Alvis Hermanis and his Sonja at Bozar

Jenufa at La Monnaie.
The beauty of the productions of Alvis Hermanis could touch our souls again in Brussels on February 13thand 14thwith his internationally acclaimed Sonja at Bozar. The Latvian director earned his stripes in theatre, mainly in Germany, and only recently came to opera in order to satisfy his “hunger for beauty”* because he misses the aesthetic component in contemporary theatre. In Sonja, nevertheless, you will see a very modern version of the play by Tatiana Tolstaya, a member of the Tolstoy family, with the main character played by a man, and not by a woman, to better transpose the dreamy world of the lonely female protagonist. 
 Sonja.
Last year, although his opera work is rare and only for the most exclusive audiences, Salzburg in particular, we had the privilege to see a lavish Jenufa by Hermanis at La Monnaie. He avoided the usual grey for the rural drama by the Czech composer Janacek and, drinking from the rich Slavic folklore of Janacek’s homeland, flooded the stage with a colourful reinterpretation of Moravian costumes and projections of Mucha’s muses and flowers for this story of “the pain and sacrifice which are necessary to achieve happiness.”
Jenufa at La Monnaie.
  
Hermanis is one of the greatest directors of our time. He creates a magical atmosphere in every production through the work of actors and the props and costumes around them. This attention to the material world does not betray an obsession with “things”, as such, but only as long as“things” let go an energy which helps to set the tone of the time and the circumstances recreated.
Jenufa at La Monnaie.
 
His production of Il Trovatore in Salzburg this summer was received with mixed reviews for whom the setting of the story in a museum would wear out the pirandellian stereotype of metatheatre (a play inside the play). Hermanis not only tried to make a parody of how old-fashioned opera can be seen but conveyed the cardboard touch we usually experience in Verdi’s operas. I did not attend the performance but very close friends did who assured me that the production excelled aesthetically and dramatically.
 
Il Trovotare.
 
*Quotations from an interview for La Monnaie.