"Old Masters" ("Alte Meister") by Deutsches Theater in Berlin at the Festival

On Sunday, 10 March, the Festival audience could see the play „Old Masters” („Alte Meister”) directed by Thom Luz and produced by Deutsches Theater in Berlin. That night on our Big Stage we could admire Katharine Matz – on outstanding, legendary actress of German theatre. We thank the creators and the spectators not only for the spectacle but also for the very interesting meeting after the show.

„Old Masters” is an adaptation of Thomas Bernhard’s novel. For over thirty years music critic Reger has been spending his mornings in the Bordone Hall of Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Although he hates museums, he has been going there every day to contemplate European painters. For 30 years he has not read a single book at home – the Bordone Hall, thanks to its ideal room temperature and perfect lightning conditions, has become his only reading room. For 30 years Reger has confirmed his suspicions that there are no ideal masterpieces of art. Each of the Old Masters had his faults and inadequacies. The masterpieces are ideal pieces of art only at the first glance. A thorough analysis allows him to feel “disgusted” about each of them. Reger contemplates Tintoretto’s „White-bearded Man” but also watches people visiting the museum – many of them “admires” the pieces of art. - There is nothing worse than “admiring” – he says. According to him while admiring something we exclude our thinking and eliminate our own opinions.

This negative contemplation ritual is directly connected with the death of Reger’s wife. They met in the Bordone Hall many years ago. His returns to Kunsthistorisches Museum allow him to survive. His search for inadequacies in the masterpieces reflects his own imperfection, fragmentariness and reluctance. And finally Reger and his friend go to Burgtheater (the theatre he hates very much) to see “The Broken Jug” (“Der zerbrochne Krug”) by Heinrich von Kleist. Is it an attempt to fight with loneliness? 

After the spectacle there was a traditional meeting with its creators. The meeting was moderated by Łukasz Drewniak. Thom Luz stressed the role of music in his spectacles. He said that music might be a cleaner way of communication than language. He also told about the construction of “Old Masters”. There is no museum hall full of paintings in his adaptation – that is why it is easier for the audience to concentrate on the spectacle. We see raw, harsh interior in which characters, covered by mist, move as if they were phantoms. And more, it is not Reger who is sitting on the museum bench – it his dead wife...                 

Deutsches Theater
Thomas Bernhard
„Old Masters” („Alte Meister”)
Adaption by Thom Luz and David Heiligers
Director: Thom Luz
Music: Mathias Weibel
Set design: Wolfgang Menardi, Thom Luz
Costumes: Sophie Leypold
Stage lighting: Thomas Langguth
Dramaturgy: David Heiligers

Photo: Kasia Chmura