STALINGRAD - THE ENVY OF THE PAINLESS (2002)
 

"Paradise is painlessness!"–

Says the female kiss-o-gram in STALINGRAD, but Howard Barker's libretto affords us deeper insights. Pain is an object of envy, because pain is connected to life and the time in which life unfolds. No pain, no life.

The German war veteran Ragusa turns 83. This is celebrated with a grotesque dinner where he is presented with a stripper–a so-called kiss-o-gram–and ends up getting killed!

Ragusa was wounded and disabled at the Battle of Stalingrad. When he returned to the castle where his beloved Bischof served, she had gone and the castle had been turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers. He goes for a walk by a lake and thinks of the past.
At his birthday all the painful memories merge. No one seems to understand the old man and the dinner takes a violent turn. Ragusa is thrown into the lake by his servants and drowns. 
At the bottom of the lake Ragusa meets himself as a child–and finds the body of his lover. She too is drowned: raped and dumped in the lake by a group of Russian soldiers in the final days of the war. Together they relive the war and their love. In death, their loss is finally redeemed. In the words of one of the assailants: "I envy your pain, Mr. Ragusa!"

STALINGRAD is about the painful scars this battle left on the physically and mentally disabled veterans. The horror of war and the painful memories are staged and allowed to unfold by Jacob F. Schokking's characteristic use of video projections that lend a strong and inescapable visual expression to the performance.
STALINGRAD is the result of a close collaboration between the British playwright Howard Barker, the Danish Composer Kim Helweg and the director Jacob F. Schokking.

CREDITS

Music: Kim Helweg
Libretto: Howard Barker
Direction/Set design: Jacob F. Schokking
Producer: Holland House
Conductor: Kaare Hansen
Performers 2004
Ragusa, war veteran: Ole Hedegaard
Ragusa, eleven years old: Bente Vist
Kiss-o-gram: Sarah Boberg
Lvov–servant and assailant: Rasmus Tofte Hansen
Olmutz–servant and assailant: Eskild Momme
Tubingen–servant and assailant: Jakob Bloch Jespersen
Bischof–young woman in 1941: Signe Asmussen
Performers 2002
Ragusa, war veteran: Werner Hollweg
Ragusa, eleven years old: Bente Vist
Baselitz, a kiss-o-gram: Trine Dyrholm
Lvov, servant and assailant: Rasmus Tofte Hansen
Olmutz, servant and assailant: Eskild Momme Møller
Tubingen, servant and assailant: Jakob Bloch Jespersen
Bischof, young woman in 1941: Signe Asmussen

Ensemble: 
Bodil Rørbech (first violin), Andreas Hagman (second violin), Erik Jakobsson (third violin), Xenia Savery (fourth violin), Markus Falkbring (viola), John Ehde (first cello), Lars Gahnsby (second cello), Robert Sonne (string bass), Thomas Rischel (piano), Bo Lundby Jæger (piano), Henrik Metz (harmonium)

Light design and technical coordination: Peter Plesner
Electronic sound design and sound concept: Gert Sørensen
Photography and editing: Jens Tang
Computer graphics: Arthur M. Steijn

Producer: Traudi C. Palsbøll
Production: Holland House in collaboration with The Royal Danish Theatre

STALINGRAD is supported by The Danish Arts Foundation, The Goethe Institute in Copenhagen, The British Embassy in Copenhagen.