Surreal association: Rost & Frenák
We witnessed the encounter of dance and opera, black and white, modern and classical, man and woman in a special performance at Erkel Theatre. The names of Andrea Rost and Pál Frenák promise an enticing evening in and of themselves, so I was curious how they would be able to marry their impeccably presented art on stage.
Everything was set for a spectacular performance: a charming opera songstress with an amazing voice, a world-renowned dance troupe with a famous choreographer, a full house; you cannot wish for more. Andrea Rost started her performance by singing the love songs of composer Alban Berg in a great, darkly swirling dress with a train, which she seemed to get entangled in a bit at times, followed by a little taste of acrobatic dancing.
Then came a sharp turn as Andrea Rost returned to the stage with two folk songs by Béla Bartók, dressed in a black bodysuit, tights, stilettos and a tailcoat, presenting both an extraordinary sight and a great contrast to the ambience of the music. The atmosphere was that of a vaudeville show, with the gaze of the audience fixed on the singer. Not even the dancers running around and wriggling on the ground in torn wedding dresses could distract our attention away from the sight. Ultimately, I decided to cast down my eyes and just enjoy the fabulous singing voice. The singer, still wearing her black bodysuit-tailcoat combo, performed the well-known folk song Kitrákotty alternating between girlish and coquettish tones, while all but nude dancers with giant feathery rubber chicken masks whirled around her. The effect was like watching a Moulin Rouge diva present the basics of Hungarian folk music after stumbling into a hen yard in a dream. Hardly anyone managed to interpret Kitrákotty in such extravagant circumstances before, but Rost and Frenák has showed us that anything can be refashioned, even Kitrákotty in a chanteuse style, since nothing disappears, it only transforms into something else.
Opera, dance, and folk music blends into a surreal experience, not unlike the fever visions Dalí used to paint in the lewd seventies. Still, the question arises: do they want to fascinate us, shock us or make us laugh? I think somewhere along the line they have managed to achieve all three aspects.
The last part of the performance was a selection from Robert Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben (A Woman’s Love and Life). Now the artiste, who donned a snow-white evening dress (or wedding dress?), looked exactly as an elegant opera singer with the voice of a nightingale should on stage… Even though my ears prefer the Italian language, the harsh sounds of German do not bother me anymore, so I abandon myself to the trills of her heavenly voice. The peaceful vibe of the song is suddenly interrupted by a dancer wearing black undergarments and jumping about like a monkey on what appears to be a chrome-coloured jungle gym, thus we can see in detail the movements of the wedding night prognosticated by the future husband. So the white evening dress really is a wedding dress then.
The jungle gym antics are later continued by a female dancer in a wedding dress slid down to her waist, and when a male dancer joins her, eroticism also becomes an active agent in the performance.
“This isn’t a peep show,” a lady next to me exclaims in shock. She should know, however, that if you decide to watch a performance helmed by Pál Frenák, you have to expect eccentric abandon, impudence and of course eroticism and nudity.
So it ends. The applause is a few seconds late, but then it really gets going. We do not exactly know if we are clapping for the individual artistic performances or the performance as a whole. Yes, everything was fantastic, but we need a little time to gather ourselves together, for we witnessed a curious matrimony, one of conservative opera and frivolous, taboo-breaking dance performance – Rarely can one see such a sight.