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At the Beginning was La Fura dels Baus

What is probably the world’s most spectacular theatre company puts on Haydn’s »Creation«.

Nur wer Risiken eingeht, kann Neues schaffen

La Fura dels Baus

When La Fura dels Baus is performing, the audience can look forward to quite an experience. »You can only create something new if you take risks« is the motto this ensemble is committed to, in a manner more radical than almost any other theatre group. As part of the »Theater der Welt« festival, they present Joseph Haydn’s oratorio »The Creation« on 5/6 June in the Elbphilharmonie Grand Hall – with a home-made nine-metre crane, 36 huge helium balloons and a 1000-litre aquarium on the stage.

The Company

Time after time, the Catalonian theatre company La Fura dels Baus causes a sensation with its spectacular performances. Founded in 1979, the group originally attracted attention in street shows, before going on to achieve world fame with many large-scale projects and opera productions (among them Wagner’s »Ring«).

La Fura dels Baus: The Creation
La Fura dels Baus: The Creation © Claudia Höhne

In its live performances, the group forges eccentric links between music and theatre, acrobatics, technology and poetry. In 1992 it designed the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Barcelona with a production by Carlus Padrissa, while in Tom Tykwer’s film of the novel »Perfume« the group choreographed the wild mass orgy scene at the end of the movie.

The ensemble’s name La Fura dels Baus means »The Ferret of Els Baus«, inspired by a stream of that name that flows through the Catalonian town of Moià, where the group first saw the light of day.

The Work

In his oratorio »The Creation«, Haydn set the story of the creation of the world as narrated in the Bible to music. For the musical interpretation of such a weighty event, he chose to compose for a fittingly massive amount of performers: full orchestra, four-part chorus and three vocal soloists. The premiere in Vienna in 1798 was a major public event: interest in the new oratorio was so overwhelming that 30 mounted police were called in to restore order. The work was a huge success, and was soon playing to delighted audiences all over the world.

La Fura dels Baus: Die Schöpfung
La Fura dels Baus: Die Schöpfung © Claudia Höhne
La Fura dels Baus: The Creation
La Fura dels Baus: The Creation © Claudia Höhne

With »The Creation«, Haydn managed to produce a composition accessible to the wider public; a decisive factor in its success was the German-language libretto instead of the customary Italian: this meant that everyone could understand the text. Haydn also incorporated numerous onomatopoeic effects into the first and second parts of the oratorio, which enable the listener to follow the events that the libretto portrays.

Right at the outset, the composer depicts the »big bang« in music that contemporaries found nothing short of chaotic, even outrageous. Later on, there are flashes of lightning and thunderclaps, with rain drumming down and foaming waves. It wasn’t beneath Haydn to even use the different instruments of the orchestra to imitate typical animal noises.

The Production

Carlus Padrissa subjects the stage of the Grand Hall to a spectacular transformation in his production: a laser projector with an illumination of 31,000 lumens bathes the scene with all the singers and 36 helium balloons in bright light. Stage centre stands a crane nine metres high that lifts the vocal soloists aloft in the manner of a »deus ex machina«, and the crane is counterbalanced by a 1,000-litre aquarium showing the creation of life in a kind of huge test tube.

La Fura dels Baus: Die Schöpfung
La Fura dels Baus: Die Schöpfung © Claudia Höhne

Producer Padrissa creates two parallel worlds within this stage set. On the one hand he portrays the Creation process, from the Big Bang through the first blades of grass and twittering birds to the creation of Man, whose huge projected eyes look at the audience from the stage. On the other hand, the permanent presence of refugees represents original sin. While the world is created in the course of seven days, the asylum seekers flee from the chaos at the same time, running through storms, navigating the ocean in unsafe boats, resting in short-term camps and finally, on the seventh day, being admitted to the chambers of Adam and Eve.

La Fura dels Baus: The Creation
La Fura dels Baus: The Creation © Claudia Höhne

The music is provided by the French conductor and Harnoncourt pupil Laurence Equilbey and her own ensembles: the »Insula Orchestra« and the choir »Accentus«. They accompany three fabulous young vocalists: Sunhae Im, Martin Mitterrutzner and Daniel Schmutzhard.

More World Theatre

The performance of Haydn’s »Creation« is part of the festival »Theater der Welt« (World Theatre), which is put on by the International Theatre Institute ITI and is being held in Hamburg again for the first time since 1989. For more than two weeks, Hamburg will be a port for artists from all over the world celebrating the entire spectrum of the performing arts: acting, dance, performance and literature in interaction with art, film and music. The festival runs until 11 June and also features many other interesting events at Kampnagel, in the Thalia Theater, the festival centre »Haven« at Baakenhöft and various other locations.

www.theaterderwelt.de

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