The Course of a Life

At the Festwochen, a variety of strikingly confrontative and/or beautiful artistic visions is to be experienced.

There is great value in arts and culture. There is a lot to be found in the subtly layered space generated by contemporary arts. Driven by these beliefs, the Wiener Festwochen unfold, over a period of five weeks, a rich and international programme made up of 36 new artistic works. A diverse range of theatre productions, musical compositions or multimedia installations will electrify the city of Vienna with a positive, progressive current that carries people along.

In recent years, populist ideas continue to gain support. All too often, the public discourse draws simple and straightforward divisions in people’s perception of the – highly complex – world we are living in. The Wiener Festwochen seek to conceive a space wide open to nuance and reflection in which artists often explore uncharted and multifaceted terrain.
At the Festwochen, a variety of strikingly confrontative and/or beautiful artistic visions is to be experienced. They tackle the current environmental emergency, address the geo-political crisis, dissect classist society … or simply tell of a person’s life. The staging of one single life trajectory can open the view to broader societal questions. Lifelines of real or imaginary figures from the past, the destiny of Thomas Wiggins (Song of the Shank), of Luigi Dallapiccola (Canti di Prigionia), of Pinocchio or of Lulu can be a pathway that permits us to capture today’s state of the world.

A new staging of Alban Berg’s opera Lulu constitutes one of the highlights of this edition. Lulu is a work we commissioned to choreographer Marlene Monteiro Freitas. This is her first opera staging, quite an adventure! In her work, inventiveness and unbridled physicality always prevail and provide ways to escape from any social or intellectual confinement. Lulu is based on two plays by Frank Wedekind that evoke a moralistic society that shackles the individual, who is left alone with the illusion of his:her independence. Wedekind’s quest for the real, the beautiful and the wild resonates highly with today’s social life determined by algorithmic curves and virtual comments, often detached from sensory experience.

This year’s festival offers an exceptional line-up of international theatre-makers. Alexander Zeldin, Susanne Kennedy, Milo Rau, Mariano Pensotti, Julien Gosselin and many more will all present brand-new and ambitious creations, most of them as world premieres. The recent pieces of the likes of Joël Pommerat, Anne-Cécile Vandalem or Kornél Mundruczó count amongst some of the theatrical gems of the last seasons. The great British director Simon McBurney will stage a novel by – the 2018 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature – Olga Tokarczuk, an author calling for new ways of telling the story of the world. Many stories of the world are to be told at the Wiener Festwochen 2023 in which ancestresses – (grand)mothers – are recurrent protagonists.
Artists refer to the past of family members, fictional alter egos or mythological figures to address the active pursuit of alternative futures. Next to these many large-scale stage productions, there are remarkable intimate works to be discovered, conceived by lesser-known directors and playwrights such as Iranian-born Afsaneh Mahian and Keyvan Sarreshteh or Tbilisi-based Mikheil Charkviani.

Our programme also gives pride of place to music and the many ways of staging it. Subtle encounters between narratives and music are explored in three exceptional productions commissioned by the festival. Worldfamous video artist Stan Douglas will stage a new composition by George Lewis, while Japanese director Toshiki Okada will draw on a new score by Dai Fujikura to pursue his search for a form of object-oriented theatre. Croatian artist Matija Ferlin will transpose Luigi Dallapiccola’s poignant Canti di Prigionia (Songs from Captivity) into scenic tableaux.

This year, some of the most highly regarded visual artists will be our guests. In addition to Stan Douglas, Wu Tsang and William Kentridge will both come to Vienna with visually arresting theatrical and musical pieces. Moreover, the festival will present Sun & Sea, the sensational beach opera by Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė that picked up the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale as well as the first solo exhibition in Austria of Laure Prouvost, an artist known for her immersive installations that combine words, sounds and materials in humorous and idiosyncratic ways.

There is great value in arts and culture. We hope to welcome you soon at the Wiener Festwochen 2023 and, together, to give shape to a mind- opening and forward-looking festival.

Christophe Slagmuylder

and the Wiener Festwochen team

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The Wiener Festwochen would like to thank their main sponsors.