Robert Wilson, Adam's passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas

Robert Wilson, Adam’s passion

March 8, 2018

Author

Giuliano Picchi

Adam’s Passion is a joint work of Robert Wilson and composer Arvo Pärt.

Using light, space and movement, Wilson brings together in a “tightly-woven gesamtkunstwerk” Arvo Pärt’s choral works Adam’s Lament and Miserere, the double concerto for two violins Tabula rasa and the new work Sequentia, composed especially for this production and dedicated to Wilson by the author.

Robert Wilson, Adam's passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas
Robert Wilson, Adam’s passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas

The plot features Adam who, after having been expelled from the Garden of Eden, anticipates all of mankind’s catastrophes, blaming himself for them. In the end, he once again seeks the love of God.

Robert Wilson, Adam's passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas
Robert Wilson, Adam’s passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas

As for many of his set designs, Wilson had the collaboration of architect and scenographer Serge von Arx. Ahead of the upcoming performance at Konzerthaus Berlin this month, Scenography Today has asked him for some comments.

Among the fifty realized, and ca. thirty un-realized, productions he has worked at, Von Arx thinks Adam’s Passion stands out in the way the project has evolved out of an inner contradiction.

“Wilson’s starting point working with this beautiful music was the assertion that the best way to listen to it is to close your eyes. A contradiction that actually has worked on stage,” Von Arx says.

Robert Wilson, Adam's passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas
Robert Wilson, Adam’s passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas

“It all started with something conceived in the head before, which then got changed and simplified and really boiled down to an essence that truly allows you to concentrate or to listen to the music. The unfolding visuals allow the listening even better than by having closed eyes, which is, I think, quite an interesting achievement in the clarity and simplicity of the vocabulary Wilson is using,” he says.

Robert Wilson, Adam's passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas
Robert Wilson, Adam’s passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas

In Wilson’s productions, music is always a key aspect. “There are none of his works without the music,” Von Arx says, “and usually, this is created together with the work. That is why he considers important that the composers are present as much as possible, so they can really sculpt and build the work together.”

Robert Wilson, Adam's passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas
Robert Wilson, Adam’s passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas

In Adam’s Passion, on the contrary, the music was already established and the narrative had to be built on it. Except for the case of opera, where music is given but so is also the narrative, Adam’s Passion is a rare case in which Wilson had to work on a “fixed thread”, “so the work is not the constant dialogue or the weaving together” of the different components as we are used to seeing, instead “it is almost one fixed thread in which something is woven till the weaving almost disappears making the original thread, the music, even stronger and better acoustically visible,” he says.

Robert Wilson, Adam's passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas
Robert Wilson, Adam’s passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas

Another interesting aspect Von Arx highlights is the outcome of the production’s relocation. Adam’s Passion was first staged at the Noblessner Foundry in Tallin, a former submarine factory dating back to the early 20th century, a very different setting from the Berlin neoclassical concert hall. “It will be interesting to see how the production is moved from an industrial hall into this refurbished Schinkel architecture of the Berlin Konzerthaus. At first sight, the contrast could not be stronger. What will be the connection points, how differently will it be witnessed in the Berlin concert hall?” Von Arx wonders.

Robert Wilson, Adam's passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas
Robert Wilson, Adam’s passion | Photo © Kristian Kruuser /Kaupo Kikkas

Adam’s Passion will be performed at Konzerthaus Berlin, Germany, on 27, 28, 29 March.

Music by Arvo Pärt, direction, set and light design by Robert Wilson with the collaboration of Tilman Hecker (direction) and Serge von Arx (set design). Lights by A.J. Weissbard, costumes by Carlos Soto.