The quiet ribbon choreographic a-capella-opera review of Dr. Daniele G. Daude

The performance starts with two minimal gestures. Once a permanent silence has fallen over the room, the singing of “pianississimo” can gradually be heard. The barely audible, lengthy tones are created by one, two and three voices while their dynamic does not exceed the pianississimo. As all parties are singing in the midrange – i.e. from the high range of the bass-baritone to the low range of the mezzo-soprano, male and female voices blend together in a kind of homogenised cloud of sound. At this point (at the latest) one notices the role of the reverberating acoustics of the St. Johannes Evangelist Kirche. The piece works with the echo, waits for it, builds on it and breaks it. The first forte is performed by a mixed duet under the crossing, where the acoustic climax of the church space is used to its full effect. The second minimal gesture is a choreographic one: the singers very slowly awake from their stupor and the human conglomerate they formed at the beginning dissolves. Their movements gradually gather speed but then slow down again. Anyone trying to systemise the group’s movements will oscillate between two entirely opposite interpretations: are the figures’ movements random or are they acting according to precise rules, which nonetheless remain hidden to the audience? The question becomes superfluous as the performance continues, however. What is relevant here is not the discovery of hidden rules, but the volatility and fragility of a group set-up.The five singers move about in an area about 2.30 metres wide and 20 metres long, which corresponds to the space from the middle of the nave and aisle up to the crossing of the St. Johannes Evangelist Kirche. In the beginning, they form human conglomerates while the figures are alternatingly included and excluded. We witness a sequence of tableaux vivants that are both the result of the previous constellation and the basis for the following one. These images are therefore constantly ambivalent, fleeting and unstable. To get from one picture to the next, various switchover techniques are implemented, which consolidate the changes into the second fundamental choreographic element of the piece. Tension is built where the previous constellation has dissolved and the new one has not yet been formed. The singers sometimes walk, sometimes run, but there is no linear dramaturgy of speed. These sequences serve to structure time and space. The alternating deceleration and acceleration lend dynamic and rhythm to the performance. Besides group movements, the singers also move on their own, and thus each character is individualised. There are two highly contrasting figures that stand out but are not related to each other. The counter-tenor (Philipp Caspari) starts off the solo parts with an impressive performance made up of smooth turns, descents and sudden stretches that last a long time, and uses the entire space for it. Unlike the base-baritone (Philipp Mayer), whose solo consists of bending and stretching his legs, back and neck. When the movements of this figure take place in a much narrower space, the transitions are particularly determined and take up the entire space, so that these two figures stand for a very different way of using the space.

The music by Ruth Wiesenfeld (1972) may remind listeners of Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna at first, but the comparison is soon discarded. This by now not so unknown composer of contemporary music composed a flexible sonic framework in this piece, featuring lengthy notes, planned echoes and vocal distortions, which the singers can use in a very individual way for their theatrical activities. The music is therefore shown to its best advantage on stage. The striking transition from silence to sound in the beginning is exemplary of this, although the success of this delicate passage depends highly on the performance of the ensemble. One should keep an eye on the young choreographer Magda Korsinsky (1981), as she undoubtedly belongs to a budding generation of contemporary choreographers who do not adhere to any limits of genre.

The quiet ribbon
(premiere 2012), restaged on 15 and 16 March 2013

Idea/Concept/Choreography: Magda Korsinsky
Composition/Musical direction: Ruth Wiesenfeld
Composition/Choreography/Performance: Johanne Braun, Philipp Caspari,
Beate von Hahn, Philipp Mayer, Antonia Munding, Oliver Uden
Lighting design: Lutz Deppe
Costume design: Miriam Marto
Choreographic mentor: Jan Burkhardt


Johanne Braun (alto), Philipp Caspari (counter-tenor), Philipp Mayer (bass-baritone), Antonia Munding (mezzo-soprano), Oliver Uden (tenor),  www.opera&