…or Káťa Kabanová in Mönchengladbach and everything around it.
Having two friends singing premieres on two consecutive days in two German cities, and having promised them about two hundred and seventy four times “I definitely HAVE TO see you on stage (again) in the near future” it seemed like the best time. It was in theory, it was in the terms of their fantastic performances. But being generally an organised person I managed to make the most un-organised and uneconomical travel of my life.
To begin the main story with, I live in my beloved Hungary for 3 years and in a way I got used to this tiny country and tiny distances within cities. I made a discovery of at least another continent but rather a minor planet about a week before departure. The revelation that Mönchengladbach (where the premiere of Káťa Kabanová was) is about 600 kilometres away from Berlin (where the premiere of Cendrillon was). Who on Earth invented cities that far from each other within one country? (Hereby I would like to send a kiss to my American friends. Yes, I know you folks know something about distances. Sigh.)
When I awoke from my fever, delirium and disbelief which lasted about 47 seconds, and then consecutively had an insane laugh on myself being so incredibly smart, I started to google up the brooms, unicorns (hello Dana) and flying carpets. Unfortunately the German Witches, Sorceresses and Trollesses Association did not react to my numerous pleas (they must have some ambivalent feelings towards international witches transfer because of the immigrants I suppose: I am totally going to report it though, any discrimination is against the Codex Maior of Magical Creatures, article 62518, §7.4a). After having distributed some minor anathemas among the members of said association I fed my cats and proceeded to look for any of these dumb means of transport non-magical people use. I excluded carpooling I would normally choose first, as I don’t speak the language and it would be no fun to sit with Herr Wolfgang for six hours in silence. Next cheapest option was bus: another advantage was that this was a direct connection without changes. No witch with her common sense in its place would spend eight (8, nyolc, osiem, huit, Acht, otto!!!!) hours imprisoned in a bus though. Neither would I. There is always Bahn, I thought, but having acknowledged its fares I approached a heart attack which was surely prevented only by a magical bunch of Shakespearian curses that jól nevelt budai úrilány* would never ever think of. I actually yelled them out loud, but then only my cats heard and I’m sure their repertoire is way broader. And again yet, it was self-defence against the mentioned heart attack. In my last desperate attempt I checked my favourite but generally the least economical way of civilised people’s transportation. To my utmost surprise and delight, flight from Köln/Bonn to Berlin/Schönefeld, booked three (3, három, trzy…) days in advance, and including airport transfer, costed less than the cheapest Bahn (that included a change anyway). And was faster, of course. If I made my revelation concerning distances between German cities a while earlier, it would cost less than the bus. But this was only the first of if-s…
Considering the fact that Varázsotthon is located exactly on the opposite corner of Budapest than the airport, you may imagine I need a while to travel between the two. If I add an information that my flight departed at 6 AM, you may as well imagine the hour I had to leave the apartment. It was two and a half when I went to take down my clothes from the drying rack in the garden and at three (I won’t enumerate it again, no worries: but it was THREE) I locked the door. Probably a travel with four night buses on Friday pre-morning deserves separate story, but let me just quickly summarize the passengers’ list which consisted of:
- Night workers from HÉV track
- Asian and Romanian ladies going to market
- Parade of human halfzombies who had just done their partying for the day
- An úriember* enjoying gyros wrap with thousand islands sauce dripping all over the floor and úriember hands
- A huge clochard-looking old man in huge old cowboy hat and his huge old dog, hopelessly struggling to tune his normal size but equally old guitar, all four (man, dog, guitar and hat) mild and tired after their night’s show on the streets of Philadelphia… fast backward, on the streets of Pest.
- Some miserable early travellers like myself.
There were no particularly amusing or depressing (except for that damn hangar between the terminal and the machine, that they make wizzair passengers walk into and then again walk out to their plane, but this is a constant) events on the BUD airport, except maybe the queue to all coffee-serving places (most of them open already at 4.30), which could shamelessly compete with the lines in the book stores on the premiere days/nights of Harry Potter series. I laughed for a moment at the queue and directed my steps towards Szamos in order to sweeten up my sleepless existence at that pitiless hour with the only Ischler worth mentioning, which is theirs (exclusively the classic one with blackcurrant jam, coated with rich dark chocolate). My flight to Dortmund was not a memorable one either. My first impression on Dortmund airport was. Ladies and gentlemen, Dortmund made it to the top.
Of the blacklist, I mean. It surpassed even Forlì (and I thought it was a forever-winner in Worst European Airports competition). Its lack of basic cleanliness, decent coffee and free WiFi (there is free 30 minutes if you register for their newsletter but it took me 15 minutes to discover this, written in German on one poster) were main reasons, but the bus to Dortmund Hauptbanhof spiced the thing up as well. It departs every hour, the ticket price is absurd for such a small distance and the driver was so unimaginably rude, that really I decided to assign the infamous first place to this very airport. Dortmund Hbf was not much better, in the terms of cleanliness at least, but a friend guided me to a place serving internet, coffee and delicious bagels (order intended) while I was waiting for my train to Mönchengladbach. Let me fast-forward the story from Friday noon to the Saturday evening: no well behaved witch tells the secrets of witchery in a blog post, does she? Or after all, let it be, I admit: together with Iza we watched compilations of America’s Got Talent comedians. And we ate chocolate. Organic, though. Sugar-free. Raw. With pecan nuts. But it was chocolate. See, you got us on that.
After all, theatre is an ultimate form of witchery in its own way. When we entered in the late afternoon, we crossed the stage as well. There is no word in any human or magical language to describe what I feel, what any theatre person feels when the walls are all black with chalk-written notes and random papers hanging around, and the ceiling seems infinite. And especially, when some of the black walls with chalk notes unravel a sacred space: floor bearing small indication marks (“Remember, you have to collapse on the blue cross!” – see Katia, I remember! I could totally jump-in sometime if someone else is willing to sing), more or less complete set mountained up on it, soaked with the enchanted dust dancing in the dim light. And empty seats, and silence, and Waiting.
I did a major part of my own waiting on the terrace of the Mönchengladbach Theater Kantine (kantine-s, művészbüfé-s and other venues of this genre is again a topic for a separate article). Afterwards I quickly met a gaze of a stranger sorceress, gave a “toitoitoiinboccaallupo” hug to Iza and transported myself to the auditorium, together with a pure-bred German unicorn in glitter heels (later changed for sneakers as it is not unicorns’ typical footwear, as I was instructed by her – I took notes to my catalogue of unicorns).
I am far from writing reviews, just a bunch of impressions, for I might be not the best person to write about Kaťa at all. I never counted Janaček into my favourite composers. The current German tastes in setting and staging are also slightly different than mine, just about like coca-cola is slightly different from champagne. It’s not even that I didn’t like it: I’ve seen way worse but also way better productions. It was quite correct, as were singers (some of them clearly had no idea what they are singing about though, not to mention the Slavic idiom and subtleties of soft Czech language which would add and extra depth that I missed) and the conductor. However, there was one piece of the puzzle that just didn’t fit.
Kaťa, or Izabela Matula singing, acting, or rather being Kaťa. Sensual and passionate, intense and unfitting into the society just like the singer stood away from the general “correctness”. She was just more. Like an impasto of oil paint put on greyish, over-detailed pencil drawing. More emotion, more voice, more inner glow of the dark, mysterious kind. Only thing lacking was a proper context, partners and staging on the same level she’s on. Which hopefully will all come in the very near future (for I promised her I will come to see her on stage again very soon but not in the same small town).
After the show we spent another dozen hours immersed in mint tea and the kind of never-ending conversation that happens mostly between witches knowing each other for a couple of hundreds of years but not seeing each other very often for the international broom transfer fares that are recently clearly insane and air planes… well, wait until I finish on that.
In the late morning I left for Berlin, on the way having acknowledged that Köln/Bonn is an absolutely pleasant, clean airport with WiFi, good coffee and reasonable prices. The Berlin part of my trip will follow in the next post shortly, featuring Cendrillon in Komische Oper, a brief memory of Rusalka I saw in 2009, as well as the most incredible travel of my several thousand years old life.
*jól nevelt budai úrilány would mean well mannered noble miss from Buda, which is just partially true as I am living in Buda hills just for a year and I am not necessarily always well mannered, but let us not be that meticulous.
*úriember would be nobleman. Would be, because the guy was not, but I love this word and no one is telling a red Polish witch which words should she use.