Presentation Direction and concept by Ulduz Ashraf Gandomi: “This staging had its debut on the 1st of May 2014, after months of work.
Albeit being my first experiment with a complete musical theatre piece, it won two national theatre awards in Italy: “Offerta Creativa” (Bologna, 2014) and “La Leva del ’99” (Modena, 2015).
The renowned opera Histoire du Soldat is based on Faust’s myth, and tells about a young soldier and his pact with the devil.
Yet, the plot is fragmentary and leaves much to the interpretation by the director and to the physical and emotional work of the actors.
Stravinsky's work allows for different levels of interpretation.
I have chosen to stage this opera as a dream, a warning, a preview of some phenomena /dynamics of life, potentially targeted at a public ranging from 8-year old children to adults.
I translated and adapted the text, originally written in rhyme, trying to find and develop a few reflections on the emotional and social mechanisms that make human beings slaves of their own ambitions.
The soldier’s intimate journey evolves through a path of self-consciousness in a dreamlike dimension.
The text and the music together lead the public to a reflection, in a poetic key, on the relationship between mankind, war and time.
From the very beginning, one has the sensation that war deprives human beings of time and turns them into robots or puppets; incapable of heeding their spiritual/interior needs.
I interpreted the Soldier as an insatiable and self centred man, trapped in his childhood.
When he is under the influence of the Devil, he appears to have a puppet’s body.
The Devil is a comic character, inspired by certain grotesque characters of Kusturica’s films: he represents the scorn of Destiny who puts the leading character to the test.
When the Devil appears, he takes on the aspect of a charming lord, a cold military general and a funny saleswoman.
The Devil lures the soldier into his trap and takes possession of his happiness, in exchange for money and power.
As the narrator explains at the end, the Devil reminds the soldier that there is only one kind of happiness and that a thousand possibilities are none at all.
It is an enigmatic text; the Devil is the moral spokesman and he who speaks of popular knowledge to which the fable relates.
The soldier agrees to teach the Devil to play the violin for three days in exchange for good treatment, but after having returned to his homeland, he discovers that three years have passed and no one seems to recognize him.
This depicts the sense of loneliness and alienation generated by the war and the great feeling of misunderstanding and loss of identity on return.
The soldier, stripped of his violin, wanders without a true goal.
Material wealth does not make up for lost time and does not fill the void of the Soldier’s solitude.
Only love rekindles in him a glimmer of hope, but the desire to have all, emotional and material, brings him back on the path of the Devil.
The Narrator is internal to the action, delivers the story, the facts and comments comically or dramatically on the history of the soldier.
He empathises with the main character, at times advises him, and sometimes portrays his inner voice.
Finally I imagined the Princess, a character inspired by the Russian folk tales, as doll-like, suffering from lack of love.
The Princess, overwhelmed by the exuberant energy of the Soldier, ends up succumbing to the Soldier’s game and discovers a more human and emotional side to herself: she finds herself.
The story of the Soldier is a story about the search for happiness whilst taking large deviations from the path of self-awareness.
The Soldier makes many mistakes but each time finds the energy to start over.
Happiness, symbolized by the violin, corresponds to a genuine and simple life, away from the logic of profit and social careerism in which the soldier chooses to fall continuously.
Choices and free will are actually the second crucial theme of the work, in accordance with the emphasis on positive freedom of man and his ethical responsibilities characteristic of the philosophy of the early twentieth century.
Visually I refer to Expressionism, the puppet theater, comics and physical work with actors is inspired by the world of the Commedia dell' Arte and the clown.
The concept that I have developed in this staging is the dual nature of human beings: the man is a pawn in a system, is a puppet that has moments of sincerity, of emotion, of awareness.
The Devil is everything that somehow undermines man’s inner dialogue and happiness: he represents the suffering inherent in the human soul, which leads to the non-enjoyment of everyday pleasures and causes one to constantly seek for new possibilities to be happy.
I tried to interpret the text whilst leaving the ending quite open : at the end we return to an early scene and the Soldier has a déjà-vu.
Ultimately man can choose how to direct his choices and has the full right to choose whether to in to the allure of evil or be content with his present life.
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