Desperate housewife singing György Kurtág: ‘Kafka fragments’ (Peter Sellars)

Sometimes a work of art is that powerful as such, that it doesn’t really need anything else. Even if it is a really enigmatic one. Take György Kurtág‘s Kafka Fragments by American theatre director Peter Sellars, for instance. Sellars’s version premiered in 2005 in New York and it is now brought to the stage again by KVS (Brussels), Barbican Centre (London) and Roma Europa (Rome). Of course it is nice to have that backdrop with those black-and-white photos by David Michalek. Of course it is funny to see the outstanding Dawn Upshaw doing her chores as a desperate housewife, struggling with her existential problems, while she is singing. Sure, it served as a nice way to take the audience by the hand and lead it through that difficult piece of music. But did it help me understand Kurtag’s (and Kafka’s) Fragments? Did it lift those wonderful fragments to another level? In my opinion not. The advantage of a great work of art? You can’t ruin it either. So of course, I spent a great evening at KVS. The musical chemistry between the exquisite Upshaw (that voice) and the wonderful violinist Geoff Nuttall (that enthusiasm) was extraordinary. (Want more background info? Check these You Tube interviews with Sellars and Upshaw, here and here.)

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