“That is real magic, not just theatre.”
“What Requiem pour L. chiefly does – at both an artistic and an emotional level – is to dissolve opposition. Song is not opposed to dance, Western is not opposed to non-Western, and sorrow is not opposed to joy.”
For Requiem pour L. director/choreographer Alain Platel and composer Fabrizio Cassol turned their attention to Mozart. The idea came from Cassol, known from the avant-garde jazz band Aka Moon. With this contemporary interpretation of Mozart’s Requiem, he continues to write a personal artistic history in which he brings together various musical cultures around a particular theme. For this he draws on both oral and written traditions. Fourteen African and European musicians reconstruct Mozart’s Requiem by fusing it with jazz, opera and popular African music. Alain Platel searches for a physical and visual translation of associations and images that conjure up a requiem, from a funeral mass, to mass graves, to farewell rituals.
From the jury report:
Theatre, like religious rites, helps us deal with disaster and death. Only in the theatre do we want to believe that the dead can rise again. Requiem pour L. by Fabrizio Cassol and Alain Platel taps into that power of the theatre, but in so doing, also relies, not by chance, on the solace that music provides, particularly Mozart’s Requiem. Mozart died before he was able to complete that Requiem, but in the end a composer friend, Franz Xaver Süssmayer, finished it. However, Fabrizio Cassol returned to Mozart’s original score and completed it in his own way. He did not efface himself like Süssmayer.
As in Coup fatal (2014), his earlier production with Platel, he collaborated with musicians from Africa, Portugal and Belgium. That gives this work a very different timbre and tone: instead of a classical orchestra, we hear accordion, mbira, electric guitar and euphonium. Cassol also replaced the choirs with individual voices and some Latin texts were given an African translation. Something new emerged that is neither African nor Western music. Its vitality is juxtaposed with a soundless black and white film of a dying woman, who dominates the stage like a continuous memento mori.
And it is in that juxtaposition of film and musicians that something extraordinary happens. Not only do the African musicians approach Mozart differently from us Western Europeans, but they also have a different attitude to mourning and death. No sorrowful faces or awkward gestures for them. They ‘celebrate’ a death exuberantly. They need no encouragement: the high-spirited interpretation of the music soon has them dancing. Alain Platel captured and reinforced that joie de vivre.
When the woman dies on screen, the musicians launch into an exuberant finale. As if to say: this life is over, but the memory lives on. So in this production the woman rises again every evening. Not so much as an individual. As spectators we know next to nothing about her. Her resurrection is not pretence. The woman who allowed herself to be filmed expressed an act of faith in life and that is what the performers convey. That is real magic, not just theatre.