A christianized version of the life of Buddha

One of the most popular medieval legends, the incredible story of Josaphat and his master Barlaam, originating from 3rd-4th c. India, has inspired the creation of this concert program.

This almost surrealistic tale opens with a king, Avenir, persecuting the Christians. When the astrologers predict that his own son, Josaphat, will one day become a Christian, Avenir decides to isolate the young prince from any contact with human suffering, aging or illness (and confine him in an artificial ideal world, almost like in today’s "reality shows"…). In spite of his isolation from the real world, Josaphat meets the hermit Barlaam and converts, through a series of colourful and unusual encounters, initiations and teachings through parables.

The first christianized adaptation of this story was the epic poem Balavariani, created in Georgian and written in the 10th century. It was translated into Greek and then Latin in the 11th century, before becoming extremely popular and widespread in Europe, appearing in many manuscripts, such as the famous 13th-century Golden Legend, spreading through a multitude of languages. The popularity of this story was so intense that Josaphat and Barlaam were actually canonised by the Christian church, even if there is no evidence for their existence. Their cult survived well into the 20th century, when their feast was finally removed from the calendar, but not from popular belief.

The popularity and cosmopolitan nature of this legend, as well as its universal dimension, inspired us to create a program in which three performers follow Barlaam and Josaphat on their many wanderings. The audience will discover the legend through the musical repertoires which inspired it in the Middle Ages, as found in Greek, Latin, Old-Russian, Old-Croatian, Old-French, medieval Occitan and Italian manuscripts.

These masterpieces create a dense and intense atmosphere, which grows like the pulse of a shaman’s drum and leads the audience to a strong experience in which different languages and musical cultures meet in a surprising soundscape – like an audible Tower of Babel – of early medieval Europe.

The staging of Yoshi Oida reminds the popularity and universal dimension of this legend interpreted in seven different languages.

Programme with super-titles

Katarina Livljanić, voice, direction
Albrecht Maurer, fiddle, rebec
Norbert Rodenkirchen, flutes, harp

Yoshi Oida, staging  
Tom Schenk, video

Musical reconstruction and text adaptation: Katarina Livljanić
Instrumental reconstructions: Norbert Rodenkirchen & Albrecht Maurer