Tod in Venedig
Death in Venice is a title that evokes specific expectations in everyone. It triggers a chain of associations, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer: there is the city of Venice, already a myth in its own right, the beach with the ceaseless swell of the waves, but above all, of course, the well-to-do, established and aging artist who gives up his entire way of life in the face of the beauty and youth of Tadzio.” John Neumeier knows the challenge that the choreographing of Thomas Mann’s novella presents.
Thomas Mann wrote his novella Death in Venice in 1911/12 after he had spent a summer there. Its publication caused a huge scandal since it made mention of a topic that was absolutely taboo: a man’s love for a male youth. The relationship between the writer von Aschenbach and the young Tadzio shakes the protagonist to the core, even though it is only platonic or at most voyeuristic in nature. Von Aschenbach does not exchange even a single word with Tadzio. He is so overcome by his fascination and the strength of his feelings that he passively submits to the cholera that will kill him.
John Neumeier uses music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Richard Wagner to present his own perspective on this work of world literature. “What fascinates me about Thomas Mann’s text is what I interpret as a description of absolute love. Tadzio is the trigger that causes the man von Aschenbach to be confronted with his other side. His dignity meant everything to him, he even owed his title to his work. In my ballet von Aschenbach is a master choreographer. He initially fights his emotions and finds a purely artistic justification for his fascination, but ultimately he has to yield to them. And this complete surrender means his Death in Venice.”