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Ibsen and the Repertory System: Peer Gynt on the German Stage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 June 2020

Abstract

Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt remained a rarely performed play throughout the author's lifetime. It was not until around the outbreak of the First World War that stage productions of the play began to proliferate. This article examines the pre-1945 production history of the play in the light of a concept that signifies a particular way of composing a repertoire, the repertory system. It was first and foremost prominent stages in Germany that paved the way for Peer Gynt to become incorporated into this system, leading to an exponential growth in the number of stage events. The production history illustrates how plays that are performed over a long period of time question the notion of production as a fixed mise en scène. Supporting Linda Hutcheon's argument about adaptation as a continuous process, the productions examined here demonstrate that there was no such thing as a standard way to adapt Peer Gynt for the stage.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 2020

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References

1 This article is an adapted and extended version of a paper presented at the seminar ‘Peer Gynt: Ibsen and Philosophy’ which took place at the University of Oslo's Centre for Ibsen Studies in December 2017. I thank the organizers Frode Helland, Leonardo F. Lisi and Kristin Gjesdal for inviting me to talk at the seminar.

2 Sprinchorn, Evert, ed., Ibsen: Letters and Speeches (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1965), p. 185Google Scholar.

3 On the etymology of the word ‘repertory’, see Hoad, T. F., ed., The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 399Google Scholar.

4 Pavis, Patrice, Dictionary of the Theatre: Terms, Concepts, and Analysis (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), p. 308Google Scholar.

5 Esslin, Martin, ed., Encyclopedia of World Theater: With 420 Illustrations and an Index of Play Titles (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1977), p. 228Google Scholar.

6 Christiania Theater presented The Vikings at Helgeland in a total of seventeen seasons during this period. Source: IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/venue/11704, accessed 19 September 2018.

7 Christiania Theater presented The League of Youth in a total of twenty-three seasons during this period. Source: ibid.

8 Cf. IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/contributor/427226, accessed 18 September 2018.

9 Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker, Ibsen's Lively Art: A Performance Study of the Major Plays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 9; Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker, A History of Scandinavian Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 158. Peer Gynt was revived at the Christiania Theatre only in 1892, when Bjørn Bjørnson staged it.

10 Quoted in Marker and Marker, Ibsen's Lively Art, p. 11.

11 Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (London: Verso, 2005), p. 1.

12 A Doll's House ranks on top of the list with 4,642 events, followed by – with number of events in brackets – Ghosts (3,191), Peer Gynt (3,162), Hedda Gabler (2,766), An Enemy of the People (1,699), The Wild Duck (1,454), The Master Builder (1,073), Rosmersholm (930), The Lady from the Sea (825), John Gabriel Borkman (740), Pillars of Society (719) and Little Eyolf (564). As of now, IbsenStage holds a total of 23,672 records with data from performances associated with twenty-nine works by Ibsen. Source: IbsenStage, accessed 2 April 2019.

13 This number includes events in the German language regardless of nation. During the period, German Peer Gynt performances were presented at venues in areas today belonging to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania and Russia.

14 Jens-Morten Hanssen, Ibsen on the German Stage 1876–1918: A Quantitative Study (Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, 2018), p. 199.

15 Wolfgang Pasche, Skandinavische Dramatik in Deutschland: Björnstjerne Björnson, Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg auf der deutschen Bühne 1867–1932 (Basel: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1979), p. 201.

17 See IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/venue/12345, accessed 20 September 2018.

18 See IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/venue/14138, accessed 20 September 2018.

19 See IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/venue/12494, accessed 20 September 2018.

21 See IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/venue/13887, accessed 20 September 2018. The production was according to Renate Hoyer performed a total of 716 times; see Renate Hoyer, Paula Conrad-Schlenther (1860–1938): Vierzig Jahre Tätigkeit am Königlichen Schauspielhaus in Berlin (Berlin: Colloquium Verlag, 1971), p. 115.

22 See IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/venue/13566, accessed 25 September 2018.

23 See IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/venue/18906, accessed 25 September 2018.

24 See IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/venue/14147, accessed 25 September 2018.

25 Christopher B. Balme, The Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

26 Julie Holledge, Jonathan Bollen, Frode Helland and Joanne Tompkins, A Global Doll's House: Ibsen and Distant Visions (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

27 See IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/contributor/427367, accessed 20 September 2018.

28 See Elizabeth Robins, Ibsen and the Actress (London: Leonard & Virginia Woolf, 1928); Lou Andreas-Salomé, Ibsen's Heroines (Redding Ridge: Black Swan Books, 1985); and Joan Templeton, Ibsen's Women (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

29 Sprinchorn, Ibsen: Letters and Speeches, p. 146.

30 Klaus Neiiendam, ‘The Second Staging of Peer Gynt, 1886’, Theatre Research International, 2, 2 (1977), pp. 104–17, here p. 115.

31 In a series of touring performances during September 1892, the two Peer Gynt scenes were presented as part of a programme including Molière's play The Imaginary Invalid; cf. ‘Teater och Musik’, Svenska Dagbladet, 30 August 1892, at Svenska dagstidningar, https://tidningar.kb.se/1767385/1892-08-30/edition/0/part/1/page/3/, accessed 8 March 2020, and Lindberg's contributor page at IbsenStage, https://ibsenstage.hf.uio.no/pages/contributor/431148, accessed 2 October 2018.

32 Hans Midbøe, Peer Gynt, teatret og tiden. I: Ludvig Josephson og den ‘eldre’ tradisjon (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1978), pp. 27–31.

33 Hanssen, pp. 202–3. See also note 42 below.

34 Finn Benestad and Dag Schjelderup-Ebbe, Edvard Grieg: The Man and the Artist (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), p. 182.

35 Quoted in ibid., p. 183.

36 ‘[D]enn es habe sich um eine Mischung aus Konzert, Kino, Gemäldesammlung, Oper, Schauspiel, Tragödie, Komödie und Pantomime gehandelt.’ Hart, quoted in Heiko Uecker, ‘Peer Gynt in Deutschland: Vorläufige Bemerkungen und Marginalien zu einem vielleicht möglichen Projekt’, Contemporary Approaches to Ibsen, 5 (1985), pp. 154–79, here p. 163. Translations of quotes from German sources in the running text are prepared by myself.

37 ‘Es war schon grundfalsch, Griegs Musik … vollständig und von einem reichlichen und sichtbaren Orchester spielen zu lassen. Was die Stimmung gehoben hätte, wenn es auf ein paar Töne beschränkt und im Hinter- und Nebengrund gehalten worden wäre, das zerstörte sie als Selbstzweck und im Vordergrund immer wieder.’ Siegfried Jacobsohn, ‘Brahms Erbe’, Die Schaubühne, 9, 39 (1913), pp. 913–19, here p. 916.

38 ‘Aus Ibsens schroffem, zerklüftetem, beißendem, abgründig vieldeutigem, blutendem und blutig reißendem Höhenwerk ist ein sanftes, zuckriges, überdeutliches, glatt und plattes, musikalisch aufgeschwemmtes Märchenvolksstück in Knallbonbonreimen geworden.’ Siegfried Jacobsohn, ‘Peer Gynt’, Die Schaubühne, 10, 9 (1914), pp. 239–42, here p. 241.

39 Quoted in Marker and Marker, Ibsen's Lively Art, p. 24.

40 Uecker, ‘Peer Gynt in Deutschland’, pp. 154–79.

41 Uwe Englert, Magus und Rechenmeister: Henrik Ibsens Werk auf den Bühnen des Dritten Reiches (Tübingen: Francke, 2001), p. 43.

42 The IbsenStage data set shows that pre-1933 46 per cent of German Peer Gynt events used Eckart's adaptation, while 47 percent used Morgenstern's translation; during 1933–45, on the other hand, 80 percent used Eckart, while only 19 percent used Morgenstern. Source: IbsenStage, accessed 25 September 2018.

43 Englert, Magus und Rechenmeister, pp. 43–90.

44 Henrik Ibsen, Henrik Ibsens Peer Gynt in freier Uebertragung für die deutsche Bühne eingerichtet, mit Vorwort und Richtlinien von Dietrich Eckart, nebst 9 Szenenbildern nach Originalradierungen von Otto Sager (Munich: Hoheneichen-Verlag, 1917).

45 Dietrich Eckart, Ibsen, Peer Gynt, der große Krumme und ich (Berlin: Verlag Herold, 1914).

46 Englert, Magus und Rechenmeister, p. 55.

47 Hutcheon, Linda, A Theory of Adaptation (London: Routledge, 2013)Google Scholar, pp. xvi, 2.

48 Linke, Manfred, Gustav Lindemann: Regie am Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus (Düsseldorf: Michael Triltsch Verlag, 1969), pp. 93–6Google Scholar.

49 Ibid., pp. 93–4.

Ibid

50 Ibid., p. 96.

Ibid

51 Ibid., pp. 100–1.

Ibid

52 Ibsen, Henrik, The Oxford Ibsen, Vol. III: Brand, Peer Gynt, trans. Kirkup, James and Fry, Christopher, with the assistance of James Walter McFarlane and Johan Fillinger (London: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 421Google Scholar.

53 Hutcheon, p. 9.

54 ‘“It may interest you to know that Peer Gynt was a real person”, Ibsen told Hegel, “who lived in Gudbrandsdal, probably at the end of the last century or the beginning of this. His name is still well known among the peasants there. But of his exploits not much more is known than is to be found in Asbjørnsen's Book of Norwegian Folk Tales, in the section ‘Mountain Scenes.’ So I have not had very much to work with, but on the other hand I have had so much more freedom to invent.”’ Sprinchorn, Ibsen: Letters and Speeches, p. 64.

55 Morison, Mary, ed., The Correspondence of Henrik Ibsen (New York: Haskell House Publishers, 1970), p. 272Google Scholar.

56 Hanssen, Ibsen on the German Stage 1876–1918, pp. 197–227.

57 See Holledge et al., A Global Doll's House.

58 See Robins, Ibsen and the Actress.

59 Sources: playbills and theatre reviews held by the National Library of Norway and the Centre for Ibsen Studies.

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