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Murten gives a Swiss flavour to the Babel tale

Murten showed Prometheus win eternal life by granting mortality to an immortal wounded centaur


The Monolith, an oversized rusty cube floating on the lake, was a dramatic backdrop and occasional prop for the performance in Murten.

The two-hour show began when an F/A 18 fighter jet screamed low over the heads of the spectators, only to drop a cloud of smoke over the Monolith a split second later.

As night fell, the structure seemed to become one with its dark shadow reflected on the water - a rather sinister silhouette. Murten could not have wished for a more dramatic backdrop.

For the first musical piece, Murten's orchestra and choir synchronised their voices and wind instruments with those of their counterparts in Biel, Neuchâtel and Yverdon-les-Bains.

The simultaneous performances, shown on huge screens at all four sites, symbolised "music without borders". But the first performance at the sites demonstrated that harmony, especially in a multi-lingual country like Switzerland, is not easy to attain.

Squabbling builders of Babel

In a modern telling of the Tower of Babel, dozens of actors set about building their edifice on the Murten stage. On the big screen, spectators could watch troupes doing the same thing on the other Expo stages.

It seemed to be a race for the heavens when claps of thunder brought an end to it all. The builders began to squabble, as expected, but the towers did not collapse. Instead they were dismantled in an orderly fashion, in true Swiss tradition.

A semblance of harmony and humour then returned to the Expo stage with the appearance of the world's first interpreters who helped the Babel builders put their differences behind them.

During a lull in the performance, all eyes were drawn back again to the Monolith, and the sliver of a crescent moon hanging above in the clear night sky.

The stage at this point was given over to Greek mythology. Prometheus figured prominently at each of the Expo towns, but different episodes in his story were played out.

Prometheus wins eternal life

In Murten, he granted an eternally wounded centaur mortality and in return received the centaur's immortality.

The story is told by a jazz artist singing in a mixture of Swiss-German and English, accompanied musically by trumpets and alphorns. The performance also includes mythical sirens swimming in the water and a cameo appearance by an army helicopter, whose shadow is impressively projected onto the side of the Monolith while it hovers above the stage.

The crowd looked on with mixed feelings. There was both amusement and bemusement on spectators' faces.

The final act began with a short simultaneous link up followed by separate performances at each of the sites.

In Murten, several carnival bands marched onto the stage playing riotous music. Their message was simple. Everybody wants to have a good time, even at Expo.02.

by Dale Bechtel in Murten

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