When the risotto starts to smell

When the risotto starts to smell

Michaela Preiner

Foto: ( )


September 2022

Carmen C. Kruse and Manuel Zwerger achieved the feat of coupling a VR performance with a live experience. European Kitchen Encounters: VR_Bania became a not only theatrical but also epicurean experience for the audience on the occasion of the 'Musiktheatertage Wien'.

The ‘Musiktheatertage Wien’ programme by Thomas Cornelius Desi and Georg Steker offers the audience an almost breathtaking range of different performances. This is shown alone by the two thematically diametrically opposed productions “Chornobyldorf” and ‘European Kitchen Encounters: VR-Bania’.

This ‘virtual reality project with taste’, as the subtitle says, comes from Austrian director Carmen C. Kruse and Italian composer Manuel Zwerger. They travelled to the Italian town of Verbania on Lake Maggiore and interviewed different residents on the subject of food. The interviews were edited into small sequences that could be seen with the VR glasses just like the preparation of a risotto – to be precise, a “risotto giallo con salciccia”, cooked by the performer Anna Piroli. She was supported by Leo Morello with a fine soundscape in which one could hear the scraping of the knife on the wooden board just as alienated as the rhythmic trickling of the rice grains into the pot. Snarling, vibrating, tapping, he supported Piroli with all kinds of percussion instruments, just as silent film music was made in the old days. The only difference was that the auditory repertoire was much more contemporary.

MTTW VR Bania C Nick Mangafas1

VR-Bania (Photo: Nick-Mangafas)

The audience was invited to follow the cooking procedure as well as the interviews with movements on the swivel chairs on which they had been placed. The highlight of the performance, however, was that while the videos were being played in the kitchenette of the WUK behind the audience, this dish was actually being prepared, and thus the olfactory events merged with the videographed ones to form a live experience.

MTTW VR Bania C Nick Mangafas2

VR-Bania (Photo: Nick-Mangafas)

The subsequent dinner with the director and the composer provided an opportunity to talk not only about what had been seen, but also about what had gone before. This part in particular should be emphasised, because it is the experience of togetherness that one cannot feel while wearing the VR glasses that gave the performance its real spice. It is what audiences need now more than ever when they are exposed to theatre experiences. Videos, feature films or recorded plays can be watched post Corona in droves in front of the video screen at home. The conversation with people you don’t know, but who at least have a common denominator – the desire for theatre – this conversation and this exchange cannot be replaced, but should be intensified – as exemplified in this production.

This article was automatically translated with deepl.com

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