According to the legend of Babel, all of humanity spoke one language until God confounded them as punishment for building a tower that challenged his authority. In his essay “Por qué traducimos” the writer Fabio Morábito transfered the notion of “linguistic homogeneity” – described as paradise in the legend – to the future. With acerbic irony, he portrays a culturally impoverished world in which only one language is spoken. Morábito offered an opposite reading of the legend, claiming that the only paradise possible is one where linguistic and cultural diversity exist despite the misunderstandings and conflicts which may arise.
Morábito’s essay served as the foil for a music theatre production titled “The Case of Babel” which explored the spaces that arise when speaking different languages, e.g. in translation or through the loss of one’s mother tongue. The piece presented three scenically and linguistically interconnected stories by the contemporary writers Cécile Wajsbrot (France), Yoko Tawada (Japan/Germany) and Fabio Morábito (Italy/Mexico). The stage has functioned as a large “language machine”; in every corner, language has been translated, written, printed and taught. The sounds of the activities and objects served as the source material for the composition and merged to form the hodgepodge of Babylonian confusion.
The work was performed by the Vokalensemble Schola Heidelberg with two actors and three percussionists. The project aimed to apply methods of music theatre to develop an autonomous story-telling format in which text, music and stage scenery interact. The project eliminated traditional sequence of libretto – composition – performance in favour of the more flexible notion of concept, composition and stage direction. The world premiere took place at the opening of the Schwetzinger Festspiele 2019.
Artistic director: Heike Hoffmann
Composer/co-director: Elena Mendoza (ES)
Stage director/assistant composer: Matthias Rebstock
Musical director: Walter Nußbaum
Company / ensemble / orchester: Schola Heidelberg
Elektronics: SWR Experimentalstudio
Musicians: Almut Lustig, Tobias Dutschke, Martin Homann
Actors: Ayano Durniok, David Luque (ES)
Paris, La Gaité Lyrique: 2020/2021 season