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21/05/2007

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Monday 21 May, 2007

Wallenstein Premiere in Berlin

On Saturday, Peter Stein's "Wallenstein" performance premiered in a cold storage warehouse in the Neukölln district of Berlin. Stein has staged Schiller's trilogy is its ten-hour entirety with Klaus Maria Brandauer in the title role.

Gerhard Stadelmaier of the FAZ left the performance in high spirits and deeply moved: "Seven years ago, Peter Stein staged a 24 hour long 'Faust' with disinterested, loveless neutrality and technical mastery, without showing what interested him in Goethe's non-play. Now he's done 'Wallenstein', Schiller's endlessly better and more dramatic poem, out of interest – if not love - for the characters: it tells of tremendous fates, incredible happenings. His 'Faust' was something tepid, just above zero degrees. His 'Wallenstein' pulses, lives, shakes, has warmth and heat."

Matthias Heine, writing in Die Welt, saw a lot of running and waving around and heard Schiller's aphorisms being spoken with prude fidelity. He was annoyed from the outset by Stein's need to exhibit his learnedness. "It's rare for young people to be shown so clearly that education is not something that's available to all but rather a means of power with which established geezers hoard their advantages." But Heine reconciles: "Nonetheless, the prevailing feeling is one of happiness. Happiness to have been born in a rich country that can afford such creative expression. You don't, however, have to believe the propaganda of Stein and his followers that it's absolutely necessary to choose between 'director's theatre' and these kinds of text-faithful, church services to the classics."

Christopher Schmidt resented having to wait two hours for Klaus Maria Brandauer to make an appearance but, as he writes in the Süddeutche Zeitung, it was worth the wait. "Brandauer grabs the opportunity and the character by the neck and is immediately at the centre of it all (...) Brandauer knows exactly what he wants. First: to surprise. With his long leather coat and fatty long hair, this Hell's Angel looks like an old pirate, a beached Andrea Doria. With conciliatory spite and sparkling eyes behind the opaque visor of his character, he speaks clearly but with slightly oily vowels and presents an anarchist, a player who knows that it's not about winning but about life."

Likewise the Berliner Zeitung's Ulrich Seidler can't take his eyes off Brandauer: "He specialises in taking up space. He starts the great monologue of doubt ('Would it be possible? Could I no longer do what I wanted?) with his head lying on the table, then he screws himself off the stool and onto the ramp, stands with his back to the audience and then turns to face it: 'The word was bold because it was not the deed.' He sends his voice through all its registers, from squashed harrumphing of indignation to the hall-filling chest note of disgust. That's the great art of acting and exhibition, legitimised by a self-ironic rogue who demonstrates an unexpected humour in both the star of the stage and the military commander."


Saturday 19 May, 2007

Süddeutsche Zeitung 19.05.2007

Sonja Zekri has been to Chicago and visited the Saudi author Rajaa Alsanea, whose email novel "Girls of Riyad" has caused a furore in her home country. It's considered a minor sensation that the book made it through the censors, because much of what it relates about the attitudes toward life of young women in Riyad is otherwise not expressed in public: "There's so much you can read between the lines: the fears of castration and impotence that lie behind the morality police, the drive to control the female body that took on almost pathological proportions with the oil boom and urbanisation. She describes a permanently yet painfully aroused society where the young men are mostly big-mouthed sissies who stick their mobile telephone number on their cars for every passing girl, but then turn around and obey mummy, daddy and convention. 'Of course I'm harder on the men,' says Rajaa. 'They've got more possibilities, and so they bear the brunt of the blame.'"


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 19.05.2007

Julia Spinola hopes that Anna Netrebko, the opera diva with the "unwrinkled" voice now playing Manon in Berlin's Staatsoper, will soon start putting a little life into the characters she portrays: "Every time I see her perform, I'm irritated by the sensuous quality of her voice and the slick artificiality of her interpretations. Anyone who seriously compares Netrebko's performance at the end of the first act of 'La Traviata' with that of the young Maria Callas will never again agree with the fairy tale of the two divas' purported similarity. Because apart from all the evident differences of their vocal qualities, Netrebko's coloraturas are like a round of colourless social dancing compared with the limitless anarchic desire in Callas' cry of 'Gioir! Gioir'."


Der Tagesspiegel 19.05.2007

In an interview with Deike Diening and Frederik Hannsen, Anna Netrebko tells of the childhood of Russian opera singers. "We sang under the flag, in the pioneer camp, we stood at attention and saluted, we wore red scarves and we were always on the ready. But it was fun. There was nothing bad about it, nothing aggressive. We didn't know what had happened in the Stalin era, all we knew was that the future would be bright. Everyone would be happy, without distinctions between rich and poor. That idea was fantastic, regardless of anything else. And so were the songs."

Marius Meller objects to philosopher Jürgen Habermas' suggestion of state funding for the free press (more here): "In questions of morality, Mr Habermas, the key actor is the individual, not the 'system'. Already in the 80s you prophesied the downfall of democracy through private television, and you were wrong. I dearly hope that the gnostic schemata of good and evil that you so frivolously apply to liberalism and neo-liberalism will not become an ideology that will one day invoke you as its source."


Die Tageszeitung 19.05.2007

The exhibition "Kempowskis Lebensläufe" (Kempowski's lives), gathering among other things the archive material used by Walter Kempowski for his ten-part "Echolot" collective diary (more), started yesterday at Berlin's Akademie der Künste. Alexander Cammann is more than impressed: "The enormous abundance of material fills 500 metres of shelves, divided into three areas. The first is the classical, personal, literary archive: manuscripts, notes, letters, diaries, personal testimonies and objects. Then there's Kempowski's famous collection of private histories, or resumes, which grows continually and now comprises a wide assortment of 8,000 autobiographical documents. Finally there's the collection of photographs: 300,000 amateur photos show German everyday life since the middle of the 19th century. This practically boundless amount of material furnished the subject matter of Walter Kempowski's books. Even as a child he confessed to a strange desire when asked what he wanted to do when he grew up: 'I want to be an archive'."

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