Alexandra Szemerédy and Magdolna Parditka talk with...

2011-05-31 10:00

The word sink: Tristan and Wagner

Alexandra Szemerédy and Magdolna Parditka talk with Adam Fischer


Alexandra Szemerédy (A.Sz.): Do you believe in that particular drink?
Ádam Fischer (Á.F.): What I believe in is the dazzling effect of music. No musical composition has ever had such an effect on people either before or after Tristan. It does not impress everyone though; people are either affected by it or not. It captivated me when I was 16.
Magdolna Parditka (M.P.): That was when you started to get acquainted with this piece?

Á.F.: I had a period of half a year with Tristan - nothing else seemed to exist for me besides Tristan. We became estranged afterwards - teenagers are always in conflict with themselves. There were times when I hated this heroin-feeling in me. But this was how it was. Nevertheless, the starting point of  Wagnerianism is Tristan and Isolde: it is the feeling that the whole world sinks and nothing else exists but the music. This music is not conventionally "beautiful" though, but something you become dependent on. Like drugs.
M.P.: Let me quote Nietzsche: ‘Poison, hashish’. How can you cope with the inner tenseness of this work while directing? How can you protect yourself from its intensity?
Á F.: I got used to this somehow, I withdraw. As a conductor I have to have control. It would be a mistake to get lost in the music. It is not about me enjoying the performance; I have to step out of myself. An artist cannot exist if he does not learn this - and Tristan makes it the most difficult.
Coming back to the question, my goal is to transmit to the audience the enchanting spell of the music and how I felt when I was sixteen - and how I still feel.
A.Sz.: In a letter written to Mathilde Wesendonck, Wagner anxiously expresses his fears that Tristan may be banned, because of the depressive effect it may have on the audience. Is Tristan a deadly  poison? Hasn't Brangäne exchanged the drinks after all...?
Á.F.: Probably you have to listen to this music a couple of times before it starts to have an effect on you. For conductors, Tristan is a bigger job than anything else, because Wagner did not care about practical problems. He has written this music, both the performers and the audience would "suffer for". You cannot treat Tristan as background music, you must pay attention to it.  One cannot expect the audience to deal with this piece of music for months. But Wagner absolutely did not care about this. What he wanted was that people should believe in his music without any condition, which is a big job. Let me share with you some dry facts: Tristan is the work of Wagner that could never fill the Bayreuth Festspielhaus with an audience right up until the fifties. You could always buy a ticket for Tristan -  but not for The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. 
A.Sz.: Nevertheless, the story of the Mastersingers of Nuremberg is easier to follow than this mysterious love theme, that even Wagner could only talk about using symbols.  – „Die tiefe Kunst des tönenden Schweigens"...
M.P.: It is interesting that Wagner did not define the genre of Tristan and Isolde as opera or musical drama, but he used the word „Handlung"– in English "Action" or "Act" referring to the Greek expression "drama". Perhaps he wanted to prevent Tristan from being listed as an opera, and laid emphasis on the internal actions.
Á.F.: Yes, it is about emotions on stage. In this work Wagner turns away from his own principles - he had said earlier that action, theatre, and drama are on the same level with music. In Tristan the internal drama is equal with the music, but the external action is not. The plot is introverted, almost nothing is taking place from outside. Wagner succeeds in transferring the drama to the level of the soul. 
M.P.: As if the internal drama were the deep sea of soul and the surface is the external plot... 
Á.F.: What I could say is that there is no surface. It certainly depends on from where you look at it, though. Human life is only a moment. It is nothing in that one million years when mankind appears on earth and disappears from there. But if you "zoom in" or out, everything can be enlarged or reduced. This is what Wagner does, too, he examines with a magnifying glass, what happens on the level of emotions in a second. This of course is beyond the frames of theatre. These techniques - and it might sound a bit audacious - cannot always be synchronized with the lyrics. Words are somehow more real and tangible than music.  
A.Sz: This is not exactly the libretto I would use the word "real" for. The lovers form a special language, or "twin-language" with each other, that only they can understand. Even their thoughts rhyme with each other.
Á.F.: It is not important what they say. In the love duet words don't count. The narrative technique is still present in this play, so that viewers could follow the actions, but it is not the essence of Tristan.  Words sink completely.
P.M.: How deep do they "sink"? Isn't the ancient Celtic layer the basis of the story?
A.Sz.: Yes, it is, but the original story has not survived, unfortunately. According to the research this (ancient) Celtic layer probably consisted of two parts. The first part is the boat trip to the unknown - from which the wounded Tristan's first trip to Ireland was formed in the later stories. The other part is based on the escape that survived as the forest story of the lovers in the Tristan-tradition.
M.P.: The drink and its function only appear in the later Tristan-poetry. At Béroul it mainly serves to make the otherwise socially law-breaking love of Tristan and Isolde socially acceptable. The love potion creates an exceptional situation that could be called a disaster. Therefore, the lovers don't commit a "sin" as such – and they therefore cannot be held responsible.
A.Sz.: As far as the first act is concerned, my feeling was that Tristan and Isolde were tormenting and fighting with each other as if they had been married for many years with no way out. The long dialogue is hostile but behind the harsh words of abuse there is love. They know each other too well.
Á.F.: Indeed, love exists before the love potion - but they won't say it. 
A.Sz.: They provoke each other.
M.P.: Their "chess-game" is about who can tear the mask first from the other's face
Á.F.: The drink means the liberation from conventions, the liberation of the soul. They allow each other to love and admit their feelings.
A.Sz.: This is how it is with Gottfried von Straßburg and even Thomas de Bretagne. According to Gottfried, Tristan and Isolde are made for each other. In their harmony they incarnate the idea of love, and, inspired by the love potion, open the door to Eros. Sensuality, a truly elementary force enters their love.
M.P.: As Thomas Mann says: the magic potion is only a tool to liberate an already existing emotion. The lovers could even drink clear water. What is important is that they believe in drinking death.
Á.F.: During his life Wagner was having huge problems with society, he was fighting against social conventions. We could maliciously ask, why make a big deal of this simple story that Wagner fell in love with the wife of his friend, Mathilde Wesendonck, and why write such a big opera to justify himself. The question is that if social conventions are against emotions what can be done? Is it worth doing anything? Wagner probably went through this love or he thought he did. The audience should feel something like Spinell and Frau Klöterjahn were feeling in Thomas Mann’s Tristan-story. I wonder whether colors can express rationality and irrationality. No, they cannot. It is not possible. There are not as many colors as notes. A painter may disagree but this is how I feel about it. You can close your eyes when you listen to Tristan - the music will allow this. Isolde and Tristan can close their eyes, they don't want to know what there is around them. And that is the moment when music appears for them as an independent world: they enter a new dimension. In particular I refer to the second act.
A.Sz.: We could compare it to Parsifal. That too is a ritual.
Á.F.: The second act of Tristan?
A.Sz.: When they celebrate their meeting and give themselves to each other.
M.P.: The strong connection between the two works is striking. Not only because the parallel of Amfortas and Tristan. Wagner made an act-outline to Tristan in 1854, in which the wandering Parsifal finds the dying Tristan.
Á.F.: You have already used the contrast of light and shadow in your direction of Parsifal. The black and white, the light and shadow, the duality of night and day are all applicable for Tristan. Art is actually the world of night. Night is the real world of art, ruined by daytime. 
M.P.: Do you agree?
Á.F.: When I listen to Tristan, yes. But I don't always feel the same. What is the power that influences us, that directs the subconscious? How big is the power of sensibility above the sense? That was the time when they first started to deal with these questions. There are many ‘Freuds’ in the poetry of Wagner, thirty years before Freud. The question is whether emotions should be overcome or that we learn how to handle them. And this has political significance as well, meaning how emotions can affect common sense. We could say that Tristan presents the duality of sense and sensibility in Tristan. But there may not be such duality.
A.Sz.: But of course there is. Take King Mark and the political marriage - or the world of daytime. Isolde and Tristan decide to give up "handling" their emotions, and go further in.
It might be connected to one of our previous conversations, when you mentioned that they fight against "awakening", they reach the edge where they don't know if they are awake or dreaming. They are empowered by the moon.
Á.F.: What is reality? To understand or not understand the text has cardinal importance. Or just suspect what it is about. The essence of the Brangäne-solo is for example that the lovers do not understand and do not want to understand the warning words. In the score the „Brangäne-Call" is entwined in the sounds of the night: it comes out of the orchestra's winds and sinks back again. The lovers want the world of dreams, but they are forced into wakening. They of course find out that there is no need to wake up from death. Dangerous view...
A.Sz.: It is their decision.
M.P.: As early as the first act takes them to death, as if they were traveling on the boat of Charon across the river Styx onto the underworld.
A.Sz.: In the medieval epics of Gottfried von Straßburg Tristan crosses the sea. His wanderings start with a boat trip: the chess-playing wunderkind is kidnapped by Norwegian merchants. The subsequent boat trips represent new life stages, new phases in the spiritual development of the hero.
M.P: As we are at the "black waters": it is publicly known that the second act of Tristan was written in Venice where he escaped after the „Wesendonck-idyll" was not tolerable in Zurich any more. Do you have any Venice experience? 
Á.F.: I don't know whether you know the Invisible Man by Geza Gardonyi. There is this beautiful woman in the novel whom nobody likes. That is exactly how I was with Venice. It was not love at first sight, I think I expected something different. But we go there every year for a couple of days since... You cannot leave Venice off.
M.P.: In his Venice diary Wagner makes a comment on beauty and decay being present at the same time in Venice. I think the same extreme characterizes the music of Tristan, too.
Á.F.: With the chromatic music of Tristan Wagner exploded the known musical dimensions. And he went further. This was a closing as well as a recommencement: he closed the 400 year history of music, the domination of tonality and diatonic harmony. From Tristan the history of music has taken a different direction. Wagner found a new element: with the endless enhancement of the chromatic scale he depicted emotions never described before. He succeeded in describing something that was actually indescribable. Therefore, the significance of Tristan in the history of music is greater than anything else in the 19th century. Let us refer back to the moon again: one small (half-)tone step for Wagner, one giant leap for the history of music.


2011-04-12 09:27

You see, its not so: Parsifal and Wagner

Alexandra Szemerédy and Magdolna Parditka talk with Adam Fischer


Alexandra Szemerédy (A.Sz.): Adam, you chose this particular quote from Gurnemanz as motto for our conversation.
Ádam Fischer (Á.F.): Because for a long time now I’ve had the feeling that Parsifal is different from what many people think it is – hence, “you see, it is not so”.
Magdolna Parditka (M.P.): In what way different?  What does Parsifal mean to you?
A.F.: Parsifal is considered to be Wagner’s most gigantic, monumental and sometimes also – depending on the conductor’s tempi! – his longest piece. That’s both true and not true – das ist nicht so. Some people, when they think of Parsifal, think of the solemn stage design of the original production in 1882 by the Russian painter Joukowsky. But when I think of Parsifal, I also have to think of Giotto.
M.P.: Giotto?
A.F.: I was thirty years old when I was in Bayreuth for the first time to see a dress rehearsal of Parsifal. It was an amazing experience and it reinforced my belief that we can get much closer to this piece if we also focus on the intimate almost chamber music-like quality of the music. Giotto, in his 13th century paintings, captured the unambitious, yet life-affirming world of the Franciscans in Italy. This light-heartedness can also be found in the music of Parsifal.
M.P.: Are you referring to a specific painting?
A.F.: I’m thinking about the frescoes in the cathedral in Assisi – specifically the painting in which Franciscus expels the evil spirits from Arezzo. This painting even has a thematic connection to Parsifal.
A.Sz.: While we are on the subject of the 13th century, let’s talk about Wolfram von Eschenbach. When reading the libretto and also Wagner’s letters I’ve always had the impression that Wagner had a sort of love-hate relationship with Wolfram, the writer of the epos of Parzival. On the one hand, he was very critical of Wolfram’s dramaturgical concept, yet on the other hand he enthusiastically adopted many ideas from his philosophical work.
A.F.: I think that Wagner respected Wolfram greatly. He just judged him from his own historical perspective.
M.P.: In a letter written to Mathilde Wesendonck, for example, he says that Eschenbach is inconsistent and fails to understand what Parsifal really is about. Nevertheless, he seems to have been deeply inspired by Parzival, even if unwillingly so. Obviously, Wagner used different methods; he had to concentrate the material since he was creating a musical drama from a very lengthy epic poem. He sometimes fused two or more characters into one; he did so, for example, in case of Trevrizent and Gurnemanz. In Kundry he integrated several roles. 
A.Sz.: Perhaps the most important difference is that in Wagner’s work the Grail is an actual cup – naturally, it has a symbolic meaning but it is something tangible at the same time. In Eschenbach’s poem the Grail is a miracle, the miracle of Life one must not speak about. I think it is vital that the nature of the Grail remains unspecified: after many years of wandering Parzival meets the hermit Trevrizent. He tells Parzival about the stone of miraculous power: one cannot die when the stone is present. This stone is called the Grail – more accurately, it is called the Grail in addition to other things. It can and does have different names. Another important difference between the Wagner opera and Eschenbach’s poem is connected to its approach to compassion. In Eschenbach’s work, Parzival fails to ask the question: „Oheim, was fehlt dir?” What is wrong? This is the very essence of compassion – I simply go to the other person and ask: What ails you? I like this verbality, this “lack of object” very much. For me Parsifal represents the Inner Path, an inner development.
M.P.: I agree, the most important element in Parsifal is the search for the “way”. Parsifal’s aim is to become a child again; to be reborn, to cease to exist.
A.Sz.: Do you think it is “profane” to hold up the Grail – to perform Parsifal - outside Bayreuth?
A.F.: Any performace can be authentic if inspired and artistically consistent. Nevertheless, every conductor should go on a pilgrimage to Bayreuth. Every conductor should go on a pilgrimage to Bayreuth, to learn to understand the music at its origin – and then go off and “be authentic” in other places. The acoustics in Bayreuth are unique and they challenge not just the conductor but also the singers and musicians. As the orchestra pit is below the stage and covered, the performers hear everything very differently from what they are used to in other theatres. You have to retrain your reflexes. It is a good thing that nowadays we can perform Parsifal outside Bayreuth as well. By the way – after the thirty years after Wagner’s death in which no performances outside Bayreuth were allowed had passed, the first “outside” performances were held in Paris and here in Budapest. The Budapest performance, performed only hours after the “ban” was lifted, was greeted and awaited with an enthusiasm and excitement almost like a new Harry Potter book today!
M.P.: What is your opinion of the acoustics of the National Concert Hall? Why is this space suitable especially for your interpretation of Wagner?
A.F.: The acoustics of the National Concert Hall are quite special. Here we can hear one another in space; everybody can sense everybody. There is nowhere to hide here; loud and soft sounds can be both heard, simultaneously. Experiencing one another is not limited to the musicians but spreads to the contact between the performers and the audience, too. We can feel the smallest dynamic changes, even the stirs of one another. These are incredible opportunities and are important building stones of my interpretation.
M.P.:  The most perceptible difference between a concert hall and an opera house is that the first is a more open type of room than the latter. This open concert hall atmosphere had a decisive influence on us when we were creating our artistic concept. The ritual nature of Parsifal is enhanced in such a room. The concert hall becomes a sacred space, a cathedral - and the audience is actively involved in the rite. It is more difficult to evoke this effect in a traditional theatre stage, the ”Guckkastenbühne”. The picture-frame stage creates distance between the performers and the viewers. The oratorio-like character of the piece is reflected in our costume concept as well. I think that the tailcoat as a uniform piece of clothing plausibly represents the strict masculine world - intolerant of deviance or individuality.
A.F.:  You must always discover something new in a piece. Since 2006, I have gained immense experience in Bayreuth, as well as at the Palace of Arts. We have got to know one another better. From the past, I am especially interested in what can be used for the future. This piece, Parsifal, like all masterpieces, has many truths and every one of these truths is unchangeable and eternal. We could compare it to a massive rock or cliff: it is unmoveable, unique, eternal. And if we look at this rock from a different angle, it has a different outline, a different shape, a different truth. But this truth is also unique and eternal.


2010-06-10 00:00

Grass is blue and sky is green

Mária Albert’s conversation with Ádám Fischer, Alexandra Szemerédy and Magdolna Parditka 2010


The music of Ascanio in Alba is extraordinarily joyful, almost amusing music if I can put it in such a profane way. Why did you choose this opera?

Ádam Fischer (Á.F.): Ascanio in Alba is a really unknown one even among Mozart’s unknown operas, but I do believe in this piece. This is a rarity which is only performed here in Europe. A young “lion” shows its nails in it, who wanted to succeed as an opera composer. And what happened? He was commissioned to compose an opera. And he immediately exercised some irony on this form of art. In my view this piece is like a child: it begins its own life only after a while. Although it is important for us to examine why Mozart composed this piece and how it was performed in his time, this is not relevant. Two centuries after the composer’s death we should perform this work as we perceive it ourselves.

Festa tetrale in due parti – festive play in two parts – as is written on the scores

Alexandra Szemerédy (A.Sz.): They commissioned the fifteen-year-old Mozart to compose the piece for the wedding of Maria Theresa’s late-born son Ferdinand and Maria Beatrice d’Este. Mozart and his father Leopold could obtain this new order from Milan as a result of the great success of Mitridate, re di Ponto in 1770, and Ascanio in Alba proved highly successful too in 1771. Perhaps because of this or the friendship that developed between the two adolescents from whom the world expected so much, Ferdinand wanted to employ Mozart as a composer in the Milanese court, which would have meant great opportunities and financial independence for the young musician. But Ferdinand received an admonishing letter from Maria Theresa, in which his beloved mother wrote: Isn’t it enough to spend so much money on your hunting dogs, and you would also like to hire a composer?
But back to the libretto: a common criticism of Ascanio is that its plot almost avoids dramatic conflicts. I’d like to defend the libretto: these pieces, composed for especially festive occasions, usually depicted the celebrated ones themselves, the real political protagonists of the festive events, obviously in an allegorical way. That’s why the lovers who represented the princely couple couldn’t be placed into embarrassing intrigues of questionable outcomes – it was not allowed. Maria Theresa appears as Venus, and Ascanio as Ferdinand: nothing ambiguous could be heard. And Silvia, the nymph – alias Maria Beatrice d’Este – sings more than once (according to the original libretto): “Oh, what does a well-groomed lady do in a situation like this?”
The drama in Ascanio is the trial of love itself, which forces the characters to choose between social expectations and their own emotions. In my view, the libretto of Die Zauberflöte is rooted in the same tradition, the main thread of the plot is about growing up, detachment and the discovery of one’s identity, in short: becoming a “Man”.
Magdolna Parditka (M.P.): Ascanio in Alba steps slightly beyond the traditions of opera seria because the dramaturgy of festa teatrale made it possible. According to contemporary practice not more than one recitative accompagnato was composed in a piece, but Mozart used three of these in Ascanio. The large number of choruses is also unusual. It is true that he adhered to the standards in the arias, but the whole piece is enriched with deep emotions and individual ways of expression – it can be labelled as a characteristically Mozartian opera seria. One can’t help recalling Gluck’s reforms.
We can’t ignore the fact that a newly ordered opera had been a crucial element and a highlight of Baroque court festivals since the 16th century. Giuseppe Parini, the author of the libretto, had to meet the buyer’s expectations: the libretto had to express admiration towards the princely couple and the empress. He was regarded as a major enlightened thinker who knew Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s works very well, the ideas of the “éclairement” appear as allusions throughout the libretto, let us just think of Julie ou la nouvelle Héloïse.
A. SZ.: It’s interesting that Mozart gave everything double meanings: he fulfils the order, follows the libretto which adheres to the rules itself, and performs in a way so that he can perhaps obtain the position of a court composer. But he is consistent in raising opera seria to a higher level which is worthy of him. And another remarkable point: just like Ascanio/Ferdinand, Mozart became adult in the same year. Upon his return to Salzburg he was not a child prodigy any more; a young adult came back there.
M. P.:
We think that the adolescent Mozart is present in Ascanio. Who knows? Perhaps he was really in love secretly when composing this work. It’s an exciting task to uncover this novel and painful emotion in the production.
A. SZ.:
When Ascanio sings about his sufferings – what shall I do, that’s what I feel and that’s what I do –, the tension between obligation and individualism appears as well. The member of the court, the educated layer of society of the age was obliged to control his or her emotions. A “sinful” idea might surface occasionally, and we can even give way to this passion, but when we “return” we are obliged to drive it back to the channels of rationality. It is actually a da capo form.

The family “counterparts” are obvious, but who is Fauno? The name suggests a figure of neutral sex.

A. SZ.: Fauno is a magic figure. He can be the embodiment of Ascanio’s dream. Ascanio, son of Venus, ventures to an unknown territory and meets new emotions. This is Fauno. But, in my opinion, Fauno could be a predecessor of Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, as he is the one who asks: “Who are you and what do you want here, what desires are driving you, what are you searching for?” And Ascanio replies: “I’m a foreigner, and I’m looking for love.”
A. F.: I’m very proud that the Hungarian audience can hear Fauno’s second aria in its full version. Very few can sing it this way. This is a real bravura. And, talking about virtuosity, we mustn’t forget Silvia’s cavatina and the aria which follows it in Act One: they constitute the same kind of great unity like Constanze’s two opposing arias in Die Entführung. In fact, every aria is a challenge in itself as we know that Mozart always “tailor-made” his arias, which means that he composed them to match the personal competences of a given singer. We can say that the order is reverse here: we have to find the body which fits the tailored dress, that is, find singers who have vocal abilities similar to the cast of the world première.

Didn’t it occur to you to place the production in the frame of some kind of a court festival?

M.P.: “Court” elements are not important to us and today’s audiences. We shortened those recitatives which contained outward references to the rules of the court, forms of behaviour, the wedding and the festa teatrale. What is very important to us is the parent-child relationship. We’re going to tell a story about how someone becomes detached from his or her parents, and how the mother – Venus – influences her son Ascanio, and the father – Aceste – influences his daughter Silvia. Through these two examples we introduce the process of growing up and becoming independent. This is the situation in which everyone must clarify to oneself who he or she is vis-à-vis the society. How one can find and internalise his or her thoughts so that he or she can think independently instead of following others’ principles.

How is this reflected by the costume and stage design?

M.P.: Our set design, which recalls the Baroque type of stage, was inspired by Miklós Ybl’s plans for the opera house. We have placed an architectural studio on stage. Venus is introduced as the chief architect, and her subjects are the architects and builders, who sing in the first chorus: “Oh, Venus, in your service one does not long for freedom...”. This is strange, because if you don’t yearn for freedom, why do you think of it? We can see Ascanio to whom Venus would like to delegate her power, but there’s only one important thing for him in life: to find someone to talk to, because he can’t really do so with Venus. When she turns up all she says is: “Son, you’ll get married now, it’s going to be good for the business, because marriage will enhance the wealth of the family...” This is dynastic expansion, we know the motto of the Habsburg well: “Let others wage war, you – happy Austria – marry.” To disperse the worries of the audience we can add: these two poor young ones who have been chosen to marry in spite of not knowing the other one, will eventually fall in love with each other.
A. Sz.:
Indeed, Ferdinand and Beatrice – though it was a rare exception – married for love, they adored each other as is proven by Leopold Mozart’s letter to his wife. It looks as if this wedding opera had predicted their happiness. But it is just an interesting detail for us. What is important is to show a different world, which is in stark contrast with Venus’s architectural empire: a reverse world where grass is blue and sky is green. This is Ascanio’s dream, the fairy-tale-like Denim-Arcadia where he is yearning to be; it is the careless youth that he had never been able to experience. He feels that he would find this freedom with Silvia, and his life would eventually become meaningful. Ascanio is struggling and trying to meet the expectations. And how does Venus have a hold over him? By promising him a companion: someone he can talk to. Ascanio and Silvia pass the trials of love, but finally Silvia asks Ascanio: Are you staying tied to your mum’s apron-strings, or choose a new life by my side? I think this question is really valid. We can see Silvia and Ascanio in a maze of emotions. Before finding each other they get lost in the labyrinths of their own selves again.

Many musicologists argue that it is just another piece composed for an event...

A.F.: That’s what I call Menkaure effect. Menkaure’s pyramid – the smallest one near Kairo – would be a great attraction all over the world, but as it is standing next to Khufu’s and Khafre’s pyramids nobody notices it. The same happens to Ascanio: the masterpieces Mozart composed later overshadowed it.
A. SZ.:
Some don’t even mention it in the lists of works, others criticize its dramaturgical structure. This is unfair. It’s reasonable to assess Mozart’s eight early operas differently, but it can’t be justified to treat Ascanio as if it didn’t exist. Some don’t value La finta semplice at all, although these are all outstanding works. In Ascanio, we can discover the Fiordiligi-problem in Così fan tutte. Silvia tries to defend herself by saying: “I’m innocent, it isn’t my fault, this is the power of love...”. It is undeniable though that the plot is too complex, I don’t like the way Venus sends Ascanio to Silvia: Amor, disguised as Ascanio, appears in Silvia’s dream, and thus Silvia falls in love with Ascanio, but she isn’t aware that the real Ascanio is actually the Ascanio she saw in her dream. This is the point when most people give up the hope of ever understanding the story of the opera, and most people abandon the book here... Of course, we can interpret it too: when you get to know someone and feel that the two of you match in a way, and there’s a sort of spiritual accord between you, which electrifies you and makes you burst in flames.
The Hungarian audience might overcome the complexity of the plot if they recall the story of Liliomfi. In this story lovers are similarly predestined for each other, but they’re not aware that the person they have fallen in love with is actually the bride and the groom chosen for them. In addition to this play by Ede Szigligeti and its film adaptation, we can also refer to Shakespeare’s As You Like It or Georg Büchner’s Leonce and Lena. These present a similar emotional framework, though not in the form of a popular play, but in a more poetic way.
A. SZ.:
Büchner’s romantic irony, his infantilism, and the “I’m bored, what shall I do” feeling made a great impression on us. We’d like to show that Ascanio and Silvia don’t want to join the crowd like the other couples who are forced to marry. On the occasion of Ferdinand’s and Beatrice’s wedding, 220 couples coming from poor families got married, and thus the princely nuptial became a mass wedding with the support of the empress...