Just Call Me God at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg
In Jan 2017, Hamburg celebrated the opening at one of the world’s most acoustically advanced concert halls called the Elbphilharmonie or nicknamed Elphi. It is a new glassy construction hovering above a brick base resembling a hoisted sale or water wave on the edge of the river Elbe. It stands 354 feet high and apart from holding two concert halls (the larger one being 2100 seats and the smaller 550 seats) it also houses large music and public areas as well as a hotel. It has a stormy history, with the foundations started in 2007 and the building meant to be finished in 2010 with an initial construction cost of about €220m. In fact, it was not finished until the end of 2016 and the final cost was just under €800m.
As Simon Rattle takes over London’s LSO, he also wants a new concert hall built. The initial funding indications are not good. Whilst Hamburg’s concert hall’s financial affairs are not to be followed, acoustically and visually it is outstanding, boasting one of the longest single escalators in the world at 82 metres. It has also got a spectacular organ boasting just under 4,800 pipes and it seemed that most of these were in use during this 1.5 hours of music theatre.
The organ was played by the brilliant Martin Haselbock, who matched the principles, John Malkovich and Sophie von Kessel, in Michael Sturminger’s play. It was about a dictator who is being overthrown and kills some of his persecutors, leaving alive a female press officer. He keeps her alive mainly for intellectual sport and thus the dialogue begins, with it all being combined with organ music.
She: ‘how shall I refer to you’
He: ‘just call me God’
She: ‘I report history’
He: ‘I make history’
He: ‘I had to be a monster to keep authority and rule by fear’
She: ‘I use my electric toothbrush for my orgasms’
The music starts with Bach’s Hallelujah Chorus and follows with Wagner’s Ride of the Walküre, Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale, the USA national anthem from Madam Butterfly and God save the Queen. All very eclectic, but the balance between music and spoken word still has not been perfected. It is not a play of great substance, but it is a play of interest to the current state of world affairs. John Malkovich gives us a performance of real depth and intrigue, supported particularly by the press officer of Sophie von Kessel.
This piece of music theatre is travelling around Europe during the next couple of months, including London at the Union Chapel. An interesting, but not overextending evening.
With kind regards,
8 March 2017