At the National Museum, for our second performance of the Singapore Arts Fest 2009, Ruhe (Silence).

Waiting for the performance to begin. In the meantime, I stroll around the grounds, and am impressed by all the offerings the museum has. There is a contemporary art exhibit, the Verner Panton, but I am more intrigued by the monthly offerings of international films. I have already jotted some events down.

I’m happy to see that the Singapore Arts Scene is so vibrant. It’s interesting though, that the percentage of expats at these events is disproportionately high. Where are the local folks? Although I have to say I would have been oblivious about the arts festival had Cristalle not bought my tickets.

Ok about time to read the program and enter.

Muziektheater Transparant / Collegium Vocale Gent (Belgium) Asian Premiere

A spellbinding theatre event where a recital of beautiful Schubert songs is interrupted by people who wish to talk about their voluntary enlistment in the SS in 1940. Based on real interviews with Nazi collaborators during the Second World War. This serves as a reminder that evil is never far away.

A spellbinding recital of Schubert is abruptly disrupted by some individuals who wish to confess their voluntary service in the SS.Drawing on an archive of 1960s interviews conducted with Dutch veterans who enlisted with the Nazis in 1940, RUHE is verbatim theatre recounting the experience of those who cannot seem to shake off the demons of their past.

Through songs, soliloquies and images, we are witnesses to confessions in a gripping performance that unveils the ambivalence between victim and perpetrator in the historical experience of continental Europe.

“One of the most original, haunting and troubling productions I have encountered in 20 years of Edinburgh Festival visits.” – Daily Telegraph

“…so rich, so intelligent, so profound, that its effect is not depressing; but full of the sense of a great truth, told with a subtlety and integrity that lifts the heart.” – The Scotsman

Muziektheater Transparant, based in Antwerp, Belgium, is forever seeking risks and taking chances. It is involved in everything, but the grand opera with its classical repertory and thick-set singers beneath crystal chandeliers. Their starting point is always the human voice. Songs or theatre, amateurs or professionals, new or old, – they have it all. Transparant also breathes new life into older works, plays works that have been forgotten and the unknown, as well as the familiar, pumping new blood and energy into the customary opera.

I really enjoyed this performance. It was staged in a small hall that was filled in chairs placed in circles. We got seats right in the inner circle, and the performers sat interspersed in our midst. After the audience had mostly settled down into their seats, 12 men, stood up on their chairs and began to sing acapella Schubert songs. Their harmonized voices were beautiful and captivating. As the lights were left on, I could see that everyone else was similarly spellbound.

Midway through one of their songs, a woman (seated right next to me) abruptly joins in. The men slowly fall silent until hers is the lone voice left in the crowd. Then seemingly startled out of her reverie, she stands and begins her tale of how she landed up in the SS.

Later on, after she finally takes her seat, the men rise and sing again, only to be interrupted by a man, this time seated in the back row. He too, stands and reminisces about the war.

It was interesting, to hear from the perspective of otherwise ordinary men and women caught up in the war, on the wrong side. Theirs was not so much a tale of regret, and shame, of having participated – or been on the side of those who participated – in the heinous war crimes, but more of bemusement. As one of the characters said – and this struck me deeply – only the winning side gets to dictate morality and pass judgment. But these were also ordinary people, who were taught to think that they were justly invincible, and who believed in their cause.


One thought on “Ruhe

  1. Sounds good! When the arts fest is past, let me know how you think the Singapore arts scene compares with Chicago’s.

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