Performance about the performance we’ve cancelled
Viva Verdi under the pretext that it is a protest deals with reasons what an artist should do and what for. On the sense of creating that which no one needs. On the nonsense of creating that which is expected. The performance created about artistic laziness, is a story that runs around questions whether it is possible to combine opera and performance and why this should be impossible.
“Via Negativa managed to connect the incompatible; a subtle analysis of sloth, Verdi and his opera with the physical and ideological unyielding of the performance.”
(VEČERNJI LIST ZAGREB, July 2006)
“Via Negativa showed exceptional theatrical nerve, energy, invention, imagination, demonstrating without restraints where the European theatre goes.”
(VJESTNIK ZAGREB, 3.7. 2006)
Conceived and devised by the group
Performers: Kristian al Droubi, Petra Govc, Barbara Kukovec, Marko Mandić, Barbara Matijević, Sanela Milošević, Katarina Stegnar, Dylan Tighe, Petra Zanki, Grega Zorc
Concept and direction: Bojan Jablanovec
Opera consultant: Ivanka Boljkovac
Arias from operas of Giuseppe Verdi Rigoletto, Nabucco, Il trovatore, Un ballo in maschera, La traviata performed at Eurokaz Festival by opera singers Ivanka Boljkovac, Dijana Hilje, Maja Mejovšek, Tvrtko Stipić, Vitomir Marof; a choir HNK Opera Zagreb and pianist Darjana Blaće.
Producers: Špela Trošt, Kornelija Čović
Production: Via Negativa, Kampnagel Hamburg, Eurokaz Zagreb, HNK Opera Zagreb, 2006
Co-production: Glej Theatre Ljubljana in &TD Theatre Zagreb
Support: Ministry of Culture of Republic of Slovenia and the City of Ljubljana
Premiere: 30 June 2006, Croatian National Theatre, HNK Opera Zagreb at the Eurokaz Festival Zagreb
According to critics of Ljubljana’s Dnevnik daily Best show of the 2006/07 season in Ljubljana.
Nataša Govedić: In Memoriam: Eurokaz(i)
Zarez Zagreb, 4 July 2009
Irmela Kästner: Self-Irony – A Sweaty Business
Die Welt Hamburg, 10 March 2007
Lovers of Italian opera would perhaps be shocked. Not that there was bad singing on stage, but some might understand the following vision as frivolous or as a violation of the established seriousness of opera: Nabucco, the chorus of slaves, the singers dressed in black and among them a tipsy clown rummaging for beer in a plastic bag. The Slovenian group Via Negativa takes art very seriously, if not deadly serious. So seriously that the art they present on stage goes beyond extreme toward absurdity and as such can no longer exist.
In contrast, the energetic performance of opera arias seems self-evident. It is precisely this contrast between Via Negativa and Viva Verdi that is at the forefront of this work. Some performers strive to create an engaged performance that vacillates from the slightly funny to the shockingly genial. Others simply stand on the stage, sing something because thousands have sung before them and harvest the applause. And yet the crazed individualists of Via Negativa are sufficiently intelligent not to play one against the other, but instead take aim at the art of performance itself. The performance takes place under the banner of sloth, one of the seven deadly sins. Via Negativa has created a series of performance pieces based on each of the seven deadly sins and in this way is “approaching truth along the darkest pathway.”
The producer Gordana Vuk, in the framework of the “The Other Opera in Kampnaglo,” calls into question the staging of opera and first has to endure a verbal assault from the announcer. When the announcer ends his insulting tirade of the producer, he urinates on the playbill and demonstratively leaves the stage. The theme is obstruction. The work does not exist. The staging of the work will not take place. The lights on the stage go up, the auditorium is illuminated, the technicians take a break, there are no more illusions – authentic reality enters. It is pure physical activity, the result of which is sweat. The intense concentration of a performer who sticks her finger deep into the throat, gagging herself, is as artfully perfected as a performers who strives to sing high C.
Via Negativa plays with the notion of the natural productivity of the body in the most absurd and creative way possible. For this reason, there is a healthy sarcasm in their performance pieces. They are precisely and intelligently thought out and never obscene or revolting. At the beginning of this piece, seven actors sit in chairs that are arranged in a row on the stage. Each person introduces himself, explains his personal strategy, and the role that he or she will play that evening. One female performer immediately rejects the charge that they are copying other groups such as Forced Entertainment or Gob Squad as she lists the workshops in which she has participated. Another female performer stands up and begins an excessive dance in which she produces ample quantities of sweat that she then tries to decant into a glass. In the end, she succeeds in gathering fifty drops. Then the performers climb naked onto a pile of trash and squat motionless on top of it. In the end, they manage to fill the glass with sweat gathered from inside a garbage bag.
This is followed by the entrance of a number of soloists from the Zagreb Opera House who proceed to feverishly and enthusiastically sing famous arias from Verdi’s operas such as Rigoletto, La Traviata, and others. Viva Verdi premiered at the Eurokaz Festival in Zagreb and are not outsiders on the Kampnaglo stage. In the end, the chorus of the Hamburg Choral Academy joins the other performers on stage. At that moment, we feel the presence of a crowd in a state of reconciliation, domesticity, and comfort, a far cry from the crazy, inexorable, and exhausting lone struggle of the individual performer. In the end, we get the feeling that everyone knows that an opera without clowns is a rather melancholy affair.
Nataša Govedić: Under the sign of creativeness and self-criticism
Novi list Zagreb 3 July 2006
(…) Theatre is here presented as a sweat machine which, despite the effort of Barbara Matijević who dances constantly for ninety minutes and collects drops of physical effort from her body, cannot be transfused into the glass. […] Different extractions in this performance are in polemic with tradition of performance, but also with numerous conservative prejudices about artistic vocation. Viva Negativa, by my opinion is an excellent play, full of self-criticism and critique of different ‘truisms’ in theatre. (…)
Igor Ružić: 20th Eurokaz, second report
Radio 101 Zagreb, 3 July 2006
(…) The encounter of performance and opera did not result exactly with a rebellion in Croatian National Theatre, as it might have been expected and coveted. Therefore cooperation happened, for the first time and possibly the last for the next twenty years, between two so separate and distant performative models, which also share equally hermetic character. Via Negativa managed to create one of the most sensible and clever, and in that sense also the most entertaining performances in their work and which the audience in Zagreb could see at Eurokaz. Further more, among ten individual statements of each group member, only few of them are on the edge of banality, while others are soul-stirring life confessions, or lucid comments of scenic and other reality, that in context of Croatian National Theatre attain very special and even worthier gilt. (…)
Jasen Boko: Urine & sweat
Slobodna Dalmacija Split, 3 July 2006
(…) Performance, confronting classical beauty of Verdi’s arias to radical view on the art of theatre, puts the ironical touch on everything starting with the concept of Eurokaz and all along to the personal performance […]. Irony, which constantly includes auto-irony, is the one that enables exaggerations to become entertaining. Honestly, not all the performers were naked and pissed on the scene, but their glasses, they toasted with opera singers in Verdi’s arias, were filled with sweat, urine, and even gastric contents. But, corporal juices have dramaturgic purpose here and ten performers from several countries, orchestrated by Bojan Jablanovec, accomplished bright and attractive performance, cross feature of Pirandello’s view on the theatre illusion and of contemporary body art. (…)
Bojan Munjin: Personal statement
Scena Novi Sad, XLII/3, July-Sept. 2006
(…) Viva Verdi is actually extremely painful and honest actors’ expression in their own name on suffering and meaning of artistic work. While in the background we watched the opera ensemble of Croatian National Theatre singing aria from Nabucco, actors were undressing till the end out of protest, they denuded till bareness and drown in the brooks of sweat to demonstrate that art, as every other job, happens between ideals and disappointments and between love and extractions. Play Viva Verdi is not vulgar but radically honest performance where actors on the scene have taken out their hart and stomach to demonstrate the simple expression on heaviness. (…)
Helena Braut: Shocking and controversial
Vjesnik Zagreb, 3 July 2006
(…) Via Negativa fairly justified their emersion and, although consternated the audience, showed exceptional theatrical string, energy, invention, imagination, demonstrating without restraints where the European theatre goes. […] The spontaneity of performers, their urge to expose to the audience their hidden biographies, irony and self-irony towards theatrical practice in the artificial, hermetic institution that avariciously admits “weirdoes”, makes part of the entire aesthetics of this, certainly most interesting group in region. (…)
Zrinka Radić: 20th Eurokaz. Opposites that do (not) attract
Večernji list Zagreb, July 2006
(…) Viva Verdi was one of the most distinctive creations of Eurokaz Jubilee. Not because of the bareness, urinating or vomiting on the scene of the National theatre that consternated audience, for who knows how many times, recalling the time when some other physical extractions almost provoked the death of Eurokaz. But because Via Negativa managed to connect the incompatible; Verdi and his opera with the proscribed tightness with the physical and ideological unyielding of the performance. All that through intelligent, self-ironic critique of their and our ‘place in the world’ with authentic images of professional Croatian National Theatre choir. (…)
Gregor Butala: Performance that “never happened”
Dnevnik Ljubljana, 22 September 2006
(…) This type of fusion of opera and performance might appear slightly bizarre at first glance, but one has to admit that it is extremely effective: the contrast between the classical beauty of the opera and uncompromising intimate exposition of the performers only arguments the provocativeness of the latter and adds meaning. Shocking? Depends on the viewer. Worthy of seeing? More than that: it is a must! (…)
Rok Vevar: It must be said – a quality program
Večer Maribor, 26 September 2006
(…) Viva Verdi uses a very literal approach to concentrate on the problem of artistic “expression” as a manifestation of knowledge, skills and excellence. The actors want to materialize their non-material work through bodily expression, while others strive to shift their work towards the register of the useful. Jablanovec brings in a contrast, that is, the unproblematic skill of opera singing, from which different time contexts have not exacted any essential changes. The questions that arise are: “Is skill in theatre a matter of laziness or of perseverance? Is problematization of the politics of viewing and staging a matter of laziness or of perseverance? Is the decision to “accomplish” the performance in front of the public a matter of laziness or of perseverance?” Viva Verdi is by all means one of the more powerful performances in the Via Negativa project to date. (…)