Simon Steen-Andersen: THE RETURN world premiere

Simon Steen-Andersen is featured at La Biennale Musica in Venice with the world premiere performances of THE RETURN 16 and 17 September.

In THE RETURN Simon Steen-Andersen has created a performative, playful staging of Monteverdi’s opera Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria mixed with a new version of his site-specific concept Run Time Error (2009-2021). The Venetian Arsenale is turned into a maritime stage-set for dreamed up gods and reunions as Ulysses’ life flashes before his eyes while drowning outside the coast of Ithaca.

 Simon Steen-Andersen is interested in working with found material or rather familiar material as the composer calls it. He is fascinated by changing perspective on something that we know well or have fixed ideas about, as he does in Run Time Error, where the audience experiences certain everyday objects with specific non-musical functions from a musical perspective.

In an interview with the magazine Classic Voice, Simon Steen-Andersen tells: 

“My interest in staging comes out of this, and you could say that staging an opera is just a more extreme version of that. The opera as objet trouvé. This partly implies an approach that puts less focus on the opera or the narrative itself and is more about the difference, what happens to it, the shifts and juxtapositions.” 

At the same time, Simon Steen-Andersen tries to extract all ideas and concepts from the work itself, and not just add an extra staging-layer on top of it. “I'm rather approaching it like I would approach a specific location in Run Time Error and ONLY use elements that I find or that are strongly associated with the location. In this way the specific opera itself automatically also becomes the subject. Meta-opera, if you will.”

In THE RETURN Simon Steen-Andersen merges this definition of staging with other parts of the Run Time Error-concept: Exploring and exploiting a location, mixing video with live performance, a strong flow of time and a quasi one-take feel. 

Steen-Andersen is acting as composer, librettist, dramaturg, director, video-artist and performer in THE RETURN. The work is staged both inside and outside the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, using the video as scene and as scenic reportage of what is happening outside. The fragments from Monteverdi’s score are the skeleton of a sort of compositional resurrection of this magic Venetian time of dramaturgical experimentation.

Usually, the location is the starting point for Run Time Error, but once Steen-Andersen got his eyes on Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria, the work became the frame and the starting point. “First I wanted to realise the project at the very venue, where it was originally premiered, but as it turned out it doesn't exist anymore, we chose Teatro Piccolo as the physical starting point,” Simon Steen-Andersen explains. “And when I then started to think about interesting interpretations of the stage-sets called for in the score - maritime and beyond - I found everything I could have ever dreamed of within the Arsenal area.” 

Since the original venue no longer exists and since the experts can barely agree in which non-existing theatre the premiere of Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria took place, Simon Steen-Andersen decided to make this into a parallel, documentary narrative in THE RETURN, going through existing research and searching for the location himself.

Simon Steen-Andersen: THE RETURN
16 September 19.00
17 September 18.00
Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, La Biennale di Venezia 

Performed by Giulia Bolcato, Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani, Davide Giangregorio, VenEthos Ensemble & Simon Steen-Andersen

Information and tickets at La Biennale di Venezia >>