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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The “Mostly Mozart” New York City Lincoln Center Summer Festival has become a New York City annual staple. For years it is also connected to the name of the theater director Peter Sellars who would bring in, or create, some special event as part of this festival. Years ago he did this sort of work in Purchase, Westchester County, New York, just outside the city where he staged new insights into Mozart Operas – but since moved these activities to the main location of the city. Jane Moss is the Artistic Director, and to her credit that she pulled in Peter Sellars who here, as in other locations in the world, including Vienna, Austria, has become an acknowledged ferment for creativity. These activities may have only remote connection to Mozart – but he somehow manages to find some link to the culture underneath Mozart’s art. But please, do not look for Mozart’s music in some of these events.

In any case – please remember that this REQUIEM was created by invitation of the 2006 Vienna Celebration of the 250th year Anniversary of Mozart’s Birth and the director for these events was Peter Sellars.

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This Year, in the summer of 2008, July 29 – August 23, 2008 – “Mostly Mozart came up with two such events. Both, as the vast majority of the Festival’s events are imports:

(a) REQUIEM, an event created in Vienna, that was now seen in New York for two evenings only, Friday August 8th and Saturday August 9th, and a discussion between Peter Sellars and Lemi Ponifasio, the creator, choreographer, and designer of the event on the opening night’s afternoon.

(b) LA PASSION DE SIMONE, that was actually directed by Peter Sellars, and can be attended Wednesday August 13th, Friday August 15th, and Sunday August 17th, with two discussions open to the public on August 13th – a pre-concert discussion with Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, and August 15th – a post-concert discussion with all those involved in the production. This event is about the personal voyage of Simone Weil with text by the Paris-based Lebanese writer Armin Maalouf. We are happy to be able to note this show here as we hope to create some interest among our readers to go to see this show. We are sorry that we were not able to bring pre-event information in the case of REQUIEM.

Before moving on to REQUIEM I would like to mention that when I looked up on the internet the term “Simone Weil” I found to my astonishment, that the best material is in German, French or Spanish – nothing very enlightening in English. so I decided to post the short biography that on the english Wikipedia is posted in German –

“Simone Weil wuchs in einer großbürgerlichen jüdischen Familie in Paris auf, ihr Bruder André wurde ein berühmter Mathematiker. Am Lycée war sie Schülerin von Alain. Sie studierte an der École Normale Supérieure Philosophie und wurde danach (1931) Mittelschullehrerin in der französischen Provinz.

In diesen Jahren – sie arbeitete eine Zeit lang als Fabrikarbeiterin bei Renault – und bis zu ihrem kurzen Einsatz im Spanischen Bürgerkrieg (wo sie auf der Seite der Anarcho-Syndikalisten in der “Kolonne Durruti” kämpfte) war sie politisch aktiv. Ab 1936 traten für sie religiöse Fragen in den Vordergrund, wobei sie zuvor Atheistin war. Sie näherte sich dem Katholizismus an und ließ sich möglicherweise sogar kurz vor ihrem Tod taufen, nicht offiziell von einem Priester, aber – gültig – von einer Freundin. Von der Taufe im Londoner Krankenzimmer vor der Abreise nach Ashford berichtet zwar 1989 Georges Hourdin in seiner Biographie (Simone Weil) und teilt einen Briefwechsel mit Pater Perrin und Simone Deitz mit, in den Aufzeichnungen Simone Weils, die sie bis kurz vor ihrem Tod weitergeführt hat, findet sich allerdings kein Hinweis. Zeit ihres Lebens litt sie an schwersten, oft unerträglichen Kopfschmerzen.

Wegen der deutschen Besetzung Frankreichs floh sie zunächst nach Marseille, 1942 in die USA und anschließend nach England, wo sie Mitglied des Befreiungskomitees Charles de Gaulles wurde. Sie starb an Magersucht, wobei nicht sicher war, ob sie durch die starken Kopfschmerzen magersüchtig wurde.”

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First, let me introduce the background material that was handed out at the August 8th discussion:

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Lemi Ponifasio (photo Pincas Jawetz)

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Peter Sellars (photo Pincas Jawetz)

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The August 8, 2008 Lincoln Center discussion (photo Pincas Jawetz)

To show what a large scope this REQUIEM has, as I understood it, I would like to mention that the positions taken by its author when explaining what we will be going to see in his answers to Peter Sellars – in above discussion, served me also in my reporting that day on the opening of the Olympics: www.sustainabilitank.info/category/china#6593 In that article I already tackled the essence of the discussion under:

The “Super 8 Friday” – 88888 – Resulted, According to Front Page New York Times The Following Day, In Super-Power News Characteristic to Our Times: In The Old World East Of The Atlantic Russia Moved Further Troops Into Georgia, While West Of The Atlantic Another Top US Politician Revealed That He Cheated On His Wife – In The World of The Future – China Gave A “Dazzling” Coming-Out Party.

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 9th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz ( PJ at SustainabiliTank.com)

I will add here that like in all art, the real creation in art is in the eye and mind of the viewer. What we see is merely the raw material that creates the vision, feelings , and understanding in our minds. As such – different people will say they saw, or interpreted what they saw, in very different ways. As such, even though Lemi Ponnifasio laid out before us various aspects of what we will watch in his ceremonial approach to life (mind you – he made it clear that the Pacific islanders are not actors and this is not a show) different people will still see in it different things.

In my previous comments in the “China” article I mentioned the standing poles that are there as the center-pieces of a house/home without walls – my friend saw in it at a later stage the symbol of smoke stacks that come with electricity-generation turbines that pollute the air, that creates the loss of the life on these islands, that is therefore the loss of the culture, and it becomes thus the Requiem to a Requiem where the second Requiem in this statement is actually the remembrance of the culture that is gone, so that the Mozartean Requiem is the resurgence of the memory of life.

I saw above in the discussion, but my friend added to it the smoke-stack symbolism that her “American” mind added to his “Samoan” interpretation. Both these things do not appear in other reviews I picked up from the press desk the following day – then again, this does not bother me at all – some of the viewers did still see this as art despite the fact that Lemi Ponifasio is imploring us to accept that this is a ceremonial of life and death – the death of not just individuals – but of whole cultures. Individuals in that culture do not die. They continue to be with us because those cultures transcend the physicality of death. Yes, in China the dead’ ashes may sit in an urn – right there on the mantle-piece, but the islanders have no mantle-piece and do not need the ashes as symbol that the passed-on did not pass away. He is just not seen by the naked eye but is felt – this how the people of Kiribas (Kiribati) feel their old islands even when they live now in New Zealand – the host country that agreed, in gallantry to accept in their midst the climate change/global warming refugees from the sinking islands of the Pacific.

How right are those at the UN who look at the climate change/global warming induced destruction, starting first with the Pacific islands and extending then to the low-lands of countries like Bangladesh, and continuing to cities like New Orleans and Miami Beach, as threats to World Security and Peace. Global Warming refugees will not be accepted easily like in this case where New Zealand stepped in to help.

New Zealand is Aotearoa – the Europeans that came to live in new Zealand found there the Maori who are Pacific Islanders and made a pact with them to live in peace. The New Zealanders of European descent, who since became the large majority in the two main islands of New Zealand, do not mind now to see this immigration of Maori-alike people and the enhancement of this aspect of the islands culture. After all – this is an enrichment that eventually will benefit all – even those that will still try to cling to the memories of the “old country.” People like Ponifasio understand that there is a need to compromise, after all, he takes his ceremonial before paying audiences that regard it as theatre. He will try to educate them by explaining that there is a quantum-jump difference here. But he will compromise nevertheless so his 24 members of his MAU get a way of making a living – even though they will also enhance visions of people ready to see beyond what their eyes trick them to see.

www.SustainabiliTank.info saw in the various slow actions on the stage, birds, fishes, people that have a loss of habitat. Starting with the chest self-pounding of the Maori heroes, we move to see the moaning climate-victims. We watch to the end how the mats on the floor are neatly folded away as the floor of the ground is going under-water. The reality of space is still there – the two pillars that define the space do not tumble down – but simply are renegotiated and the people leave.

This was a fascinating 90 minutes I spent watching that stage and old memories came back to my mind. These were memories of the end of the sixties and seventies when the new off-off Broadway was born. I saw there the staging of Robert Wilson on the life and times of personalities – the likes of Stalin or Sigmund Freud at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). The very slow dragging action leading to tremendous impacts left behind. I remembered Richard Schechner’s lectures at NYU, and his involvement with the La Mama theater – his talks about Shamanism as the birth of theater. I saw later some of what he was talking about in places like New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, South Africa. I felt like seeing now some of these real things – right here in New York – and low and behold – it was about effects of global warming – I hope I was able to convey some of it in this posting.

One comment about Richard Schechner that I must add here – this because I learned this fact only after posting the China Olympics piece: “In March 2005, the Richard Schechner Center for Performance Studies was inaugurated as part of the Shanghai Theatre Academy, where Schechner is an Honorary Professor. With The Performance Group, Schechner directed many productions including “Dionysus in 69″ based on Euripides’ The Bacchae (1968 production)”

The second half of this relates obviously to the “Bacchae” which was the first piece of the Lincoln Center Summer festival 2008 that we posted on www.SustainabiliTank.info. I hope that someone from our theatre-art intelligentsia could do a comparison between that 1968 production and the 2008 production. Then it was about the shamanic aspect in the Bacchae celebration – now we end up seeing a late women-liberation and self-destruction aspect. To put it nicely – Schechner had then his feet more solidly on the ground and the years since did not serve us well.

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