Monday, 6 April 2009

Harrison Birtwistle's Last Supper at the Semper Depot

The Semper Depot is a huge high space in Vienna's city centre and was in bygone days, the time before special effects and minimalist scenery, a storage space for all kinds of theatrical props and parapheranlia ranging from the large to the very large.

In the Semper Depot everything needed for theatre and opera was block and tackled almost into the heavens. And it was in these heavens two evenings ago that Jesus appeared in the form of 5 red stars; 4 stars indicating where the crucifixion nails went into his hands and feet and another where the soldier's spear pierced his side. Today he is still dripping blood and we see it fall onto the hands of the women kneeling in awe below. Jesus is hanging over them in the heights with his silver crown of stars around his head; until he temporarily vanishes into the darkness and quickly appears on Earth once more.

Jesus has now arrived, with a large splinter removed from his eye, to celebrate the year 2,000 with his disciples. There will be another Last Supper. Even Judas, much to the other disciples chagrin, has been invited. A ghost, rising from the wreckage of the previous Last Supper, hovers around the scene and observes with us the goings on. Needless to say, Jesus is again betrayed, if betrayed is the right word. He is pursued and hounded by the paparazzi. He will have to pay the ultimate price once again for his fame and his message.

This Last Supper the round the table chat is of the genocidal nations. Jesus reveals that the holocaust has finally broken his heart, in fact shattered is the word he uses. The workaday disciples, whom Jesus refers to as the salt of the earth, spend half of the time arguing amongst themselves as to the meaning and interpretations of biblical texts and the other half looking suspiciously at Judas. They are clearly a half-crazy bunch. But Jesus to prove his love, washes their feet. Judas is the only one to have his shoes removed by Jesus' hands. The others have to take their own shoes off. The dust of forgotten wars and killing fields is on your feet, says Jesus.

The State sacrifices millions on its altar to the future but life is God's gift to you, explains Jesus simply and clearly to anyone prepared to listen. He walks in the garden, and tells of the crimson tree of the Hebrew, Muslim and Christian religions. Dark strange sounds of birds are heard. And it begins to rain. But still no disciple can figure the answer Jesus' favourite riddle: What can stand in front of the sun and not leave a shadow?

Riveting performances by the cast, especially from Jennifer Davison as the ghost, Alexander Puhrer as Jesus, Ladislav Elgr as Judas, Rupert Bergmann as Peter, the singers of the Chor der Neuen Oper Wien and the musicians of the amadeus ensemble-wien conducted by Walter Kobera. Full marks to all concerned with stage building, lighting and special effects, all not so easy to do in this dark monolith of a theatre.

It was an evening to remember. Harrison Birtwistle (music) and Robin Blaser (text) can be delighted with this Vienna production of The Last Supper.


  1. Now I really am envious, Poet. It all sounds so fantastic - wish you had put some photographs on.

  2. Weaver, I've have no photo of the composer Harrison Birtwistle but I can tell you that he comes from Accrington. Maybe there's even a statue of him outside the Town Hall. If not there should be!
    John, Yes was terrific. It's a huge space to fill with music but they somehow managed it.

  3. For photos please have a look at:
    We are glad you enjoyed it!
    All best, Alexandra

  4. Alexandra,
    Re the info re the photos link I've passed it on and also had a look at them myself. The one of Judas looking into the sky is my favourite. I think it's no. 5.
    Many thanks and best wishes,


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.