Articles
SELECTIVE recent BIBLIOGRAPHY (2)
In order to frame suitably this harmonious mix of reality and fairytale-dream, baron Löwendal painted scenery of abundant fantasy – very suggestive – in his Expressionist manner.
Baron Löwendal’s talent makes him a valuable collaborator to the Vilna Troupe, and The Singer of His Sorrow is a success that marks a milestone in the history of the art of theatre.

Renaşterea (The Rebirth), 18 January 1925

Even without knowing the language in which the troupe acted [...] the audience comes to see this play because this staging’s spiritual mood and artistic ambiance exercise an impression so strong that words become almost useless.

Lupta (The Struggle), 6 February 1925
The Marriage by N.V. Gogol, directed by Iacob Sternberg


At the cafe of the Military Circle, up in the Grand room, in discreet corners, Sternberg and I stayed night after night in order to compose the programme of our show of The Marriage. It was something never before seen in Bucharest, and we had to find explanations for an audience which was not used to seeing such things. We had to compose a programme which would be different from any other programmes. This was a new battle in the field of theatre. [...]
The Marriage was a completely new experience for the work of the Vilna Troupe.
To what extent do I mean this? To the extent that it is a synthetic stage setting.
[...] Sternberg was trying to reduce all the characters to a single man multiplied by the use of different masks. The entire staging, from decor to costumes and from action to entrances, exits, and then the Harlequin-like flight of Kochkaryov who pushes the absent-minded Podkolyosin, the witch-like apparition of the matchmaker – everything was happening as in a fairytale, or – to be more precise – as in the commedia dell’arte.
Gogol’s satire was reduced to its essence and staged as a tragic harlequinade.


Ion Călugăru, Veac nou (The New Century), 29 June 1946


For me, synthetic theatre, as defined by its name, is in fact the synthesis of the entire evolution of theatre. These tendencies had begun to take shape twenty years ago in the stage settings of Gordon Craig, Reinhardt, or Stanislavski (in his own studios) and in the work of the disciples of Stanislavski, with Vakhtangov the foremost – then in the work of Meyerhold and later on in that of Tairov.

Our times of incredible upheavals and of changes to the system of values were rich in innovation, a development which has clarified the tendencies of these forerunners. The heroism of the present generation, which rips through space and time with an almost tragic spiritual intensity, has found enough force to break the boundaries imposed on theatre, bringing it closer to the neoclassicism towards which the activist spirit of the theatre tends to go.

[...] Synthetic theatre searches for the typical and the eternal. It has chased away literature because literature was miserly in its details (not in nuances) and even transitory because of its spiritual essence. Synthetic theatre put in place the two main elements of the human spirit: the comic and the tragic in their pure form. Although dedicated to keeping the purity of these two spiritual essences, it is lethal for theatre to leave realism behind as something too much terre à terre, too down to earth, in order to access a purely abstract vision... [...]
Modern theatre is not based solely on the texts of contemporary playwrights, but – in this period of transition – it makes an appeal to old texts, preferably the classics, for its experience-gathering process; and this is because, in the classics, we find values which are relevant to any epoch in history.
For example, in Gogol’s stage indications about how he believed The Government Inspector should be acted, we can see the emergence of a direction towards the eternal theatrical: his preference for the pantomime, for the grotesque, speechless scenes, etc...

Iacob Sternberg, Rampa (The Stage), 8 November 1925


See also the text “Casatoria de Gogol la Teatrul Central” (“The Marriage by Gogol at the Central Theatre) review INTEGRAL no. 8, 1926

What happened at the premiere was that scenery fell off, the lights did not work, and The Marriage failed, even though it was a surprising stage setting full of invention, and many stage directors of the National Theatre drew inspiration from it in later years. But not even this failure was to the liking of the theatre impresarios – the people who fought hard to place obstacles in front of a theatre which did not use stars, which had no place for the glitzy hollowness of the high street and for triviality.

Ion Călugăru, Veac nou (The New Century), 29 June 1946


Synthetic theatre [...] was not understood by people because it is absurd to take out of the equation the actor, the walls and the doors in order to introduce characters on the stage by making them come down the chimney or on a flying trapeze. It is absurd to take out the furniture and replace it with ropes... If it persists in this fashion, theatrical art suppresses the importance of the word itself and the importance of facial expression, replacing them with the gesture, the mask and colour... [it replaces them with] the Cubist mask, the mask seen only in profile, the facial triangle on which layers of green, red and lilac paint are set, so that man’s image becomes as spectral as possible.

Emil D. Fagure, Lupta (The Struggle), 22 November 1925
Crime and Punishment after F. M. Dostoyevsky, directed by Aurel Ion Maican and Ilie Cernea


In the theatre play of Crime and Punishment, Löwendal stunned us all through the novelty of his conception. […] He did not just give us scenery proper; through scenery, and through the new suggestions he has thrown in bountifully, he created the more than interesting, and truly Russian, mood of this play about martyrdom and morality. Only after seeing the scenery by Mr Löwendal could we understand fully Raskolnikov’s Crime, as well as its confession, which begins in the room of the socially crucified Sonia.

Poporul (The People), 24 April 1927




Vaudeville shows

Having come to Romania two years ago […] the painter Löwendal continues to work in his very special manner. […] His sketches are true social satires which deserve to outlast the fleeting lifespan of vaudeville scenery. […] The audience looks at real works of art, not at some banal decoration of an anonymous craftsman, as has been the case until now.

Rampa (The Stage), 26 September 1923


R.U.R. by Karel Čapek, directed by Aurel Ion Maican

In accordance with the mood of the play, and in complete understanding of Mr Aurel I. Maican‘s intentions, I wanted to show through my stage setting the perception of mechanisation which characterises our times, a time when the machine increasingly dominates man.
Even in our own times, man – the inventor of machines – wishing machines to be of as much service as possible, has reached, without realising it, a situation in which he becomes the servant of the apparatus he invented.
There are new inventions coming up every day, but as the machines increasingly develop, humans will become slaves in the service of these new deities.
I do not know what Čapek thought about it, but it is convenient for me to see in his play an optimism which corresponds to my own opinions.
Machines need to be served. Čapek, in his utopian play R.U.R., finds a way in which machines will be served yet people will remain free. What is this solution? Well, the answer is indicated by robots: mechanical men.
[...] This play is a fantasy, which is the reason why, in staging it, I did not do things that correspond to real life. I will not create the impression of a real room, or of a real machine. I am content to show, in a Constructivist-type manner, the notion of mechanical, cold, sombre lines, which lack any warmth of human feeling.
Going on this route, I allowed myself not to stick to all the author’s stage directions. I, therefore, transformed the office of the robot factory’s manager into an apparatus. The manager leads the factory through this machine etc.
[...] Theatre is art. In my opinion, each play is a pretext for theatrical performance. We are talking about play. So it was that I also played with R.U.R., using tricks permitted by the potential of time and resources at our theatre.
When we talk about colours, though, being the passionate painter that I am, I became serious. Appreciating correctly the value of colour, I chose for R.U.R. a sinister gamut of black, silver, steel blue-grey, pure grey and white...

Baron George Löwendal, Spectatorul (The Spectator), December 1927


…I assumed the heavy task of staging Čapek’s theatre for the first time in Romania. [...] Given that R.U.R. is a utopian drama, the first character in the play is brought on to the stage by using an unreal method – via a trap door – and I am using the same method to make the last character disappear. I believe that, in this manner, the beginning and end harmonise perfectly with the fiction of the play.
[...] In R.U.R., Čapek displays the mechanisation of the individual as a symbol, and has humankind sing pagan odes to the “Electrical current”. In my turn, I also made a symbol of it, by illuminating a terrestrial globe. In the moment when the last people are killed by the robots (the virus of degeneration), the light of the globe is extinguished… and the Earth turns cold.
[...] As for the stage setting, I only saw the dynamism and Constructivism emanating from the play; Constructivism which creates the atmosphere of utopian action.
Baron Löwendal – the excellent painter and scenographer of the theatre – understood my intentions perfectly…

Aurel Ion Maican, Spectatorul (The Spectator), December 1927
 
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