In the presence of Russian director Kirill Serebrennikow, his production “The Black Monk” celebrated its world premiere on Saturday evening at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg.

The public reacted to the nearly three-hour stage project based on an 1894 story by Anton Chekhov with minutes of standing applause and many cheers, which also marked the start of the Lessingtage theater festival (until to February 6).

After this premiere, theater, opera and film director Serebrennikov (52) must return home immediately. He was arrested in 2017 and placed under house arrest. During a trial for alleged embezzlement in 2020, he was sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence with a ban on leaving the territory. He directs from his apartment using video and zoom. Surprisingly, however, he was allowed to fly in early January to personally continue Chekhov’s rehearsals in Hamburg.

A large body of Russian, German, Latvian, American and Armenian artists today intensively and effectively address questions of normality and madness, social adaptation and free self-realization. And leaves the answer to each individual viewer.

Atmosphere mix of styles

The Thalia stars of the show, whose rehearsals have begun in Moscow, include Mirco Kreibich as an intellectual in search of identity and Gabriela Maria Schmeide (“Tina mobil”) as a future wife. The director, who also created the scenography, developed an atmospheric mix of styles with live music, song, dance and cinema.

“How shall we live?” – this is what the evening revolves around when the mentally exhausted seeker of meaning Kowrin visits the estate of his old adoptive uncle (Bernd Grawert) and his daughter Tanja.

Should we be conformist, selfish and therefore often in a bad mood like the old man who severely prunes fruit trees and farmhands? And who married his daughter to Kovrin so that after his death a grandson would continue the business. Or does some delusion like Kowrins help you and society? The mediocre author hallucinates that he is a genius. A monk dressed in black told him this.

In it all, the moon and stars shine above three neatly arranged greenhouses that end up being ruined. Kovrin is played by Odin Biron and Philipp Avdejew, young Tanya by Viktoria Miroshnichenko.

How do you live well?

Music also plays a major role in the events, which are drawn in chiaroscuro effects and become increasingly lyrical and opulent – ​​again and again seductive jazz and bar sounds are produced in the greenhouse. A large choir of monks marks the sunrise and sunset with spiritual chants.

At the end of the multilingual four-part evening, which sheds light on history from different angles, the clergymen dance furiously shirtless and throw themselves to the ground.

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!” they sing. Expression of intellectual freedom? his fate that his family cured him of his madness with medical methods. And thus his effort beyond mediocrity. What remained was boredom. An artist suffering from overconfidence is become a herd person.

Serebrennikow, whose film “Leto” (Summer) is also presented at Lessing Days, does not say how one really lives properly. Upon arriving in Hamburg earlier this month, the director told the German Press Agency: “‘The Black Monk’ is a story about life and death, about the border between life and death. We are all on this edge now – and it’s very important to know that and find the right behavior.” (dpa)