Simplicius Simplicissimus began on the word of David Pountney, and evolved like some chimeric serpent, shedding and growing new skin and various appendages as it bludgeoned its way into our hearts and onto the stage at Sadler's Wells.
It been the largest, most long-term project I have undertaken in my life, and it has been the most rewarding, and yet the most disappointing.
May 13th, 2015.
The word Simplicissimus is transferred from Polly graham to me in a short email discussing possibilities for the Independent Opera (IO) piece.
Polly and I have collaborated previously on show concepts, one opera showcase, and the original Biedermann proposal for IO last year.
Simplicissimus gets turned down repeatedly, and other opera titles are thrown around, until about August, when finally it seems like it might be the one.
I start to create concept sketches for Simp, based on my visceral response to the music and conversations with Polly.
We talk about a road, creating a visual of the journey. I envision something clean and expansive, like a vast desert.
My process is to take images that come into my head from the score, and marry them with the mental and physical states of the characters. With Simplicius, I feel and read solitude. He is alone in his journey of enlightenment.
I start to look for images, to seek out deserts and solutude. I find images of strange caverns and rock formations that feel evocative of the soundscape Hartmann has created. Something isn't right though, and it's not meshing with the action.
Polly starts talking about physicalizing the metaphorical and literal trees referenced in the text. What about putting a giant tree on stage? I feel very dubious - I think it's too easy. But I start to look at trees. I think that Simplicissimus is about perception - a boy's unique perception in a sea of unperceptive sheep following the flow of a corrupt leading power. How do we perceive trees? What is another way of looking at a tree?
I think about looking at a tree from the bottom up, and find images of great sequoias, unearthed, and large enough to house a family.
I'm onto something.
But the tree idea gets scrapped too, and it's back to the drawing board.
Our focus moves to the idea of a storybook. I desperately do not want to make a poor replica of Bregens.