Düsseldorf. Seen from a musical perspective, the Peri ascends to Heaven, to become an integral part of it, to the accompaniment of a jubilant choir. As regards the staging of the scene, this creature, which strayed between Heaven and Earth, hangs motionless in the air. After the last chord had been struck, the Peri dashed to the floor again. The dancer and choreographer Gregor Seyffert visualised an atheist reading of the fairy tale “Paradise and the Peri” which had been turned into an Oratorio by Robert Schumann. The story of the sinning child, which is only accepted with the ‘skies dearest tribute’ into Paradise, goes back to “Lalla Rookh” by Thomas Moore (1779-1852). It focuses on the phenomenon of true repentance, and the tears that go with it.
These tears are the Peri’s ticket into paradise. While the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker Orchestra, the municipal music association of Düsseldorf and a number of soloists conducted by musical director John Fiore rendered a decent performance, Seyffert, who also danced the Peri, and artist Gottfried Hellwein commented upon the action with powerful, sometimes disturbing images.
The concert hall’s dome served as Heaven, whereas the auditorium was changed into a human stage. An illuminated white ring served as a cloud’s hole and gateway to Heaven, the sides of which were guarded by angels. Behind the choir, a video screen showed Helwein’s stylised, partly surreal images. There was blood flowing, running or splashing, yet not like in a massacre, but as an abstract red liquid. It also spilled out of the children’s mouths on being united in a kiss.
All this was thrilling and exciting, but it also brought a lot of superficial restlessness with it. The choreographic comment prevented any chance of inner contemplation. Some parts of the event resulted in involuntary comedy and endangered the symbolic construction, which had a considerable height of fall. More often than not, some of the sound effects cut through the music. Irrespective of this, the production turned out to be exciting throughout.
As the Peri, Seyffert gave vivid expression to a suffering creation and its eternal search. But even the final salvation seemed to be questioned here. When the Peri’s transfigured body hang motionless from a steel rope while the choir was in jubilation and the audience frantically applauding, this undoubtedly created an effect of uneasiness. The very well prepared Düsseldorf music association has to be praised. It fulfilled both its vocal and performance tasks in a sovereign manner. John Fiore and his orchestra, too, created suspense.
Among the soloists, many glamorous voices shone. Soprano Jörg Waschinksi as the Peri was a stunning male soprano with a very feminine effect, yet during the big female part, he sounded like an overstrained female singer. A highlight in terms of voices certainly was the mezzo soprano singer Alison Browner as the angel.
By Lars Wallerang