Why does the indomitable warrior Brunhild lose all her power on the second wedding night in the Nibelungenlied? What is behind the secret bond between King Gunther, Siegfried and Hagen? What was not said in this story that has been passed down for more than 1,000 years? And what does all this have to do with the phrase “a woman only needs a good swallowing reflex”?
Uta Hertneck placed the provocative quote in the program brochure – employee commentary, taken from the current MeToo debate. The author didn’t make it easy on herself with her “Brunhild” quote. The Nibelungen story is told from the point of view of the affected person. After just a few minutes into the two-hour show with elements of dance and musical theater, it becomes clear: Wagner fans should change their minds here. (Berlin premiere on June 2nd at the Am Delphi Theater, Weißensee, Gustav-Adolf-Str. 2, 8 p.m., then until June 5).
King Gunther (Jacob Keller) doesn’t walk around in this royal manner and questions stage audiences and their expectations like a talk show host, biting off a skinny apple. Then Brunhild (Anthea Hainer) stepped onto the stage, staring into the distance, a little asleep, silently performing the steps of the Asian dance and fight.
Who has the supremacy of interpretation here? We have to dig into what we know about Brunhild, the mythical character from the northern epics.
In the Nibelungenlied, Brunhild made a significant contribution to the development of the plot until the death of Siegfried, but then completely disappeared from the epic. She only appears again in Lamentation, a sort of Nibelungenlied continuation, when she is told of Gunther’s death. Her character is increasingly pushed into the tile context. There was no longer any trace of the Warrior Queen’s brutality.
“Woman as a non-material concept has as many definitions as there are cultures on earth”
It is precisely this taming that Hertneck’s production opposes with overwriting, a practice in theatrical work that has been introduced since Dürrenmatt. Creed: The big, classic fabrics we love so much because we grew up with them don’t tell us anything on closer inspection. At least nothing about today.
Hertneck’s “Brünhild” changed from a traditional male perspective to a female one and to different time, style, and levels of narrative, taking into account the many ancient texts that dealt with the Nibelung myth.
Brunhild, Gunther, Hagen (Katrin Schönermark), Siegfried (Falk Pognan), Kriemhild (Renée Stulz) and psychologist (Anja Kunzmann) orbit each other in a phase rectangle, as in a boxing ring, balancing their relationship, And more comes Brunhild to herself – after a crushing wedding night with King Gunther or Siegfried (which she erased from her memory shortly thereafter) and PTSD. You find a kind of self-knowledge, better self-empowerment. Men’s unions!
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She once says: “Woman as an immaterial concept has as many definitions as there are cultures on earth, an invented category.” This shows that this is not just a female rewriting of Brunhild’s story, but a questioning of notions of gender in general.
Gender discourses, quotes from feminists, oscillating between dance, music and lyrical performance art, in between speaks Old Icelandic – “Brunhild” by Uta Härtnik, dramatically backed up by Marcus Härtnik, is not always easy to absorb over 120 minutes. The production of Lyriden*18, which premiered in Potsdam in the fall of 2021 and is now coming to Berlin, is certainly a discursive evening of theater with, yes, fighting, male struggles and the acquisition of knowledge.
Gunther asks the audience, “Do you think that 800 years ago, I told a false story?” Yes, perhaps, with this production a little more. Perhaps there is something fishy in the tale of loyal men and feisty women, the concept of a doomed woman and her wounded ego, dressed in epic national clothes. There is also the Bayreuth Festival.