Why a “Pavane for Prometheus”? Even with the title of the piece that Romeo Castellucci set up at the Beethovenfest in Bonn's Viktoriabad, a disused indoor swimming pool in the vicinity of the main university building, the former electoral palace, he puzzles the audience. A pavane is a slow dance; because of the simple and solemn sequence of steps, he recommended himself for court staff. But even in pre-revolutionary times, the Pavane, as the lexicon of music in the past and present notes, was listed in the art lexicons as an almost extinct genre. In his book "Music and Monarchy", the historian David Starkey interprets the Pavane, which Thomas Tomkins wrote in 1647 after the execution of William Laud, as a reprise of the serious sound of a bygone era.the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had provoked revolutionary protest with the restoration of Catholic forms in Anglican worship.

Patrick Bahners

Features correspondent in Cologne and responsible for “humanities”.

  • Follow I follow

Prometheus, however, is immortalized in modern figure memory as the torchbearer of progress.

During Beethoven's lifetime, the rebel against Zeus was the hero of those who wanted to abolish all worship.

Should the personified progress be carried to the grave in the non-functioning physical training institute, whose tiled corridors no longer sing a song about the sweat of fear of the non-swimmers at the nearby Beethoven Gymnasium, who took swimming lessons here?

But wouldn't it be disrespectful to bury the cosmic spoiler with princely honors, as if his days on earth had been so short and so passed by as those of the imaginary Spanish infanta who composed his pavans for piano in fictional honor Maurice Ravel?

That certain kind of spark

The empty swimming pool is lined with white cloth; the 51 admitted spectators stand on the edge and look down. The play of colors in the panorama window by Gottfried Böhm is obscured and thus has disappeared. Castellucci uses very few props; the planted white flagpoles could have been left over from a mourning ceremony in feudal times. In the middle of the basin, where the water was lower and one could perhaps just stand, a catafalque is set up, also white, like the entire room except for the blue ceiling and the diving tower, which is the color of human skin. There is no coffin enthroned on the scaffolding, but a metallic monster, the enlarged model of a motorcycle engine from the Kawasaki brand. The real monster of our time, destined to be taken out of service: the combustion engine.

Irreplaceable, the most dearest thing, even if it was a mere means for increasing life, for joint ventures in friendship and love, it was for the man who had firsthand experience of the tragedy being performed here. But no, that is wrong, that is said in a harmonizing way. Bearded Silvio Jagarinec, whose legs had to be removed after a motorcycle accident in 2018, tells in a monologue written by Claudia Castellucci in his own words about survival without experience. With this work Romeo Castellucci goes beyond representation or behind it. We admire the prostheses that Silvio Jagarinec wears, marvels of technology, and we admire infinitely more that he has slowly learned to walk again. A human and a true titan.

Eight dancers drop their knees and suggest that the event of such a return to life could result in a religion, a rite of resilience and a cult of patience. But when they sew themselves into a divided shroud that has been converted into a protective cover with the disabled person, the thought arises that the technology is nothing other than solidarity or love. Perhaps the unity of both powers is the secret of the gift of Prometheus, represented here by a burning branch thrown from the diving platform: the joke of the ignition.

In Castellucci's Salzburg production of Mozart's “Don Giovanni”, the hero disappears happily into the white surface, the space of the imagination, during the journey into hell. For romantic poetics, Don Juan is a double of Prometheus. In the Victoria Bath, Prometheus and his helpers dissolve in white steam at the end after they have rolled down into the abyssal part of the pool. In 1801 the reviewer of the Journal of Luxury and Fashions disapproved of the “mystical nonsense of allegory” in Beethoven's ballet “The Creatures of Prometheus”, from which Scott Gibbons took motifs for his engine noise carpet. Castellucci, a mystic and allegorist among the theater makers who succeeded Robert Wilson, is after nonsense: images that last,when the white room with all its mythological associations has swallowed up the old false questions about the purpose of suffering and the curse of remedial action.