Opera aficionado goes to a Rammstein concert

I am taking the risk to vex the readers of this blog, and I admit, here and now, that I also have this rocker side, reminiscence from my teenage times, that I am not going to deny. On the contrary. Once I crossed the Rubicon with the article about Cezar Ouatu and his Eurovision, I will also write about the few rock concerts I go to every year.

Herbert von Karajan said that conducting Tosca from time to time did him good. The extreme verismo of Puccini’s opera helped him free himself from the negative energies accumulated in the other concerts. And what an extraordinary Tosca he did record in 1962! A Leontyne Price burning with desire, a Giuseppe di Stefano less brilliant than 10 years ago (with Callas, in 1953), but with a Giuseppe Taddei – a model, a complex Scarpia, for the first time a refined character, a gentleman, for whom the repressive context emphasizes the dark personality.

Rammstein is a rock band from Germany, probably the most successful one of the latest years. Their music is a very tough one, but with surprising melodic accents, using major tonalities that can make you think of dramas, even tragedies. I explain the shadow hanging over Wollt ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?, a song they sing at the beginning of the concerts, by the fact that the six rockers come from Eastern Germany. Richard Kruspe, the lead guitarist, defected for the Western Berlin in 1989, before the fall of the Wall. Till Liendemann, the vocal soloist, is from Leipzig, he was a professional swimmer, and in 1980 he nearly entered the Olympics in Moscow. I will not insist with biographical details for the other members, it is enough if I mention the fact that their lives, lived in the Orwellian artificiality of communist Germany, always looking towards the wealth, but also the artistic life of the Occident, have been (it could not have been different) burnt by a frustration even more pregnant than in other communist countries. Because, if you stay exactly near the Iron Curtain, you may raise its edge and look towards the real life, the free life. This is the reason of their (maybe involuntarily) sad note of their music.

Back to the concert. It was not the first Rammstein concert in Romania. I saw them at Sonisphere, in 2010. Then, it was a heavy metal festival, one of the heaviest ones, if you allow me. And, despite some very big names on stage (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Manowar etc.), they seemed to shine the most. An electrifying show, based on an industrial scenography, all grey, that opened from behind a huge Germany flag, in front of the hungry eyes of the public. No big changes ever since, the flag has been replaced by a curtain with geometric signs. The scenography is dominated by three huge ventilators, reminding of the coolers in the IT industry. Of course, the reflectors are present and so is the specialty of the band – the flames.

(c) iconcert.ro
(c) iconcert.ro

Beside all these, there are all sorts of accessories that illustrate, more or less inspired, the message or the irony of the songs they are singing. Do not mention the word „kitsch”, even if it exists, the regietheater is full of strange things, too. Therefore, we have: a gas pump for the song Benzin (obviously), a bow with arrows that throws all sorts of fire crackers, but a bow that reminds Wagner’s mythology (I know, sacrilege! – but this is just a harmless bow compared to the suggestion of the sword thrust in the ground, in Lohengrin – which accompanies Für deutsches Land das deutsche Schwert!) – for Du riechst so gut, etc, going up to the pot where the keyboardist, Flake Lorenz, is going to be boiled, in Mein Teil, or to the cage in Wiener Blut.

(c) Paul Voicu, iConcert.ro,
(c) Paul Voicu, iConcert.ro,

I reminded these two songs on purpose, as they have the most obvious fascination for the bizarre fait divers. Mein Teil is based on a shocking case of cannibalism that was discovered in Germany in 2001, and Wiener Blut is nothing else but the horrible story of the Austrian Josef Fritzl. I asked a connoisseur teenager what is the position of the guys from Rammstein regarding these oddities. He said they had a neutral position, they just liked to speak about these cases with a musical background, maybe with an ironical note in Mein Teil. Of course, when we dress in a suit or an evening gown, we could very well feel disgusted with this. And then we could go to the opera, to see Il trovatore by Verdi, which starts with Ferrando’s long story about gipsy women burned at the stake and about nurslings thrown into flames, by mistake. After all, it is a matter of how we understand the oddities contemporary with us, the same as Verdi understood his contemporary oddities. The culture of the protest, possibly a political one, a habitual component of the rock concerts, was less present this time. Somehow, it is understandable: it was worth doing in 1989 more than now, especially in the case of people coming from the East. Today, we are speaking more about the contortions of the current realities.

Buch dich and Pussy are two songs that automatically require the red triangle and the over 18 stamp. We are used to this. Let us not turn our heads, let us not look behind us, especially if the name of Freud means something for you. In music, too: Wozzeck or Lulu (where Berg seasons sex with madness and crime)? Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth (and a new word: pornophony)? Salome (where Strauss superposes the incestuous erotic dance and a beheading)? Let us not forget Oedipe. Or, with Rammstein, bitter psychoanalysis makes way more for humor, or even self-irony, in fact, the sexuality of our contemporary times needs a lot of humor. Sex and The City is a proof for this.

Nevertheless, the lyrism is not at all excluded. Some say that rock ballads are just some sentimental, mainstream songs, where the “tough guys” want to show they can create beautiful music too, but that, except for ballads, they want to show they do not want this. In my opinion, this is a break in the rhythm, a break that makes place for emotion, or even for the impulse to call a friend who could not make it to the concert – Ohne dich. I found the piano version of Mein Herz brennt a little too forced, this song being a pretty severe industrial fusion metal song.

(c) Paul Voicu, iConcert.ro,
(c) Paul Voicu, iConcert.ro,

All in all, it was a good concert. If it had been the first time I would have seen them, or if they had promoted a new album (the latest one is from 2009), I would have been very impressed. But, as this was not the case, I watched, a little disengaged, a show which, from the point of view of the sound, is constructed just to stick you to the walls.

Danke schönn, Rammstein.

P.S. If this article is going to horrify the opera lovers, I am asking them right now to excuse me. But if it is going to make a rocker curious about the operas quoted in the text and to push him to a concert hall, then I can say I reached my goal, with all the risks I happily took. And if the “operatics” take the other step around (and I ask them not to see it as a regression), towards the rock concerts, this is just for the better, as Roger Waters and The Wall are just a few days before the Enescu Festival!

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