Sunday, October 23, 2011

'Simplicius Simplicissimus' - simple is something different

Friday evening in Dresden, a cubicle behind Semperoper, the name is program: Semper 2. New approaches to opera are created here, and the open room offers quite some experiences one never can make happen between the audience and the players, singers, and dancers in the large house.

15 min to start (at 7pm sharp) the crowd is awaiting to be let in. The tension rises, as normally ("But what is normal?") one is allowed around 30 min early to enter. Something is different, yet one does not get details.

Opening - the eyes see no stage in the middle, rather 128 (or 125?) wooden boxes where the audience is going to sit, the stage is draped around the walls - this is going to be what Edgar Schein, MIT Sloan School of Management, and scholar of Kurt Lewin, a German-American psychologist with Jewish roots, calls a "cultural island", the ordinary is shifted significantly out of the normal expectance, and yet there is not much room to flee the situation. Curiousity, and paid ticket definitely outweigh the anxiety that arises already.

This situation reminds instantly of a paper written by Edgar Schein with the title "The Role of Art and the Artist". Why is arts relevant to other elements of society like business or government? - that's his initial question. Let's see whether, and how this new piece created by Manfred Weiß and his team will play out.

"First, art and artists stimulate us to see more, hear more, and experience more of what is going on within us and around us."

Being the audience in the middle, sitting on plain boxes, let's the mind stay anxious, moving around in 360° as the play goes on around on the installation around the walls.  It could happen that you instantly get in "conversation" with your neighbors bumping in each others' feet. Erik Nielsen, the conductor this evening is standing merely a few meters away, the orchestra around him, and almost part of the audience. One feels connected, one feels the real work of what a conductor is providing for the whole process: being the facilitator of a rather complex process.

"Second, art does and should disturb, provoke, shock, and inspire."

Copyright: Matthias Creutziger
Going to the opera often is expected to be nice. This evening certainly was different. Valda Wilson, Australian soprano, and a member of the Junges Ensemble, played her debut as "Simplicius Simplicissimus". What had sparked at last year's opening at Albertinum with "The Inner Voice" where she had sang as part of the ballet performance choreographed by Jiří Bubeníček, principal dancer of the Semperoper Ballett, clearly now became apparent: here is a voice "diamond"beautifully harnessed over time. Who had the chance to experience, and hear her in "Pussy in Boots" earlier this year could see her amazing capability not only concerning her voice, but additionally here playing skills. Congratulations to Valda, who inspired once again, that you can, and should play roles in life you are not naturally familiar with. The outcome is amazing!!!

Karl Amadeus Hartmann was already 1934 in the first draft of this opera about the gruel times of the Thirty Year War very distinct with the persons, and it did not make it difficult "to see" Hermann Göhring moving on stage. Matthias Henneberg amazingly brought this part over, and one could see some frowning in the audience, as this connected back to a not often in this city talked about time, when innovation in arts often got diminished as "Entartete Kunst" by the governement. What that meant for Semperoper can be experienced via Verstummte Stimmen (after a presentation at Semperoper and Staatsschauspiel Dresden in the summer - this opera could spark further engagement in learning about it, and its relevance for today's art).

"Third, the artist can stimulate us to broaden our skills, our behavioral repertoy, and our flexibility of response."

The tension between the narration of a 17th century play by Grimmelshausen and the "seen" reality of the 1930's clearly shook the audience's minds, and the receptive thinking about what this opera with a music quite unfamiliar, led into some improvisation by all.

"Fourth, the role of arts and artists is to stimulate and legitimize our own aesthetic sense."

The time during this evening once again showed that "beauty" is not only what the large audience, critics, and voices define as that, "beauty" lies also in the new ways of expressing intentions as Karl Amadeus Hartmann, on the edge of the arts and living society back in the day, intended to do. The adaption to our times with still the anchor points to the past (the costumes of the 17th century, the military uniform, the haircut of the dancer) brought the memories up, even though only a few of the audience might have experienced the 30's themselves. Playing such a piece in itself is an amazing BEAUTY.

"Fifth, analysis of how the artist is trained and works can produce important insights into what is needed to perform and what it means to lead and manage."

Different to the performance on the large stage here the artists, are all part of one audience, WE. And everybody can see each other's emotions and reaction, a quite unique situation for opera singers, who normally in productions are detached more from the audience which is also sitting in a rather dark room. On Friday it was like being all together on the same blanket (or wooden piles ;-)).

My resume of the evening: STUNNING and calling for more!!!

Doing what is often done by me after such an experience to capture the assets of learning, is the Presencing Status (stating four short questions):
  • Good - an opera played in a very unfamiliar setting, creating a "cultural island", emotionally touching, and opening the heart; great debut by Valda Wilson as Simplicius expressing not just her awesome voice (BTW where does that amazing soprano spring up from? How many "Valda Wilsons" are around us, and would only need the right mentor to see the awesomeness to make them strive forward to their highest potential?) also her natural talent as an actor (via mimic and gestic alike (!)); what impresses me every and each time is how opera singers and the orchestra get accustomed to the unique closeness to the audience, they even for themselves experience encounters they often can't get on the large stage (where seeing the audience during the performance is something of impossibility;
  • Tricky - minor details as the 4 million lost souls during the 30 Year War (Dreißigjähriger Krieg, 1618-1648), and the to be further accustomed joined action of the in the audience distributed singers of the choir; my ears are still not really accustomed to German opera texts (what counts is the wholeness of the performance - and this has been exceptional in every aspect (!))
  • Learned - subtle signs such as uniform, first name made clear the connection to the 30's and the background on what the opera was intended to show and express; the Dresden audience is more flexible to adapt to new circumstances as thought (today after heading out of the introduction to 'Alcina' the newest production, an old lady (clearly in her late 70's/ early 80's told me how much she liked the performance even with the (for her for sure) shocking elements within the play connecting to the time between 1933-1945 in Dresden) - this may be even the most encouraging feedback on such productions, that fit into the row of 'Street Scene' by Kurt Weill also played on large stage; holding the tension, even when emotions seem to overwhelm you, tears are about to flow as memories come up, will emerge in the collective consciousness;
  • Action: definitely see the performance at least a second time in order to experience the development (as I always do, especially with productions, that are either catching diverse reviews or little attention in the beginning of the play); reading & writing on "cultural islands" and how an opera house like Semperoper can play a major role in providing such a space for making innovation (in the technological, and even more in the social sense (!)) possible.
Add ons/ Ergänzungen (in German):

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sparking to Think - and Act!

Emotionally disrupting show, ConfronTension, by Dresden Semperoper and Dresden Semperoper Ballett 'On the Move' here at Military Museum Dresden. 

At 3pm sharp, their 2nd show is going to kick-off.

'Love and Hate' is the theme of the starting point - both spark intense emotions, the question is "How do we deal with them (individually & collectively)? The emerging energy they unveil is powerful, in the right context/ social field this can be used to co-create a better future (even on diverse worldviews).

I am strongly reminded of Adam Kahane's talk on 'Power and Love' at the 3rd Global Forum in Muscat, Oman, in April 2008

While some friends are at downtown Dresden like Marco Dziallas, Florian Andreas Vogelmaier, ... I am at Dresden's most disturbing and emotionally touching point up on the outskirts of the city.

Toi Toi Toi --- for the second round on ConfronTension.

A terrific setting Daniel Libeskind has set for the future, and further emotionally touching discussions about the past, present, and future!


By now these performances are over, yet there is more to come around ballet and opera, that have (from my point of view) a rather strong connection to what we have seen today, and experienced around the world. 'Hate and Love' are all around us, only it is on us to deal with it accordingly for the better of it.

  • Good: ballet in a new and inspiring setting; meeting lots of friends, sparking of memories
  • Tricky: the dense spaces held some people back while trying to see the performances
  • Learned: let yourself in the flow of action, magic and surprises will happen
  • Action: putting my thoughts on "electronic" paper (which I am doing right now) and on Facebook (this actually done shortly before the 2nd run today).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Accelerating Futures - Past & Current Combined

Currently it is the 3rd day of SEMICON Europa 2011, Europe's largest fair on semiconductor industries (and adjacent fields, that reach well into the creative space, OLEDs as just one example). Silicon Saxony so to say the host of the future.

"There will be no future without microelectronics!" as Stanislaw Tillich, Ministerpräsident of the Free State of Saxony coined it at the press conference on Tuesday out here at MESSE DRESDEN where 'Slaughterhouse Five'.

As Saxony is a true hot bed of hightech innovation, and has a legacy in social change (just remember the days of the 'Soft Revolution' of the year 1989 in the GDR when the citizens of Dresden played also a major role in making the transition possible), this also attracted a friend from Japan. A few days earlier Motohiro, until yesterday "only" a Facebook-friend, announced his coming, so it was quite natural to tell him to apply as visitor for SEMICON Europa 2011. Announcement by Motohiro, that touchdown in Dresden has been completed - THE BALL OF CONNECTING THE WORLD IS ROLLING!

Quelle: Mediaserver DMG
Meeting at 9 o'clock sharp, with Dresden October rain pooring down, once again an international surprise encounter. After months of FB connections, Likes, and sharing knowledge originally generated by dear friends Bert-Ola (Sweden), and Inma (Spain) finally came together in meeting in person at one of the most internationally sparked places in Dresden: Starbucks Dresden Altmarkt. Tuning in, getting accustomed to each other's speed of thinking, and acting, getting reading for take off to MESSE DRESDEN. On the way through the rain, a short detour through Zwinger, Theaterplatz, and checking Semperoper for tickets that night. What might be on? - 'Un ballo in maschera' (a story about the 'blind spot' of management; that is how I see it by now) is on. So as Motohiro is just one day in Dresden, taking the chance (even though that is my third (!) visit to it. We decide to make it on last minute - one never knows what interesting encounters could happen while at SEMICON Europa 2011.

A most inspiring day with Motohiro around the conference, learning more about semiconductor industry via him. The day seemed to accelerate already. It peaked (for the first time) when my eye caught notice of a clean room visit to Fraunhofer IPMS at 4:30pm ("Oh, would we make it to Semperoper at 7pm?" - challenges to be on the move ;-)). A very personal tour through the facilities at Fraunhofer IPMS in the compound area, where Silicon Saxony had some of their roots well before the year 1989.

6:15pm -time is running, 'Un ballo in maschera' is starting in 45 min (sharp, this opera house is clearly a lean facility, always amazed on the precision. "Will we make it?"is racing my mind. A taxi is arranged a couple of minutes later by colleagues and off we go - whooosh to downtown Dresden.

5 (!) min to the start. Tickets on forth level (actually best choice if you'd fond of experiencing the complete roundview of the play on stay - every time again I am amazed what insight one gets from up their, despite the distance) and we are sneaking in just seconds before the lights go off. The house is full and remembering the reviews on the premiere at 30th of September are long forgotten. The play is once again amazing, and even visitors from Berlin whom we by accident got in contact were thrilled by the modern play. [More on the performance in separate blog post].

As the day had not yet given enough, the evening finished with a light supper at MAX next door. Only to take separate ways shortly around 0:30am - only to meet soon for sure. Perhaps already to Open Science Summit in Mountain View on 22./23. of October. I am invited there as blogger in residence, yet at the moment I lack the financials to make the flight over to California possible.

If somebody would approach me with a similar situation, I'd certainly not hesitate to fund the project. Who is currently in a better position as myself (currently working, yet not for money, global interdisciplinary connectors, AKA boundary spanners in the social network world, are not a common business role and paid yet), may indicate his/her willingness to support #InnoBay (of which the Open Science Summit is just one part).

Connecting across disciplines, technologies, arts, business, and education through bringing the word about Silicon Saxony & Dresden into the world especially Silicon Valley is my passion :)