Bayreuth / Pinzendorf (dpa) – Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch (82) is known for his actions in which he engulfs animals and bloodies people. Now he’s working in a place that he actually created some sort of counter-design for. This year his Schüttbilder honored Wagner’s opera “Walküre” at the Bayreuth Festival. In an interview with the German press agency, he explains why another opera by Richard Wagner would have been closer to him and what he has against directing theater.
Question: How did you end up in Bayreuth?
Answer: A plethora of coincidences have occurred: The “Valkyrie” was supposed to be performed in concert and I was asked to perform a painting action. I didn’t want to do productions at all and just focus on my work, but this coincidence convinced me.
Question: Why didn’t you want to do any more productions?
Answer: Because I need my strength for my own work. It’s more important to me. Question: How did you get your hands on the “Walküre”? You might think that “Parsifal” is actually closer to you.
Answer: Absolutely correct. Many of the symbols of “Parsifal” are also very important in my work and I have always wanted to stage it, but other directors have been preferred to me. I was supposed to stage it in Vienna, but a change of government took place … Question: How is your approach to the “Valkyrie”?
Answer: I do not see the “Walküre” as a unique work. It is part of the “Ring”, and all of the symbols that appear in the ring are also celebrated in the “Valkyrie”. I do my thing, my painting gestures, and try to answer that “ringtone”. I didn’t even know how much my painting action fits into the sounds of the “ring”. Question: You announced a colorful “Valkyrie” – in all the colors of the rainbow. Is it going to stay that way?
Answer: I don’t like the colorful word. Carnival is colorful. I prefer the vibrant colors that match the score of the “Valkyrie”. I want to create a wave of colors. Question: The Bayreuth audience is – at least in part – quite conservative. Are you worried?
Answer: Not at all. I try to do a good job. For me there are no categories like conservative and modern. For me, there is only good work and intense art. Question: You have been to Bayreuth several times – have you found both there: good work and intense art?
Answer: Always with Wagner, not with the productions. Anyone who knows my work knows that I am an advocate for happenings and the art of performance, but I am still an opponent of directing theater. I am against reshaping the finished work and messing it up with your own ideas. Question: Your orgies and mysteries theater has always been seen as an alternative to the Bayreuth Festival. How does that go along with the fact that you are now working on the Green Hill yourself?
Answer: This is not a counter-proposal, but a parallel proposal, and there can be no question of competition at all. It’s a question of intensity and great art. But it’s a one-time thing and I just want to do my own work afterwards. My six-day match should take place next year. Question: At the same time as Bayreuth?
Answer: It is quite possible. My big actions are always at the end of July and the beginning of August.
ABOUT THE PERSON: Hermann Nitsch, born in Vienna in 1938, has polarized as an action artist, painter and sculptor for decades. He is passionately rejected or worshiped for his extreme rituals. He is known for his “theater of orgies and mysteries”. The “six-day game” in his palace near Vienna has so far been the highlight of his work. Nitsch celebrated a six-day orgy with music, 13,000 gallons of wine, the slaughter of three bulls, hundreds of gallons of blood, kilos of crushed grapes and tomatoes, and eviscerated animal carcasses.