VIEWERS WOULD BE UNSURE WHO WERE THE SINGERS AND THE DANCERS
dimensional. You can be very multi-layered with language, too; I don’t want to make it too simplistic. But communication with body language is beyond verbal communication.’’
Ostermeier loomed large in the next phase of Waltz’s life. In 1999, Waltz and her partner, Jochen Sandig, Ostermeier and Jens Hillje took over the storied Schaubuhne Theatre in Berlin, home to hero directors such as Peter Stein and Klaus Michael Gruber. The new directorship was a collaboration and the incoming quartet shared a view of the purpose of theatre. At the end of the five-year contract, however, Waltz was ready to leave after finding barriers to her growing interest in expanding the collaboration into opera.
This resistance came about, Waltz says, because Berlin already had three important opera houses and it seemed like overkill. But none of them, from her point of view, was specialising in the Schaubuhne’s particular type of cross-disciplinary adventure.
She revived her old company, Sasha Waltz and Guests. Its very first production was Dido & Aeneas, which has since had dozens of outings across the world. Ostermeier is now flirting with baroque opera at the Schaubuhne too, Waltz adds wryly: ‘‘ Maybe they needed a few more years to get to it.’’
Her time at the Schaubuhne changed the scale of her work. ‘‘ But it also had something to do with my own biography,’’ she says. ‘‘ I had come to an end of small narrative and social realism. I had tried different angles and I was a little bit tired of it. I wanted a change.’’
Her personal and professional biographies seem inseparable. Her business partner, Sandig, is also her life partner. After years of facilitating her work, he is seguing further into the creative side of the performing arts, she says. They also have two children, a boy, 16, and a girl, 10. Their son danced the child’s role in the original Dido & Aeneas and continued until he outgrew the role. Now their daughter is taking over.
Waltz’s idea for the opera was to make the dancers so integral to the work that viewers would be unsure who were the singers and the dancers. The orchestra coming to Australia is early music ensemble the Akademie fur Alte Musik, which has worked on the production from the start.
The original conductor was Attilio Cremonesi, who edited the score to fit Waltz’s concept. When the present conductor, early music specialist Christopher Moulds, came along about five years ago, he was happy mostly to take it over as he found it, he says, with a few alterations to the tempo here and there.
Members of the choir we will see here were also involved from the beginning. ‘‘ They didn’t have a physical background and it was very touching for me, a very enriching and rewarding experience, to see how they developed, to see how they created that consciousness in their bodies,’’ Waltz says.
Her original rehearsal times would send cold shivers down an opera company accountant’s spine. Three months with the dancers, six weeks with the choir. It was an experiment and its outcome unclear, but Waltz says the deepening respect for each other’s work among the participants was something to behold.
In all that time, none of the principal soloists and only one dancer has been replaced — and that only because she was to give birth.
Dido & Aeneas, January 16 to 21, as part of the Sydney Festival.