3 Ekim 2014 Cuma
"Romeo, our contemporary Orfeo" / Peter de Caluwe
As for Rilke, Romeo Castellucci considers that "beauty is always at the source of the ugly, the terrible". Theatre is a laboratory for him to dissect our fears and emotions. He enables us to find the direct route to our most intimate secrets that all too often we wish to leave undisclosed. With Romeo as our guide, a bit like with Dante, theatre becomes a voyage through an unknown territory that is charming and frightening at the same time. As a visionary and a prophet, here - invents mythology and integrates it into our individual journeys. He is capable of changing our ways of looking at our lives and radically altering our vision on the human being and on society. Nothing seems to be more essential to me in our today's world.
I first was confronted with his work when seeing his intriguing Tragedia Endogonidia in de Singel in Antwerp in 2005, a house where he has been a loyal guest f or many years now. His project of Divina Commedia however filled me with even more excitement. It was clear that one day we would be working together. When I took over the Intendanz of La Monnaie and invited Christian Longchamp to be my dramaturg, we almost immediately came to speak about Romeo.
In the summer of 2008, witnessing the intriguing Parsifal as interpreted by Stefan Herheim in Bayreuth, I was so struck by the relevance of that project for the Wagner reception, its intimate relation with the history of the lieu and the essential role the piece has for Germany, that I suddenly, in a flash, got the idea to invite Romeo for a "Brussels" Parsifal. I hoped this combination would have the same effect and relevance as Herheim's interpretation had for Bayreuth: a tailor - made project for the Capital of Europe, for a population and a continent searching for new leadership and new recipes for living together in a multifaceted society. Romeo would surely offer us a radically humanistic approach, far from its Germanic context, stripped o f its reducing Christian message and open to the reality of a n ever - changing global society.
We took the step and simply asked Romeo if he would consider this. A couple of weeks later, he sent an sms stating "Parsifal é mio!". We cancelled the originally planned Stiffelio and went for Parsifal, a title you only mount when you have the right ingredients, a new vision, a new direction. The combination of Romeo as a novice with the true Wagner specialist that is Hartmut Haenchen laid the foundations for a major event. The path towards the creation was not easy. Romeo's demands, or let me call it "strong suggestions", are of a nature that could frighten many opera houses when confronted with them. The secret lies in listening to him narrating his vision, in his soft toned but convincing voice and typical mix of French and Italian, explaining the difference between the signifier and the signified, speaking about the "Mimesis" which is the central dramatic determinate for him - starting with a total tabula rasa and reinvent a radically new theatrical reality. My team got the message and the project was realised. I personally felt we could have done with two more weeks of preparation in order to fine - tune the three totally different acts, but the effect the show had on the audience and everyone involved was overwhelming. The Brussels Parsifal became an appeal for responsibility to each individual, for tolerance and empathy of the highest degree, a desire to regain a sense community , an essential basis for a peaceful and harmonic way of living together in today's world.
It was clear Romeo had to come back to La Monnaie to work on another project. Tristan, of course, another metaphysical piece, came to mind. But another Wagner title would have been too easy. Latera l thinking helped: one evening, walking along the canals in Bruges, I suddenly imagined what was for me the perfect Orfeo image - the immaculate reflection of the houses on the mirror still water. How would it be to see it from the other side, from below, from under neath the surface? The distortion of the image made me think of Romeo. The project was born. And again a couple of weeks later , an sms: "Orfeo è mio!".
But much sooner than on our first project, Romeo informed me of his thoughts. It was the most exciting challenge we had ever encountered and yet, I felt confident from the start. We wo uld find a way of realising his vision, even if it would require know how and follow up that I thought we did not have in the house. But as with Parsifal, the Orfeo & Euridice project managed to bring people together, and it continued to do so during the run, backstage, with the audience and within the wider community. Because of the sincere approach of Romeo, because of his sensitivity towards people and his very humble way of communicating, we found answers to all questions - humanly speaking that is. The process was intense; the encounters with doctors, ethical commissions families and patients that had to become part of the story telling were highly rewarding experiences. Technically, the project was yet another challenge which I cannot say we came to master in a perfect way. That is the other side of Romeo: he is convinced his ideas can work, he does not accept limitations. It upsets him if it does not or if it looks like one did not do the maximum to achieve the best through detailed preparation and technical perfection.
At some stage during the preparation, Romeo came with the proposal to include the Wiener Festwochen in the project. I was very pleased with that, but not entirely happy that the new intendant Markus Hinterhaüser already wanted the project for the first edition of his Festival in 2014, which meant that the premiere would take place in Vienna and not in Brussels. But we agreed that this ambitious artistic project needed another partner and a larger audience. Romeo ' s empathic message needed to be spread and it was suggested that we would go even further and bring in a third partner: Vienna could do the Wiener Fassung in Italian, Brussels the Berlioz version and the third partner (we had hoped for Ruhrtriennale) the Paris version for hautecontre. The project however ended in Brussels and it will remain like that. This is also typically Romeo: an experience of that intensity cannot be exploited or extended. It remains a fragment, a moment of intense reflection about our condition humaine.
Romeo is the perfect incarnation of the Renaissance man and therefor ideal for making opera today. But his work requires the right circumstances, the right context, the right audiences and evidently, the teams willing to go with his unbridled fantasy and ambition.
Romeo's spirituality comes close to what we consider to something in the realm of the angels, the gods... Mentally and physically, he is of an astounding beauty. With his purity, he discloses our soul, illuminates our brain. He is a bit of a San Francesco d'Assisi, a charismatic and unlimited source of inspiration, working like an arte povera artist in his wanting to achieve only the essential. The messages he conveys, initially through his own projects which he has been constructing himself from A to Z and more recently via opera and music theatre, are universal, his emotional impact has no borders - he is a true uomo universalis, one we dearly need in order to make ourselves and our societies go forward, if only to realise that we need not look for the energy and the solutions elsewhere but within ourselves.
Peter de Caluwe
General Director La Monnaie De Munt, Brussels