Here’s a chance to take part in the creation of a theatrical work: on May 4, an ad-hoc collective of artists the Winterreise Projekt wants you to join them in the conceiving of the staging of Schubert’s Winterreise (details). The project aims to connect the diaspora and immigrant experience of Canada’s winter with Schubert’s song cycle, and it’s very much a work in progress. One thing is certain: it will be about personal experience: the artists’ and, if you come down in May, yours.
I met on Thursday with one of the collective, tenor Derek Kwan, to find out more. The idea was, he explains, to make a truly theatrical, inter-disciplinary and participatory Winterreise, with the designers involved from the earliest stage. Rather than coming in once the work is completely conceived, they are all part of the writing process, similar to how companies like Théâtre du Soleil, DV8, Complicité, or Robert Lepage’s Deus ex machina work.
The entire cycle is not likely to be included, and even less likely in its original language, but what ends up being used as text is up for grabs. “We could keep the music but use the text that we end up making. Or, keep the music and use some other, found text. Or use the translations. We’re looking at some singable translations of Winterreise… the English one is not ideal… we found one in Chinese, we’re looking for more. Or, we may lose some of the music, and have an entirely new composition based on the Winterreise.”
Some of the themes that they identified at this point and want to work with are: winter, journey, isolation, loss. The questions to kick-start the process will be myriad and varied: what do each of those terms mean to you? How do you personally respond to Schubert’s song cycle? How was the first time you experienced -20C temp or the first snow storm? Your worst and best winter days? The diaspora bit was crucial from the beginning as all of the artists involved are either second or first generation immigrants and know well the off-centre perspective this gives on the Canadian society.
For the May 4 session at Studio Theatre, they hope to have as many audience members on stage with them as possible. Music might be played, projections shown, conversations will take place — and you don’t have to come prepared. You don’t even have to have heard (of) Winterreise.
Meanwhile, a few selected options:
The tenor version with Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake
The baritone version with Dieter Fischer-Dieskau and Maurizio Pollini
The mezzo versions that I’m partial to are too few on YT! Hegemony, I tell you. Alice Coote‘s CD just came out, though, so that’s good news. Of Brigitte Fassbaender‘s Winterreise, there is only this film clip:
Photo: Derek Kwan