In a moment of luck and good instincts, just as Israel was entering another lockdown, I managed to escape to Berlin for three weeks and was granted a bubble of sanity within this difficult time of the pandemic.
I felt like a refugee, people were asking me how I managed to even travel.
I was slowly being regenerated by the wonders of meeting people outdoors, and of art institutions being still open! I could go to museums and galleries, attend concerts and watch opera. It was inconceivable for someone coming from a place where all of the above were completely extinct (except for several small attempts).
One of the days I went to see a small, more experimental production at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, an opera house which I never visit, as I never find special interest in their bigger productions. This project was called “Waldesruh”.
I didn’t know much about it. I think it was on for only 8 shows. I didn’t recognize the director’s name (Anne-Sophie Mahler), nor did I any of the singers’. I understood perhaps 40 percent of the text, but gathered it was about trees, agronomy, roots, etc. it seemed interesting, even if a bit over theatrical for this kind of material. The musical numbers between the text parts were mainly lieder – Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn. They were nice, and incorporated some electronics which were mainly annoying.
All in all it was a nice “out of the box” project, which is refreshing in the opera world, but not anything too exciting or interesting compared to non-opera contemporary stage works. It was in the direction of being good (documentary text, classical repertoire with interesting space decisions etc.), but still I wasn’t really moved by anything. Not truly.
But then, after fabrics were stretched above our heads (which was quite expected – they were visibly folded from the beginning; the kind of element you know will have to be used before the show ends) – a grand piano was rolled into the room, a pianist entered, and time froze.
I knew there was going to be music by Morton Feldman, but didn’t expect an entire piece of his to be played.
I have literally no idea how long it was. It felt like an eternity. I think it was more than an hour in the real world, just this piece, and it was after at least one hour and a half of the rest of the show, plus intermission.
But the inside experience of this time for me was – please don’t end. It was the softest, gentlest, abstract and nuanced mix of sounds. So unplugged, so virtuosic in its attentive gentleness. A man with ears, fingers and a piano.
There were no proper seats, and we were given blankets in the intermission. A beautiful abstract video work was projected on the stretched fabrics above (how rare it is to like video on stage!), so I naturally slowly began to sink and down, and just lay on the platform to better experience what was happening.
I didn’t know how long it was going to last! It was breaking the rules of the short energetic numbers that came before, and It took me a long time to trust that I can really let go. But I was given this time, and that was a huge gift. As it went on I admired the makers for this radical decision: Softness. Time. Abstraction. I wished it would never end.
Something within me was unwinding, melting. It was like not just my heart, but everything around it stood still. It felt almost, dare I say, healing.
I would never have listened on my own to this piece (Triadic Memories), on Youtube or anything like that, certainly not with this attentiveness. I tried to listen to some Feldman before, but couldn’t hear anything among the open tabs and jumping text messages.
I thank everyone involved in this piece, and this unbelievable pianist (Stefan Wirth) for being brave enough to make me spend an eternity within these sounds; like stones in a river, where you can only be in one place at one time. And in the silence you wait until the right moment arrives and you move to the next one.