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The DonJuanMyth Radiantly Transformed Andrzej Wirth Don Juan Ultimo Teatro Maria Guerrero, Madrid (1992) . . . AND IN SPAIN, too? That is a question any skeptic observing the international and intercontinental spread of Robert Wilson's directorial work might well ask. Isn't his feverish creative energy and productivity wasted in a kind of cultural tourism that ignores the aural connection binding all theatre to its specific place and language? Such questions would not be far-fetched, but a closer look at his recent projects demonstrates that these apprehensions are unfounded. On the contrary, in the midst of this hectic schedule we can discern congruence, continuity, and leitmotifs. Wilson's opera stagings during the recent decade-from Charpentier's Medea (1984) to Wagner's Parsifal (1991)-make us recognize a goal that might be described as the radical reform of opera performance. The main features of this reform are: an immobilization of the singers; the formalization of their gestures which don't illustrate the words but respond selectively to moments in the music; a shifting of the protagonists' movement to the mobile chorus. The recently premiered adaptation of the Don Juan story at Madrid's Teatro Maria Guerrero (Centro Dramatico Nacional) could also be interpreted as a convergence and continuation of the motifs ofWoolf's Orlando, Duras's Malady of Death, and Stein's Dr.Faustus.These last "dramatic" works of Wilson circle around the problem of gender roles, of love, and 42 death (the affinity of the Faust and the Don Juan legends has long since been recognized: Don Juan as the Faust of the South). Already the opening moments of the first scene in Madrid is a recognizable acoustical quote from the Berlin Dr.Faustus: the shrill sound of a shattered pane of glass. And on it goes, according to the familiar Wilson vocabulary: the luminous, geometrically divided space; the Magritte colors; the speak-dance of the play figures who move along their angular tracks as abstractly as in a chess game; the ambivalence of gender in the male characters (they wear high heels and the lower halves of their bodies appear to be female). Not surprising because of its familiarity but, as always with this magician, extremely delightful for the eye and ear is the balletic manner in which the characters are directed. They move on three parallel tracks which creates the impression of an artful landscape of figures in depth perspective . The uniform costuming and doubling of the characters (Don Juan and his three or four doppelgangers, one of them La Figura) and the uniform appearance of all the women, invite the theatre to play a game of mistaken identities, to convey the insight that "one is no one" and even Don Juan himself an anti-hero deconstructed by doubling and imitation. He is a shadow, a mere trace, an echo of himself in a space of echoes and mirrors that is open to all sides. The aesthetic gain of the protoganist's co-existence on stage with all his doppelgangersis a wonder in the brilliant agility of the Spaniard Toni Canto whose reputation had been established previously in television. "Very good" is the enemy of "extraordinary," and the discovery of the minimal differences between the doppelgangers and the "original" reinforces the magnificent impression of the protagonist. Wilson/Parmeggiani's Don Juan-after all, the costumes designed by Wilson's loyal collaborator are an essential element in the definition of all the theatre figures in this piece-is a semi-feminine samurai. His conquests of women are athletic duels. A dance solo of the fencer Don Juan, bathed in red light, is one of the evening's visual high points. The figures change their positions, become whitish and transparent, then statuesque again, three dimensional, red or black, so as to appear finally graphically flattened as dark silhouettes against the radiant "sky" of the cyclorama. The visual transformations of the stage figures mark in an ingenious way the leaps of the narrative perspective: the piece is laid out in epic form, with constantly changing roles in narration and action. The red Don JuanSamurais sit frontally in Oriental poses, the invisible sword on their knees. Each stage configuration is controlled...


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pp. 42-58
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