In 1835, Georg Büchner, living in exile in Strasbourg, took an interest in the three weeks poet and playwright Jakob Lenz spent at the Ban de la Roche in 1777, staying with pastor Oberlin. Using this twenty-one-day parenthesis in the heart of the Vosges as a springboard, he tried to give voice to the agonies of a writer struggling with existential questions. In that village, and more precisely within the community of believers surrounding the pastor, Lenz feels welcome but slowly realises that the only answer offered to his anxieties is a faith he already rejected as a young man. If salvation exists, it cannot be this one... By adapting this very intense story and adding excerpts from plays and dramas and notes taken by pastor Oberlin himself, Cornelia Rainer draws the portrait of a suffering man unable to find peace and invites us to discover the work of a writer all too often overshadowed by his mentor Goethe. Staying as close as possible to Büchner's writing, with its alternating harmonies and disharmonies, the Austrian director has imagined a spectacular scenography, a musical theatre in which the modern score, with its percussion instruments, clashes with the religious songs Jakob Lenz may have heard during his exile in the Vosges. From the weight of religion to the power of the universe, from the violence of the elements to the hypersensitivity of the soul... Lenz opens the door to Romanticism.
Born in 1982 in the Tyrol region of Austria, Cornelia Rainer studied theatre and music at the University of Vienna, at the Sorbonne Nouvelle, and at Paris 8, with professors like Georges Banu and Jean-Marc Pradier. Participating in internships and workshops throughout the world, she learnt among other things about the art of the Beijing Opera in Taipei. From 2005 to 2009, she was assistant director at the Burgtheater in Vienna, where she directed her first shows. She was then invited on national stages in Germany and Austria, among which the Thalia Theater Hamburg, the Bregenz Festival, or the Klagenfurt National Theatre. In 2012, she founded her own company, Theater Montagnes Russes, a reference to the scenography she came up with for her show Lenz, created for the Salzburg Festival. In 2014, she received the Outstanding Artist Award for her direction of Jeanne, an adaptation of the legend of Joan of Arc for young audiences. In 2017, she will present a new version of her adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Burgtheater, called Hamelt, Ophelia une die anderen (Hamlet, Ophelia, and the others), which focuses on the points of view of the play's young protagonists.
In December 1835, George Büchner started a novella he would never finish, Lenz, in which he reimagined the time the poet and playwright Jakob Lenz spent with pastor Oberlin. An exile, just like his model, Büchner had to flee Hesse because of his political writings, not long after writing his first play, Danton's Death. While studying to become a doctor, he wrote Leonce and Lena in 1836, then Woyzeck, his final play, which also remains unfinished. He died on 19 February 1837 in Zurich, aged 23, of typhus.
Adaptation and direction Cornelia Rainer
Stage design and costumes Aurel Lenfert
Music Sophie Hunger, Christian Prader, Julian Sartorius
Dramaturgy Sibylle Dudek
Lights Bernhard Schmidhuber
Assistant director Claire Tudela
With Jele Brückner, Jakob Egger, Noah Fida, alternating with Merlin Miglinci, Cornelia Köndgen, Markus Meyer, Heinz Trixner and the musician Julian Sartorius
Production Theater Montagnes Russes
Co-production Young Directors Project, festival of Salzbourg
With the support of Federal Chancellery of Austria for Art and Culture, Cultural Austria Forum of Paris and HS-Art Service Austria