Monday, November 21, 2011

The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer

Austrians trying to speak English are gris for the comic mill. There are Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famed malapropisms and Sasha Baron Cohen’s Bruno, the fashionista.  And then there is the surface old world charm. Who would have believed that under Schwarzenegger’s affability masked an adulterer or that Kurt Waldheim, the former UN Secretary General was a Nazi. Michael Sturminger’s The Infernal Comedy : Confessions of a Serial Killer tell the story of Jack Unterweger the Austrian serial killer and journalist turned celebrity  (whose was freed after international protests by well known figures like Elfriede Jellinek and others)  Sturminger has created an opera starring John Malkovich as the character of Unterweger on an author tour promoting his Confesssions and  bastardizing  English in the process. Magazines become maggotzines, Wikipedia is Vikipedia, “because,” one of Sturminger’s favorite words becomes “becawse.” Interestingly Malkovich isn’t really part of the opera unless you call his stand up routines a recitative. Rather he stalks the orchestra which renders bits and pieces of romantic Mozart, Vivaldi,  Beethoven works in which Sturminger’s sopranos play Unterweger’s jilted lovers. The operatic crescendos are in stark contrast to Malkovich’s deadpan in which he makes pronunciamentos like “I want to be someone and would rather be a killer than a no one.” Malkovich’s Unterweger has an Asberger’s like disorder but like a lot of disturbed people also has something to say. He’s a human triple entendre in a polyphonic setting. We experience this the moment we walk into the Opera House at BAM to find the orchestra on the stage and not in the pit. Is this a recital,  rehearsal or symphony that has been mistakenly billed as an opera or has the task bar on our computer been mistakenly moved to the side or top so that we are viewing the screen of reality upside down? One wonders if Alban Berg, the great Austrian composer of Wozzeck were alive, what he would have done with the story of Unteweger’s life?

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