DIES IRAE – TAGE DES ZORNS (DIES IREA – DAY OF WRATH)
WORLD Premiere December 2019
How often has it been near, the Day of Reckoning. How often has it been upon us, the Last Judgment. How often have we heard that knock on our door: humanity’s final hour. “Disaster after disaster! Behold, it comes. An end has come. The end has come. Behold, it comes,” says the prophet Ezekiel. But now it’s really coming. But now, for real. And the righteous will be separated from the damned. If not now, then tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, then next year. Armageddon. Armageddon. Armageddon.
This story about the end of days is one of humankind’s greatest tales. We have been telling and retelling it for a very long time – perhaps since the very birth of storytelling itself. And yet, the end has never actually come. Often people stood on their roofs awaiting the predicted hour. In joyful anticipation they stretched their arms skyward, towards the light, hoping for eternal bliss. But the prophets were always false ones. They never “gave us the future”, but always “took the present”, as author Maurice Blanchot put it.
And although the story of the end of days has increasingly detached itself from its religious roots in our modern age, it lives on in numerous secularised versions – with varying degrees of relation to actual threats: Downfall through technology. Downfall through pollution. Downfall through overpopulation. Downfall through migration. Downfall through liberalism. No, through neoliberalism. Through Europe. Through the turn of the millennium. Through nuclear power. Through epidemics. Through climate change.
And so, in full view of the impending end, we find ourselves permanently suspended in the moment preceding it. As long as we’re still alive, we keep holding on. Up in the air. On a Moebius strip made of time.
“Qu’estque tu veux que je te dise? Tu attends toujours le dernier moment,” Estragon says in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. And Vladimir answers: “Le dernier moment … C’est long, mais ce sera bon.”
In Dies irae, spoken theatre meets music theatre suspended up in the air. Music that is like a walk on a Moebius strip – what would that sound like? Whose end is coming, and coming, and coming; but doesn’t come, doesn’t come, doesn’t come? Music that wants to climb stairs drawn by M.C. Escher? In this work, the New York composer, singer and pianist Paul Wallfisch (who works with the band Swans, among others) has set the endlessly repeating predoomsday loop to music, letting bold rock sounds collide with refined electronics – together with percussionist Toby Dammit (credits include work with Iggy Pop and Nick Cave) and multi-instrumentalist Simon Goff (collaborators include Johann Johannsson). Together, they search for the harmony of that redemptive final chord.
The director of this production is the award-winning play and opera director Kay Voges, who has made a name for himself with his spectacular theatrical works in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Dortmund, among other places.