Gregorius on the Rock
a legend dealing with incest, arrogance, penitence and election that has been told since the twelfth century
written and documented by Hartmann von Aue
adapted and enhanced by Thomas Mann
played and mise-en-scène by the Theater der Klänge
A coproduction of the Theater der Klänge with the music ensemble ESTAMPIE from Munich
Texts: Thomas Mann (from “Der Erwählte”), Clemente Fernandez
Text Editing: Clemente Fernandez, J.U.Lensing
Musical development: Thomas Neuhaus, Michael Popp
Computer music conception and programming: Thomas Neuhaus
Staging: J. U. Lensing
Choreographies: Jacqueline Fischer
Lighting design: Thomas Klaus
Costumes: Caterina Di Fiore
Stage design: J.U.Lensing
Props + Furniture: Udo Lensing
Stones: 3D design Dusseldorf
Sound Director: J.U.Lensing
Lighting Director: Thomas Klaus
Choreographic consultation: Carlos Cortizo
Artistic company office: Petra White
Poster and program design: Ernst Merheim
Photos: Oliver Eltinger
Video Documentation: Nicolai Singer in cooperation with FH-Dortmund and the company “Take It” Düsseldorf
Narrator, Wiligis Knappe, Wiglaf the Fisher, Maire Poitewin, Probus: Clemente Fernandez
The young Sibylla, squire, chambermaid Jeschute, Sibyllas spirit: Jelena Ivanovic
Wiligis, Gregorius: Nicholas Mansfield
Mrs. Eisengrein, Flann, Princess Sibylla, Penitent Sibylla: Alice de Souza Singer
Ritter Eisengrein, Duke Roger, Liberius, the fisherman of the lake: Matthias Weiland
Music: ESTAMPIE & Thomas Neuhaus
Vocals, flutes, harmonium, percussion: Sigrid Hausen
Fiedel, You, Tanbur, Percussion, Santur: Michael Popp
Hurdy gurdy, harmonium, organist, portative, bells, percussion: Ernst Schwindl
The scenic material was created in collective improvisation of all participating actors in collaboration with director and choreographer with the temporary participation of Anan Atoyama, Gerald Butolen, Julia Leidhold, Agnieszka Obuchowicz and Dilruba Saatci
About the Production
Based on Harmann von Aue’s middle-age story “Gregorius”, Thomas Mann wrote the novel “Der Erwählte”. The story deals with double incest, arrogance, dazzle, remorse —which, finally, led “Gregorius” to become the Pope— and is now the basis for a theatrical-musical adaptation by the Theater der Klänge in a joint work with the “ESTAMPIE” ensemble, the latter specialized in ancient music.
Those who remember the extremely successful 1995 production “LUDUS DANIELIS“, which was also a joint work by both Ensembles, can imagine what is to be expected from a theatrical-musical regie by J. U. Lensing. The integration of live electronics in the musical process is a new trend developed by composer Thomas Neuhaus for the performances of Theater der Klänge during the last few years. Ancient music is put together with live electronics, theatre and dance. The aesthetic framework includes musical theatre, image theatre, danced theatre and stories by minstlers, in a play that will probably last for two hours. Besides, a music that ventures into the confluence of medieval sounds performed by ethnic instruments and electronic sounds.
Düsseldorf. Definitely, the opening night of the new productions “Der Erwählte” (The holy sinner) will only take place in April. However, we can already take a glimpse at the work being performed by Theater der Klänge and the Estampie musical ensemble, which was started last year. Now, through its “Character of the Middle Ages”, the new musical “Der Erwählte” reminds us of the “Ludus Danielis” Production (1995). Also in this case, the Theater der Klänge and the Estampie musical ensemble, after an idea of the latter, get together to stage the novel “Der Erwählte” by Thomas Mann (1951). Estampie plays historical instruments, such as germshorn, violin, harp, Thailand gong and oud, an Arabian version of the lute. In addition to these exotic sounds, sounding sometimes Celtic and sometimes oriental, there appears ancient French singing.
This constitutes the input for computer-controlled live electronics which is integrated into the musical process. Contrarily to the fully-wordy rehearsal presentation, in the opening night, the leading role will be played by music. It is wellknown that Mann’s novel is based on the medieval story “Gregorius auf dem Stein” (Gregorius on the Rock). Actor Clemente Fernandez reads a modified version of “Der Erwählte”. Under the overwhelming tolling of the bells, he —as the “Spirit of the Story”— tells about the legend of the holy sinner Gregorious who, as a child, was abandoned and, later, married his own mother unknowingly. When he learnt about the tremendous truth, he remained chained to an isolated rock in the sea for 17 years until, by God’s will, he was found by two bishops and was proclaimed the Pope. With marvelous expressiveness and fervour, five dancers bring the desperation and hopelesness of incest upon the stage, spiced with Thomas Mann’s ironic and serious jokes.
Strong bells sounding stimulate to get involved in Gregorius’ legend. A narrator, appearing as a monk, starts telling his story. Gregorius, who was born a sinner —since his parents were brother and sister— and later, unknowingly, got in love with his mother, finally, after 17 years during which he had expiated his sin by remaining on a rock in the sea, became a new Pope in Rome. The right artwork in musical theater could not be seen in the small rehearsal room; instead, there was a charming play of read theatre with short acted scenes. The play is accompanied with underlying environmental music and performed by Michael Popp and Siegrid Hausen with instruments from the middle age plus singing. Many coloured costumes and the coreography created by the actors and still under development, in addition to a laconic narrator who leads the play performing different roles lead us to expect that we will be having more “Gregorius” next year.
Mystery play – risking means winning
An old legend referred to taboo infringements, such as incest between brothers and sisters, as well as between mother and son, and including a tremendous end, where the one who became a sinner, after many years of penitence, is committed by God to be the Pope. The mise-en-scene of such an old-fashioned legend today requires courage. Theater der Klänge has risked staging Gregorius using sound and scenes whose suggestiveness has the strength of a mystery play. And they have won. (…)
Lensing, the director of Theater der Klänge was also responsible for the whole mise-en-scene.
A narrator leads us through the various stages of the action, often using choreographic means (choreography: Jacqueline Fischer). Something resembling a miracle was the pas de deux by the brother and sister (Jelena Ivanovic and Nicholas Mansfield), starting with a ludic running after each other and ends up with an intimate encounter, as well as the dance by the son with his mother (Alice de Souza Singer). On a stage with minimal elements, action and changes were often indicated by changes in costumes (costumes: Caterina di Fiore); the lighting control (Thomas Klaus) was enough to make us aware of changes in location.
Expressing feelings by means of rhythm and music, with numberless different styles of spoken and body language, the texts (after Thomas Mann’s “Der Erwählte”) were transmitted with Clemente Fernandez and Matthias Weiland in the leading roles. The grotesque elements of their appearance as church men became more dramatic during the search for the pope at the end of the play. An ear-deafening peal hit the curve at the beginning. A kind of choir closed the history.
Jörg U. Lensing and his team succeed again with amazing images weaved with the wonderful music of Estampie. It is played in the auditorium of the Rudolf Steiner school at Gerresheim, suitable for its timeless-abstract environment. Near the stage, the Estampie instruments are arranged, so that one can watch Michael Popp, Ernst Schwindl and Sigrid Hausen, as they hold their fiddle, tambourine and carillon, and, at the same time, listen when their music is made to sound strange by computer sounds (Thomas Neuhaus) or is drowned.
Attention needs to be split to watch this performance, which takes up a medieval tradition with its refined epic structure. (…)
It is extremely stimulating to experience how pictures and texts supplement each other and how touching emotionalism can be turned into irony; the only thing that interferes with understanding, now and then, is Fernandez’s forced voice; however, he shifts magnificently from one role to the other. (…)
Likewise, Alice de Souza Singer did also break her silence once and prayed as a duchess imploring for forgiveness – in Portuguese. When singer Sigrid Hausen joins this prayer, one of those miraculous harmonies take place, bringing over a special charm to the evening.