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HENRIK IBSEN'S BRAND DIRECTED BY ARNOLDS LINIŅŠ, DAILES THEATER, 1975

In 1975, the chief stage director of Dailes Theater, Arnolds Liniņš, together with his assistant Kārlis Auškāps staged one of the most outstanding plays in the Latvian theater of the time, "Brand" by Henrik Ibsen. At the center of the interpretation was an unusual, strong personality who, in conflict both with himself and with the crowd that is only interested in compromises and material goods, fights a big battle, which becomes his tragedy.  

The production confirmed Liniņš’s concept of the stage as a metaphor; that was in keeping in the innovative tendencies in European theater. The director worked alongside an outstanding creative team: artist Ilmārs Blumbergs, choreographer Modris Tenisons, composer Raimonds Pauls, the actors Juris Strenga and Harijs Liepiņš who alternated in the title role as well as Ausma Kantāne and Olga Dreģe who did the same in the role of Agnes. The philosophical meaning of this production of "Brand" was convincingly revealed by the practically all-black stage space; at the center there was a movable, irregular shaped platform which was moved by the actors themselves as the action required.  A special feature was also Modris Tenisons’s work with the ensemble of actors: the choreography involved no quotidian activity or studied dances, but formed and energetic and emotionally effective narration. The mob’s aggression that alternated with placidity was impressively rendered; many scenes took place in semi-darkness. The human shapes that emerged from the dark were illuminated with rays from sliding searchlights, creating the impression of waves of the cold northern sea, gusts of wind, and the realm of human nature and psychological relationships.

In part it can be said that "Brand’s" stage vocabulary was based on the synthesis of means of expression propagated by the founder of Dailes theater Eduards Smiļģis – even though neither Liniņš, nor Tenisons was a disciple or follower of the great master. "Brand" was based on the principle of purposefully directed movement and stylization, for the thought and energy transmitted by the actor to reach the viewer. The ensemble of almost thirty people could create a solid work of art at whose center there were the relationships and confrontations between an individual and society.

"Brand" was produced by two different casts, with two very different actors in title role.  As played by Juris Strenga, Brand was very concentrated and laconic with a slightly ironic attitude toward his pain and suffering. Harijs Liepiņš as Brand was more romantic and poetic but in him too the insistent self-sacrifice theme resounded very powerfully eventually bringing on the understanding that not all roads chosen in the name of progress are right. Brand’s guiding principle: "You will be forgiven if you couldn’t but will not if you didn’t try," was expressed differently by the two but that did not create a dissonance, rather adding depth to the polyphony of the production.

Raimonds Pauls’s music was outstanding -- the phonogram was a collaboration with the great choir "Ave Sol" – but it never dominated, becoming an organic part of the whole instead. Highly valued by both the audience and critics, the production was shown 142 times; the director, set designer, and actors received professional prizes. It was also shown in several cities in the Soviet Union. Although "Brand" had stirred interest also abroad, a wider international tour was not possible and the only foreign city where it was shown was Sofia, Bulgaria.

Jānis Siliņš

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