Liechtensteiner in America: Katrin Hilbe

In mid-February the Liechtenstein-US stage director, writer and producer Katrin Hilbe presented her latest piece of art at the TAK Theatre Liechtenstein in Schaan. "Die Schumann Sonate," devised by Patrick Leresche and directed by Katrin Hilbe, is an exploratory music-theater delving into Robert Schumann’s memories and crises in the last two years of his life at the mental asylum in Endenich, Germany.

A scene from Die Schumann Sonate.

The piece’s starting point is the violin sonata no.1 in A minor (opus 105) with the famous “Clara” motif, as Schumann remembers the long battle to marry his beloved Clara Wieck, a famous piano virtuoso, her father’s prodigy. Excerpts from letters, court documents and songs contextualize Schuman’s struggle for his love and his mental stability, a fight he loses in the end.

Schumann’s creative rushes were often followed by deep bouts of depression, he was wracked by anxiety and found it hard to function in the “real” world. In the end Robert Schumann voluntarily remanded himself to the mental asylum in Endenich after surviving a suicide attempt, in fear for his own life and for that of his family. In Endenich, deprived of stimuli that would agitate him, he was also isolated from impulses that could inspire him. His wife saw him twice in these two years, and Schumann wouldn’t play the piano or compose anymore. In the end he purportedly simply stopped eating. "Die Schumann Sonate" makes no attempt at historical reality, but is rather a musical-dramatic fantasy into a mind that struggles to keep its shape, vacillating between loving memories and the fear of madness.

Katrin Hilbe.

Hilbe spent her childhood and youth in Liechtenstein where she went to school, then worked the first years of her professional life in the German theater world. Katrin Hilbe began her career in opera, first as assistant director then as stage director, directing over ten productions before moving to New York in 2002 on an artist’s grant from the state of Liechtenstein. Her decision to remain in New York City was not primarily a professional one, but a deep passion for the metropolis that is Manhattan. Artistically she extended her expertise to directing straight plays in addition to directing operatic works. She now feels as much at home with actors as with singers.

Going back and forth between the continents Hilbe enjoys the differences in ways of working as much as the fact that in the end the striving for excellence is the same wherever she is. Hilbe’s love for New York is undimmed, but she is grateful that her family and now also her work life bring her back to Europe and to Liechtenstein on a regular basis. Her roots are there both personally and professionally.

Hilbe is now back in New York working on a staged reading for an Off-Broadway production in late August in New York of Joan Beber’s play "In Bed with Roy Cohn," which deals with McCarthy’s henchman Roy Cohn, the lawyer instrumental in sending Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair. He’s getting ready to die of Aids (“liver cancer!”) and is visited by figures of his life. Though the backbone is serious, the play itself is almost vaudevillian in style and includes songs and dance. This spring Hilbe will be back in Europe remounting Julia Pascal’s play "St Joan," which was performed very successfully at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014. It will be presented at the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival (May 11-17), and then in Liechtenstein on May 21, 2015, at Gasometer in Triesen.

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