Monday, September 22, 2008

The operamusical 'Which Witch' ...

... is one of my all-time favorite musical ... thingummies. I'm a crazy fan. I once travelled for something like 30 hours straight - one way - to see a school production of it in some random town in Germany. It wasn't that good, but it was Which Witch. :-) This was me and Anéa who did that ... she's even crazier than me on this score. It feels good to have someone else around who's even worse. >:-)

WW was conceived as a concept album kind of thing, and developed over a number of years into a concert show and a concert musical ... with the amazing pinnacle of a West End opera musical in between. And that is fabulous. ;-) WW is the creation of two very creative and talented women, Benedicte Adrian and Ingrid Bjørnov, as well as their former longtime manager, Ole A Sørli. They worked on it for many years, had ups and downs with it - some really serious downturns, but let's not go there - but no one can deny that they achieved one of the absolutely highest points of their careers when they brought the show to London 16 years ago. The production sadly did not last long :-( ... why on earth not is a whole other story, I'm not going to get into that, except to say that I do not accept that it was any failing on the part of the musical itself. Some, no doubt, will disagree with me. >:-) What cannot be argued is that it was a huge achievement for two young Norwegian women to get a musical that they themselves created produced on a London stage. It's never happened before or since. It may never happen again. Anyone who feels like bitching about Dollie de Luxe can put a sock in it until they've managed the same feat of musical artistry themselves. >:-)

What's so great about WW? ZOMG, what isn't??! :-D The music, the characters, the story, the scenes, the lions and tigers and bears, oh my!! I'm not sure I can explain it well enough to make someone entirely unfamiliar with the show understand - and I may be wrong; you, unknown reader, might hate the show if you heard it or saw it. But it will always have a huge place in my heart. I find the story deeply touching and the music spectacular and moving. I dig it. :-)

The plot is pretty simple. The story takes place in the summer of 1537. Our heroine is Maria Vittoria di'Farnese, a young woman, or we might say girl, from Rome. She's from a good family; she is the adopted daughter of a rich and powerful man. Her foster father, Pier Luigi, is the son of Pope Paul III ... so this family can look down their noses at pretty much everybody (although Pier Luigi is very sensitive on the issue of his bastardy). She's 17 years old, blonde, blue-eyed and pretty, innocent and naïve. As she's starting to get on in years >:-) her father has decided that it's time for her to marry - and what a husband he's found for her. Anton Fugger, a super rich and powerful man - a banking magnate from the south German town of Heidelberg. He is unfortunately also about 30 years older than her and kind of fat ... but he's super rich. Maria, young and silly chit of a girl that she is, isn't too keen on marrying this guy, since she last summer fell madly in love with a certain inappropriate someone - a handsome youngish priest by the name of Daniel Konrad von Fuchs. To make matters worse: also from Heidelberg.

In the intervening year, the bishop thereabouts has died or something and Daniel has been promoted to the vacant diocese. He's travelled to Rome for his investiture. Unfortunately, on his trip he meets Maria again. She's even more in love with him now than ever (that's what comes of sitting around embroidering all winter). He brushes off her romantic overtures and denies any possibility of any feelings between them going anywhere. But hey, that doesn't mean he denies that they're there. >:-) Love conquers all and an ill-advised elopement ensues. Where to go but back home to good ol' Heidelberg ... where the disturbingly Catholic populace isn't too thrilled to see their bishop shacking up with a pretty young blonde; where Anton Fugger's tenderly nursing his jealousy and wounded pride; and, not least, where Daniel's dangerously ambitious sister, countess Anna Regina von Fuchs, is appalled to see her brother throwing away the career she's been working so hard to build for him.

It's all Maria's fault. She's got to go. But how? How to make friends while killing people? >:-)

Anyway! So far the London version & other, simpler ones. The former is completely fantastic, had great singers, wonderful costumes, and the music, oh, the music. Swoon! Here's one of my favorite songs from the London show. It's called Malleus Maleficarum, it's the opening song (after the overture, obviously) and the character performing it is Maria's father confessor, cardinal Gonzaga, head of the Roman Inquisition. He doesn't like women much. We are bad. >:-) He was played by Billy Hartman in the London production.

Why blog about this now? Because WW has been brought back to life this fall. :-o Sure, there have been various small productions around the country - concert performances, that type of thing. But since Benedicte & Ingrid themselves let go of it, there's never been a real production of it anywhere. Never a serious & major theatrical production ... until this August. :-o

On the 27th of last month, Det Norske Teatret here in Oslo opened with their Norwegian-language production of Which Witch - new and different, or so they say. Anéa has seen it twice, and she agrees - it's different. But she doesn't think it's very good. :-( I live in dread of seeing WW presented depressingly badly. And on Wednesday I will find out whether that very thing is going on at a major theater in this very city. I am atwitter with excitement. The reviews have been varied, though some surprisingly good. (They're all in Norwegian: here, here and here.) I can't wait to find out for myself.


Gunnar said...

Åhh, Which Witch... Jeg er også gigantisk fan. Tidlig på nittitallet så jeg en oppføring i Holmenkollen og en på en liten utendørsscene i Rogaland et sted. Fantastisk! Og da dobbelt-CDen kom ut fra London-produksjonen lå jeg med hodetelefoner på gulvet i min lille hybel på Bjerke studentheim i Oslo og lyttet gjennom den fra start til slutt mens tårene rant.... for en trist historie! Jeg var så forbanna og lei meg over den urett hovedpersonen må gjennomgå! Og enda mer forbanna og lei meg da oppsetningen i London ble slaktet og latterliggjort av kritikerne. Det var helt fullstendig uforståelig for meg.

Synes også musikken er fantastisk, og det er en utrolig prestasjon å ha komponert og arrangert all den infløkte musikken.

Får nok ikke sett den nye versjonen, men blir spennende å lese din anmeldelse som jeg antar kommer her i bloggen snart ;-)

Leisha Camden said...

Jeg er selvsagt helt enig med deg, du har helt rett i alt du sier. :-)

Historien i WW er voldsomt gripende - desto mer fordi handlingen er basert på en sann historie - og den presenteres på en helt fantastisk måte. Musikken er bare helt ... wow. :-) Jeg kan ikke egentlig beskrive hvor flott jeg synes den er. Det er bare så storslagent og overveldende. En stor bedrift å skape noe slikt.

Slakten i London hadde ingenting med musikken eller stykket som helhet å gjøre, det mener jeg helt bestemt. Dette er ikke stedet å gå inn på dét, men. Stykket hadde fortjent å gå i mange mange år. Det er også et stykke som mange bør se, for det setter i gang en del tanker om religion og 'heksejakt' i vår egen tid også.

Anmeldelse kan du regne med vil dukke opp ja. Det er nok ganske så sikkert. ;-)

Leisha Camden said...

Jeg har forresten også sett de konsertoppsetningene i Holmenkollen. Begge den to engelskspråklige og den norske. Og jeg har plakatene som beviser det ... >:-)

Vlad El Buen Vlad said...

Hi, so happy I found this. No one seems to know about Which Witch, one my favorite shows whatsoever. I read somewhere once, that there is a video of the making "Burn the witches". Do you have it or know of it´s existence? Where can I get it?