The truly lunar Pierrot Lunaire by Marlene Monteiro Freitas

More the Portrait Marlene Monteiro Freitas from the Autumn Festival advance the more we can grasp that the dissonances of this unique artist overflow from her backyard. In a choreographed staging of the Lunar Pierrot by Arnold Schönberg, she delivers a show in 21 takes that is as delirious as it is disturbing. Pure Marlene!

orange mass

For the second time, the Cape Verdean dancer and choreographer trained at PARTS in Brussels is interested in the particular writing of Arnold Schönberg. 110 years apart, the grammars of these two artists seem to echo each other. He invented an atonal music and for more than 10 years she imposed a pantomime dance with freaky accents. Lunar Pierrot is a musical and literary work that consists of 21 poems by Albert Giraud. They lead us into a nocturnal story of desire where witchcraft comes to play tricks with “Red Mass” and other “Supplications”.

The scenography is superb. The public surrounds a rectangular space sandwiched between two orange lacquered panels. In the center of this metal sandwich, we guess strange chairs and white stools as well as a piano which lacks a keyboard. Then the ballet takes place. The musicians of the Klangforum Wien enter the scene, both scientists and priests, in an automaton and clownish movement. It’s funny and already offbeat even before the first notes arrive.


The first notes, moreover, are an address. A pop song, “Nothing Compares to You” by Sinead O’Connor, played on Florian Müller’s now full piano. It is true, nothing resembles the music of Schönberg and nothing resembles a performance by Marlene Monteiro Freitas.

Note that for this Pierrot, Marlene, already crowned with a Silver Lion in Venice, earlier in her career, received the Chanel Next Prize and an Evens Arts Prize. Music is omnipresent in the work of the choreographer who has an unequaled sense of rhythm. But usually, she summons cymbals and drums instead (Guinche, ofivory and flesh...).

The structure is as follows: the 21 poems are played in the form of takes as in a TV studio. When “it turns”, Vera Fischer (flute, piccolo), Bernhard Zachhuber (clarinet, bass clarinet), Gunde Jäch-Micko (violin, viola), Andreas Lindenbaum (cello), Florian Müller (piano) led by Ingo Metzmacher get together to play, and Sofia Jernberg all dressed in purple and black sings the poems of this Lunar Pierrot. There is nothing classical by definition in this so-called atonal music. It is super contemporary, created on the eve of the First World War. The world is collapsing, like today, and you just have to play wrong scores and dance without curves.

bloody spit

What is funny in this concordance of times is that it is found in many artists. We have seen since the start of the Festival d’Automne Marthaler break violins, Philippe Quesne burning pianos. The instruments which here too are abused are the symbol of the civilized world which is collapsing. The words of Albert Giraud do not tell anything else. He speaks of “fantastic moon”, of “disturbing aftertaste like bloody spit”, of “deafened notes” of “a grotesque dissonant bow” or even of the “charm of broken spleen”.

Without illustrating, without being literal, the embodiment of Marlene Monteiro Freitas illustrates and illuminates these poems and these notes which come to howl in high E, which impose on musicians technically charged scores where the variations of sounds particularly require the strings to twist reason. And it is in the interstices, in the in-betweens that the piece imposes that it has the most fun, offering the musicians delicious freedoms, like this very funny sequence of bumper cars on slippery chairs!

Hybrid masses

We must also salute the spatialization of sound in this immense space that is La Grande Halle de La Villette, which is absolutely not made to receive “classical” music.

Marlene Monteiro Freitas has worked for a long time with so-called “different” bodies. His company includes artists of all origins, all genres and all kinds of bodies. With this commission from the Wiener Festwochen, she has fun mixing sound, instruments and those who play them like masses, objects to be moved.

Marlene Monteiro Freitas shakes everything up, including us, who come out amazed and delighted with the most “weird” show she has ever signed up to now. And yet, she never, really never produced anything conventional! The fact that it renews itself each time and that it always seeks further new states of matter is simply fascinating.

Unfortunately, Lunar Pierrot was only given from November 25 to 27, but do not miss the resumption of bacchantes from December 1 to 3 if you want to better understand the universe of this uncontrollable artist.

Visual: © Nuith Wagner-Strauss

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The truly lunar Pierrot Lunaire by Marlene Monteiro Freitas

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