Sopran (Julia, 1. weiße Kerze)
Mezzosopran (Rosa, 2. weiße Kerze)
Countertenor (Romeo, kranker Knabe, 4. weiße Kerze)
Tenor (Pferdeknecht, 5. weiße Kerze)
Bass (Landarzt, 7. weiße Kerze)
Schauspielerin (Rosa Luxemburg, Lorenzina, 3. weiße Kerze)
Schauspieler (Liebhaber, 6. weiße Kerze)
1st flute (+picc
2nd flute (+picc
1st clarinet in Bb (+bass cl(Bb))
2nd clarinet in Bb (+bass cl(Bb))
soprano saxophone in Bb (+t.sax(Bb)
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
1st trumpet in Bb
2nd trumpet in Bb
Klavier, 1. Spieler (+mikrotonal gest. Klavier)
Klavier, 2. Spieler (+mikrotonal gest. Klavier
MusikstatistIn, 1st violoncello
MusikstatistIn, 2nd violoncello
MusikstatistIn, 3rd violoncello
MusikstatistIn, 4th violoncello
MusikstatistIn, 5th violoncello
MusikstatistIn, 1st double bass
MusikstatistIn, 2nd double bass
MusikstatistIn, 3rd double bass
Kompositionsauftrag des Westdeutschen Rundfunks
Location: Theatersaal Witten / Germany
Orchestra: WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln
Conductor: Titus Engel
After Nacht (2006), my next opera came in 2003; it was for the Bregenz Festival, supported by Alfred Wopmann, with a libretto I put together myself. I combined two tales so well known that I could assume they would be familiar to the audience: Franz Kafka’s The Country Doctor and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum (the latter in my own translation).
Whereas Kafka’s story is for the most part related linearly, some of the motifs in Poe’s tale are arbitrarily strung together. For me, it was a question of a gradual conscious awareness of the threatening element – at first, the prisoner sees nothing, but then he perceives the pendulum indistinctly and then he recognises what is going to happen to him; the pendulum and its affixed knife are nearing his breast. Ultimately he is rescued by rats and he is “free” – in the gaol of the Inquisition.
The opera’s actual theme is the desperate and fruitless search for love: shackled to the wheel of reincarnated erotic longings, always following the erratic tolling of the church bells.
There are intermittent tableaux vivants, brief images of love and hope, which ultimately follow the regular swinging of the deadly pendulum in the opera’s second section.
The set-up of the work is complex; in the first part, the orchestra is distributed about the room, whereas it is in the pit for the second part. There are also two longer sections, to be performed in complete darkness. As in many of my works, the musical materials I use consist of a contrast between freely floating sonic spaces oriented to Wyshnegradsky’s éspaces non octaviants, overtone chords and tonal quotations, as well as the antipodes of freely spoken texts and a leading of the vocal lines oriented to speech melodies (after the Vienna School).
I made a version for Witten shortened to 35 minutes from the opera’s original 2½ hours. Only excerpts of the first part are performed in the truncated version, since the positioning of the instruments cannot be altered; the parts executed in darkness are deleted.
I begin with the opera’s first scene (without the introduction), where the two central texts of the piece are simultaneously exposed: “I had not yet opened my eyes …” (Poe) and “I was in a great quandary …” (Kafka); eventually, the opening of the eyes (and seeing in darkness) in Pit and Pendulum is joined with the moment of discovering the horses in the pigsty in Country Doctor.
A well-known excerpt from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (“It was the nightingale, not the lark”) is combined with an erotic sonnet by Aretino.
The country doctor goes to the sick boy and diagnoses that he is healthy – the prisoner perceives the pendulum approaching him.
The furious Rosa Luxemburg in prison – as a desperate image of hope …
Ultimately (here sounds the finale of the opera’s first section), the prisoner recalls his conviction and how he was conveyed into gaol. “The shadows of memory … ”.
© Georg Friedrich Haas
Translated by Grant Chorley
1 Ensemble that has played this work:
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln