Jonathan Meese ist Mutter Parzival
March 16, 2005 | Magazin der Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin

Photo: Jan Bauer | Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin

When the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden presented the première of Richard Wagner’s (final) opera Parsifal (1882) on March 16th, 2005—directed by Bernd Eichinger, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, and played by the Staatskapelle—this was accompanied, or rather countered, by a performance entitled Jonathan Meese ist Mutter Parzival (Jonathan Meese is Mother Parzival), which took place in the Magazin, the opera’s depot space. Additional performances were held on March 19th and 28th, 2005.
Following Antonin Artaud’s seminal theater-concept-manifesto from 1938, Le theater et son double (The Theater and its Double), Meese’s performance unfolded as an “immediate and violent action,” investing total theatrical action with a spiritual, magical function. Cut off from and not seeking out any interaction with the audience itself, Meese’s hermetic performance focused on the incorporation of Wagner’s music, merging it with elements of his own. The multi-level stage—adorned with skeletons, an ensemble of cowbells, various bits of armor, crosses, portraits of Klaus Kinski and of the artist himself, and dominated by an enormous, walk-in bust of Wagner—served as Meese’s command center and retreat during the 6-hour performance. The artist reacted to the variety of props while responding to the stage situation itself, developing a performance without any fixed choreography.

The music, along with all the accompanying boos, coughs, applause and silence, was transmitted live from the opera house into the Magazin. Meese’s enduring performance lasted the entire length of the opera, which also included two intervals—during this time anyone attending the première could also come over from the opera house and watch. For the performance, Meese, responding to the mythology of Wagnerian music, personified all characters, using sculpturally designed props and scenery, video projections, and text fragments written by the artists—creating a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk in its best sense.
March 16, 19 & 28, 2005
Produced by
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna,
Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, and
Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
Idea and realization: Andras Siebold and Jörn Weisbrodt
Concept, stage and costume design, performance: Jonathan Meese
Live audio-transmission of Parsifal from Staatsoper Unter den Linden,
conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
Magazin der Staatsoper Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden 7, 10117 Berlin