Requiem pour L.
In this Mass with 14 musicians and singers, meditation and exaltation join in a divine embrace. Requiem pour L. invites death to a celebration where Africa meets Mozart.
What if the end of life is something to be celebrated? Resurrecting the power of Mozart’s uncompleted and mythical opus Requiem, the dynamic duo consisting of composer Fabrizio Cassol and choreographer Alain Platel forces us to look death in the face. Fourteen musicians and singers from every continent invite the audience to a Mass where meditation and exaltation join together in a divine embrace.
Both a release and a rush of emotions, the piece crystallizes the final moments of a woman’s life, sublimating them in a sacred ode dedicated to all the living of this earth. Opera, jazz and African rhythms accompany L. as she takes her last breath in a memorial that resonates with the fervent footsteps of pulsing gumboots. By means of rituals far removed from Western funeral rites, and augmented by the vivid intensity of voices and bodies, Requiem pour L. becomes a deeply moving work that rejuvenates our conception of death. It is not adieu, but a call to life.
Produced by les ballets C de la B + Festival de Marseille + Berliner Festspiele
Music Fabrizio Cassol after Mozart’s Requiem
Direction and Set Design Alain Platel
Conductor Rodriguez Vangama
Created with and performed by Rodriguez Vangama (guitar and electric bass) + Boule Mpanya + Fredy Massamba + Russell Tshiebua (vocals) + Nobulumko Mngxekeza + Owen Metsileng + Maribeth Diggle (lyric vocals) + Joao Barradas/Charles Kieny (accordion) + Kojack Kossakamvwe (electric guitar) + Niels Van Heertum (euphonium) + Bouton Kalanda + Erick Ngoya + Silva Makengo (likembe) + Michel Seba (percussions)
Created with Joao Barradas (accordion) + Stephen Diaz + Rodrigo Ferreira (vocals)
Dramaturge Hildegard De Vuyst
Video Alain Platel + Natan Rosseel + Simon Van Rompay
Light Design Carlo Bourguignon
Sound Design Guillaume Desmet + Carlo Thompson
Costume Design Dorine Demuynck
Musical Assistant Maribeth Diggle
Choreographic Assistant Quan Bui Ngoc
Set Construction Wim Van de Cappelle in collaboration with Scenography atelier NTGent
Stage Manager and Technical Director Jan Mergaert
Photography Chris Van der Burght
Production Managers Valerie Desmet + Katrien Van Gysegem
Direction Assistant and Tour Manager Steve De Schepper
Trainee performing arts Lisaboa Houbrechts
Trainee theatre engineering Ijf Boullet
Distribution Frans Brood Productions
Co-produced by Opéra de Lille + Théâtre National de Chaillot (Paris) + Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg + Onassis Cultural Centre Athens + TorinoDanza (Turin) + Aperto Festival/Fondazione I Teatri (Reggio Emilia) + Kampnagel Hamburg + Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele + Festspielhaus Sankt Pölten + L’Arsenal (Metz) + Scène Nationale du Sud-Aquitain (Bayonne) + Ville de Marseille – Opéra
With the support of The Flemish authorities + City of Ghent + Province East Flanders + North Sea Port + Belgian Tax Shelter
Thanks to Isnelle da Silveira + Filip De Boeck + Barbara Raes + Griet Callewaert + Atelier NTGent+ Madame S.P. + Mademoiselle A.C. + Fondation Camargo + Sylvain Cambreling + Connexion vzw
We are sincerely grateful to L. and her family for their exceptional candour, their deep trust and the unique support to this special project.
In dialogue with Dr. Marc Cosyns
Presented by La Presse in association with Place des Arts + Carrefour international de Théâtre (Québec City) + National Arts Centre (Ottawa) + Luminato Festival Toronto
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Berliner Festspiele, on January 18, 2018
Fabrizio Cassol (Ghent)
Saxophonist with the group Aka Moon, Cassol communicates with musicians from all over the world, and often inserts oral and written traditions into existing pieces.
He has worked with choreographers and directors such as Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Lemi Ponifasio, Faustin Linyekula, Philippe Boesmans, Luc Bondy and the group tg STAN.
Over the past dozen years the duo has presented multifarious works, each time creating yet another new world, another enticing patchwork. In Requiem pour L. they intermingle Western and African repertoires in a portrayal of the final passage of humanity–death. The piece involves collaborators from every continent, from South Africa to the Congo by way of Europe, the United States, Vietnam and Brazil.
Alain Platel (Ghent) Les ballets C de la B
The Flemish choreographer and director Alain Platel has been pushing against the limits of the performing arts since founding ballets C de la B in 1984.
Within this world renowned collective he has developed a humanist approach that embraces difference, inspired in no small part by his training as a teacher for the mentally and physically handicapped. Combining disciplines in works performed by actors, dancers and musicians from diverse backgrounds, Platel is famous for creating unconventional, marginal worlds, a mélange of the commonplace and the sublime. His previous pieces presented at the FTA were Iets op Bach (1999), Allemaal Indiaan (2001), Gardenia (2011, a story of ageing drag queens) and tauberbach (2015), about individuals surviving in a garbage dump. That piece was awarded the 2015 Grand Prix de la danse de Montréal.
The 2006 choral project Coup de chœurs 2006 marked the beginning of a close collaboration with the Belgian composer Fabrizio Cassol. Their partnership also led to vsprs (2006), Pitié ! (2009) and Coup fatal (2014), a tribute to the joie de vivre of musicians in the Congo, the fruit of a dynamic encounter with the artistic community in Kinshasa.
Requiem pour L. deals with death in a straightforward, joyful manner, a stark contrast to Western funeral rites. Why did you adopt that approach?
Alain Platel: We share few things in this world, but one of them is the fact that all of us are going to die. Yet we find that discomforting; we are too embarrassed to look death in the face. I often evoked death as a metaphor in my previous works, but this time I wanted to approach it in radical fashion.
I started by using information from the musicians, their responses to death, which is conveyed in their movements and non-verbal actions, in how they communicate with each other and the way they celebrate together.
Often in Africa funerals are ceremonies, feasts. Then I imaged a set design that evokes the Holocaust monument in Berlin. I wanted to allude to the fact that we can be responsible for the death of other human beings.
I wanted to see images of someone who is dying. I contacted a doctor who works in palliative care who asked some of his patients if they wouldn’t object to me filming their deaths. That was how I met Lucie, who agreed to be filmed on the day she died.
In witnessing the deaths of people close to me, I noted that death came with a tsunami of sorrow and grief, but also that something very noble and beautiful took place, as though a force had entered my body. I thought that if we could share that precious moment with others, perhaps we could also share that force.
There is nothing violent in the images of Lucie dying. Instead there is something to see, something to do with the serenity and emotional force of the people around her.
Requiem pour L. makes use of all sorts of music. How did you come up with the idea of combining Mozart’s Requiem with jazz and African music?
Fabrizio Cassol: I wanted to create a new grieving ceremony, a place where different worlds meet. While Alain embarked on a journey toward death and a very deep, solemn relationship with the dying, we musicians pursued another path, one of joy and excitation.
The show was shaped by that counterpoint–Lucie’s colossal but static energy as she dies on the big screen, and the performers onstage who radiate dynamic, vital energy throughout a long musical journey. It’s like two levers transferring their force.
For me, the musicians are more important than the music. There are few African compositions in the show, but the presence of many African musicians means they Africanize the piece.
Did you find it intimidating to work from Mozart’s Requiem, an iconic piece if ever there was one?
Fabrizio Cassol: What fascinates me in Requiem is not so much what is in the piece but what is not in it.
When I read the manuscript copy of the score, I could see what had been composed by Mozart and what had been completed by others. It’s fascinating how Mozart’s writing stops and then starts afresh. Additions by other composer are written on top of and underneath his score.
I felt that if trust had been placed in many other composers and the result is one of the greatest uncompleted masterpieces in Western music, then why not have confidence in other artists to complete it once again?
The most important thing is to construct an emotional architecture, a framework onto which other elements can be added, elements that relate directly to Mozart’s music. When the Requiem focuses on Lucie, I knew it could not have the same form as the original which, with its return to the beginning, adheres to the form of the Mass.
Because we are moving here through a person’s life until its very end, it is not possible to return to the beginning.
How did you shape the contrast between the gravity of Mozart’s Requiem and the festive energy of the musicians onstage?
Alain Platel: When we began working on the Requiem, the musicians’ reflex was to play with festive joy. I asked them how that atmosphere could add to and blend in with a European mourning ceremony, and also asked them to play for and among themselves rather than to perform for an audience.
There is a sort of collective communion at work, but each person is also very much alone, living in singular solitude.
“An extraordinary fusion between Mozart’s Requiem and African music. […] Requiem pour L. confronts us with our own mortality in a way that is both sad and joyful, serene and boisterous.”
“A largely extraordinary experience”
The Times, 22-03-2018
“Cassol’s contribution is magisterial”
The Guardian, 25-03-2018