World Premiere »Träume« - Interview with Choreographer Emanuel Gat

For the first time, dance will be performed at the Easter Festival: French-Israeli choreographer Emanuel Gat was inspired by Richard Wagner's »Wesendonck Lieder« to create a piece with 14 dancers. Gat answers the most important questions about this project exclusively for you here ...

Emanuel Gat (Credit: emanuel gat dance)

What was your first reaction when the request for this project came from the Easter Festival?

Surprise. The contemporary dance world is usually quite isolated from other disciplines, so it’s not often that I am approached by the artistic directors of opera or music festivals for new projects. I found it quite refreshing and exciting to be able to step out of our usual context, reach new audiences, develop new artistic relationships and to expand our playing field a bit.

What attracted you to the idea of creating a piece to classical music?

I’ve been working with classical music for the past 30 years so it’s not really something new. Before I came into dance and choreography, I was studying music with the dream of becoming a conductor. When I stepped into the dance world, I found my artistic place, but music – classical or any other form really – always holds a central place in my creative process.

Do you have a fundamental connection to classical music and in particular to the music of Richard Wagner?

As I said above, yes I do. When asked where I learned how to choreograph, I always answer – Bach. So music for me, besides being an element within the pieces I create, is also a source of inspiration and study. A parallel artistic universe and a manner of thinking, I’m very close to.

I came across Wagner’s music quite late, mainly because you rarely hear it in Israel, for all the known reasons. But when I did, I immediately had a strong connection with it and felt it offers a vast and interesting space for a choreographic dialogue and reflection.

Video by Julia Gat

You did work on a creation based on Puccini’s »Tosca«. How would you describe the experience of working with opera material?

It’s interesting material to work with for a few reasons : the presence of a ‘story’, the voices, roles and dialogues, and the familiarity of audiences with the music and content. It’s somehow less neutral than other instrumental music and forces you to work differently in terms of establishing the manner in which the choreography addresses those elements. For example, an opera like »Tosca«, apart from the actual storyline, is primarily a discussion on different human states (love, jealousy, competitiveness, sorrow, fear and ambition), as well as the different social elements of politics and wars. This content is very much present in the music and the singing voices, as is the work I do. I try to relate more to that and to have a dialogue with these different factors which are present in the music.

What should we expect from »Träume«?

Since the work isn’t created yet, it’s hard for me to say. I discover the direction a piece will take, only during the actual creative process, so we shall see…

Richard Wagner coined the term Gesamtkunstwerk, that is, the unification of several artistic means or forms of expression into one great whole. Is that also a goal in your creative work?

Whatever elements are present in an art work, they should be assembled in such a way as to make it seamless . That they support each other and interact in such a way as to bring forth a synergy and to create a new ‘thing’ that is bigger than the sum of its different parts. The simplest way for me to explain it is actually by going to the basics of western music, a simple polyphonic piece by Palestrina, or any fugue by Bach. It’s all about how two or more lines of information interact through counterpoint to create a totally new thing.

You are bringing your own Dance Company to Salzburg. Why is it so important to work with dancers you know?

The long-term dialogue I maintain with the dancers is a fuel for creation. The longer and the deeper it is, the further I can go in my research and creative process.

You are inspired by Wagner’s famous »Wesendonck Lieder«. Will we hear other music during »Träume«?

No, this is the only music we shall hear.The rest will be a textual score made from the poems by Mathilde Wesendonck and from Wagner’s essay »Art and Revolution«.


Have you ever been to Salzburg? What are your impressions?

I have been twice, once to work with the students of SEAD, and another to visit the Felsenreitschule to prepare the lights and stage concepts. I have a very strong impression of the Felsenreitschule which is fantastic, and which will certainly find its place in my creative process.