norrlandsoperan | umeå 2010
malmö opera | malmö | 2011
Matthew made his European opera debut with the Swedish première of Philippe Boesmans’ Julie for NorrlandsOperan in late 2009, continuing that company’s collaborations with South African artists with a post-colonial interpretation of Strindberg’s classic. The production toured Northern Sweden before arriving at Malmö Opera.
‘Karen Blixen's Africa, 1937. The rubber plantations of Belgian Congo. There's a house, a large verandah, old discarded tyres and a table … At some distance behind them there are grainy black and white movies from Africa, almost documentary, and it's fascinating to see how well the transposition works as a whole. In Boesmans' Western European art music and Strindberg’s midsummer nightmare, I suddenly hear cicadas, and feel dark night heat instead of Nordic light … Matthew Wild's interpretation, focusing on racial issues between 1930's Europe and Africa, offers up completely new entrances to the piece … I am touched by the melancholy of this production. It is true music theatre and the singers are most believable, both physically and vocally.’ SWEDISH RADIO
‘The spatial focus of the set design should make the messages of the drama apparent, but also point at the social contexts within which the plot has effect, something which Annsofi Nyberg’s costumes, drawing on her years of experience, manage to do. Video images on a backdrop, tyres used for gardening and seating, and a fragment of a functionalist house, complete with fire stairs, are examples of a consummate stage design by Peter Ögren, which the director makes good use of in his shaping of the characters. Wild has created a union of music and drama to show that class barriers and the effects of colonialism are as present today as they were in 1937, a difficult and important subject.’ VÄSTERBOTTENS-KURIREN
“… a post colonial reading, set in 1930's Africa. The black tyres outside the Count’s residence are surely a reminder of the plundering of rubber plantations in Congo. The South African director Matthew Wild also pays homage to the provocative staging of Miss Julie in Cape Town in 1986, during the apartheid regime. Jean, now as then, is black (Njabulo Mthimkulu) and Julie (Susanna Levonen) white … Julie makes her entrance looking like Kate Winslet in Titanic and ends as Karen Blixen in Out of Africa, while Kristin is straight out of The Color Purple. The costumes set the filmic associations running. Annsofi Nyberg’s costume designs breathe respect and finesse; with only two hats – a fez and a pith helmet– she captures the two extremes of colonialism … Peter Ögren debuts with a charred set, where green vegetation and white flowers reach for white light (Ellen Ruge), which appears to come from nowhere. The scenery seems to emanate directly from the music. Julie at NOP is a very beautiful performance … a modern requiem for times gone by.’ EXPRESSEN
‘Black-and-white savages move threateningly across the movie screen in the back, a great window out into the African night that surrounds the kitchen where the drama unravels. Fluorescent greenfinches, worn out car tyres and a translucent stairwell with a door leading into nothingness. South African director Matthew Wild places August Strindberg’s Julie, Jean and Kristin on a colonial rubber plantation in 1937. There are plenty of references: a projection of a Karen Blixen citation from Out of Africa (published 1937) sets the tone. Her discovery of ”the dark races” and”great affection for the natives” juxtaposed with the image of a toy doll Tintin holding Snowy offer two faces of colonialism: benevolent exoticism and comic book sentiment. Strindberg’s drama fits like a glove in its new environment. The slow shift in power balance is delicately depicted. The positions of the characters are much more deadlocked here: the dreams of the black servant Jean (Njabulo Mthimkulu) and the white daughter of the count (Susanna Levonen) are so much more impossible than in the Swedish midsummer night, the hotel in Switzerland so much more distant. And how would late 30’s Europe have treated a black immigrant? The colonial reality, with ruler-straight state borders drawn by European war lords, crushes dreams and renders personally defined limits for life impossible.’