Frankfurt Meets Toronto: Heiner Goebbels
Toronto's state-of-the-art 'Premiere Dance Theatre' functioned as the choice location for the North American Premiere of Maestro Heiner Goebbels' 'The Liberation of Prometheus'. The May 22nd master performance marked also the closing event of the Goethe-Institut's successfully delivered 'A Key to the City - Frankfurt Meets Toronto' festival (February 08 - May 22/96).
The Toronto chapter of the world wide based language institute, which already is renowned for its very proactive and trend setting venue creation, truly outdid itself this time as the organizers and hosts of this festival. The festival itself was comprised of a four month series of 20 socio-political and artistic events that celebrated the Sister City relationship between Toronto and Frankfurt.
When prompting Festival Director Wilfried Scheffler about the purpose of the festival, he followed thus: 'At last, certain people of various backgrounds, fields, and issues had an opportunity to find out about their similarities of their collective events and ideas.' Asking Scheffler about the future of the festival caused this positive response: 'We opened the cities up...and we will try to continue to do so.' This would be slated for the '97/'98 season and would feature a more specialized program, that would attempt to 'highlight and showcase specific themes instead.'
The evening's concert had two parts: Part I featured 'Herakles 2' (Co-presented by the GI and Species Counterpoint), a piece for 5 brass players, drums and sampler (originally commissioned for the Ensemble Intercomtemporain of Paris, 1992); based on a text by Heiner Mueller. Part II premiered 'The Liberation of Prometheus' - a Music Theatre for actors; text from Heiner Mueller's celebrated theatre piece 'Cement'. This featured Heiner Goebbels on piano and keyboard, David Moss on vocals and drums, and Martin Julien as the protagonist.
Herakles 2 revealed itself to be an adventurous animating piece of musical art that springs to life in front of any kind of listening audience. However, it was the colorfully fresh and vibrantly enhancing delivery of the performing brass quintet (White/Gardiner/Parker/Jowett/ Couch), along with its sampler (Kucharzyk) and percussionist (Sacks), that made it so.
It was during the performance of Prometheus, however, where true musical genius was invoked. This was so, because of the fusion between one of the world's foremost importantly composers of contemporary music and music theatre, Heiner Goebbels, and the internationally known David Moss, who as a multifaceted percussionist and vocalist/speakist has gained fame for his creative and innovative improvisations within the art rock and new music market.
This Prometheus' journey is quickly told, for it starts out from the staged linear white light of the Gods which the protagonist brings to mankind, and, after many-a trials and tribulations, ends up triumphing, in light of the divine mass suicide, on the shoulders of his liberator Herakles, ending this human tale with the Big Bang. However, it is not so much the thematic journey that makes this musical theatre so very unforgettable. Instead, its those divinely executed orchestral maneuvers by Goebbels and Moss, that clearly give sense if not even reason to the chaos of Prometheus' predicament.
To successfully empower oneself to do such, that is to be able to interplay, and, offset between the diabolical forces of chaos and order, smacks of the very musical composing genius of one Heiner Goebbels. So too with Prometheus. It oozed out the sense of duty and purpose of its creator; the very love towards detail and labor towards refinement. This is so as proven by the vast usage of musical alternatives, interpretations, and, sampling. The piano solo that follows the death of the Prometheus' eagle (his companion for 3000 and provider of 2000 years) is a case-in-point: Nobody comes close - on this earth at least - to the unique Goebellsian Klangmalerei... When Goebbels finally sings 'At last I am free', it becomes obvious why Heiner Goebbels is a living miracle.
After the concert we had the exclusive opportunity to talk to David Moss and Heiner Goebbels. David Moss, who confirmed to be influenced partly by Frank Zappa, John Coltrane, and John Cage, stated his improvisational style being based on his premise 'to throw something in, so to catch people by surprise'. Although he is now moving more into the direction of the 'theatrical weird', he will never lose his approach of performing with several events being stacked on top of each other. Nevertheless, he will never venture into the normal and usual realm, 'so not to close the window on freshness. I will always take it to the next level.'
This grand evening performance was also meant as a homage to the passing (December '95) of the Heiner Mueller, who, beyond the shadow of a doubt, was Germany's greatest contemporary dramatist. He now resides, along with his spiritual peer Bertolt Brecht, in the eternal Pantheon of all great Modernists.
ECHO GERMANICA (CA), June 1994