Angst and the over-40s
Like science fiction, music is exploring parallel universes. The BBC Symphony Orchestra has tried playing Debussy alongside Monet's impressionist paintings; Leif Ove Andsnes has been touring with an abstract video accompanying Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition ; and Heiner Goebbels' music-theatre pieces cross dimensions in a blend of the arts: part poetry, part music, part theatre.
His most recent "staged concert", seen at the Edinburgh Festival two years ago, is an international co-production. The list of sponsors, commissioning bodies and co-producing companies across five countries announces before curtain-up that Goebbels is offering no half-baked slice of experimental theatre, but an evening of highly skilled stagecraft in which every detail has been rehearsed to perfection.
I Went To The House But Did Not Enter brings together four texts by Eliot, Blanchot, Kafka and Beckett. They deal with different aspects of that particularly 20th-century malaise felt by faceless, grey, middle-aged men who agonise over their inability to achieve or even identify a goal in life. (It is perhaps no coincidence that three of the texts date from close to the world wars, when man's confidence in his place in the world was so rudely shattered.)
The stage pictures are of modern life at its most drearily suburban. In a drawing room decorated in matching grey carpets and curtains, four removal men pack everything down to the cups and saucers, like undertakers of the man who - in Eliot's words - "measured out his life in coffee spoons". In a dingy hotel room the men stare out of the window or watch a slideshow of holiday snaps, pondering silently a world of life and colour that is always out of reach.
Although described as a concert, the performance does not have much music. The four singers of the Hilliard Ensemble - more eloquent when they are singing Goebbels' simple settings than speaking the Blanchot text - spend most of their time going through carefully choreographed rituals of middle-aged life. A lot of the performance is silent, as Goebbels opens up the spaces between the words. There is poetry here, subtlety too, but also a self-aware artiness that is only for the converted. Take a deep breath before going in: this is a slow-moving evening that demands patience and concentration.
Financial Times (GB), 30 April 2010