Magazine article Opera Canada

Opera Gamier. (Opera in Review)

Magazine article Opera Canada

Opera Gamier. (Opera in Review)

Article excerpt

Over a period of just a few months, Paris opera-lovers had the opportunity to attend the local premieres of three recent works. First came Helmut Lachenmann's Das Madchen mit den Schwefelholzern at Opera Gamier, based on Hans Christian Andersen's Little Match Girl. Opera? Music theatre? Visual cantata? Hard to tell, as Lachenmann obviously attempted--and successfully managed--to stay away from any operatic convention.

There was a large orchestra in the pit, the Staatsoper Stuttgart, which was where this production originated; two pianos and two singers--not really involved in the action--on the edge of either side of the stage; some 50 more instrumentalists and choristers positioned in outer boxes on three levels, immensely committed to performing a very exacting, dense and complex score; discrete, well-integrated electronics; and no action to speak of. However, after a lengthy pianissimo prelude, not dissimilar to the no-less-lengthy postlude, slowly transformed luminous boxes appeared behind a dark scrim, depicting, in very slow motion, episodes of the sad tale of cold and loneliness of a mute little Match Girl.

The next tableau featured silent characters on a perilously raked stage as, imperceptibly, the bright yellow stage turned to grey and off-stage singer-speakers slowly uttered unrecognizable syllables. The final tableau blended the softly exotic Japanese sho mouth organ with the full orchestra.

It was difficult music, superbly served by Lothar Zagrosek and his musicians. …

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