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An eclectic Expo mix in Neuchâtel

Performers act out Neuchâtel's Vouivre legend

The amphitheatre was sold out and the night sky was clear as Neuchâtel opened its Expo .02 site with an eclectic spectacle.

Against the backdrop of the lake’s still blue waters, the scene was set for a two-hour show – an odd mix of music, movement and special effects.

The show aimed to mirror the Neuchâtel arteplage’s theme -“Nature and Artifice” and as such the audience were transported into another world, full of ancient mythology, singing and puppetry.

But even though the two-hour-long show was an impressive assault on the senses, it failed to really send shivers down the spine.

It got off to a high-flying start when a fighter jet buzzed overhead before the opening song “Hymn to the night”.

To the left of the stage, a giant screen dubbed “The Big Window” showed the song being sung in the three other Expo sites in Biel, Yverdon-les-Bains and Murten. The music pumped out at high volume gave the whole début a very “rock ‘n’ roll” feel.

Tower of Babel

The first act focused on the construction of the Tower of Babel as it did at the other three Expo sites. Figures dressed in pastel shades moved fluidly across the stage, before splitting into four different groups.

Although the overall effect was pleasing on the eye it lacked lustre.

A short interlude followed and heads turned to the giant screen. Pascal Auberson, dressed as Ulysees, performed an unusual hybrid of a song which mixed tribal rhythms and traditional church music. Once again it lacked energy.

The second at was given over to the story of Prometheus, the creator of man. Four different versions of the Prometheus legend were performed – a different one at each of the four sites.

In Neuchâtel the Prometheus tale bordered on farce with a Comedia Dell’Arte type hero creating the most beautiful woman in the world, Pandora.

Io, the Greek queen of the gods, transformed into a cow and travelling with her horsefly sidekick pursued the couple leading to a lengthy chase, which even the most clued up of classicists was unable to comprehend.

By this point the show seemed to lose its way and despite the visual spectacle and the beautiful costumes, the whole thing seemed to fall apart.

Puppet show

But unfortunately the show was not yet over – instead there was a mini show-within-a-show called “The Puppets of Expo”. It was an ironic glimpse at the personalities and problems of the lengthy Expo planning process. Among the people featured were Pascal Couchepin, Pipilotti Rist and Francis Matthey.

The third and final act was given over to a local story, moving away from Greek mythology and concentrating on Neuchâtel’s “Vouivre” legend – a giant white snake accompanied by white birds.

The finale was provided by a black African music group from Neuchâtel and then the Senegalese singer, Youssou N’Dour, who appeared on the giant screen. N’Dour sang the “Song of the Jura” in a duet with Pascal Auberson.

At the end the audience applauded unenthusiastically, somehow mirroring the lack lustre spectacle which they had witnessed.

by Bernard Léchot, translated by Sally Mules

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR