Thursday, September 17, 2015

'The Woman Project' : a breath of fresh air

Satu Vänskä plays violin
Satu Vänskä's The Woman Project was packed full of very diverse work and the performers were as diverse as the music: the festival orchestra, a girls choir singing Hildegarde Bingen's work, a musical ensemble of young locals playing Mozart (led by Mozart himself after a clever change of clothing by Richard Tognetti), caberet artist Meow Meow mimicking a sexual encounter (in German) as only she can do, singers Satu Vänskä and Nica Goric among others. Videos and still shots provided context, from witch burnings (so many wood cuts) to 17th/18th/19th century paintings of nude females among clothed males (so many of them too!)

Despite the diversity the program had a common theme: how our male oriented society is missing out on so much work that could have been ours if only women were regarded are capable of composing. Women have composed (Fanny Mendellsohn, Clara Schumann etc) but critics have an unacknowledged preference for male composers, so we lose works by women. There are more female composers nowadays (especially in Slovenia), but not so very many.

The program notes were different to the normal as well, with direct and pertinent comments about the female condition. The festival booklet is really worth keeping this year.

The program divided the audience, with some saying it didn't acknowledge progress or women's considerable achievements. The program was unrelentingly depressing, that is true (except for the young singers and musicians) , but despite that I loved it. I think we have to acknowledge our history if we are going to progress and seeing women's history presented so critically is affirming in an odd sort of way. If you consider our collective history it becomes clear why we have issues with domestic violence and lack of female representation in our elected governments etc. It also gives women a feelling of not being alone in a world where women often feel they have drawn the short straw.

A program like this gives us a starting point and encourages us to make greater efforts to deal with misogyny in society.

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