House of Frank
Berlin-based opera collective Hauen & Stechen is going to Saratov, a city on the River Volga in Russia, for what could be their most unusual project to date.
At the end of May, Saratov will host a series of events commemorating Russian philosopher Semyon Frank, whose life was closely tied with the city. Saratov was where Frank’s wife Tatyana Bartseva, the daughter of a local shipping merchant, grew up and where the couple got married. In the revolutionary storm that swept Russia a hundred years ago, they moved from St Petersburg to Saratov, where Frank first taught philosophy only to withdraw to the countryside with his family before being expelled to Germany on the infamous philosopher steamship.
Director Julia Lwowski’s husband Nikolai Frank is the grandson of Semyon and Tatyana. Hauen & Stechen seizes the opportunity of a new adventure: the team of Yassu Yabara (set design), Lea Søvsø (costumes), Martin Mallon (video art) and Maria Buzhor (dramaturgy) will stage a biopic opera in Tatyana’s childhood house. The building was nationalized after the revolution and barely survived decades of neglect, but was bought up and renovated by the Mikhailov family, who today run Café Arabella at the premises, an important meeting place for cultural events in Saratov.
Known for its groundbreaking take on classical opera, Hauen & Stechen immerses itself in pre-revolutionary Russia, a reality on the verge of cracking and crumbling. Frank’s philosophy will penetrate the everyday hustle and bustle of the merchant’s house, struggle with chaos during the birth of the first son, find light in the death of the father.
Café Arabella’s colourful layers of history will be exposed in an unlikely love story between a gutsy girl from the provinces and her nerdy Jewish philosophy professor with the deep gaze.
The performance will involve an ensemble of superb local musicians as well as an all-women's choir of 'babushkas'.
Come and be part of this unique project by donating however much you can towards the cost of the set, costumes, travel, visa, accommodation, and other practicalities.
Risks and challenges
Russian visas for the whole team are a new experience and definitely a challenge.
Apart from budgetary constraints and uncertainties, it will be thrilling to see people's reaction to the anarchic style of Hauen & Stechen and their humour. Everyone who expects a measured period drama will be surprised. In their work, the collective enthusiastically develops its deep respect for tradition and history via the means of sharp, contradictory and nuanced questions. We have had the experience of people not sharing this approach, and we expect the same reactions in Russia. We will talk to the people and drink with them.
- (14 days)