In 2011, I was asked to create an exhibition for the Richard-Wagner-Stätten Graupa, one which would reach a broad audience and would make people aware of their new exhibition space – the Jagdschloss – in Graupa. I decided to focus on just one of Richard Wagner’s operas – the opera ‘Lohengrin’, which Wagner worked on in Graupa in the summer of 1846 – and to work with local schoolgirls to create a video about this opera for the exhibition.
Showing scenes of our working process, the video Mein lieber Schwan! Ein Wechselspiel mit Richard Wagners ‘Lohengrin’ depicts – in an entertaining and poetic way – the girls’ attempt to understand and to feel a connection to Wagner’s opera, and invites the viewers to do the same.
The project began with a workshop presented in cooperation with the Semperoper Junge Szene in Dresden. Students from two different high schools in Pirna were invited to participate. Afterwards, six of those students went on to work with me on this project.
During the rehearsals and filming sessions in the Lohengrinhaus / Richard-Wagner-Stätten Graupa, we worked together to develop various playful and imaginative responses to the opera, alternating between simply reacting to the music and following the mental images inspired by Wagner’s music and the tale of a knight called Lohengrin. I then used the footage of these sessions to present the story of this creative process.
We focused on the scene near the end of the first act of Wagner’s opera, when the knight makes his appearance: Lohengrin has come to Brabant to defend the young maiden Elsa, who has been accused of a crime. Not only is the scene thrilling, both musically and dramatically, but it’s one that has always delighted audiences. It has also always presented a challenge for each new stage production. For Lohengrin doesn’t simply come onto the stage, but rather enters the scene in a little boat being pulled by a swan! It’s a scene that’s magical, puzzling, peculiar, and yet at the same time simply wonderful.
The video was shown in a construction (images, right) that not only provided seating, but also played with contextual elements from the opera, and which I created together with the architect Roland Züger (www.kesselzueger.com).
MORE about the institutions involved: