into delighted applause. However, as the monotony of the siren continued, a chorus of coughing reflected the tedium.
Sasha Waltz’s Medea was surprisingly bloodless – lacking in passion. From the spectacular start the performance descended into abstraction. The choreography provided an enjoyable visual display, with some beautifully crafted moving friezes and powerful images of wind, but often failed to enhance and intensify the telling of the story.
The music itself, written by Pascal Dusapin and performed ably by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under Marcus Creed, needed more of a crescendo into Medea’s madness. Heiner Müller’s text adaption captured Euripides’ simple poetry, but the function of opera, like dance, to enhance the spoken word was not exploited to its full effect. The score is sparse, and created an exciting and eerie sense of foreboding, a foreboding that was not fully realised. Soloist Caroline Stein cried and shrieked in her character’s dogged desperation, but was limited in her portrayal by the music. Stein is a statuesque figure on the stage, but the power of her character, of Medea’s story, was lost in all of those high notes.
The supporting singers, the soloist quartet (Claudia Bertz, Gesa F Hoppe, Åsa Olsson, Bettina Ranch) and the Vocalconsort Berlin, created some pleasing harmonies, but again were limited in their expression by the musical score. Their role as the Greek chorus, however, commenting on the action, was utilised to good effect as the action on the stage became a bit too ‘contemporary’ and confusing.
As I was leaving the theatre I heard a gentleman remark in puzzlement, as though he was expecting to feel differently, ‘I liked the curtain drop and the big industrial fans... but that was about it.’ This statement kind of sums it up. Sasha Waltz’s choreographic opera Medea was visually very pleasing, but amongst all the movement and tricks the story got a bit lost, losing its audience’s focus and fascination.
Sasha Waltz & Guests
Opera by Pascal Dusapin | Text by Heiner Muller
Choreography: Sasha Waltz
Venue: the Arts Centre, State Theatre
Dates: Fri 9, Sat 10 Oct & Mon 12 Oct at 7.30pm
Duration: 1hr 10min (no interval)
Tickets: Premium $195
A Reserve Full $150 / Groups (8+) $135 / Concession $112.50
B Reserve Full $120 / Concession $90
C Reserve Full $84 / Concession $63
Student (B & C Reserve) $25
Bookings: Arts Centre 1300 182 183 | www.theartscentre.com.au | Ticketmaster 1300 136 166 | www.melbournefestival.com.au
Performed in German and subtitled in English