Anhelli: The Howl is a musical performance piece composed of Armenian songs, Greek hymns and Orthodox irmoses.
In Anhelli: The Howl we ask the fundamental question of the inability to experience and express death. Death cannot be told, nor can it be represented, so we focus on those few minutes of mourning when mourners gather in the house of the departed to bid farewell to her, to send her off. However, this is not just a farewell, but a real disconnection, sending away the soul, perhaps freeing it. Death is not just a moment of transition but a process that takes time.
The piece uses the protagonist of Juliusz Słowacki’s poem Anhelli and the characters that accompany him ‒ one of whom is a woman, his beloved, and the other an angel ‒ to explore the process of spiritual separation. Anhelli: The Howl speaks only of a few minutes of farewell, but in fact the whole process would take an hour, forty days, a year, or even more, as if time has lost its linearity measured by the clock.
The piece pays homage to Słowacki as a great artist, but his poem serves only as a literary reference point ‒ the last words of the poem are the only words spoken at the beginning of the performance. The figure of Anhelli the savior is integrated into the piece with the help of musical dramaturgy originating from Christian liturgy and a number of funeral rites. We also draw on non-canonical Gnostic writings, recognising Mary Magdalene in the women that accompany Anhelli.
The unique collection of songs performed by the actors was formed in the process of at least ten years of searching. Teatr ZAR’s method of work is based on long-term work with singers from various traditions until the actors are able to sing each song together and participate in a common liturgy or funeral ritual. Only then can the song become a part of the performance.
Parallels with noh theatre can be found in the piece. Both ZAR’s approach and traditional Japanese theatre focus on making present what is absent. Through the power of including the audience, ZAR creates a theatre that makes present. In Anhelli, they use staging and funeral songs to make present the moment of death and mourning.
Director and concept creator Jarosław Fret
Musical dramaturgy by Jarosław Fret with Aleksandra Kotecka and Tomasz Wierzbowski
Vocal preparation by Aleksandra Kotecka and Tomasz Wierzbowski
Lighting engineer Maciej Mądry
Actors Mertcan Semerci (Anhelli), Davit Baroyan, Ditte Berkeley, Alessandro Curti, Ekaterina Egorova, Jarosław Fret, Kamila Klamut, Aleksandra Kotecka, Aleksandra Kugacz-Semerci, Orest Sharak, Tomasz Wierzbowski
First version premiered on 24 September 2009 in London
Second version premiered on 7 September 2019 in Toga, Japan, and on 8 November 2019 in Wrocław (Polish premiere)
Running time 60 minutes
We do not stage Euripides.
We show Medea outside of time, outside of myth, exploring a problem that is both universal and urgently contemporary – emigration. We speak of the impossibility of crossing the border of ourselves, created with the line of our bodies moving between earth and sea, between continents and between people. Medea is a great figure of exile. She stands at the gates of Europe, up to her knees in death. It is not her that is rejected, it is her own death and the possibility of burying her children: young women raped on the way to Europe, mutilated young men, robbed old people … Others.
Medeas is not political theatre. It is an intimate exploration of the inner border of the experience of being rejected. This is a requiem for all those whose names we will never know and who die on the way to our continent. Seduced by Europe, it’s image and myth, they stand at its gates, unable to cross the border, cross the lines of their lives.
The musical dramaturgy is built around Arabic, Persian and Kurdish songs sung by guest singers from Cairo, Tehran and Istanbul. Their voices are surrounded and contrasted with a sea of Latin confraternities.
Performance by Simona Sala and Jarosław Fret
Musical dramaturgy Jarosław Fret
Chorus Aleksandra Kotecka, Tomasz Wierzbowski, Orest Sharak, Davit Baroyan, Jarosław Fret, Mertcan Semerci
Singers Marjan Vahdat, Selda Őztűrk
Suite for cello No. 1, in G major of Johann Sebastian Bach by Dominika Wicher
Premiere 20 October 2016
Running time 50 minutes