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“Please forgive me, I am only an actress” | Schwanengesang D744

The voyeuristic violence forced by the spectator is reflected in Romeo Castellucci’s creation of Schwanengesang (Swansong), staged in the summer 2013 at the Festival d’Avignon. In an empty stage, the soprano Kerstin Avemo stands alone, interpreting the Lieder of Schubert, accompanied by the pianist Alain Franco, sitting slightly lower. The audience is on standby, when after some time the actress Valérie Dréville appears on stage, kneeling with her back to the audience. She repeats emphatically part of the lyrics and performs some stylized movements, fulfilling her duty as a dramatic artist.

Suddenly she interrupts the “performance” when she realizes the presence of spectators. She turns and addresses them in a hushed and horrified voice: “What’s happening?”, “Is anyone here?”, “Who’s there?”, “What are you doing here?” Later in a crescendo of screaming she accuses the voyeuristic attitude of the audience by repeating the phrases: “What are you looking at? You are looking at what? What are you looking at?”, insulting and mocking the spectators. The actress-martyr reacts to the violence of the gaze with the violence of the words. In vain... for she will then succumb to our voracious gaze and to the pleasure of viewing, returning again to the humble safety of her role: “Please forgive me, I am only an actress”.

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