Edouard Blau, Paul Milliet, Georges Hartmann after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Première on December 16, 2006 at the Nationaltheater
Thoughts, Image Ideas, Questions...
(from notes written from February 2005 to September 2006)
With (pseudo) realism and a complete historical ambience (be it 18th, 19th or 20th century) and visual milieu descriptions alone (as necessary as they are to tell this story) we will not get any closer to this piece... certainly not right down to the nitty-gritty. Many of these elements would just distract from it. The concentration on the characters (even the supporting parts) would interest me more! From the first moment on, we have to feel Werther’s status as an outsider... a foreigner... in this bourgeois world... the artist people admire because of his talent – yet keep their distance from him!
Perhaps Werther always needs his own dark section of the stage, his specific solitude, his isolation...? (He is restless, questing, self-banishing...) Perhaps we should have a table standing somewhere with his books, his notes, sketches and poems on it?
How can one create an abstract playing area for the mind-sets and conflicts of the protagonists – and still display the bourgeois idyll (Act I), the bourgeois society with its church attendance and anniversary celebration (Act II) and the bourgeois new home of the young couple on Christmas Eve (Act III)?
Everything necessary for an ambience in the initial acts must disappear in the last act! Charlotte removes herself from her world – steps into emptiness...
An ice-cold atmosphere!
The two alone in the emptiness!
How do I make the space for Werther more specific?
Meanwhile I’m back to the white light space darkening into blackness in the background (tent construction with indirect lighting) – combined with a diagonally positioned revolving disk.
What visual means to I need to generate Werther’s unmistakable, intimate situation space exclusively related to his character?
The attraction of Goethe’s letter novel, which must have fascinated Massenet, too – Werther’s manic-depressive tendency, constantly wanting to rephrase, write down, preserve everything keeps forcing itself on me as well, ... brings the kaleidoscope of varicolored bits of lettering, chaotic lines and drawings before my eye...
Why not write all over all the walls, the floor and the ceiling, filling them with Werther’s poetic sentences, despairing cries and oaths – scribble the widest variety of sketches all over complete with crossed-out passages – and thus expose the totally individualistic, intimate spiritual landscape of this man (this artist)?
Now Werther’s space, his area in the center is forcing itself on me. Where else can his table stand other than stage center? How can all the bourgeois scenes be arranged? I just happen to see a post card with Caspar David Friedrich’s lonely man on a mountaintop... that’s it!
I search for a meaning, then put it in the model... with Werther’s table and chair on it... there’s nothing more obvious than that! Up there in the “dizzying heights” is the only place Werther’s space can be!
Translation by Donald Arthur
© Bavarian State Opera