Festspiele Zürich 2016: Dada – Between madness and nonsense
The Festspiele Zürich begin on 3 June, concurring with the Picabia Retrospective at the Kunsthaus, and run until 26 June. This year’s focus is the Dada movement, which 100 years ago spread out from Zurich like an epidemic all over the world. Over 150 events – exhibitions, theatre, opera, dance, concerts, discussions and many more – all reflect the many facets of the Dada movement, and the variety of Zurich culture. (The full programme)
Some consider Dada weird and wonderful, some consider it just rubbish, while yet others see the Dada nonsense as a reaction to the madness of the war. Dada is, as the early Dadaist Hans Richter puts it, a shattered mirror, in whose splinters each of us projects his particular image. And so, a hundred years after Hugo Ball clad as a magic bishop recited his first sound poems in Cabaret Voltaire and the Dada movement set out to conquer the world, some 30 cultural institutions will present their interpretation of Dada as part of this year’s Zurich Festspiele. From 3 to 26 June the festival will reflect the many facets of the Dada movement, and the variety of Zurich culture.
With his speech “Das Ganze im Nichts und das Nichts im Ganzen: Dada – Immerdar” (“All in Nothing and Nothing in All: Dada evermore!”) former federal councillor Moritz Leuenberger will officially open the Festspiele Zürich and bridge culture and politics. In collaboration with the MoMA New York, the Kunsthaus presents Francis Picabia’s well-known Dadaist creations in the context of his complete works, and shows how, throughout his life, this artist refused to be categorised. In the Rietberg Museum, works of Dada meet up with their sources of inspiration from outside Europe, particularly the African continent.
In three soirées at the Zunfthaus zur Waag, brilliant minds explore the Dada phenomenon. The Festspiele Zürich revive bourgeois salon culture, as ten private individuals host Dadaist events at their homes; and run new sound experiments in the spirit of Dada, with performances from the Neuen Vocalsolisten and Schnebel’s “Harley Davidson” at the traffic-free Münsterhof.
At the Schauspielhaus, the Dada word takes centre stage: Herbert Fritsch’s “der die mann” turns the language of Konrad Bayer into music, and takes control of the actors’ bodies. Céline Arnauld’s poetry rings out in “Vergessenes Gelächter” and dead Dada poets lock together in a verbal duel with young Slam poets. The Tonhalle Orchestra also devotes itself to Dadaist tones, first with various chamber ensembles, when for a whole night all the rooms at the Tonhalle are filled with sounds from the vocal artist Salome Kammer and other guests; then on a larger scale, when Eric Satie’s “Gymnopédies” collides with works from Mozart and Brahms. Meanwhile, at the Opernhaus, young choreographers address Dada dance heritage.
Neumarkt Theatre transports Dada into today’s world. Two theatre performances, produced together with the Maxim Gorki Theatre Berlin, capture elements of a computer game, an assessment centre and a television show. Already seeped with the spirit of Dada, Gessnerallee steers away from reminiscences on the historic Dada movement, preferring to invite high-calibre performances (which would not exist but for Dada), and launches an initiative which aims to trigger a long-term confrontation with our contemporary value system. The Rigiblick Theatre rings out with Dada words by Arp, Schwitters and Charm, set to music, puts on an absurd cabaret by Wolfgang Krause Zwieback and discovers strains of Dada in the music of Frank Zappa and in texts by Joyce, Jandl and Jelinek, read aloud by André Jung, among others. Miller’s Studio searches for Dada’s origins in cabaret and presents, unusually, the early performance of an absurd chamber opera written by the Zurich musicians Mouthon und Dieter Ulrich. Meanwhile, the Sogar Theatre stages the exchange of letters between the Ball couple, and “Auguste Bolte” by Kurt Schwitters. And on screen at the Filmpodium are Dada silent films set to live music.
Dada is also the matter in hand of literary evenings run by the Literaturhaus and the Central Library, of discussions by the Swiss Institute of International Studies and the Paulus Academy, and of courses and tours by the Volkshochschule. Dada is the theme of an art education project with the Zurich University of Arts, and of both the Zurich Festspiel symposium and an interdisciplinary symposium of Kilchberg Sanatorium, which served as a refuge for Zurich Dadaists.
As expected, in addition to those events dedicated to the Dada theme, the programme features Festspiel favourites, such as “The Rue de Lourcine Affair” – a guest performance by the Vienna Burgtheatre at the Schauspielhaus, staged by Barbara Frey, “I Puritani” – the Bellini première at the Opernhaus, staged by Andreas Homoki and directed by Fabio Luisi, a live transmission of “Pique Dame” on Sechseläutenplatz, and “Tenir le temps” – a dance performance by Rachid Ouramdane at the Gessnerallee. There are also classical concerts at the Tonhalle featuring high-calibre soloists, such as Lisa Batiashvili, Radu Lupu and Yuja Wang, and jazz concerts in collaboration with Moods club in the summer pavilion at the Rietberg Museum. The Festspiele draw to a close with a concert by singer and songwriter Sophie Hunger, winner of this year’s Zurich Festspiele prize.