Audience members with no prior knowledge about the opera take their seats, unaware and bemused by the setting. The seating area is boxed in entirely; three white walls and one mirrored wall facing the audience. As the seats begin to fill up, the audience wonder whether the mirrored wall will open up to reveal the stage behind. This however, is not the case. Silence takes over the audience as a recording becomes audible. Gradually the realisation hits that the cast are sat among the audience and the show would be viewed through the reflection of the mirror. The cast is made up of six opera singers: Sarah Maria Sun (soprano), Friederike Harmsen (mezzo soprano), Daniel Gloger (counter-tenor), Noriyuki Sawabu (tenor), Martin Gerke (baritone) and Markus Hollop (bass). Together, they make up a family.
Placing the singers among the audience assists in involving them in the story and the mirror technique is ingenious. It is interesting that the audience should be able to watch not only the cast, but the reactions of other members of the audience simultaneously. It also feels strange to be a part of that display, especially as the dramatics of the production are carried out directly around you. The a capella singers mostly remain in their designated seats, although sometimes break free and attempt to clamber over members of the audience in complete embodiment of the emotions of their characters. Director Isabel Ostermann does a brilliant job of working with the space in a way that is both alarming and entertaining for the audience.
Continuing the avant-garde style of the performance space and script, Oscar Strasnoy devises an equally contemporary, unique and bizarre composition for the singers. Sometimes singing together and at times solo, the performance is heartfelt and the singers are superb. Every emotion comes through their voices entirely, and the audience feel part of the story. It is a thoroughly captivating show, and different from what one would usually expect from an opera.
Geschichte will be at Schiller Theater until 12th October. For ticket information, click here.