Singapore International Festival of Arts

For the Highfalutin

Emmanuel Demarcy- Mota (above) is the director of Six Characters In Search Of An Author (left). The T'ang Quartet (above) and Winterreise (right).
The T'ang Quartet (above) and Winterreise.PHOTO: SAMUEL CHENG
Emmanuel Demarcy- Mota (above) is the director of Six Characters In Search Of An Author (left). The T'ang Quartet (above) and Winterreise (right).
The T'ang Quartet and Winterreise (above).PHOTO: P. BERGERARTCOMART
Emmanuel Demarcy- Mota (above) is the director of Six Characters In Search Of An Author (left). The T'ang Quartet (above) and Winterreise (right).
Emmanuel Demarcy- Mota is the director of Six Characters In Search Of An Author (above). PHOTO: COURTESY OF JL FERNANDEZ
Emmanuel Demarcy- Mota (above) is the director of Six Characters In Search Of An Author (left). The T'ang Quartet (above) and Winterreise (right).
Emmanuel Demarcy- Mota (above) is the director of Six Characters In Search Of An Author. PHOTO: JEAN-LOUIS FERNANDEZ

You are a connoisseur. You have carefully cultivated tastes, but also like to be challenged - or to challenge convention. In this category, established heavyweights such as the T'ang Quartet and Theatre de la Ville transform the classics and interpret them anew.

GUTS & STEEL, BLACK ANGELS AND CELESTIAL REMNANTS

By: T'ang Quartet

This series of concerts by the renowned home-grown classical string quartet is styled as a musical odyssey through the group's influences and inspirations. It opens with Guts & Steel (Aug 19), a throwback to the classical and romantic periods of Mozart, Boccherini and Dvorak, with critically acclaimed Singapore-born pianist Melvyn Tan on fortepiano.

Black Angels (Sept 12) combines the stark artwork of Icelandic artist Kristin Gunnlaugsdottir with avant-garde sonic landscapes by Hildegard Von Bingen, George Crumb and John Tavener.

The musical exploration concludes with Celestial Remnants (Sept 19), as the quartet are joined by younger musicians they have nurtured from The Ensemble Dimension Players. They will take on Benjamin Britten, Dmitri Shostakovich and Marjan Mozetich.

Where: Victoria Concert Hall (Aug 19), School of the Arts Studio (Sota) Theatre (Sept 12) and Sota Concert Hall (Sept 19), 8pm

Admission: $25 to $75

WINTERREISE

By: Matthias Goerne and Markus Hinterhauser

Fresh from last year's prestigious Festival d'Aix-en-Provence in France, this haunting song cycle by Franz Schubert gains a rich visual element in the form of South African artist William Kentridge's beautiful films that blend animation, montages and collages.

Baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist Markus Hinterhauser perform this Winter's Journey, which tells of a wanderer struggling through a desolate, barren landscape both physical and emotional.

Where: School of the Arts Concert Hall

When: Sept 4 and 5, 8pm

Admission: $40 to $120

SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR

By: Theatre de la Ville (France)

Nobel Prize-winner Luigi Pirandello's groundbreaking 1921 play takes the idea of theatre and turns it into the plot of this text. While a rehearsal is underway at a theatre, a family of six burst into the room and say they are characters looking for someone to complete their story.

The theatre director agrees, but is not quite prepared for what happens next - blurring the boundaries between what is real and imagined, theatre and life.

Where: Victoria Theatre

When: Sept 10 to 12, 8pm

Admission: $25 to $75


In the spotlight: Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, 45, director of Six Characters In Search Of An Author

What was your first encounter with Six Characters and what were your first impressions?

When I was a teenager, I worked for the first time with a theatre group in my high school in Paris and we mounted an early version. Today, I wanted to come back to this work and in some way, as a kind of return to our origins, test if we could be like the young people we were back then.

For this work, what were the elements that came to you first?

I had the intuition the theatre stage would be a ring - where the fight between the characters and actors, and the struggle between reality and fiction, can happen.

Then I wanted to journey between theatrical aesthetics. It starts in an almost realistic world, but gradually goes to a more abstract theatre, a strange world that is poetic and minimal.

What were some of your greatest challenges?

How can the power of a family drama of the six characters be communicated? How do I represent "characters"?

I place great importance on experimenting with the actors on how to play a "character" - not a role, but one "straight out of the imagination of an author", as the Father says in the play.

And how do I show the failures of these actors as we re-enact some terrible scenes that give life to the characters? So this fight between reality and fiction is a challenge. Because, here, art can fail if it does not speak from the soul or put the soul at stake.

When it was presented in 1921, Six Characters was a modernist challenge to the naturalist plays of that era. Today, how do you think the play can continue to provoke audiences?

It is a beautiful tribute to the theatre, but it also limits this art against what is real. By the depth and variety of issues it poses to the theatrical art form, the piece remains unparalleled today.

What do you hope audience members will take away from this production?

The theatre is a collective experience. Its ability to offer beauty, reflection, wonder, invention, boldness and enthusiasm remains. I hope the audiences will take home everything I have mentioned. This is the first time we are performing in Singapore and the company is looking forward to this meeting.

Corrie Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2015, with the headline 'For the Highfalutin'. Print Edition | Subscribe