Berlin-Premiere November 13, 2015
A coproduction with Salzburger Festspiele
"Odd! One lives but once in the world, has these powers, these prospects only once, and anyone who fails to make the most of his life, who fails to push himself as far as possible, is a fool."
The young Goethe, revered by his readers for his novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, was already weary of his genius status at the age of 24. He was drawn to Weimar, where a career in politics awaited. But first he wanted to write a ‘controlled’ play – one not as wild and reckless as his Götz, which was published the previous year. In just eight days, he wrote Clavigo. The tragic drama, which was not very popular among his contemporaries, is based on a true story: in Madrid, the sister of the writer Beaumarchais was abandoned by the courtier Clavijo after repeated promises of marriage. Goethe expands on the story: on one side are the young authors Clavigo and Carlos, both hungry for success; on the other Marie, her admirer Buenco and her brother Beaumarchais, who is determined to avenge his sister. The tale ends in Marie’s death, who dies broken-hearted as a result of the betrayal …
Career and love – it is these two coordinates that would preoccupy the poet Goethe throughout his life and whose incompatibility he never tired of exploring. Which makes it all the more remarkable that Goethe already depicts them as diametrically opposed concepts of life in Clavigo. His main protagonist, Clavigo, obviously Goethe’s alter ego, author of numerous texts, attractive and successful, needs love in order to be creative: it fires his imagination, intoxicates him, it is like a balm for his artistic soul. But as soon as romantic feelings are accompanied by faithfulness, the promise of fidelity or even marriage (a step that Marie takes for granted), the magic soon wanes. The artist needs some erotic thrills and absolute freedom.
In Goethe’s day and age, erotic adventure, climbing the career ladder and egocentric striving for freedom were an almost exclusively male prerogative, whereas today they are firmly established as a woman’s, too. In Stephan Kimmig’s production, Clavigo is played by a woman – her libidinous freedom and successful career are presented as givens; factors such as man, woman, time, biology are treated playfully; terms such as freedom, passion, pain and contradiction are explored without specific gender attributions. The complexity of Goethe’s play, with all its historical and gender-specific differences, serves as a mirror and counterpoint to the world of today. Kimmig’s production raises questions about the social engagement of the artist, the artist’s self-image and about projections, but also about self-deception, lies and emptiness. These are issues that Goethe also tackled in his plays. Why can’t we live and love with or without each other? What does artistic freedom mean? Is the romantic notion of everlasting love an illusion? Is happiness only ever fleeting?
Marcel KohlerMarie Beaumarchais