Since 1980, the Swiss director Christoph Marthaler has made a stop at most of the major European stages of theatre and opera, bringing to them his fictional universes recognisable by everyone. The particularity of his work lies in his capacity to successfully blend verbal scores and musical scores, words and notes, speech and song, the result of an original artistic background. An oboist and flutist, Christoph Marthaler\'s first interest was music. He then satisfied his curiosity about the theatre and went, after the events in France in May 1968, to the École Jacques Lecoq in Paris. He was an actor for a time, then for about 10 years he devoted himself to musical composition for shows. Bringing together musicians and actors, his first personal project, Indeed, was presented in 1980 in his adopted city: Zurich, the economic capital of a Switzerland that he would constantly leave to better go back to. A Switzerland where he was born, that he lays claim to and on which he has always cast a critical look. In 1988, at the request of the theatre manager Frank Baumbauer, he moved to Basel to create “evenings” where he exercised his talent as a hinderer of circular thinking. Performance on the 50th anniversary of the sadly celebrated Kristallnacht, the first took place in the city\'s train station. The second brought together in 1989 real Swiss soldiers who, after a quarter of an hour of immobility and total silence, began to sing The Night Is Endless.
The year 1991 was a turning point in Christoph Marthaler\'s career: it was the year when he met the set designer Anna Viebrock and the dramaturg Stefanie Carp with whom he began a close collaboration that continues today. With them, he joined Frank Baumbauer in Hamburg and created a series of anthology shows that made him known outside the Swiss and German borders. One after the other came Pessoa\'s Faust, with the title Faust Square Root of 1+2, The Zero Hour or the Art of Serving and especially Kasimir and Karoline by Horváth for which he was named director of the year in 1997. A few months earlier, he had imagined for the Volksbühne of Berlin a show linked to the fall of the wall: Mess Up the European! Mess Him Up! Mess Him Up! Really Mess Him Up!, a rethinking of German history with enormous repercussions. In a few shows, the public discovered a director who turned performance upside-down, shifted the real, invented a new aesthetic and staged, with unequalled humanity, men and women in a state of imbalance. Characters from daily life, figures of the ordinary, big children somewhat lost to whom he gave the time to move us, by favouring those moments of suspension that the theatre alone can offer us in a world that is accelerating without reason. Stations, waiting rooms, cafés are the preferred places in which Christoph Marthaler observes in minute detail this working-class milieu to which he is attached, before transforming it into a gallery of stage heroes who, with a great deal of humour, tenderness and melancholy, but without any cynicism or moralism, recounts the eternal nature of the human condition to us.
Having returned to Zurich in 2000 to run the Schauspielhaus from which he would unfortunately be ousted in 2004, he pursued his personal creations, alternating them with works from the theatre (Shakespeare, Jelinek, Büchner), but also the musical repertoire. Which naturally led him to deploy his talent on opera stages en collaboration with the conductor Sylvain Cambreling. He notably staged Debussy, Verdi, Beethoven, Schönberg, Mozart, Janácek and more recently Alban Berg with Wozzeck at the Opéra Bastille in Paris and Offenbach and his La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein at the Basel Theatre. Whatever the work presented, he remains driven be a desire to create a dialogue with his contemporaries, while always being “here and now”. This is undoubtedly the secret of the work of Christoph Marthaler, both an observer of the world and a poet of the stage. He presented Groundings, a variation of hope in 2004, and Riesenbutzbach. A Sustainable Colony in 2009 at the Festival d\'Avignon.
Anna Viebrock knew very early on that she would work in theatres. After philosophy and art history studies and six years of set design at the Arts Academy of Düsseldorf, she joined the Frankfurt theatre as costume and set assistant. It was the beginning of a career that took her to Heidelberg, Bonn, Stuttgart and Basel, working in particular for the director Jossi Wieler. Thanks to the manager of the Schauspielhaus of Hamburg, Frank Baumbauer, she met Christoph Marthaler in 1991 and invented her first "place to act" for him for the play The Lourcine Street Affair by Labiche. Thus began a very close collaboration with this director who discovered in her an artist indispensable to his creation. Together, they proposed anthology shows, Faust Square Root of 1+2, Stunde Null, Kasimir and Karoline by Horváth, before joining the Volksbühne in Berlin to create Mess Up the European! Mess Him Up! Mess Him Up! Really Mess Him Up!, which led to the European recognition of this pair's work. Between 2000 and 2004, Anna Viebrock took part in the Schauspielhaus adventure in Zurich, which she left with her friends, when the Zurich noteworthies put an end to Christoph Marthaler's position as director, a year before his contract ended. Also working for the opera, Anna Viebrock is equally a director and regularly signs shows that are halfway between theatre and music, including the latest, Wozuwozuwozu, that she premiered this year at the Schauspielhaus of Cologne. She has not failed to continue her collaboration with Christoph Marthaler, with whom she will invest the Cour d'honneur of the Palais des papes. She presented with him Groundings, a variation in hope in 2004 and Riesenbutzbach. A Sustainable Colony in 2009 at the Festival d'Avignon.
JFP, April 2010