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Reflections on The Dark Mirror

Monday 9 May 2016

Plunged into a stark wintry landscape, a wanderer embarks on an intensely dramatic journey…

Schubert’s haunting song-cycle Winterreise for tenor and chamber orchestra follows one man through a bleak, wintry landscape. Over the years, this journey has been interpreted in many ways, including Hans Zender’s startling orchestration, transporting the listener to post-Weimar Germany with its abrasive cabaret style.

In The Dark Mirror, multimedia artist Netia Jones collaborates with Britten Sinfonia and world-leading performer of Winterreise, Ian Bostridge, for an imaginative theatrical interpretation using live film and projection, taking place in our theatre.

Netia Jones shares some of the creative process behind realising this exhilarating performance on the stage:

‘Zender’s rich and suggestive orchestral interpretation of Schubert’s Winterreise opens up myriad lines of enquiry into this extraordinary song cycle, allowing a theatrical approach to a musical work. Rather than a staging of Zender’s Winterreise, The Dark Mirror is a reflection on the piece itself – on the startling revelations of Zender’s reworking, on the meeting of music and theatre, on the performers relationship with the Schubert songs,  on our own relationships over time with particular works, and by extension with our younger selves. Schubert was a startling innovator, and a composer of unquestionable genius and boldness. For this performance the theatre is a site-specific venue, chosen to reflect on the theatrical gestures both in Schubert and in Zender, and to allow a multilayered approach to such a rich and iconic piece – this exploration we have named The Dark Mirror. Theatre is by nature a hybrid art form – it can absorb every other art form within it. The intention with The Dark Mirror is to create a piece of theatre that is expressed through music and presented within a rich visual world, enabled by the technologies of our time. Here there are three protagonists – the singer, the orchestra, and the film. At the heart of this theatrical work is the performer, Ian Bostridge, whose relationship with Schubert’s Winterreise represents a lifelong journey. Zender allows us to experience this piece both from the outside and from within, a conduit to Schubert, but also an explosion into something new – a reflection on the piece and a mirror to ourselves.’

Learn more about the making of The Dark Mirror:

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise takes place on 12–14 May in the Theatre.

Listen to interviews with director Netia Jones, Ian Bostridge, conductor Baldur Brönnimann and more in our podcast

'Just as Zender’s re-imagining of this beloved work provokes enquiries into the art of composition, Ian Bostridge’s life-long engagement with Schubert’s Winterreise creates another conversation between Zender’s work and the original cycle, and conjures reflections on the performer himself.'
'In this performance the singer encounters his past self in both still and moving images; an abstract, elusive portrait of the artist as a young man, a performer just embarking on a life-long relationship with this song cycle and a lifetime of performance. The young singer and his current self perform together.'
'The visual world conjures early experimental German photography and expressionistic film techniques, stark graphics, shadowy, murky backdrops and beautiful, breathtaking, icy landscapes, together with translated texts of the poems by Wilhelm Muller. '
'The singer interacts with the screen imagery, which is both front and rear projected, performing with live real-time projections of himself, archive material of his younger self, moving footage, bright wintery imagery, near pitch darkness, expansive vistas, microscopic fragments, shadows, animation, cabaret dazzle, abstract and figurative film, text and translations.'
‘The performer, raised on a platform behind and around the ensemble, moves freely from the stage to the front of the orchestra, from high above the ensemble to hidden low at stage level. He is at once master of ceremonies, commentator and protagonist, both recitalist and dramatic central character, simultaneously relating, experiencing, reflecting on and leading us through this multi-layered work.’