Thierry Smits collaborates with Antoine Pickels for the dance and chamber opera Reliefs d’un banquet, whose core theme examines the anguish generated by the ever-threatening presence of totalitarian thinking and the weight this places on freedoms acquired or to be subdued.
The songs based on Plato’s Dialogues in Erik Satie’s Socrates illustrate this point, as do the dances choreographed to the piano solo Cheap Imitation, which John Cage had proposed as an interpretation or arrangement of Satie’s oeuvre for a ballet by Merce Cunningham.
The deployment of bodies on stage is the guiding thread that gives meaning to the tale, even when it comes to the various passages for the singers, whose intensely physical presence is amplified by their voices. Six sequences feature these bodies, which ultimately constitute the vehicle through which emancipation become possible or, conversely, is shattered by violence. They evoke, in turn, elegance and refinement, drunkenness, sport and work, fascism, horror and torture, culminating with a depiction of Socrates’ death. The flesh, whether glorified or bruised, is a place for exploration that countenances every possible desire and every imaginable suffering.