What the dishes tell us about “Hiša Denk

What the dishes tell us about “Hiša Denk

What the dishes from “Hiša Denk” tell us

Culinary-Literary Reflections – Episode 1
Michaela Preiner

Passing colourful forests and still green vineyards, we head through autumnal southern Styria to “Hisa Denk” in Slovenia, a few minutes’ drive from the Spielfeld border. At first glance, Gregor Vračko’s gourmet restaurant looks like a Sleeping Beauty. Built in a modern style, yet with noble restraint, it unfolds its charm only shortly after entering.

The attentive, young service, leather-clad and urbane in appearance, is well informed about likes and dislikes in advance. When you are greeted at the counter, you can catch a glimpse of the kitchen through the glass door. There, too, it is young people who are concentrated on their work.

There is a reason why the dishes you are served are nameless: they speak to the guests, you just have to listen a little! But since it is the name that makes a course unmistakable and at the same time captures the ephemeral, I have taken the liberty of giving each one a name.

Deer, beef and goose celebrate autumn

“We amuse-gueule bites kick things off by showing you what autumn can taste like!” Goose liver with porcini cream, doughnuts with beef filling, tacos with venison tartare and a porcini butter in the company of home-baked white sourdough bread make for a cheerful debut.

The pumpkin shines in competition with the radishes

Pink and orange glow from the starter plate. Delicately melting pumpkin ice cream, pickled radishes, chestnut puree and a smooth dressing, green-splashed on the plate’s base, instantly charm and ask: “Aren’t we a work of art?”

A Reinanke dresses up

Reinanken fillets surrounded by potato scallops with mushroom gôut and tender spinach leaves flirt in a salami costume. “Oops, you wouldn’t have expected that from us,” they joke non-verbally from the plate. Culinary humour in a gourmet restaurant – without any obtrusiveness – that is something refreshingly new.

Star appearance for a prawn

“They can be funny all they want, but I’m the star” – that’s how it sounds from the first moment the giant shrimp settles down in front of you. A hint of verbena, a delicate hint of leek and pieces of cauliflower, as if lifted from a silhouette album, rejoice in their noble appearance on the iridescent shell.

The char twice in love

“Come on, let`s go!”, says the char to his own tartare, which is shamefacedly staying a little away from his plate. However, the king of freshwater fish cannot hide the fact that his love for the neighbouring porcini cream is by no means merely platonic.

A calf’s cheek is banging for time

“Enough of quick deeds, now experience what it means to have been carefully and long braised”, you learn when you take your first bite into the veal cheek, which comes up trumps with “cabbage noodles” and a truffle cream.

The quail’s egg is not the quail’s egg

What already began with the Reinanken costume finds its unsurpassed continuation on the quail plate. Quail breast and shank have a “fake quail egg” in tow, which turns out to be enchanted yellow beet and celery with foie gras grated on top. Figs and beetroot glow as if they are aware of what would be missing without them.

The King of the Forest does the honours

His Majesty the deer knows that he must only surround himself with tastes that are worthy of him. Mashed Jerusalem artichokes and spinach as an entourage have skilfully brought a sauce level with cocoa and elderberry cream to their side. “Melting on the tongue is my speciality,” the king of the forest announces to the palate.

“Forget the strudel”, says the plum

“I have learned more than just the subject of strudel,” the educated plum exults in jelly and foam, accompanied by yoghurt, cinnamon and white chocolate.

The Pear Celebrates Wedding

“I want my appearance to be all white”, demands a noble pear, crowned with a delicate honeycomb veil and surrounded by light vanilla cream.

Grapes on the catwalk!

Finally, dark and white grapes delight with the claim: “If we’re going to dress up, let’s dress up in haute couture”. This comes in the form of ice cream sticks, pralines or dumplings with filling and graciously leaves a coconut-flavoured mochi on the catwalk as well.

The warm autumn sun makes the colourful leaves in the Hiša Thinking Garden glow. On the neighbouring property, you can see that the parent building will soon be joined by like-minded neighbours. The informality that the restaurant conveys on every visit – despite the exceptionally high quality of the food, you never get the impression that you have to be elitist – guarantees that you will come back. Next season at the latest.

This article was automatically translated with deepl.com

Deer, beef and goose celebrate autumn

“We amuse-gueule bites kick things off by showing you what autumn can taste like!” Goose liver with porcini cream, doughnuts with beef filling, tacos with venison tartare and a porcini butter in the company of home-baked white sourdough bread make for a cheerful debut.

The pumpkin shines in competition with the radishes

Pink and orange glow from the starter plate. Delicately melting pumpkin ice cream, pickled radishes, chestnut puree and a smooth dressing, green-splashed on the plate’s base, instantly charm and ask: “Aren’t we a work of art?”

A Reinanke dresses up

Reinanken fillets surrounded by potato scallops with mushroom gôut and tender spinach leaves flirt in a salami costume. “Oops, you wouldn’t have expected that from us,” they joke non-verbally from the plate. Culinary humour in a gourmet restaurant – without any obtrusiveness – that is something refreshingly new.

Star appearance for a prawn

“They can be funny all they want, but I’m the star” – that’s how it sounds from the first moment the giant shrimp settles down in front of you. A hint of verbena, a delicate hint of leek and pieces of cauliflower, as if lifted from a silhouette album, rejoice in their noble appearance on the iridescent shell.

The char twice in love

“Come on, let`s go!”, says the char to his own tartare, which is shamefacedly staying a little away from his plate. However, the king of freshwater fish cannot hide the fact that his love for the neighbouring porcini cream is by no means merely platonic.

A calf’s cheek is banging for time

“Enough of quick deeds, now experience what it means to have been carefully and long braised”, you learn when you take your first bite into the veal cheek, which comes up trumps with “cabbage noodles” and a truffle cream.

The quail’s egg is not the quail’s egg

What already began with the Reinanken costume finds its unsurpassed continuation on the quail plate. Quail breast and shank have a “fake quail egg” in tow, which turns out to be enchanted yellow beet and celery with foie gras grated on top. Figs and beetroot glow as if they are aware of what would be missing without them.

The King of the Forest does the honours

His Majesty the Stag knows that he must only surround himself with tastes that are worthy of him. Mashed Jerusalem artichokes and spinach as an entourage have skilfully brought a sauce level with cocoa and elderberry cream to their side. “Melting on the tongue is my speciality,” the king of the forest announces to the palate.

“Forget the strudel”, says the plum

“I have learned more than just the subject of strudel,” the educated plum exults in jelly and foam, accompanied by yoghurt, cinnamon and white chocolate.

The Pear Celebrates Wedding

“I want my appearance to be all white”, demands a noble pear, crowned with a delicate honeycomb veil and surrounded by light vanilla cream.

Grapes on the catwalk!

Finally, dark and white grapes delight with the claim: “If we’re going to dress up, let’s dress up in haute couture”. This comes in the form of ice cream sticks, pralines or dumplings with filling and graciously leaves a coconut-flavoured mochi on the catwalk as well.

The warm autumn sun makes the colourful leaves in the Hiša Thinking Garden glow. On the neighbouring property, you can see that the parent building will soon be joined by like-minded neighbours. The informality that the restaurant conveys on every visit – despite the exceptionally high quality of the food, you never get the impression that you have to be elitist – guarantees that you will come back. Next season at the latest.

This article was automatically translated with deepl.com

Frankenstein’s creature at the foot of the Salzburg Fortress

Frankenstein’s creature at the foot of the Salzburg Fortress

The Schauspielhaus, which overlooks the back of the Feste Salzburg, can almost be described as an insider tip. Although it is the largest independent theatre with a fixed ensemble, it surprisingly does not really get much attention beyond the region. Wrongly so. Because it offers a great variety of productions with currently 10 premieres per season. The second production this season, “Frankenstein”, is the responsibility of Jérôme Junod, the current theatre director and head dramaturge. He made his debut at the theatre last year with “King Arthur”, his own new version of the historical material. Due to a lockdown, this remarkable production was unfortunately only performed a few times. Now he has written his own stage version of Mary Shelley’s play, which was written in 1816, and given it a very special, novel drive.

The story can be imagined metaphorically like a Russian matryoshka doll – as a play, in a play, in a play. One after the other, different narrative strands develop, starting and ending with Roberta Walton. This one – richly endowed with male dominance – is an adventurer of the purest water who wants to reach the North Pole with a small crew on her own ship. Petra Staduan embodies not only this female free spirit, but just as magnificently the condemned Justine in the penitential lift, as well as the rebellious Agatha, who denounces the inequality between rich and poor. As Walton, she is almost constantly present on stage and listens to the stories of the young Victor Frankenstein.

The latter, rescued by her from the Nordic ice hell, tells her about his youth and study years at the university in Ingolstadt under the dominance of two cranky professors. These supported him to the point of absolute self-sacrifice in his endeavour to turn dead matter into living matter and create an artificial human being. Antony Connor and Olaf Salzer have the laughs on their side in these delightfully created roles. They also prove their comedic talent as sailors and switch just as skilfully to the serious characters of Frankenstein’s father and a blind revolutionary.

Wolfgang Kandler embodies the inquisitive young scientist who soon has to realise what misfortune he has brought upon his and his family’s lives with the creation of his “creature”. Magdalena Oettl in the role of Elisabeth, his fiancée, also frames the narrative as a new character introduced by Junod, Margaret Saville, a society columnist who is allowed to experience an amazing character development. Paul Andre Worms’s main character, Henry, childhood friend of Victor Frankenstein, is his complete opposite not only in terms of character structure but also visually. Cheerful and fun-loving, helpful and open, he is nevertheless murdered by Frankenstein’s monster out of a thirst for revenge.

Except for the very last scene, the latter appears in black, tight-fitting trousers with a large, black hooded jumper in such a way that one can hardly make out his face. (Costumes Antoaneta Stereva) Hussan Nimr, as Frankenstein’s creature, is permanently in motion, with a dark, threatening voice, and makes his unnatural origins clear through his animal-like movements. He makes off on all fours, he climbs nimbly onto scaffolding and usually stands with his head bowed while he tries to tell his story. It is the ambivalence of this character and, above all, the recognition of why he himself has become a monster, which is very touching and gives the story in the Schauspielhaus in Salzburg its very own colouring. Bernhard Eder provides live musical accompaniment to the action, both vocally and on electric guitar and electronics, thus lending it additional emotional moments.

Junod’s interpretation of “Frankenstein” does not rely on horror effects and the generation of goose bumps in the first place. Instead, it impresses with a finely crafted psychogram of an outsider whose greatest shortcoming is his loneliness, which he tries to sublimate through feelings of revenge and thus becomes a mass murderer. A successful evening of theatre in an autumn in which world history is unfortunately teeming with monsters.

This article was automatically translated with deepl.com

When the risotto starts to smell

When the risotto starts to smell

The ‘Musiktheatertage Wien’ programme by Thomas Cornelius Desi and Georg Steker offers the audience an almost breathtaking range of different performances. This is shown alone by the two thematically diametrically opposed productions “Chornobyldorf” and ‘European Kitchen Encounters: VR-Bania’.

This ‘virtual reality project with taste’, as the subtitle says, comes from Austrian director Carmen C. Kruse and Italian composer Manuel Zwerger. They travelled to the Italian town of Verbania on Lake Maggiore and interviewed different residents on the subject of food. The interviews were edited into small sequences that could be seen with the VR glasses just like the preparation of a risotto – to be precise, a “risotto giallo con salciccia”, cooked by the performer Anna Piroli. She was supported by Leo Morello with a fine soundscape in which one could hear the scraping of the knife on the wooden board just as alienated as the rhythmic trickling of the rice grains into the pot. Snarling, vibrating, tapping, he supported Piroli with all kinds of percussion instruments, just as silent film music was made in the old days. The only difference was that the auditory repertoire was much more contemporary.

VR-Bania (Photo: Nick-Mangafas)

The audience was invited to follow the cooking procedure as well as the interviews with movements on the swivel chairs on which they had been placed. The highlight of the performance, however, was that while the videos were being played in the kitchenette of the WUK behind the audience, this dish was actually being prepared, and thus the olfactory events merged with the videographed ones to form a live experience.

VR-Bania (Photo: Nick-Mangafas)

The subsequent dinner with the director and the composer provided an opportunity to talk not only about what had been seen, but also about what had gone before. This part in particular should be emphasised, because it is the experience of togetherness that one cannot feel while wearing the VR glasses that gave the performance its real spice. It is what audiences need now more than ever when they are exposed to theatre experiences. Videos, feature films or recorded plays can be watched post Corona in droves in front of the video screen at home. The conversation with people you don’t know, but who at least have a common denominator – the desire for theatre – this conversation and this exchange cannot be replaced, but should be intensified – as exemplified in this production.

This article was automatically translated with deepl.com

Chornobyldorf – a look back and one forward

Chornobyldorf – a look back and one forward

In the darkness of the hall, a man’s voice becomes audible. It tells of how what is being spoken is actually the end of a letter; a letter that was never sent, but will nevertheless be written one day. Shortly afterwards, his voice is visually accompanied by a woman whose portrait appears on a video. While the man speaks and recites a long poem in Ukrainian, she begins to express herself with onomatopoeic sounds in an unknown artificial language. Although – if you don’t speak Ukrainian – you can neither follow the content of the man’s voice nor know exactly what the woman wants to say, you get a feeling that what is being conveyed here results from experiences that are painful.

In fact, the title “Chornobyldorf. Archeological opera” is already a hint that one reference of this new opera is the tragedy of Chernobyl. The combination with the noun affix ‘dorf’ came about because the ensemble visited Zwentendorf and its surroundings at the beginning of the work. The nuclear power plant in Austria, which never went into operation, and the one in Ukraine, whose construction began in 1970, before the country’s independence, prompted the Ukrainian cultural creators to come up with the idea of a global view of the subject of nuclear power plants and their dystopian effects; regardless of where these reactors are located, they pose a cross-border threat to humanity.

The opera is set between the 23rd – 27th centuries, in a time when we have long been history and will be gone. It is based on the assumption of a world-spanning catastrophe in which the survivors must once again become aware of their identity. In a future in which new rituals are created and yet everything that happens interpersonally in societies consciously or unconsciously draws on historical models.

The seven chapters, which merge into one another without a break but still recognisably, bear the headings: Elektra, Dramma per musica, Rhea, The little Akkorden girl, Messe de Chornobyldorf, Orfeo ed Euridice and Saturnalia. In this way, the two composers Roman Grygoriv and Illia Razumeiko on the one hand take up great Greek myths, which became the primary breeding ground of European art production. On the other hand, they refer directly to Slavic musical traditions. This artistic interlocking, in which different musical stylistic means are used, makes one thing clear: the people who are on stage here and all those who worked on this opera see themselves as deeply belonging to Europe. The current discussion about admitting Ukraine to the EU is legitimised in a quasi cultural-historical way in the historical references that are made here. But what makes Europe, the individuality of the countries and their different ethnic groups, is also vehemently expressed. Again and again, historical musical quotations – transformed into modern sound images – are replaced by Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Ukrainian folk tunes. Lamentations as well as wedding songs are sung in their typical melodic line. Unison lines separate into a briefly audible microtonality that is centuries old and yet sounds new and fresh. Seconds detaching themselves from it, already almost purely felt, as well as subsequent seventh leaps intensify the emotionally painful expression. Mahlerian chord progressions, sung chorally, and a fugue by Bach that seems to go out of control, lay a music-historical trace in that core of Europe that literally set the tone from the Baroque to the last century.

All this is met by a wealth of new sound material: weird string sounds, the most diverse, sometimes strongly accentuated rhythms, played on a percussion construct assembled from various found objects (Evhen Bal), as well as electronic additions that make wind atmospheres or a threatening, indefinable drone audible.

Chornobyl Village (Photo: Anastasiia Yakovenko eSel)

A rapid succession of images, supported by video inserts showing fragile human figures in Ukrainian landscapes, frequent changes of persons and costumes as well as the creation of emotional alternating baths, create an abundance of theatrical events that wash over you like a tsunami. At the same time, one is drawn into the sometimes somnambulistic events in such a way that it is difficult to put one’s cognitive abilities above one’s own strong feelings.

The almost surreal, yet at the same time highly romantic “coronation” of a young accordionist, supported by a video feed that expands the space, is replaced by religious sounds and images. A fitting Agnus Dei, sung in a classical-harmonic structure, is interrupted by a similar, but explosively punk-like one. Shockingly, one finds oneself in the here and now, in a state in which romanticism no longer finds a place. Euridice’s entombment, the lament of her Orpheus, is realised in a visually powerful choreography in which the nakedness of the participants particularly emphasises their fragility and need for protection. The finale is a saturnal orgy around a cardboard portrait of Lenin turned upside down.  Everything that has previously accumulated in inexpressible feelings and suffering, everything that is difficult to talk about, dissolves in this wild, exuberant scene in which one would like to dance along oneself. The fact that the end with its wind noise is reminiscent of the beginning of the production may well symbolise an eternal cycle. A cycle in which the existentially human is ultimately lived over and over again, but is also reinvented, indeed must be reinvented. When nothing is the way it used to be, then one has to fall back on what lies dormant deep within the human being, but also what distinguishes him as a living being on earth. He is a being that is constantly reforming and adapting and yet still carries within him his supposedly cut roots.

None of the artists would have dreamed, when the opera was created, that so much of what is shown in it would be given a topical reference. The horrors of war and the suffering that is currently taking place in Ukraine resonate strongly in the reception at the moment. The threat to the earth posed by technological progress, hybrid forms of human beings practising artistic genres that can nevertheless never be animated by them, this too is contained in “Chornobyldorf”. It is to be hoped that the opera, after its premiere in Rotterdam and the second station in the WUK in Vienna, on the occasion of the ‘Musiktheatertage Wien’, may experience many more stations. And it is to be hoped that the ensemble will receive the message from the audience that a work like this, especially in difficult times, is one that is needed, and even more: that it also contributes to survival. In view of the brutality of the events, one singer said during the audience discussion that she was no longer convinced that theatre could achieve anything. The experience of violence, which suppresses everything, is too diametrically opposed to this idea.

May the statement “vita brevis, ars longa” give her and the ensemble a small shift. May it offer them a glimmer of hope that art outlasts life and thus also this, their production. It will be available to later generations one day – in whatever way – and offer a glimpse into that current present which is so hard to bear for the Ukrainian population, but also for all the other, suffering participants.

This article was automatically translated with deepl.com

From a Zen exercise to physical massacre

From a Zen exercise to physical massacre

Eing a one-man show is not only a great physical challenge.  Being solely responsible for the choreography and the artistic concept also offers a large, critical attack surface.

For years now, Austrian Simon Mayer has been facing these challenges. And for years, he seems to have been doing everything right. This was also the case with his production “Being moved,” which premiered in Austria in 2020 at Brut. Now he succeeded with it on the stage of the Akademietheater at the Impulse Dance Festival.

What is the origin of movements, what motivates people to dance, how are breath and movement connected and how can this be made visible? What sounds very theoretical and also a bit dry, however, develops completely differently on stage. At the beginning, Mayer invites the audience to take an imaginary seat on the chairs set up in a semicircle. Over the seats are dangling microphones, speakers are placed on the floor and he himself is wired to his extremities and body.

“Being Moved” (Photo: Franzi Kreis)

Every movement he will make on stage that evening will be recorded, amplified and thus made audible for all to hear: his breathing, his hand and arm movements as he sweeps through the air in a wide arc, the tread of his bare feet on the stage floor. What one normally does not consciously perceive auditorily, here becomes an audible rhythm impulse for his performance. What begins quietly soon picks up speed. The performer shifts from a calming Zen breathing exercise to a seemingly endless, dervish-like circling around his own axis. But one no longer associates anything contemplative with the soundscape, which has increased to a loud din. When the noise suddenly stops, the stage envelops itself in fog, while Mayer undresses and takes a violin bow in hand. Stroking the bow against his own body, it acquires something fetish-like, but soon mutates into a martial arts instrument, then a saber, and finally a conductor’s baton.

Mayer’s breath becomes audible in multiples and, after he has given the audience instructions to breathe along, mixes into a many-voiced chorus of breath. Once again the sound changes to a wild rumbling, snorting and hissing, a cooing and snarling, underlaid with a frightening roar. Animal sounds mix with the human and the electronic. And Mayer’s repertoire of movements also changes towards the animalistic. To the new sound change – again with human voices and audible breathing noises – Mayer now walks backwards in a circle. As if he wanted to get back to where he started. As if he wanted to undo and forget everything that had just been experienced in the threatening scenario.

But once again he amazes with a new, choreographic idea. His movements become more jagged, again fog is blown in, again he begins to dance in a circle. With a flurry of strobes and a hard, electronic rhythm, he now embodies, with his arms seemingly fixed on his back, a man exposed to physical violence. What can now be seen is reminiscent of the torture of captured soldiers, and the recorded screams also support this association.

In this state, Simon Mayer gives the impression of being in an in-between space. His body movement contrasts with a trance in which he seems to be completely immersed. The stage, the audience, one gets the impression, is forgotten in this moment. The high energy level in which the dancer finds himself is almost physically palpable.

“Being Moved” (Photo: Franzi Kreis)

As the beat dies down and the aggressive mood gives way, he once again reaches for his violin bow and begins to slide it over his wrist and sing along. Again, his footsteps are amplified with reverb – until a black ends the performance. For a few moments his breath is still audible. Then the physically extremely demanding performance is over.

In it, Mayer offers a wealth of associations, but also an incredible number of movement elements and images with a strong resonance. He calls the mixture of choreography and composition he has developed for himself “compography” – Pascal Holper is responsible for the impressive sound design. It is not a continuous story that is told in “Being moved.” Rather a stringing together of ideas, whereby a body is set in motion. The way Simon Mayer connects this chain of ideas is artistically outstandingly solved. Although it is about different topics, he succeeds in creating an incessant flow with a swirling maelstrom and rapids that lead back into calm waters. Sound-technically on the cutting edge and choreographically perfectly tailored to himself, the production is a clear example that contemporary dance is constantly evolving and can open up new, technical, and thus also dance spaces.

This article was automatically translated with deepl.com

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