14th Festival 2004


»Das Eigene im Gefüge«

(»Framing Identity«)

09 – 14 November 2004

(Preface to the printed programme – including conception of the festival)

The fact that Richard Wagner was the musical director at what was then the German theatre in Riga, provides the final proof of a realisation I have come to over a year and a half of festival research: the new European Union countries actually represent the old Europe, which is now waiting to be discovered.

Nowhere is the European vision older than in Malta. Emperor Charles V gave the island the Order of St John (later the Maltese Order) in 1530. Knights of the order came here from many countries to tend together the sick from all over Europe, making no distinction between their religions. Before that time, after the »Metamorphoses« of Ovid, Zeus – in the form of a horse – had stolen the beautiful Europe. More recently, on 9th May 1950 in Paris, French foreign minister Robert Schuman explained his plan to unite Europe in peace. The common roots of both the »new« and »old states are easy to see in the threads of European art. These threads are woven from Tallinn to Hrastovlje in Slowenia and Berlin (where art history is enriched by almost identical »dance of death« frescos), from Ljubljana to Paris (where you can be enchanted by the same art nouveau), from Bratislava to Vienna (only 60km away, and offering the same cuisine, the Danube and even the same baroque). Thomas Mann had a summerhouse on the Kurish Spit in present day Lithuania. And finally Cyprus gives rise to memories of a wall built though a country and a capital city. All this is strangely familiar. If you take a closer look at Europe, it is inevitable that you will be moved in most of the acceding countries, even by the scars from the darkest chapters of their history. Representative of this is the old fortress city of Terezín near Prague where during the Second World War one of the largest transit camps and Jewish ghettos in Europe was set up. This is where artists, such as Viktor Ullmann, composed, others danced and acted right up to their death. It all shapes today's art, even if often unconsciously, and gives it a new dimension for one moment or the other.

With such a jumble of thoughts going through our minds, a festival programme was compiled. No »western« view should judge how far »the east« has come. There is much more to it: understanding the cultural richness of these regions as an opportunity; stepping outside the »higher, quicker, further« mechanisms of western theatre; and stopping to ask yourself some totally new, existential life questions. This time our festival stands under the motto »Framing Identity« and aims to open a window and invite you in to make new discoveries, to be enchanted and to be deeply moved. Enjoy the magnificence of works by Alvis Hermanis and Krzysztof Warlikowski from among the highlights of modern theatre, as well as the lesser-known guest performances that hold in highlights a world of their own.

My thanks go to all the partners and colleagues whose financial and artistic contributions have made this festival possible. And, were he with us today, I am sure Leipzig-born Richard Wagner would certainly return to Riga to complete »Rienzi«, the opera that he began there.

Ann-Elisabeth Wolff
Festival Director and Artistic Direction

Leipzig, 12.09.2004