narrow passage with steep walls

sound installation & performance

10 / 10 / 2021 - 28 / 12 / 2021

commissioned by Festival of Premieres / Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra 

premiered at 9th Festival of Premieres "Polish Modern Music" in Katowice

After a set of performances, an opera production is taken out of the program of a theater. In the backstage, all elements of the spectacle are being loosend and taken apart. The performers leave the stage, the audience leaves the auditorium, the scores are returned to the libraries, and the costumes and set design are stored. The elements of the performance deprived of the context that imposed their functions on them and gave them the status of a work of art, become post-production waste. They are not the property of their creators - they are owned by the institution, which, however, neither returns them to the stage nor disposes of them. Only the need to free up space in the warehouse can become a new opening for their history, without the obligation to cooperate on one stage in the service of the Gesamtkunstwerk (gesamt - joint, Kunstwerk - work).

The starting point for the sound installation Narrow passage with steep walls is an element of the scenography - the theatrical horizon from the staging of Ryszard Wagner's opera Die Walküre - 36 meters long and 7 meters wide, double-impregnated, hand-painted canvas. During performances, hung from a bar at the back of the stage, it closed the space belonging to the performance. After fourteen performances, it ended up in the magazine in 1989 and remained there for the next 30 years. In 2019, according to a theater employee whose job was to reorganize space in the magazine, cutting off the stamps on the reverse of the horizon with all information about the object allows it to be treated as an ordinary piece of fabric. In this way, it becomes possible to relocate it to the foyer of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice and reinterpret it, taking as a staring point the concept of leakage.

The title Valkyries from Richard Wagner's opera looked after the souls that escaped from the fallen warriors, when their bodies lost their integrity as a result of the wounds they received. The loss of control over physical tightness, however, is not only an element of the mythical story - it is at stake in the live performance of an opera by the real bodies of women. Valkyrie's vocal parts, which impose superhuman demands on the voice, risk causing dysphonia - a condition in which adducted vocal folds do not close completely but instead remain partially open while singing. Air flowing uncontrolled through the gap created is audible as a characteristic sound. The described condition disqualifies from participation in the performance, the way to reverse it is to refrain from using the voice.

The sound of a leakage of air can be a feature of the voice, but also of architecture - it can appear at any point of the transition between the inside and the outside. On the stage, one such place of passage is the theatrical horizon (from ancient Greek horízōn (kýklos) - separating (circle)). As an element of the set design, it separates what is hidden behind the stage from what is shown to the audience; it creates the background of the performance and mutes its sounds. In the foyer of the NOSPR, the horizon from Die Walküre staging performs solo and forms a circle that tightly closes from the viewer's gaze what in the theater would be a performance played out against its background; instead of muting sounds, it creates a vast and open vessel for them. From the stage, the horizon goes out to the foyer, from the theatrical night landscape to daylight.

A narrow passage with steep walls tells the story of a single object that is recovered from the operatic Gesamtkunstwerk. It contradicts the idea of ​​a whole greater than the sum of its parts, and it does so thanks to the leakage in the structures that manage the contents of the warehouses of theater institutions.