Wo du nicht bist

In collaboration with the Austrian musical ensemble Franui, which develops its own distinct interpretation of Schubert songs, eight Navigators go in search of the emotional strength derived from moments of happiness as well as their metaphysical abyss.

Perhaps due to plain enchantment we have not understood: The beautiful and the daring that we were able to see in the united city (whether from here or imported), came to be through the interplay of the Arts. Some examples: Christoph Marthaler with “Murx den Europäer ab”, Alain Platel’s “Iets op Bach” (…). In “D‘avant” two dancers from Sasha Waltz’ Berlin troupe join with Alain Platel’s Gent Troupe to make a piece where the only sound consists of the marvellous a cappella singing of the four dancers. And only in these last weeks at the Sophiensaele, Nico and the Navigators gave an account of modern loneliness in counterpoint to Schubert’s music of loss (…)
Nico’s “Wo du nicht bist” (dort ist das Glück) has no author, no director, who before the start of rehearsal specifies each action to the players. The work method is called and is “Conducted Improvisation” – a group development in almost mimic gestures, in French, Japanese, Dutch, German, English interaction, which we unravel little by little. Such work practices are contemporary. Often this teamwork resembles the small Research and Development groups arose with the computer avant-garde in Silicon Valley. And always they resemble the historic, creative forms of European Theatre (Commedia dell‘Arte through Shakespeare to Molière’s companies) which was a Theatre of troupes. (…) The single identifiable author of “Wo du nicht bist” is Franz Schubert.

Ivan Nagel / Rede zur Eröffnung des RADIALSYSTEM

Wo Du nicht bist

 

A play about happiness 

 

The ensemble NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS dare the theatrical experiment of travelling various roads to happiness as one would landscapes, crossing them, sketching them. Wo du nicht bist is a music- and picture-theatre project, in which eight characters of different origins go on a journey. In collaboration with the music ensemble Franui, they live through grotesque and tragicomic dialogues in German, English, Flemish, Japanese and French. They go on a quest for the emotional strength of moments of happiness and their metaphysical abyss. There are questions like: “How much of the past is reality? Does happiness lie on the ground of reality, which created death?”

 

Based on intense collective research and compiled material, the pieces came out of guided improvising. They don’t tell concrete stories, but deal with a specific complex of themes and questions in the form of a collage. This is how situational pictures pop up, which become a sort of head cinema and lead the audience in a thoughtful way back to its own world. 

 

A production by NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS and the Bregenz Festival. Supported by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes and the Senatsverwaltung für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kultur, Berlin. In cooperation with the Sophiensæle.

Dates

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Press reviews

Uwe Sauerwein / Berliner Morgenpost

…asking questions is already an art in itself. And in it, the stars of the off-theater scene demonstrate absolute virtuosity. Now again, in their play about happiness… Franui, the East Tyrolean music group with whom the Navigators are working together for the first time, plays Schubert – with the instruments of a village band. “Dort, wo du nicht bist, dort ist das Glück”, a line from Schubert’s song “Der Wanderer” was the inspiration for the title of the piece…

Uwe Sauerwein / Berliner Morgenpost

Sophiensæle: Nico and the Navigators go in search of happiness with “Wo Du nicht bist" (Where You Are Not) At one point in "Wo Du nicht bist” someone says: “You only live once. But when you do it right, isn’t one time enough?” But how does one live “right”? Does to live mean to suffer? To learn? To be happy? Can it be that the only one who is happy is he who is not living? Questions with which people have busied themselves for all time. Nico and the Navigators too offer no answers – and when, to be taken with scepticism. But the posing of questions is an art in itself and in this the stars of the Off-Theatre scene prove to be absolutely virtuosic: and once again with their piece regarding happiness, which involves seventeen performers and is their largest production thus far. For years Nicola (Nico) Hümpel and her multi-national ensemble have been passed from region to region and this time the première of "Wo du nicht bist" was at the Bregenzer Festspiele (Bregenz Festival). Now the piece is playing at the Sophiensæle in Berlin, the real home of this cult group, grounded in 1998 at Bauhaus Dessau, which, due to the great demand elsewhere, happens here only sporadically. The quest for happiness takes place in Oliver Proske’s grey hill country. A part of the stage set consists of a kind of music box that is wound by an actor. The lid opens and offers up a small orchestra. Franui, the East Tirolean group with which the Navigators are working for the first time, plays Schubert utilising the instrumentation of a village band. "There where you are not, that’s where happiness is", a line from Schubert’s song "Der Wanderer" describes the constant longing for another place and is the source of the title for the piece. Andreas Schett and his band of dulcimer, tuba, violin and saxophone make over, shorten, and extend motifs from Schubert’s Lieder, while Nico and the Navigators work a variety of interpretations of happiness in a similar way - from Aristotle through Camus to Thomas Bernhard. Director Nicola Hümpel and her group make associative theatre, and that goes for the production too, developed as it was from improvisations involving performers, light, sound and space. And for the audience response as well: the various scenarios are designed to create room for thought. Many paths lead to happiness. Props such as a ball, a bucket, a sled may represent a happy childhood; the apple, which at one point is threatened with a golf club, rolling across the stage stands for the expulsion from Paradise. A large book, which Anne Paulicevich almost manages to crawl inside of, denotes knowledge. An actor with a protective helmet prowls the stage – life as a construction site. Miyoko Urayama throws soybeans about in an Asian springtime ritual. One consults cards or looks to the stars, bursts balloons or washes bliss away with water. And one sees happiness in despair - a desperate at his own burial – for then the others are unhappy. It all unfolds in the rapid interplay between slapstick and pose, wild frolic and sad pauses - surprising changes of mood create the comic effect. The spectator does not come away scot-free: lines like "You work and work only because you lack the talent for happiness” certainly can be painful. Happiness is thus not liveable. Because we strive for the big happiness we often disregard the little ones. Sometimes an evening in the theatre counts among the latter. This one should not be passed over.

Uwe Sauerwein / Die Welt

…It all unfolds in the rapid interplay between slapstick and pose, wild frolic and sad pauses – surprising changes of mood create the comic effect. The spectator does not come away scot-free: lines like “You work and work only because you lack the talent for happiness” certainly can be painful. Happiness is thus not liveable. Because we strive for the big happiness we often disregard the little ones. Sometimes an evening in the theatre counts among the latter. This one should not be passed over…

Uwe Sauerwein / Die Welt

At one point in "Wo Du nicht bist” someone says: “You only live once. But when you do it right, isn’t one time enough?” But how does one live “right”? Does to live mean to suffer? To learn? To be happy? Can it be that the only one who is happy is he who is not living? Questions with which people have busied themselves for all time. Nico and the Navigators too offer no answers – and when, to be taken with scepticism. But the posing of questions is an art in itself and in this the stars of the Off-Theatre scene prove to be absolutely virtuosic: and once again with their piece regarding happiness, which involves seventeen performers and is their largest production thus far. For years Nicola (Nico) Hümpel and her multi-national ensemble have been passed from region to region and this time the première of "Wo du nicht bist" was at the Bregenzer Festspiele (Bregenz Festival). Now the piece is playing at the Sophiensæle in Berlin, the real home of this cult group, grounded in 1998 at Bauhaus Dessau, which, due to the great demand elsewhere, happens here only sporadically. The quest for happiness takes place in Oliver Proske’s grey hill country. A part of the stage set consists of a kind of music box that is wound by an actor. The lid opens and offers up a small orchestra. Franui, the East Tirolean group with which the Navigators are working for the first time, plays Schubert utilising the instrumentation of a village band. "There where you are not, that’s where happiness is", a line from Schubert’s song "Der Wanderer" describes the constant longing for another place and is the source of the title for the piece. Andreas Schett and his band of dulcimer, tuba, violin and saxophone make over, shorten, and extend motifs from Schubert’s Lieder, while Nico and the Navigators work a variety of interpretations of happiness in a similar way - from Aristotle through Camus to Thomas Bernhard. Director Nicola Hümpel and her group make associative theatre, and that goes for the production too, developed as it was from improvisations involving performers, light, sound and space. And for the audience response as well: the various scenarios are designed to create room for thought. Many paths lead to happiness. Props such as a ball, a bucket, a sled may represent a happy childhood; the apple, which at one point is threatened with a golf club, rolling across the stage stands for the expulsion from Paradise. A large book, which Anne Paulicevich almost manages to crawl inside of, denotes knowledge. An actor with a protective helmet prowls the stage – life as a construction site. Miyoko Urayama throws soybeans about in an Asian springtime ritual. One consults cards or looks to the stars, bursts balloons or washes bliss away with water. And one sees happiness in despair - a desperate at his own burial – for then the others are unhappy. It all unfolds in the rapid interplay between slapstick and pose, wild frolic and sad pauses - surprising changes of mood create the comic effect. The spectator does not come away scot-free: lines like "You work and work only because you lack the talent for happiness” certainly can be painful. Happiness is thus not liveable. Because we strive for the big happiness we often disregard the little ones. Sometimes an evening in the theatre counts among the latter. This one should not be passed over.

Lorenz Tomerius / Märkische Oderzeitung

… God has kissed this troupe on the forehead. (…) “There where you are not, that’s where you’ll find happiness”. The eight actors ponder this in German, English and French, and thus develop, thoughtfully, playfully, flippantly and comically, out their own personalities, a happy, brave yet humble, exceptional kind of theatre. There are no assertions, no demands, only a marvelling, inquisitive probing of the self and the world. (…) What has here arisen by means of Nicola Hümpel’s direction, of month-long common invention, getting a feeling for and testing out, is a tableau of thoroughly contemporary romanticism. No Biedermeier attitude that sticks, in its own home, its head graciously and hungry for knowledge in the sand, instead a thoughtful poetry, a playful melancholy, a treat for heart and brain, that lights the way to a picturesque future. (…) Nico and the Navigators locate the sorrow for the absence of and the hope for the happiness desired, and the proximity of life and death, in conjunction with the nine marvellous musicians of “Franui” who originate from a mountain village in East Tirol. (…) A little soirée bringing great joy to the enthralled spectator – worth the journey.

Lorenz Tomerius / Märkische Oderzeitung

God has kissed this troupe on the forehead. “Nico and the Navigators” was first presented by Nicola Hümpel in 1998 at the Bauhaus Dessau, then became a regular attraction at the Sophiensaele Berlin and is still a beloved insiders’ tip - the world over. Following guest appearances at theatre festivals, the Vienna Festwochen and further afield, they now come from the Bregenzer Festspiele to their Berlin home-base with a new production, enchanting their public with the collaboratively developed piece regarding happiness “Wo Du nicht bist”. “Wherever I am not is beautiful” is not only the grievance of today’s youthful melancholic. He can look back to Franz Schubert who preceded him with his song “Der Wanderer”: “There where you are not, that’s where you’ll find happiness”. A “beloved opponent” - represented here in the texts assembled from Greek, Roman, German and English philosophers as well as texts by Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus and the singer Francoise Hardy - but so difficult to grab hold of. How does one seize, trap, hold and not just dream of it? The eight actors (Niels Bovri, Christoph Glaubacker, Anne Paulicevich, Verena Schonlau, Patric Schott, Andreas Schwankl, Gerd Lukas Storzer, Miyoko Urayama) ponder this in German, English and French, and thus develop, thoughtfully, playfully, flippantly and comically, out their own personalities, a happy, brave yet humble, exceptional kind of theatre. There are no assertions, no demands, only a marvelling, inquisitive probing of the self and the world. This leads to amusing games such as looking for falling stars and making a silent wish; to the New Year’s ritual where every grape spat out signifies a tiny aspiration. On Oliver Proske’s once again Bauhaus-lucid stage they can play with balls, sled, bucket and water. They can splash, browse through books, lose themselves in their thoughts, make confessions or allow themselves to say that a person works so hard only because he lacks the talent for happiness. On the other hand there are people who do not wish to have their misery, or simply their dearth of happiness, as with Marlene Dietrich and Felix Hollaender’s “Fear of Being Happy”, stolen from them. What has here arisen by means of Nicola Hümpel’s direction, of month-long common invention, getting a feeling for and testing out, is a tableau of thoroughly contemporary romanticism. No Biedermeier attitude that sticks, in its own home, its head graciously and hungry for knowledge in the sand, instead a thoughtful poetry, a playful melancholy, a treat for heart and brain, that lights the way to a picturesque future. Nico and the Navigators locate the sorrow for the absence of and the hope for the happiness desired, and the proximity of life and death, in conjunction with the nine marvellous musicians of “Franui” who originate from a mountain village in East Tirol. They have made eighteen of Franz Schubert’s Lieder wholly their own and in their pavilion evoking a music-box have produced a soundscape of sad, earthy magic and pious rapture utilising dulcimer, harp, guitar, accordion, tuba and contrabass. Responsible for both dance and funeral music in their village, here, touchingly, they provide them simultaneously. Thus the performance attains a metaphysical dimension: the poetry and the melancholy make for a seriousness that the performers know just when to break. They bring grace and charm - laughter with a tear in the buttonhole. They play reflectively with the quest for happiness so, and prepare themselves to renounce wisdom. A little soirée bringing great joy to the enthralled spectator - worth the journey.

Renate Klett / Der Tagesspiegel

This is the biggest project that the Navigators have so far navigated – and it is a triumph! Together with the marvellous Tirolean group Franui they have developed a piece about happiness, and Franz Schubert, the Great Misery himself, is godfather.(…) “You work and work because you lack the talent for happiness” someone says on one occasion, and immediately you feel caught. This is a serious piece, but there are wonderful moments of freedom and yes even joy as when someone springs stark naked in the air, like a postal pigeon or an eagle; and when everyone knows in the end that “most likely each one of us is as happy as he has decided to be”; or, drawing on Thomas Bernhard, the dialectic is everything: “He was afraid to lose his desperation”. Happiness can be its very opposite. “Wo du nicht bist” is a small masterpiece of poetry and defiance.

Renate Klett / Der Tagesspiegel

Bregenz is a city of impressive ugliness. How an idyllic spot on the banks of the Lake Constance can be destroyed by bad architecture is to be studied here. The only exception is Peter Zumthor’s simple and elegant art house. The Bregenzer Festspiele present their “Troubador” at Europe’s largest lakeside theatre seating seven thousand people. On stage is a fire-spitting oil-refinery upon the staircase and scaffolding and bridges of which hundreds do their business - Verdi as frivolous Musical. But the Festspiele has its experimental track as well: “Kunst aus der Zeit” (Art of the Times) in short KAZ. They produce and co-produce productions with the Hamburg Thalia Theatre (Schwab’s “Präsidentinnen“) and the Berlin fringe-scene. The new project by Nico & the Navigators, “wo du nicht bist” (where you are not), initially planned for the Ruhr Triennial, has its Première, after a year’s delay, on the Werkstatt stage. This is the biggest project that the Navigators have so far navigated – and it is a triumph! Together with the marvellous Tirolean group Franui they have developed a piece about happiness, and Franz Schubert, the Great Misery himself, is godfather. Andreas Schett and Markus Kraler have worked, skeletonised, celebrated, and developed further eighteen Schubert Lieder, fitted them out with all the trimmings such as dulcimer, accordion and tuba, and have realised an imaginary, folksy, alienated song-cycle for which Nico and the Navigators have then devised scenarios and images. As usual they don’t come to a theme directly, but flirt with it, playfully circling round with anecdotes and associations. Happiness is not so easy to grasp hold of - like a fish it slips the through fingers and is only to be recognised afterwards anyhow. When someone puts a grape in his mouth to represent each New Year resolution something should actually come of it. Or one spits it right in the face of the New Year, embodied here by a compliant and bewildered contemporary. The scene with Verena Schonlau and Patric Schott, accompanied by Franui’s gently pleading songs is as poetic and comic as any melancholy bliss. But happiness can exist as well in the childlike amusement of dressing oneself up, in swimming, in reading books or even in putting on the act of being really miserable in the loneliness of the big emotion. All of this is touched upon, fantasised over and made into riddles, at times fairytale cryptic, at times wide-awake and mean. “You work and work because you lack the talent for happiness” someone says on one occasion, and immediately you feel caught. This is a serious piece, but there are wonderful moments of freedom and yes even joy as when someone springs stark naked in the air, like a postal pigeon or an eagle; and when everyone knows in the end that “most likely each one of us is as happy as he has decided to be”; or, drawing on Thomas Bernhard, the dialectic is everything: “He was afraid to lose his desperation”. Happiness can be its very opposite. “Wo du nicht bist” is a small masterpiece of poetry and defiance. When Anne Paulicevich plays her whole family or Miyoko Urayama performs a springtime ritual throwing soybeans about, when Christoph Glaubacker whines “Honestly, I don’t find this funny any more” and insulted explains why, then the audience is at the peak of its enjoyment. Everything remains in a state of shimmering irresolution, is full with secrets and perspicacity. The dimensions of the evening almost exceed the limits for a free ensemble, but the eleven musicians and eight actors win through via a heightened self-sacrifice. And Oliver Proske’s geometric staging would honour any big stage. He places the musicians in a huge metallic box wound like a music box which can go up and down finally opening up like an oyster to reveal its pearl. Colourfully and magically illuminated by Peter Meier a large walkway and a hill become, with the swing of the hips, the scene of action made of happiness and sulphur. How will all of this be transferred to the technically less equipped Sophiensaele for tonight’s Berlin première? Hümpel, Proske and their helpers have overcome such difficulties in the past.

Egbert Tholl / Süddeutsche Zeitung

…For Nicola Hümpel, Schubert is a dear friend. “Schubert’s music is the fusion of happiness and unhappiness, the undefined state in the now”…. The fact that Schubert finally became the explicit subject of Navigators is due to the fact that at some point Nico inevitably had to put an end to his ghosting around and explicitly include him in her own discourse of the shredding of the ego, the fragile possibility of longing, and the question of how the outer and inner worlds are connected….

Egbert Tholl / Süddeutsche Zeitung

"Nico and the Navigators" come to the Muffathalle with "Wo du nicht bistt". When Nicola Hümpel went to buy a sweater in Munich, she heard a Schubert piano sonata in the department store. Since Ms. Hümpel is by no means inclined to see her own ego in relation to the world around her as a yardstick, she was not horrified by the economy-driven treatment of the music she loved. She just wondered, "Nothing is more beautiful than lifting Schubert into the now." Of course, that doesn't have to happen in a department store; by its very nature, that's the completely wrong place for it. But the fact that one of her actresses listens to Schubert in her Walkman and infects her shared apartment in Berlin-Friedrichshain with it makes her happy. For Nicola Hümpel, Schubert is a dear friend. "Schubert's music is the fusion of happiness and unhappiness, the undefined state in the now." At the Bregenz Festival, there is a series called "KAZ - Art from Time." And it deals with the difference between what is real and what is unreal. If one follows Nicola Hümpel, then this distinction is a science for angels. As an artist, Ms. Hümpel's name is Nico and, together with stage designer Oliver Proske, she has been engaged since 1998 in the physical imaging of a psychological search for traces. Her theater is political, poetic, wondrous, her Berlin troupe an assemblage of behaviorally capital physical theater animals with warped hairstyles and pastel bell-bottoms. In summer 2006, "Nico and the Navigators" premiered their eighth production in Vorarlberg. On February 7 and 8, "Wo du nicht bist" can now be seen at the Muffathalle. And whoever from the jury for the Berlin Theatertreffen has time should go there. The Navigators have already been guests in Munich several times. First as part of the Spielart Festival, but then Dietmar Lupfer from the Muffathalle invited them on his own. This was always a good thing, because it is rare to experience such wondrously fragile theatrical moments that are threatened with disappearance at the very moment of their creation. Half a year after the Bregenz premiere, in a Munich café, Ms. Hümpel possibly provides an explanation for this. In all of her works, she says, Schubert is haunted. And the beauty of the moment cannot be captured. It melts away. The wanderer must go on, the journey into his own winter is never over. The fact that Schubert finally became the explicit subject of Navigators is due to the fact that at some point Nico inevitably had to put an end to his ghosting around and explicitly include him in her own discourse of the shredding of the ego, the fragile possibility of longing, and the question of how the outer and inner worlds are connected. She is concerned with Schubert as one who dwells in himself only most insufficiently; accordingly, the evening is called "Wo du nicht bist," in analogy to Schubert's song "Der Wanderer," in which the quoted phrase is: "Dort, wo du nicht bist, dort ist das Glück." Wandering, searching - a futile endeavor. No manifestation. "Where you are not" is a Schubert evening and then again it is not. It is first of all a Nico evening, with a famously unheimelig-sterile stage, which did not even become a self-evident home in the crumbling Berlin Sophiensälen, Nico's home. This is an evening with eight whimsical, crusty actors who come together and drift apart again, who conquer a meaningless balcony, roll down from two small hills, come together for seconds in bent couple behavior. And it is a Schubert evening after all, because Nico got together with the East Tyrolean combo Franui. Thomas Wördehoff, chief dramaturge of the Ruhrtriennale, was to blame. That's where "Wo du nicht bist" was originally supposed to come out, but it didn't happen that quickly. What was important, however, was the initiated meeting of the musicians with the theater people, the triggering of a rubbing debate that has not yet found its end. Franui, this enlightened homeland band, sits in the performance in a kind of music box, with a lot of brass, dulcimer, violin and harp, is wound up at the beginning, as it were, with a crank and underpins the Nico-specific hustle and bustle with a sound carpet, finely woven from many beautiful, primarily tonally cautiously transformed songs of Schubert, in which the farewell to the beloved self (one's own or a foreign one), mourning and decay are inherent. But above all, the search, the wandering. "A piece about the flights of fancy and the abysses of happiness" (Nicola Hümpel). For Hümpel, working on "Wo du nicht bist" was comparable to developing an opera - in fact, the production effort is comparable to that of a piece of musical theater, which is why the Munich guest performance is a small miracle. In her previous works, Nicola Hümpel has had every freedom to distill out of improvisational processes the results that are important to her. With Schubert and Franui, this was no longer possible. For the first time, she was given precise time units to fill. And yet, at that time in Bregenz, an evening of iridescent, organic lightness emerged, which was in no way noticeable because Ms. Hümpel had sent the completely exhausted actors to bed after the dress rehearsal and forbidden them to think. Franui once recorded Schubert's "Deutsche Messe" in a kind of sonic performance of a ballroom on an alpine meadow. The old people in their valley call it the "Compass Mass" because it begins with the words "Wohin soll ich mich wenden". This joke turns serious in "Wo du nicht bist." With Schubert's songs, the compass points inside the eight Schubert-Nico bodies. The chords of "Leiermann," the melodic sweetness of "Ständchen," the hoped-for peace in "Wandrers Nachtlied II" - all these are moments in which the actors might find happiness, in an embrace, in the reading of a tattered book, or simply in the realization that one's name does indeed belong to one. While all of this is near death, the ending is by no means devastating, but wrenchingly beautiful: a violin plays the melody of "Farewell," like a floating, superhuman voice. The lyrics to it would read: "Over the mountains you go. Come to many a green place; must return all alone. Farewell! It must be so."

Valeria Ottolenghi / Gazzetta di Parma

…The performers of the ensemble Nico and the Navigators in “Where you are not”, the opening piece of the TeatroDue Festival in Parma, move in a precisely coordinated way to detach themselves from each other in fragmentary actions – possible stories, bonds and new dimensions…

Valeria Ottolenghi / Gazzetta di Parma

Discomforts: in a geometric and at the same time poetic space, in refined light, a lost humanity moves floatingly, although the gestures seem to reveal its relational disorders, confused restlessness and confused aggressions. The performers of the ensemble Nico and the Navigators in "Where you are not," the opening piece of the TeatroDue Festival in Parma, move in precise coordination to disengage from each other in fragmentary actions - possible histories, bonds and new dimensions. The last verse of Franz Schubert's "Wanderer's Fantasy" - "Dort wo du nicht bist, dort ist das Glück" has given the piece its title, and the music is played live on stage by an orchestra: Verses, words of discontent, lots of question marks, feeling alienated, life rushing around us, friends wandering, aimless wandering. The whole piece a hesitation: fears, doubts, desires. Used books of all kinds. Standing still in a bucket. Loneliness. Different languages. Searching for shapes and order in the sky. Being able to forget in order to approach happiness. The feeling of death. And the need for love. Everyone seems to look for recipes, to indulge in his apprenticeship, to rave about thinkers. But in vain. Life continues to divide, to create vague madness. The characters seem to come across solutions in words or emotional agreements. But the equilibrium is constantly in danger. And even misappropriated despair can ease people's sadness. One lives only once: I wonder if that is enough. Hardly addressed experiences. In a serene atmosphere, moreover. That's the way the world goes: impossible to deal with it as a whole, to gain certainties for oneself and others, to anticipate tomorrow. A funeral at the end of life anyway? It seems so, but to joke about it is allowed. The absolute gracefulness of gestures, great concern for everything, sincerity that filters immediate experiences and pure theatricality, and music that leads, accompanies, creates the moment of feeling, do not, it seems, solve the problem of dramaturgical frittering. Nevertheless, the applause of the festival audience long and certainly deserved.

Jutta W. Thomasius / Frankfurter Neue Presse

Eight performers, convincing as actors, dancers, pantomime artists and singers, go on a “quest for the where, the how and the nature of happiness“, to the tune of Schubert Lieder, part as original, part estranged… There are little excursions, textual and acrobatic, into Grand Guignol, Kabuki and the Circus. Happiness can be attained through the munching of an apple just as by dipping into a book. The eyes and ears of the public are constantly engaged.

Jutta W. Thomasius / Frankfurter Neue Presse

The Bregenz Festival featured "The Fall of the House of Usher" and a "play about happiness. In Claude Debussy's seldom-performed Gothic opera "The Fall of the House of Usher," opera, dance and image merged into a grandiose unity and a new Bregenz stage aesthetic. What the musicologist Robert Orledge with set designer Richard Hudson, director Phyllida Lloyd, choreographer Kim Brandstrup and lighting designer Adam Silverman created in the Festspielhaus from Debussy's fragment and his ballet compositions "Jeux" and "Après-midi d'un faune" as a feast for the ears and eyes is phenomenal. There, Edgar Allan Poe's famous horror story, from which Debussy took the material for music and libretto, reveals not only incestuous Eros elements and the demoniacity of a doctor figure resembling that of Dr. Mirakel in "Tales of Hoffmann." Huge vitrines, moving around each other, continue to spin the passions and fears of Roderick Usher on the revolving stage (fascinating baritone Scott Hendricks as well as his dance double Steven McRae of the Royal Ballet London). The actual motifs of the ballets gave way to thematic integration into the operatic material. Thus the fragment became a coherent thriller, which the actions and feelings of the singers explain in dance and foresight. And which they help to an exciting conclusion in the final dance and song phase. The respective dance doubles and their singing partners (outstanding soprano Katia Pellegrino as Roderick's sister Madeline with Leanne Benjamin, baritone Cavalier as Roderick's friend with Johannes Stepanek, and tenor John Graham-Hall as the devilish doctor with Cary Avis) were provided by U.S. conductor Lawrence Foster and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra with that fine musical tapestry that inspires peak performance. No wonder that theater managers from all over the world did not miss this world premiere in French with German subtitles and its audience acceptance! Three evenings earlier, a "play about happiness" had its world premiere on the workshop stage - with the Nicola Huempe Group. Their success had begun in 1998 at the Bauhaus in Dessau. From Berlin, "Nico and the Navigators" started their triumphal processions worldwide in 1999 with new, spectacular experiments. Now Hümpel, assisted by the instrumentalists of the East Tyrolean Franui-Musicbanda and sponsored by the Berlin Senate and the Austrian Cultural Foundation, has developed the piece "Wo Du nicht bist". From August 10, it can be experienced in the Sophiensälen in Berlin. Eight actors, convincing in their acting, dancing, pantomiming and singing, accompanied by Schubert songs, some of which are original in sound and some of which have been alienated, create the "question of the where, how and essence of happiness": as a feeling of being alone, being with someone or being together. On, in, in front of and above a bright supermarket facade with an underground parking garage mouth and integrated orchestra tower, Hümpel lets her young crowd of mimes (pastel dressed by Frauke Ritter) philosophize, meditate and communicate in German, French, English, Flemish and Japanese. Lyrically and acrobatically, there are no short excursions into the Grand Guignol, the Kabuki theater or the circus ring, happiness can develop in munching apples as well as in browsing, and the audience's eyes and ears are constantly on the move.

W. Ölz / Salzburger Nachrichten

…The world premiere of ‘Wo Du nicht bist’ by the Berlin cult theater formation’ Nico and the Navigators provided…a wonderful evening, which, away from conventional narrative theater, conjured up a firework of acting shooting stars in the theater sky…. In free associative thrusts, happiness is scenically reflected upon. For this, views on happiness from Aristotle (happiness is virtue) to Albert Camus (the self must find its happiness) are quoted. The actual theatrical situation, however, stages a search for happiness taken from the immediate present. Everyone is chasing his personal happiness, everyone remains infinitely lonely in this search…

W. Ölz / Salzburger Nachrichten

The world premiere of 'Wo Du nicht bist' by the Berlin cult theater formation 'Nico and the Navigators gave the Bregenz Festival audience a wonderful evening on Friday, which, away from conventional narrative theater, conjured up a fireworks display of acting shooting stars in the theater sky. The eight characters stroll perfectly in terms of speech and movement through a stage by Oliver Proske, which is a kind of landscape of thought. There's a small bridge, plus a pavilion where the exceptional musicians of Franui brush Schubert songs against the grain. There are also two hills rising from the theater floor, which lie there like two breasts and over which the actors throw their episodic slapsticks at the audience. The title of the play is taken from one of Schubert's most famous songs, 'der Wanderer'. In free associative spurts, happiness is scenically pondered. For this, views on happiness from Aristotle (happiness is virtue) to Albert Camus (the self must find its happiness) are quoted. The actual theatrical situation, however, stages a search for happiness taken from the immediate present. Everyone is chasing his personal happiness, everyone remains infinitely lonely in this search. The tenderness is always ambiguous. Despite hard work, the ensemble, captivating in every detail, seems effortless in its performance. Improvisation is an essential component of the working method.

Markus Hauser / Tiroler Tageszeitung

…The Berlin Cult-Ensemble Nico and the Navigators and the Tirolean music troupe Franui created with a Schubert of the other kind a furore at the Bregenzer Festspiele… And it is Schubert, from whose fund of Lieder Franui drew inspiration, reworking seventeen of his Lieder into a highly poetic and melodramatic psychological drama. This they did in a worthy manner – perhaps more tenderly, more intensely, more profoundly than has ever been done before. With humour and melancholy in equal measure, this music is more than a mere indication that happiness and unhappiness, pleasure and suffering, past and present exist in parallel…

Markus Hauser / Tiroler Tageszeitung

17 Schubert songs as wistful soul dramas full of poetry The Berlin cult ensemble Nico and the Navigators and the East Tyrolean music band Franui caused a sensation at the Bregenz Festival with Schubert of a different kind. BREGENZ. What is happiness, who has happiness, where can happiness be found, how can happiness be helped along, can happiness be bought, what does happiness actually mean, or is one man's happiness another man's misery? On the The eight protagonists of the Berlin ensemble Nico and the Navigators, accompanied by the East Tyrolean formation Franui under Andreas Schett, set out in search of their own personal happiness. "Where you are not, there is happiness!" - With this sentence ends one of Schubert's most famous songs "The Wanderer". And it is Schubert, from whose musical song fund Franui drew and seventeen of his songs to a highly poetic, melodramatic soul drama processed. Fissures and breaks And they did it in a tried and tested manner - perhaps even more tenderly, even more intensely, even more cryptically than ever before. With the musical tools of a dance band, Franui move on the edges of electric and folk music, where one can look through crevices and fractures into the abysses or cast a luminous glance upwards. Equipped with wit and melancholy in equal measure, this music is more than just a suggestion that happiness and unhappiness, joy and sorrow, past and present exist parallel to each other. The Navigators, under the direction of Nicola Hümpel and on a stage by Oliver Proske that suggests endless expanses, encounter these emotions and twists and turns with loosely strung together cheerful scenes using all physical, mimic and gestural means. People speak in all languages, but in no common one - in confusion, with each other, past each other. One almost desperately tries to master happiness, to catch it, to trick it. But the view ahead remains one into the void, the cast net proves to be too coarsely meshed. Luck in the game The one does it waiting and beats his time and with it luck to death. "Break on through to the other side" is the motto, loosely based on the Doors, and one plunges into pleasure together, only to wake up in a hangover mood. Even the happiness in the game is one for a short time, like that in the fitness temple. The protagonists are chasing after dreams, the reflection of which they think they have seen. And once again, the bird of fortune in flight has caught up with them... Love, as the only universal language and probably the only state that transcends spatial and temporal boundaries, is ultimately reserved to bind happiness to itself eternally beyond death.

Egbert Tholl / Süddeutsche Zeitung

…Her theatre is political, poetic, wondrous, her Berlin troupe a gathering of physical-theatre creatures behaving in typical capital city manner… Though it all revolves round death, at end it is by no means depressing – touchingly beautiful rather. A violin plays the melody from “Abschied“ (Farewell) and sounds like a superhuman voice afloat.

Egbert Tholl / Süddeutsche Zeitung

"Nico and the Navigators" and the home band "Franui" in Bregenz. The gilding of the past is hard to escape. In Austria, a cultural nation, everything this year is Mozart, which is as beautiful as it is easy, because even the most unconventional attempt to interpret the composer knows that he is on the safe ground of cultural heritage status. That certainly creates identity. But this is born of a distant past. While Mozart's works are juxtaposed with grim, well-honed comedies in Salzburg, in Bregenz they seek happiness in the present. For the sixth time, the Bregenz Festival is presenting the series "KAZ - Art from Time. And it deals with the difference between what is real and what is unreal. If one follows Nicola Hümpel, then this distinction is a science for angels. As an artist, Ms. Hümpel's name is Nico and, together with stage designer Oliver Proske, she has been engaged since 1998 in the physical imaging of a psychological search for traces. Her theater is political, poetic, wondrous, her Berlin troupe an assemblage of behaviorally capital physical theater animals with warped hairstyles and pastel bell-bottoms. Now "Nico and the Navigators" have landed in Vorarlberg on the Werkstatt stage. With Schubert. Where is the difference between Mozart and Schubert? After all, both are Austrian high culture, so again cultural nation identity. Well, the difference is that Nico inevitably had to deal with Schubert at some point, in her own discourse of the shredding of the ego, the fragile possibility of longing, and the question of how the outer and inner worlds are connected. She is concerned with Schubert as only highly insufficiently dwelt in himself; accordingly, the evening is called "Wo du nicht bist," in analogy to Schubert's song "Der Wanderer," in which the quoted phrase is: "Dort, wo du nicht bist, dort ist das Glück." Wandering, searching - a futile endeavor. No manifestation. "Where you are not" is a Schubert evening and then again it is not. It is first of all a Nico evening, with a famously unheimelig-sterile stage, whose full charm will unfold only from August 10 in the crumbling Berlin Sophiensälen, Nico's home. An evening with eight whimsical, crusty actors who come together and drift apart again, who conquer a meaningless balcony, roll down from two small hills, find themselves together for seconds in bent couple behavior. And it is a Schubert evening after all, because Nico has met up with the East Tyrolean combo Franui. This enlightened homeland band sits in a kind of music box, with lots of brass, dulcimer, violin and harp, is virtually wound up with a crank at the beginning and underpins the Nico-specific goings-on with a carpet of sound, finely woven from many of Schubert's beautiful songs, in which the farewell to the beloved self (one's own or someone else's), mourning and decay are inherent. But above all the search, the wandering. Franui once recorded Schubert's "German Mass" in a kind of sonic image of a ballroom on an alpine meadow. The old people in their valley call it the "Compass Mass" because it begins with the words "Where shall I turn". This joke now turns into urgent seriousness. With Schubert's songs, the compass points inside the eight Schubert-Nico bodies. The chords of "Leiermann," the melodic sweetness of "Ständchen," the hoped-for calm in "Wandrers Nachtlied II" - all these are moments in which the actors might find happiness, in an embrace, in the reading of a tattered book, or simply in the realization that one's name actually belongs to one. While all of this is near-death, the ending is by no means depressing, but wrenchingly beautiful: a violin plays the melody of "Farewell," like a floating, superhuman voice. The text, not sung here, reads: "Over the mountains you go. Come to many a green place; must return all alone. Farewell! It must be so."

APA - Austria Presse Agentur

Yesterday evening the Berlin theatre group “Nico and the Navigators” sought happiness in Bregenz, and found it… The audience concurred fully and enthusiastically applauded the Berlin troupe and the East Tirolean ensemble “Franui” – not the least significant ingredient for the experience of happiness for actors and musicians… “Wo du nicht bist” (directed by Nicola Hümpel) eludes all attempts at genre classification, puts the scientific world view in question and investigates conceptions and definitions of happiness in a diversity of cultures… Elements of acting, dance and song are melded into a single whole. With this music and image-theatre project of scenic miniatures the eight members of “Nico and the Navigators” deliver no recipes, only food for thought. “Wo du nicht bist” does not seduce one to take a voyeuristic view, instead to contemplate happiness and hence life in general… The musical component, inspired by Schubert and set for instruments ranging through violin, zither, dulcimer, saxophone and tuba, was delivered by Andreas Schett and the Tirolean formation “Franui”. “There where you are not, that’s where happiness is” – “Der Wanderer”, one of the most famous Schubert Lieder ends with this sentence remarks Schett in regard to the musical point of departure.

APA - Austria Presse Agentur

"Wo du nicht bist" premiered successfully at festival Bregenz (APA) - The Berlin theater group "Nico and the Navigators" sought - and found - happiness in Bregenz last Friday evening. In the ambitious festival series "Kunst aus der Zeit" (KAZ), the world premiere of the play "Wo du nicht bist" successfully passed over the workshop stage of the Festspielhaus. The audience signaled full approval and gave the Berlin troupe and the East Tyrolean ensemble "Franui" enthusiastic applause - not least a vital ingredient for the experience of happiness of actors and musicians. The Festival's co-production with "Nico and the Navigators" will be repeated this Saturday evening. The next world premiere on the Bregenz Werkstattbühne will be "Radek," the new opera by Richard Dünser, with Georg Nigl in the title role, on August 12. "Wo du nicht bist" (directed by Nicola Hümpel) defies any genre characterization, questions the scientific view of the world and deals with ideas and definitions of happiness in different cultures. It questions whether and to what extent cultural origins and current surroundings influence personal happiness. Elements of acting, dancing and singing are combined to form a whole. In the scenic miniatures of the music and picture theater project, the eight members of "Nico and the Navigators" provide no recipes, but food for thought. "Where you are not" does not tempt the viewer to take a voyeuristic look, but to think about happiness, and thus about life as a whole. The Bregenz premiere was developed in Innsbruck and at the Sophiensälen in Berlin, the home of "Nico and the Navigators". The reduced stage design (Oliver Poske) was also created in Berlin. The music for the scene, inspired by Schubert, was contributed by Andreas Schett and the Tyrolean formation "Franui," with instrumentation ranging from violin to zither and dulcimer to saxophone and tuba. "Dort, wo du nicht bist, dort ist das Glück" - with this sentence ends one of the most famous Schubert songs, "Der Wanderer", Schett reminds of the musical starting point.

3 sat

…What is happiness? What is unhappiness? And how do people deal with it in their search for human closeness? The play “Nico and the Navigators” from Berlin does not deliver highfalutin stories, but scenic miniatures. They are thinking spaces on the subject of happiness…

3 sat

The "Art from Time" Program Division Enriches the Bregenz Festival The Bregenz Festival repeatedly makes headlines with its spectacular lake production. In 2005, 173,000 spectators saw Verdi's "The Troubadour" in the fiery red oil refinery. This year's production of Claude Debussy's "The Fall of the House of Usher" in the Festspielhaus also received much international attention from audiences and the press. In addition, the festival is increasingly making a name for itself with its third program line: "Art from Time" ("KAZ"), in which young and cheeky music and theater projects are brought to Lake Constance. Freaky, unconventional and eager for discovery is the small but fine program line. The 400,000 euro program budget is financed - true to the motto "art finances art" - from surpluses of the Seebühnen production. What is happiness? What is unhappiness? And how do people deal with it in their search for human closeness? The play "Nico and the Navigators" from Berlin does not deliver grandiose stories, but scenic miniatures. They are thinking spaces on the subject of happiness. The live music for the search for clues comes from the Tyrolean music formation "Franui". They have used Schubert songs as a template and developed them further for the poetic theater evening. Political-temporal-historical thinking spaces The world premiere of "Radek" at the Bregenz Festival, on the other hand, opens up political and contemporary spaces for thought. The chamber opera traces the life of the Jewish Galician Karl Radek. He sympathized with Lenin and Stalin - and died in a Siberian prison camp after a show trial. Another Bregenz production in the context of "Kunst aus der Zeit" also confronts war, destruction and death: Friedrich Cerha's opus magnum "Spiegel I-VII," premiered in 1971. Cerha's most consistent work in the field of sound surface composition is, however, a response to the serial music of the 1960s - a challenge for the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg as well as the conductor. A contrasting program comes from the Bregenz Kunsthaus: here electronics meets a string ensemble. "SPIN" is the title of the evening that the Viennese composer Hannes Löschl has created with the Vorarlberg "Ensemble Plus". In addition, Hamburg's Thalia Theater makes a guest appearance in Bregenz with Werner Schwab's garish linguistic classic "Die Präsidentinnen". The first of Schwab's so-called fecal dramas will be added to the Hamburg repertoire in the fall, and Bregenz will show the premiere. "Kunst aus der Zeit" provides an artistic bridge between old and young, between tradition and avant-garde. For many, it is still an insider tip at the festival, but with potential for expansion.

Simone Kaempf / TAZ

…More metamorphosis than in this piece is not possible… To be happy, when the most beautiful moment in life passes by again and the broadest smile becomes a poisonous arrow. The grapes that one actress has just put in her mouth for every good New Year’s resolution, she spits in her lover’s face at the first quarrel… “Wo du nicht bist” is also an evening of Schubert songs, whose leitmotif comes from the “Wanderer” song. A man from the mountains comes to the sea, where he confesses, “I am a stranger everywhere.” This story runs as a common narrative thread through the evening…. Everyone is an outsider whom the collective repels – and always welcomes back…. Once again, Nico and the Navigators defy it all with vivacious liberation….

Simone Kaempf / TAZ

Ambiguous emotional and weather situations hold opportunities. Nico and the Navigators show this in their play "Wo du nicht bist" in the Sophiensælen. A man lets a woman pull on his cigarette with tender slowness, as if it were the longed-for kiss. There is a sled on which two sit as close as only fat friends do. Then the sled is shouldered as a satchel. The friendship is over or the winter. So it is in the play "Where you are not" by Nico and the Navigators. In the moment of farewell, despite all the misfortune, there remains a small piece of happiness with which to remember, to hide, to put off. More metamorphosis than in this piece is impossible. Since their first work in the Sophiensælen in 1999, Nico and the Navigators have toured abroad a lot, and because they now have financial as well as personnel support there, the productions are getting bigger, lusher, more international. "Where you are not" was created in cooperation between the Bregenz Festival and the Sophiensæle. Soon it will go to Spain and Hungary. A guest performance tour of the USA is planned. Because they are under heightened cult suspicion. Because everyone can understand the nonverbal body language of the performers, who are investigating how it works: to be happy, when the most beautiful moment in life passes by again and the broadest smile becomes a poisonous arrow. The grapes that a performer has just put in her mouth for every good New Year's resolution, she spits in her lover's face at the first argument. "Where you are not" is a typical Nico-and-the-Navigators evening: a bit artificial, a bit cranky and melancholic. A slipping of scenarios into each other. Things cut up moods and create new ones. A red ball rolls lonely across the stage, which in the soft light one just thought was a dune landscape by the sea. In it the eight Nicos, with hats, windswept hairstyles, dresses and suits like on a trip in the 20s, but still in soft-edge optics of today. But "Wo du nicht bist" is also an evening of Schubert songs, the leitmotif of which comes from the "Wanderer" song. A man from the mountains comes to the sea, where he confesses, "I am a stranger everywhere." This story runs as a common narrative thread through the evening, which begins like a shared excursion to the sea. Groups form and break away. Miyoko Urayama, the Japanese among the performers, eats alone with a rice bowl and chopsticks. Everyone is an outsider whom the collective repels - and always takes in again, because the group around Nicola Hümpel makes theater that, for all its quiet pain, is also born of nest warmth. The homeland combo "Franui" accompanies the evening with various Schubert songs orchestrated for violin, guitar, zither, brass and dulcimer. "The equipment of a dance band is suitable for the reproduction of funeral marches," describe "Franui" insights of their work, and just as the Nicos seek the moment between pain and happiness, the music sounds unobtrusively from the in-between. The musicians sit in Oliver Proskes stage in a closed box, which is initially cranked up like a music box. In front of them, on the corrugated plastic stage, the landscapes change depending on the light, like in a weather house: summer dunes, snow hills, all-year-round muddy weather. But the rain-soaked as well as cheerful departure of all participants conveys the realization that ambiguous weather as well as emotional situations need not end in self-pity or callousness. Once again, Nico and the Navigators defy it all with vivacious liberation. At the Sophiensælen, on 12, 13, 15 and 16. 8. at 8 p.m. each night.

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