The Flowers of Evil

20 out of 100 poems by Charles Baudelaire

Poster of the play The Flowers of Evil, by Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel, Leipzig (artwork Robert Voss).
The Flowers of Evil – artwork Robert Voss.

This title alone! A panorama on the abyss.
While entire districts in Paris are being destroyed to make room for the wide boulevards, while glass arcades replace the medieval alleys and gas lanterns blur the border between day and night, Charles Baudelaire begins a revolution of literature. The fusion of the seemingly incompatible – themes of the abysmal, the extreme and the ennui captured and verbally condensed in the classic form of Romantic love poetry – this was precisely the first step on the road to modernism. And no sooner had Baudelaire’s first work appeared in 1857 than a criminal trial followed with charges of amorality and blasphemy. Some poems were censored, all printed copies confiscated.

Baudelaire’s radical subjectivity and incessant search for the moment, as well as the assumption of beauty precisely where no one suspects it, allow a transfer into puppetry. The texts are permeated by the phenomenon of synaesthesia, an interweaving of sensory perceptions. The production follows this line in the collaboration of figure, voice and music and allows the iridescent beauty of the abysmal to shine through. Every encounter with The Flowers of Evil resembles entering a labyrinth. The familiar makes a new and irritating appearance. It is at times “terrifying and grandiose for everyone” (Marcel Proust).

For these Flowers of Evil, a number of individual recordings were made by different speakers in French, German and English. The production continues the first joint exploration of Baudelaire’s work – Spleen (2006) – by Wilde & Vogel with director Hendrik Mannes.

Director: Hendrik Mannes
Dramaturgy, Co-direction: Antonia Christl
Puppets, performance, stage: Michael Vogel
Live music: Charlotte Wilde
Voices (recordings): Lilith Stangenberg, Ilka Schönbein, Barbara Nüsse, Bianca Casady, Nadia Genet, Agnès Limbos, Neysa Barnett, Gabriella Crispino, Johanna Hähner, Orakle Ngoy and Rickie Lee Jones.

Transcription from the French: Simon Werle.

Performance rights courtesy of Rowohlt Theater Verlag, Hamburg.

Produced by Christl, Mannes, Wilde & Vogel, in co-production with Westflügel Leipzig and FITZ! Stuttgart.

Supported by Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the City of Leipzig, and the Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony, measure co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget passed by the Saxon State Parliament.

(photos Dana Ersing)

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