by Salvatore Sciarrino
Ny Musikk Bergen’s production of the chamber opera Lohengrin is composed by the Italian Salvatore Sciarrino. The piece was written in 1984 and is based on Jules Laforgue’s short story Lohengrin, fils de Parsifal, from 1887. The premiere took place in February 2013 at Studio USF, in collaboration with BIT Teatergarasjen and Bergen center for electronic art.
In most versions of the well-known legend of the knight, Lohengrin arrives on a boat drawn by swans to save a virgin in distress. If she asks his name, the spell is broken, and he must leave her. In Laforgue’s version the story takes on a parodic, mildly surrealistic form. The vestal Elsa is accused of ”feeling other caresses than those of the moon” and is to be blinded as punishment unless a courter appears. She is sent before a court on the beach, and after three fanfares, Lohengrin comes riding in from the sea on a swan. They marry and retire to their wedding villa. In their matrimonial bed, the childish Lohengrin hugs his pillow, which transforms into a swan that flies out the window with him, returning Lohengrin to the dark side of the moon.
In Sciarrino the entire character gallery is performed by one singer. Her identity is ambiguous– we do not know if she switches between the roles of Else, Lohengrin, the mob of people, birds and insects, or if it is the character of Elsa who identifies with all these characters and glides into their roles. Nor are we told if the story is true, memories, dreams, or hallucinations– the pictures float into one another in a stream of impressions, form eccentric caracatures to simple melodies and clever poetry. The relationship between illusion and reality, reason and insanity, are also at the center of the work. The illusions that drive Elsa find their counterpart in the illusionms that the music creates. The music chirps, yaps, mimics dripping faucets and wings. Instrument and voice are reinforced so that even discreet sounds such as breathing, coughing, and scraping strings clearly appear in the soundscape. In this production, the ensemble of 16 musicians and choir are reduced to five people (who are in return onstage) and an intricate sound design where live and recorded spread the music out into the venue. We hear an orchestra, but it is not ”for real”, but rather a carefully modelled soundscape. The performers are a sort of undefinable stage workers who create Elsa’s surroundings both through music, positioning, and interaction with the stage set.
Salvatore Sciarrino is one of the most important composers of our time. His sound world is characterised by isolated timbres, new playing techniques, calm and more or less ironic and provocative quotes, pop music, and stories.
Music: Salvatore Sciarrino Libretto: Salvatore Sciarrino after Jules Laforgue Concept/direction/scenography: Sigurd Fischer Olsen, Lena Buchacz, Roar Sletteland.
Producer: Eva Pfitzenmaier with Solgunn Slåtto and Karen Eide Bøen Sound: Thorolf Thuestad Light: Brynjar Vik and Hans Skogen Costume: Gøril Wallin
On stage: Sofia Jernberg – soprano, Bjørnar Habbestad – flute, Morten Barrikmo – clarinet, Kari Rønnekleiv – violin, Anna Lindal – violin, Lene Grenager - cello
Also: Bente Hage - oboe, Anthony Ringdal - bassoon, Asgeir Søfteland - horn, Erlend Aagaard-Nilsen - trumpet, Håvard Sannes - trombone, Craig Farr - percussion, Bendik Foss - viola, Håkon Thelin - double bass
Choir: Marius Dale Romslo – tenor, Jon Harthug – baritone , Ørjan Hartveit - bass Produced by Ny Musikk Bergen in collaboration with BIT Teatergarasjen, BEK and Wrap.
With support from Arts Council Norway, Bergen kommune, Fond for lyd og bilde and Fond for utøvende kunstnere.