(…) Director and choreographer Nicola Hümpel thinks that a childlike faith in the possibility of a good life still exists today, even if God has no particular role to play in it. Her stage designer Oliver Proske asks: what does paradise look like? In Erfurt at the “Pèlerinages” Arts Festival, a bridge of clouds arches over the stage. The mobile rostrum placed underneath it for the apostolic choir of twelve singers can be taken apart to form an oriental gate that is reminiscent of airport security.
Even up there the fear of terrorists persists. An oriental gate is round. If you lie its two halves on the floor you have two rockers. God and his doubter, a certain Benedikt (like the Pope) rock away on them. Who the devil is God? The devil is a dancer, Yui Kawaguchi. God on the other hand loves to love. His opponent doubts it: “How should God have the faintest idea about love?” He is single, not even divorced. So Yui Kawaguchi hits the Chinese singing bowl until the church is empty. Rossini's faith is reflected in the excellently choreographed choir and in the passionate words of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo and O salutaris hostia, accompanied by two pianos and a harmonium and fervently conducted by Nicholas Jenkins.
It is above all a cheeky piece, and physical. Nothing is more inconceivable than the devil, whom Yui Kawaguchi depicts as a goblin of unbelievable agility. The valiant dancing of the countertenor Philipp Caspari – the big surprise – stands up so well against hers, it is as if it's not just the almightiness of God at stake, but also that of opera. For Nicola Hümpel, as for Sasha Waltz or Heike Hennig, there is no law against an oratorio being danced. It is the body, outlawed by the church and withstood from Rossini's time right through to the Depression, that celebrates the work in such a way as to send spiritual superstition straight to hell. To make it dance.
© 2011 Nico and the Navigators