“La commedia è finita!” Almost exactly 125 years after the premiere of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s opera I Pagliacci (Bajazzo), the verismo opera is given a post-dramatic update in the Kudamm Karree in Berlin. There, at Kurfürstendamm, imaginary and real spaces intermesh, anchored in the his-tory of the city and its theaters. Blueprints and the quiet decay of what were high-flying visions of the future mark this boulevard. It is a street glittering from consumer culture, trampled over by swarms of tourists and inhabited by residents who take in all these changes with doubtful eyes. BAJAZZO ROAD OPERA, a collaboration between Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop, director Ludger Engels and musician and performer Thomas Mahmoud, finds its roots in this intermediate space.
The original opera, a still favoured warhorse of the Italian repertory, is a surprising choice of material for an ensemble such as Kaleidoskop, known and celebrated for genre-defying music theater productions. The story itself is short and tragic. A theater piece about jealousy turns into bloody reality, the tragic clown Bajazzo kills his great love, his existence is shattered. For an audience of Leoncavallo’s time, the idea that daily life could mix with the events on the stage was shocking and called that which could be considered theater into question. The prologue itself warns, “the tears we shed [on stage] are false”.
BAJAZZO ROAD OPERA transforms this situation, this tension between theater and reality, into a musical performance. Thomas Mahmoud becomes the voice and eyes of Bajazzo lost in a media maelstrom, a remaining, ex-hausted fragment of his past. He and the instrumentalists from Kaleidoskop embody the fragmented emotional states of Bajazzo as he moves through the corridors and rooms of the Kudamm Karree, sweeps over the streets of the city by night and falls against his will into a whirlpool of feelings that he does not understand, yet obeys.
BAJAZZO ROAD OPERA follows this logic and renegotiates Bajazzo’s fate in a web of text, music and performance pieces. The work is an experi-ment that parses Leoncavallo’s music for the present, using electronically processed recordings, live strings and vocal imaginings. A new, vital, open platform emerges out of the old grind of repertory, a space for exchange on societal issues between musicians, performers and their audience.
BAJAZZO ROAD OPERA unfolds slowly in lengthy, leisurely series of performances. The work meanders over 12 hours through and in the Kudamm Karee and leaves in its wake a visual and sonic installation that can be visited by day. The performances and video streams are modules out of which each audience member can put together their own personal Bajazzo experience. It is open at all hours for visitors that come and go for one, two or twelve hours at their pleasure, to experience the being “on the road” with a troupe of traveling artists of the present time.
Bajazzo Road Opera by Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop at Kudamm Karree / 05-07.05.2017
Kudamm Karree | Kurfürstendamm 206 – 209 | 10719 Berlin
A production by Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop. Financially supported by the Capital Cultural Fund and the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.