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„Aus dem Hinterhalt“ 2016–2022 - Deutsche Oper Berlin

Looking back to…

“Ambushed from Behind” 2016–2022

Club music producers, drag queens, DJs, witches and music machines. Our “Ambushed from Behind” series has always been a guarantee of something completely different.

Guests of the likes of Matthew Herbert and Peaches have teamed up with soloists from our ensemble to transform the Tischlerei into a crucible for experimentation. Alexandra Holtsch, director in the early years, passed the baton to singer and director Elia Rediger (photo) in 2019. The pandemic called for yet more improvisation. After an enforced break, the series made a well-received comeback with Sofia Portanet, Max Prosa and many others. In June and July the curtain rises on what is being billed as the final edition of “Ambushed”.

 

The first edition was a predictable riot. Canadian electroclash icon Peaches, rapper/producer Black Cracker and the drag queens of Pansy and the House of Present descended on the Tischlerei, ganging up with our ensemble members and orchestra musicians to ‘ambush’ the Deutsche Oper’s new production of COSÌ FAN TUTTE. “Love and sex, loyalty and seduction are as much a part of today’s club scene as they were in the era of the 1st Viennese School. The urge for an orgy is always bubbling away under the surface,” wrote Martina Helmig afterwards in the Berliner Morgenpost. And despite finding that “not all was good on the night” and Mozart had at times been “outrageously subverted by bass notes in the wrong key”, she had witnessed “a fine spectacle capped with equally fine applause.”

The first edition was a predictable riot. Canadian electroclash icon Peaches, rapper/producer Black Cracker and the drag queens of Pansy and the House of Present descended on the Tischlerei, ganging up with our ensemble members and orchestra musicians to ‘ambush’ the Deutsche Oper’s new production of COSÌ FAN TUTTE. “Love and sex, loyalty and seduction are as much a part of today’s club scene as they were in the era of the 1st Viennese School. The urge for an orgy is always bubbling away under the surface,” wrote Martina Helmig afterwards in the Berliner Morgenpost. And despite finding that “not all was good on the night” and Mozart had at times been “outrageously subverted by bass notes in the wrong key”, she had witnessed “a fine spectacle capped with equally fine applause.”

 

The premiere: Electroclash icon Peaches in the very first edition of “Ambushed” in October 2016 © Eike Walkenhorst
 

The following edition homed in on Meyerbeer’s LES HUGUENOTS: This time the free hand was given to poet, film maker and playwright Tim Staffel and sound, video and performance artist Sonja Bender, who proceeded to set up a chorus and counter-chorus as a way of studding Meyerbeer’s music with historical texts and contemporary documents relating to the bloody events of the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre. It was an approach that was poles apart from that of the first “Ambushed” outing, and this heterogeneity would be a series constant for the next six seasons.

Gone, the classical peep-box stage. For “Ambushed from Behind: LES HUGUENOTS” the audience sits on beanbags and cushions © Eike Walkenhorst
 

The series continued with British electro music producer Matthew Herbert (riffing off Britten’s DEATH IN VENICE). He brought with him his experience deconstructing and reassembling classical works from the repertoire. Herbert’s remix of Mahler’s unfinished 10th Symphony had been released by Deutsches Grammophon a few years earlier as part of the “Recomposed” series. Listen here on  Youtube.

Next up were guitarist Caspar Brötzmann and composer Christoph Coburger (giving their response to Wagner’s THE FLYING DUTCHMAN) and Russian composer Andrej Koroliov (commenting on Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV). In his “Ambushed” offering Koroliov set out to define the “typical Russian”, exploring the overlap between Russia’s and Germany’s (musical) histories. He was also interested in “the relationship between the powerful and the plebs”, as can be read in Issue 8 of the Tischlerei newspaper (Spring 2017). He went on to say: “At a time in which demagogues and populists are in the ascendant and the supposedly antiquated phenomenon of war is once more serving as a tool of Russian power politics, BORIS GODUNOV is as relevant as ever”. Five years on, in the spring of 2022, these words could be straight out of the Politics section of the London or New York Times. Time for a reprise of “Ambushed from Behind: BORIS GODUNOV”?

Read the article in our blog: Punk and Putin. On their trail with Andrej Koroliov in Russian Berlin

The second “Ambushed” season was launched in December 2017 with a version of Meyerbeer’s LE PROPHÈTE by and with “Einstürzende Neubauten” percussionist N. U. Unruh and artist/performer Ole Wulfers. Next up were US ‘No Wave’ artist and underground poet Lydia Lunch (with Bizet’s CARMEN), Finnish electro duo Amnesia Scanner (interpreting Korngold’s THE MIRACLE OF HELIANE) and, in April 2018, another outing for the drag troupe centring on Pansy and the House of Presents and featuring Black Cracker as guest, this time reimagining THE BAT. That season of “Ambushed from Behind” closed with IL VIAGGIO A REIMS as seen through the lens of the “Hauen und Stechen” musical-theatre collective.

N. U. Unruh, percussionist with “Einstürzende Neubauten”, playing homemade instruments on “Ambushed from Behind: LE PROPHÈTE”  © Eike Walkenhorst
 

The “Ambushed” format began its third season in November 2018 with Black Cracker, a welcome Tischlerei stalwart. He described his involvement with Alban Berg’s WOZZECK as follows: “For my performance I don’t tell the story in its entirety […] from beginning to end. I approach the content and music from an oblique, poetic angle. […] The work really affects me emotionally. […] I want to create a certain ambience and make the audience feel as if they’re part of the performance the moment they set foot in the Tischlerei. Nothing about the experience they have should be run of the mill!” (Libretto #3, November 2018).

Rapper and producer Black Cracker on his working method  © Max Zerrahn
 

A new production of Offenbach’s LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN provided the base material for the “Ambushed” edition of December 2018, executed from the perspective of an East German pioneer of ambient and minimal techno music, Frank Bretschneider, and British son-et-lumière artist Florence To. In 2019 Musicboard Berlin created two domestic grants to be awarded annually to the composer and director of an “Ambushed” evening. The first grant recipients were Canadian producer and experimental pop musician Ben Jackson (exploring Bellini’s LA SONNAMBULA) and Swiss club music producer Gil Schneider (reflecting on THE DWARF). For our Libretto mag Schneider even compiled a Spotify playlist featuring music tips from his favoured genre (listen to them here: Link zu Spotify).

The “Ambushed from Behind: DON QUICHOTTE” edition in June 2019, which rounded off the season, brought the series full circle back to its beginnings with founding curator Alexandra Holtsch, who once again signed up Peaches as guest performer. Cue for a racy event in the Tischlerei, with around twenty scantily clad back-up dancers and performers accompanying the Canadian artist. Straight outta Berghain.

At the start of the 2019/20 season Swiss singer, artist and poet Elia Rediger took over the helm of the “Ambushed” series. His tack has been to give the various “Ambushed” editions a measure of coherence via a common thematic thread: “The Power of the Arts”. The first evening under his aegis found Russian musician, lyricist, director and artist Mary Ocher, who describes herself as “a progressive bohemian, cosmopolitan and feminist”, tackling the power of Fate in Verdi’s LA FORZA DEL DESTINO. After that we were given “Ambushed from Behind: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM”, which was the response of Rediger’s own band, “Brigade Futur 3”, to the power of images.

Elia Rediger, new curator of the “Ambushed” series from the 2019/20 season onwards. Rediger introduced the iconic gigantic hand as a permanent feature of the “Ambushed” brand  © Marcus Lieberenz
 

The jolt came in March 2020 with the Covid pandemic, and “Ambushed” was not spared. All its scheduled events for the rest of the season were cancelled – and only one edition of “Ambushed” made it to the Tischlerei in the 2020/21 season: this event saw producer and soundsmith Queen Alaska offering her response to Wagner’s THE VALKYRIE, a performance once again made possible by Musicboard Berlin’s “Ambushed” grant (now a firmly established source of funding).

In the current season “Ambushed” has been gradually regaining a semblance of normality. Sofia Portanet, a singer-songwriter with post-punk and new-wave influences and a dash of French chanson, came in to put Wagner’s SIEGFRIED through the “Ambushed” filter. On the heels of this came a double header featuring “Polypore”, the synth-rock band fronted by composer/trumpeter Nils Ostendorf, (with THE RHINEGOLD) and singer-songwriter and dramatist Max Prosa (with TWILIGHT OF THE GODS). Both parts can be viewed on YouTube.

Ambushed from Behind: Das Rheingold on Youtube

Ambushed from Behind: Götterdämmerung on Youtube

After a two-year layover due to Covid, “Ambushed from Behind: ANTIKRIST” has now made it to the Tischlerei, courtesy of machine music makers gamut inc.

One of the biggest plus points of the series revealed itself only weeks ago in the “Ambushed” edition devoted to Verdi’s LES VÊPRES SICILIENNES: Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine in late February 2022 the series directors reacted fast and hosted a hybrid event made up of concert and panel discussion. The Tischlerei event featured Ukrainian tenor Valentyn Dityuk, the Polýnushka ensemble specialising in traditional Ukrainian and Russian songs, and a raft of Eastern-Europe experts. The theme of the event was inevitably “Power of Peace”.

After three seasons the Rediger era, too, is now drawing to a close. The last two editions – the 23rd and 24th of the series, no less! – are scheduled for June and July 2022, with no curators or artists yet slated to take up the torch for the coming season.

Special Guests: To be announced …