“I’m through with theater, now comes opera.” Sounds like a plan. Ersan Mondtag, the 33-year-old drama director, actually Ersan Aygün, a genuine Neuköllner, with blue glasses and artist name, but actually not an artificial figure, has flirted with performance, installation and music. Now he wants to change the genre again.
In Ghent and Antwerp (both cities are used by the Vlaamse Opera), he started with it. Has staged the Belgian premiere of Franz Schreker’s 1932 fairytale rarity “The Blacksmith of Ghent”.
Is that a little escape or calculation? It seems he is less savvy than he is. But he might also need it.
Now another unusual, largely actionless piece should follow. “Antikrist” by the strange Dane Rued Langgaard (1893 to 1952). Again the devil matters. The premiere was scheduled for March 21 at the Deutsche Oper.
But the premiere is suspended for now. “Totally stupid,” says the rough day of Corona that has been slowed down. “Because I was really in Antwerp, it went great. I really think opera is really my field, where I can let off steam with my, let’s say, a little flamboyant expression. ”
“Langgard has no idea about opera”
This weird opera in particular, he says, “suited me very well. Langgaard had absolutely no idea about musical theater, “Antikrist” was never played during his lifetime. And he only makes the singers scream. My ears are still clinking today. “
The production had to be stopped, especially when the big opera puzzle on the stage was to be put together with all the scenic and musical components.
“We were all incredibly finished, but artistic director Dietmar Schwarz was so impressed by what he saw that he promised me that the production would definitely be rescheduled. And I really want to continue in the musical theater. “
Then it will be – at the earliest in autumn 2021 – if the almost finished “Antikrist” largely occupied by the company cannot be inserted in the coming season in Berlin. At the earliest, it will be rare, even obscure, works with little history and hardly any comparison.
In Antwerp and Ghent, Ersan Mondtag makes “Der Silbersee” by Kurt Weill and Georg Kaiser. It is then finally free of rights and can be edited. And then Laura Berman, who is just stirring up the Hanover Opera, hired him for Heinrich Marschner’s “Vampyr”.
Barrie Kosky had recently let go of the now 36-year-old young playwright Antú Romero Nunes at the Komische Oper on the bloody piece. He had, of course, mangled it to such an extent that it quickly disappeared. Nunes ’music theater work has not been successful so far.
Ersan Mondtag has had a completely different situation in Flanders. There his opera initiation, co-produced by the Nationaltheater Mannheim, was a complete success. Although he abruptly held up to the Belgians their not very clean colonial footprint.
Spectacle, campy, like to be pretty gay
And in the first two acts of the “Blacksmith of Ghent” based on the Ulenspiegel figure, he had organized what he is known for – also as his own supplier – a big, colorful spectacle, rotating stage, effort, viewing pleasure, campy, gladly pretty gay too.
The medieval fairy tale, with which the composing erotic icon Schreker, whose former reputation was on the wane, wanted to be popular with gaudy, volatile, was also staged.
With black, effeminate Spaniards who suppress the Biedermeier fluffy Flemish in their spinning toy city, on the back with sexy and seductive devils from the Punch and Judy show in a picturesque ghost train. All a hearty Grand Guignol, ancient-sounding, joint-decorated morality.
It was all very squeaky and parodistically funny. In the third act, however, he throws brown stumps out of a basket at the choir’s feet. They are, of course, not firewood, but bloody hands, as the cruel usurper and mass murderer Leopold II. Had in his private possession the Belgian Congo chopped off a million times.
We are here in a contemporary, picture-perfect colonial museum. Excerpts from a speech by the Congolese idol of liberation Patrice Lumumba from 1960 are recorded extensively. The audience swallows the sudden provocation, the oppressed are suddenly themselves oppressors, still lets themselves be carried away, and laughs liberatingly at what is historically horrific.
So Ersan Mondtag packed it, gave the opera monkey sugar and yet – with the help of his dramaturge Till Briegleb, who otherwise worked as a theater critic – a critical and questioning level was drawn in, which nevertheless leads to a generously good fairy tale ending. Schreker comes to his right, and attitude can still be felt.
Moon day was washed up quickly
In his most recent theater productions, Ersan Mondtag has not quite achieved this balance. He was quickly washed up. Frankfurt, Münchner Kammerspiele, Berliner Ensemble, Thalia Theater, Schauspiel Köln tirelessly provided for Mondtag.
A certain rebel routine became noticeable, boredom, reluctance, the compulsion to constantly outdo yourself or at least to live up to a reputation. Not a completely new process for a young talent who is quickly pushed up. Many have rubbed themselves up, been rubbed, and quickly disappeared again.
Ersan Mondtag, who generously put himself into the game for the Volksbühne directorship, also had to struggle with arrogance and beefy behavior. His third invitation to the Berlin Theater Meeting – “Das Internat” from Dortmund – did not come about because the theater is now very reserved for him and could not resume the complex staging, rather: wanted.
Penchant for doom operas
Now he finds himself refined to the “Ersan 2.0” and wants to make it big in the opera, do everything better in the other profession, reinvent himself. Before that, of course, he released a pretty good version of the much-dramatized Luchino-Visconti film “The Damned” in Cologne as an effective and sensitive Nazi twilight. Also a doom opera, somehow.
14 years ago Ersan Mondtag, idol: of course Frank Castorf, started as a guest student at the Berlin Ensemble, meanwhile he regularly stages there on the big stage. He quit the Munich Falkenberg School after two years.
He quickly gained a foothold at the “post-migrant” Maxim Gorki Theater. But he does not want to be defined as a quota Turk from the guest worker family or as a sneaky gay man, although his theater is probably also an aggressive, powerful photo-bracing against his own origin.
Peter Carp gave him his first opera chance at the Freiburg Theater; after all, the music theater is constantly craving lateral entrants who will hopefully make headlines. The intended Verdi “Macbeth” was then too bleak on the moon day, “and you won’t get very far with an equipment budget of 30,000 euros”.
A certain twinkle-eyed twinkle has remained. And there were already offers from larger, also greedy houses.
Ersan Mondtag, who liked it opulent, sometimes pushed the stage to its limit, always wanted to create a “genre that never existed before”. He bought his own, played works, so he stores his archive. He sees himself more as “a stage designer who uses his rooms himself than a director who builds his stages”.
Theater is Nespresso, opera is champagne
He was never in awe anyway, including Schiller (whose “robber” he cast completely female) or Shakespeare, who “for me are simply A4 pages with ink on them”.
Now, although he has to fear two acting premieres for virus shifts at the moment, there will probably be more party and performance à la lunar day in the opera. True to the realization: “If you sit in the office of the theater director, you will be offered Nespresso, at the opera champagne.”