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Zimmermann’s Opera "Die Soldaten" – Passions Far Removed from Full Dress Uniforms

26 MAR 2012

published in: Opera

Sketch by Eva Dessecker
Eva Dessecker immediately felt an affinity with Hermanis’ style of directing. According to her, the fact that he is somewhat taciturn sometimes offers open spaces and thereby demands creativity. She raves about Salzburg: “The Salzburg Festival’s workshops go into details so wonderfully, creating new items that are meant to look old. To me, these workshops are paradise. It is wonderful that the Festival has risen to the challenge of producing this complex piece, which is elaborate in each of its facets.”

Alvis Hermanis’ team has located the story of Die Soldaten during World War I. “However, we are not out for a historic recreation, but a human one. We are not aiming to define a certain time period, but instead the terrible mass that is man. What is he capable of, once he is set loose?” Therefore, the point she wishes to make is not to show the decorative side of war, with full dress uniforms and polished buttons, but its cruel side. “Therefore, the costumes will be lived-in and worn out, very realistically; we are not interested in a person’s rank. The epoch finds its expression in the civil world, and in this work, the civil world is defined by the women.”

Her work takes recourse to personal experience too: “During my research, I encountered a very private story,” Dessecker says. “I was reading the correspondence of my two great-uncles, both of whom fell in World War I. Both brothers enlisted voluntarily and describe their daily routine in their letters. At the end of this 200-page family history, there is nothing left of the original heroism and machismo, only disillusionment. In addition, my great-grandmother had a fabric store – the parallel to Die Soldaten, where the draper Stolzius is to be married to the daughter of a fancy goods merchant, touches me immensely.”

Eva Dessecker’s work is characterized by her passion for historic costumes that are accurate down to the last detail, and this is a quality Alvis Hermanis appreciates. “As soon as I study a certain period, I have to ask myself many questions, for example: how was something made? What kind of fabrics did they have? The costume must give the impression of being very intricately involved.”

Eva Dessecker has worked as a freelance costume and set designer at international theaters since 1992. Her first production with Alvis Hermanis was Platonov at Vienna’s Burgtheater in 2011 – a production that was just invited to Berlin’s 2012 Theatertreffen. This was followed by Das weite Land, also at the Burgtheater, and Eugene Onegin at Berlin’s Schaubühne.

For Die Soldaten, you can purchase tickets here.