Lucinda Childs and Robert Wilson have revived their 1981 work Relative Calm in a new extended production that world-premiered last week in Rome, Italy, at the Auditorium Parco Della Musica Ennio Morricone.
The show includes a reinterpretation of the two choreographies by Lucinda Childs to the music of John Adams and John Gibson and is extended into a triptych with a new creation on the music of Pulcinella by Igor Stravinsky.
“The whole show, in its three symmetrical parts will be like a clock that measures time, like the succession of the hours of the day.” — Robert Wilson
In the mid-seventies, Robert Wilson asked Lucinda Childs to be part of his opera Einstein on the Beach, on which he was working with Philip Glass.
A few years later, in 1981, Childs asked Wilson to do the lights and design the space for a dance show she was creating with Jon Gibson at The Kitchen in New York. When they started thinking about a new work together, precisely forty years later and right in the middle of the pandemic isolation days, that 1981 show came back to their mind: Relative Calm.
They decided to extend that work and came up with the idea of choreographing Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. “I really liked the idea of Stravinsky as a central counterpoint to two musical compositions by contemporary authors such as Jon Gibson and John Adams,” Wilson says. “So we structured the work in three parts to compose a complete show of dance, music, lights, and images.”
Wilson particularly enjoyed working on Stravinsky. “Stravinsky’s is a completely different world from mine, with a different colour spectrum. Different and, therefore, structurally interesting to me. I faced Pulcinella‘s suite the same way I always relate to written compositions: I respect the composer, but then I don’t want to become his slave, so I stage it in my own way.”
For Wilson, all his theatre, in a sense, is a masque with music and text; the image on stage is what one sees, while what is heard is something different. “From this point of view, my theater is very classic,” Wilson says, “just like in Greek theater where actors were “masks”, or as in Noh theater, in the Bunraku in Japan, the Kathakali in India. In my work, all of my work, I see the images on stage as a mask, and behind the mask, we hear something.”
Although his work since the late sixties has changed over the years, Wilson highlights how the hand and body making it has stayed the same, “like a tree is at times in a storm or sometimes loses its leaves, but is still the same tree. All my work is one thing in this sense.”
Childs and Wilson have always shared a sense of time, and a sense of a work’s structure and he thinks this is something very rare to find. When collaborating “we don’t need to talk much because we think the same way,” Wilson says.
This world premiere show is produced by Fondazione Musica per Roma together with Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Théâtre Garonne / scène européenne of Toulouse. The project and concept are by Change Performing Arts, the production structure created and directed by Franco Laera, who for over forty years has supported the American artist in many artistic adventures worldwide. The show is performed by dancers of the MP3 Dance project directed by Michele Pogliani and the PMCE Parco Della Musica Contemporanea Ensemble, directed by Tonino Battista, who recorded the music of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella for the occasion.
[Robert Wilson’s quotations were translated from Italian. Source: APM]