Opernwelt Yearbook 2010
Nominated as premiere of the year
For their deconstructed version of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, the Berlin opera group NOVOFLOT invited actors, two choirs, a free jazz quartet and an orchestra to fill the house from the ground floor to the attic and even outside in the grounds, with a full four hours of music. Out with Christmas cosiness, out with old listening habits which are dead to the religious earnestness, the jubilant calling of the “jauchzet, frohlocket” cantatas: this is the motto of the director Sven Holm.
Those who want to feast on the message of this work will feel it like a Bataillesque punch in the face: a radically disillusioned deconstruction. But one that is also highly delicate… They want heaven on earth, they want to live it, feel it, perhaps even force it. This explains the Brechtian stepping out of roles, this explains the unexplained ending, the absent apotheosis… Who says musical theatre can’t be entertaining?
In a tight space four solo singers and a group of instrumentalists convey salvation history in musical miniatures of contemporary emotion. Arias generate psychotic states in modern individuals. In a transparent building next door, two Berlin pupils perform recitatives that narrate the man-God relationship of the Christmas story, with sweaty-palmed passion.
The next time you hear the famous “jauchzet, frohlocket” it won’t just sound like a resplendent soundtrack to Christmas festivities, instead you will begin thinking about the authoritarian gesture of this call-up order with all its timpani and trumpets – is that not enough in itself?
This is not the Bach Christmas Oratorio as we know it. Out on the “deck”, the open terrace on the top of the Berlin Radialsystem, a group of children search rhythmically for the newborn King of the Jews. “Where, where, where is the newborn King?” On the far side of the Spree you spot a hut glowing red and a car with its headlights glaring. From out of the loudspeaker come murmurings of the Johannes Passion.
Boys choirs and sound collages, the chaos of free jazz and the composed order of the chorales, the closeness of the sound and the distant calm of Radialsystem open air – this Christmas Oratorio is nothing if not an innovative sound experience.
Brad Pitt’s favourite architects, three young opera revolutionaries and an innovative concept: NOVOFLOT stages Bach’s evergreen “Christmas Oratorio”.