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Der Protagonist/Royal Palace review at Festspielhaus Bregenz

David Pountney marks his first year as intendant of the Bregenz Festival with a celebration of Kurt Weill’s work – including the rarely performed Royal Palace (1927) paired with Der Protagonist (1926), as Weill would have wished.

The one-acters explore fantasy and reality, the dangerous projecting onto others of personal obsessions. The Protagonist’s unstable grip on real life results in his sister’s death. In Royal Palace, Dejanira rejects the attempts of three men – husband, past lover and future lover – to foist their needs on her, choosing instead to walk transfigured into the lake beside the luxury hotel where they besiege her.

Nicolas Brieger gives both works brilliant stagings, though he cheapens the pantomimes of Der Protagonist with hard-core cliches and introduces improvisations which vitiate dramatic momentum. However his handling of Royal Palace, a work conceived as multi-media and well ahead of its time, is masterly.

There is an exhilarating imaginative brilliance to the dances, film sequences, projections and design which illumines without exaggeration. Memorable images abound – the lakeside with flying birds, the filmed montage of Dejanira’s world travels, the filmed hands groping her live body, the food projections on the dancing bellboys’ trays.

The superb ensemble cast act and sing with a truth, accuracy and urgency which overwhelm and move, especially Catherine Nagelstadt, Gerhard Siegel and Peter Bording. Yakov Kreizberg’s crystalline, incandescent realisation of both scores with the Wiener Symphoniker is the stuff of dreams. An unforgettable experience.

Production Information

Festspielhaus, Bregenz , July 21, 25, 31 August 1, 8

Kurt Weill
Nicolas Brieger
Bregenz Festival
Cast includes
Catherine Nagelstadt, Gerhard Siegel, Peter Bording, Otto Katzameier
Running time
2hrs 30mins