Night Watch: to experience Tavener’s The Veil of the Temple spectators spent a whole night in Berlin’s contemporary art museum.
The Veil of the Temple (2002) is a vast, culture-spanning work: the huge score is unimaginably ambitious, calling for five choirs and unusual instruments The libretto employs texts from all the world religions. Performance time is around seven hours.
In the German premiere in 2007, Rundfunkchor Berlin collaborated with the Dutch director Rogier Hardeman. He has staged The Veil of the Temple amidst the exhibits in Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin’s contemporary art museum. Tavener’s work is conceived for sacred spaces but not restricted to them. The Veil explores the experience of transcendence in a general sense, asking what the role of religious traditions plays in its quest. Similar themes can be found in contemporary art
The performance began late in the evening and lasted until sunrise. Audience members were free to move about, leaning against walls, sitting or lying on the floor. They were free to leave or enter the performing space, to wander through the exhibition galleries, visit the restaurant or withdraw to special quiet rooms. The staging involved the spectator’s body: his or her emotional receptivity, limits, sensitivity to the space, to other spectators, to the time of day and to the duration of the performance.
Director Silvia Beck has captured this unique performance in her TV documentary The Veil of the Temple – Reise ans Ende der Nacht (a Silvia Beck Film in Co-operation with Boomtown Media, roc Berlin and RBB, 2009).