Mystical and mysterious

As Artist in Residence for 2015/2016, Peter Sellars now reveals to us the secrets of very different but equally exciting worlds. Together with the students of the Orchestra Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker, he will present Kaija Saariaho's La Passione de Simone. The director also produced the oratory about the French philosopher, mystic and social revolutionary Simone Weil at the work's première in 2006. Sellars is also no stranger to Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande, which Claude Debussy composed after the eponymous symbolist play by Maurice Maeterlinck. In 1993, he produced it together with Simon Rattle in Amsterdam. Now in a semi-staged production in the Philharmonie, the director and conductor will present the mysterious love story of Pelléas et Mélisande which takes us to mysterious landscapes of the soul. Vocal soloists include Magdalena Kožená and Christian Gerhaher. The third work of the Artist in Residence also leads to the margins of human existence: Claude Vivier's stage work Kopernikus, composed in 1974 and subtitled by the composer himself a “ritual opera of death”, explores the changing boundaries between reality and imagination.

“Basically, my line of work, it's a service job. You just try to be helpful, to help out.” Peter Sellars, one of the most unconventional and innovative directors of our time, has a very pragmatic approach to his profession. His main concern in the works he brings to the stage is to highlight to audiences their relevance to the political and social questions of today. And he himself has experienced again and again in his career just how rewarding this can be. As a 21-year-old, Sellars discovered Bach’s cantatas – and was convinced that his compositions were very abstract. Ten years later, he realised, “Bach told about lived experience!” This insight made him the ideal director for one of the most important projects that Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker have realised in recent years: the staged performances of Johann Sebastian Bach's Passions.

Poignant and intense

The collaboration between Sellars and the orchestra began in April 2010 with the St. Matthew Passion which the press hailed as the “most moving musical event of the season”. The American director's concept does not place the the figure of Jesus in the foreground, but illuminates the conflicts of the people around him. “There is no mercy, no love, no understanding among the people. The performance sings and acts this bitter aspect to the forefront.” (Berliner Morgenpost) After a revival of the St. Matthew Passion in 2013, the St John Passion, which was also celebrated by public and press alike, followed in 2014. Peter Sellars achieves the intensity of his productions by giving attention to every detail. Even the smallest solos and the smallest of gestures are rehearsed meticulously. “For me, it's often the tiny, little things that unlock the secret door. As in life, so in art, it is the little things that make the difference.”