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Saara Autere

Obsessions

In our new creation “Obsessions”, the second Oblivia production to take on experimental music theatre following Verdrängen Verdrängen Verdrängen, we investigate the highlights of our obsession, of our febrile cravings – in private as well as in the political sphere, crying as well as whispering, during yesterday as well as today – through motion and gesture, singing and text fragments.

Together with five singers and performers from the Bremen Ensemble and with six musicians from the Bremen Philharmonic, Oblivia playfully flits about between changing spaces and times. From the construction of the pyramids until the present time, we aim to expose recurring obsessive patterns as the driving forces of human behaviour, referring to social pressures, political correctness, and body cult, among other things, in our texts and scenic moments. In this first encounter between Oblivia’s decidedly minimalist performance aesthetics and the grand opera stage, overflowing costumes and codes from classical opera tradition meet the reduced movement vocabulary and the specific Oblivia humour.

Yiran Zhao, the young, multiple award-winning composer who has been a collaborating partner of Oblivia since 2019, provides the eclectic composition, while the combination with Oblivia’s own handling of song and voice brings about an exceptional and catchy soundscape that goes beyond even our merging of a cappella songs and classical melody structure with atonal elements. In the process, we repeatedly examine words or sentences for their musical qualities when they are sung in expansion, or spoken rhythmically. Between analogies with Monty Python sounds and operatic brilliance, between white noise and distorted and broken tones, the sound of “Obsession” meanders while remaining intricately intertwined with movements on stage.

“’Obsessions’ is an opera with contemporary orchestra, electronic music, and a mixture of voice-art in various forms,” summarises Yiran. “I was faced with the special challenge of working with sound material from different sources because part of the music that will be heard on stage was the result of collaborative working processes and improvisations by Oblivia.”

The creation process for “Obsessions” also marks the first time that we encounter colleagues from municipal theatre ensembles. Annika Tudeer, Oblivia’s artistic director: “It is both enriching as well as challenging having those two worlds meet now. Our open, collaborative work approach, stemming from the independent performance scene, which is extremely important to Oblivia and which imbues our work with this polyphonic quality while also sometimes making the process difficult, too, encounters the conditions of the municipal theatre with its set rules concerning rehearsal times and procedure that can also enable so much. And, what is, of course, most important: Gaining eleven ensemble members that are so incredibly well-versed in one fell swoop, that is a real blessing that is really only possible within such a cooperation.”

Following the Bremen performances, “Obsessions” will have its North Rhine-Westphalian premiere at the Wuppertal Opera on December 3rd, 2022, in a yet again newly conceived version with singers and orchestra musicians from the local ensemble. 

With Finnish artist group ‘Oblivia’, an evening was conjured that not only posed questions at the reception of the traditional opera, but which quite reached people beyond that who normally only wrestle with contemporary aesthetics of any kind – be they questions of staging or of composition, too. — Therefore, this project that just premiered is of extraordinarily importance: They dared to produce an aesthetic experiment, they dared rethinking the term ‘opera’, to challenge it.

– Ute Schalz-Laurenze,  Neue Musikzeitung

Team at Theater Bremen

Performers
Karin Enzler and Matthieu Svetchine (Theater Bremen)
Timo Fredriksson and Annika Tudeer (Oblivia)

Singers (Theater Bremen)
Nerita Pokvytyte – soprano
Maríam Murgulía – mezzo soprano
Timotheus Maas – bassbariton

Musicians (Bremer Philharmoniker)
Hélène Freyburger – flute
Gregor Daul ­– oboe
Anatoli Jagodin ­– trombone
Rose Eickelberg – percussion
Reinhold Heise – violin
Marie Daniels – viola

Conductor (Theater Bremen)
Yu Sugimoto

Oblivia team
Concept & devising: Oblivia working group
Dramaturgy: Anna-Maija Terävä
Outside eye: Alice Ferl
Composer, electronic live music : Yiran Zhao
Light design, projections: Meri Ekola
Costume design: Tua Helve
Communications: Nassrah-Alexia Denif, Lisa Carolin Schubert
Production manager: Jenny Nordlund

Theater Bremen team
Production: Josef Zschornack
Studio director: Rolando Garza Rodríguez
Head of Dramaturgy Musiktheater: Brigitte Heusinger

Fonds Experimentelles Musiktheater (feXm)/ NOperas!
Dramaturg: Roland Quitt

Co-producers
A co-production of Theater Bremen and Oper Wuppertal with Oblivia as part of NOperas!, the funding initiative of the Fonds Experimentelles Musiktheater of NRW KULTURsekretariat and Kunststiftung NRW.

Supporters
Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Helsinki City, Svenska kulturfonden, TINFO – Theatre Info Finland/ MOTI funded by The Finnish Cultural Foundation.

Premiere | February 19, 2022, Theater Bremen
Premiere | December 3, 2022, Oper Wuppertal