Some time ago, our drama group, mentored by Ms. Döring and Ms. Geppert, met Janet Grau. The American artist invited us to a special workshop in the Semper Opera House. After a day full of Wagner’s music, we decided to take part in Janet’s project, just like four girls from Herder Gymnasium.
A few weeks later, we all met in the Wagner Museum in Graupa to rehearse and shoot some scenes for our “Interplay with Wagner’s Lohengrin”. The result is really worth seeing. We were given the chance to indulge our passion for acting.<br />
Wiebbke Patzak, Lena Langer, Grade 10/2
The ‘Sächsische Zeitung’ published a report on our project on February 6th, 2012:
Young people got excited about Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’ and made a movie that is about more than just classical music.
Five high school students from Pirna felt like they were at the movies, but the people that could be watched on the screen in the hunting lodge in Graupa were they themselves. It was the first time that they saw themselves this way in ‘Mein lieber Schwan’. What a great feeling! But this is not the only reason why they would be happy to engage themselves in an interplay with Wagner any time again.
Everything the six young girls had prepared together with the artist Janet Grau in just two days is more than an interaction between them and Wagner’s Lohengrin. They got involved in something that enriched both their experiences and Wagner’s opera. Nobody has probably ever looked at the scene in which Lohengrin approaches Elsa on the swan to prove her innocence this way.
It began with a workshop in Dresden’s opera house, the Semperoper. They started to approach Wagner’s work blindfolded, so that they could solely focus on the music. Although Janet Grau first thought they wouldn’t know whose music this was, the students were able to identify it by reading the information carefully. Half of the participants in the workshop were discouraged, the other half wanted to continue working with Janet Grau. The performance artist, who was born in the United States, knew immediately who would play which role. Lena Langer, who played Ortrud, was impressed with such deep insights into human nature.
Lisa Heilmann moves so gracefully that one is inclined to believe that what you see is an actual swan. Words are not enough to describe the way Sylvia Kitlak makes Elsa suffer and yearn. Annemarie Stricker has to laugh when she kisses Elsa’s hand. “I thought of something else”, she says and laughs again together with the others. The kiss can be seen in the movie. It adds a whole new dimension to the play.
Unlike the four-hour opera, the movie is only 17 minutes long: 17 minutes of Wagner’s music, no spoken word but six girls that live the music. You can tell from their facial expressions and gestures what the music conveys. Music and performance form one unit.
Janet Grau didn’t want to teach anything to anyone or develop a new stage production. She wanted to bring Wagner closer to young people. She succeeded: at the end, all of them watched the four-hour video of the opera with pizza and popcorn. And although the girls don’t have any of Wagner’s works on their MP3 players, they still like his music.
“I think he would have been thrilled”, says Lord Mayor Klaus-Peter Hanke. He is inspired just like many of the visitors. The person he referred to is Wagner. Parents, friends and art connoisseurs praise the performers
The movie can be watched in the exhibition. Unfortunately, the screen there is smaller than the one in the hunting lodge, but this does not affect the young people’s performance. Their interplay is now part of the exhibition, and it was shown at the opening on Saturday. “This house is going to need a lot of friends”’ said Katja Mieth, head of the department of Saxon museums.