|Mittwoch aus Licht|
|Opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen|
August 22, 2012
Mittwoch aus Licht (English: Wednesday from Light) is an opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen in a greeting, four scenes, and a farewell. It was the sixth of seven to be composed for the opera cycle Licht: die sieben Tage der Woche (Light: The Seven Days of the Week), and the last to be staged. It was written between 1995 and 1997, and first staged in 2012.
The four component scenes were separately commissioned and premiered:
The staged premiere of Mittwoch was given by the Birmingham Opera Company on what would have been the composer's 84th birthday, Wednesday 22 August 2012 at the Argyle Works, a former factory in Digbeth, Birmingham, as part of the London 2012 Festival, with further performances on 23, 24, and 25 August.The director was Graham Vick, music director Kathinka Pasveer, designer Paul Brown, lighting Giuseppe di Iorio, and choreography Ron Howell. The production went on to win the 2012 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Opera and Music Theatre.
|Role||Performer||Premiere cast, August 2012|
|The Representatives||chorus|| Ex Cathedra,|
Jeffrey Skidmore (chorus master)
|Substitute President/Coloratura Eve||soprano||Elizabeth Drury|
|sound projection||Kathinka Pasveer|
|Flutist||flute||Karin de Fleyt|
|Bassist||double bass||Jeremy Watt|
|actor||Sultan DiMaggio Hussain|
|sound projection||Kathinka Pasveer|
|Helicopter String Quartet|
|First Violinist||violin||Emma Smith (Elysian Quartet)|
|Second Violinist||violin||Jennymay Logan (Elysian Quartet)|
|Violist||viola||Vincent Sipprell (Elysian Quartet)|
|Cellist||cello||Laura Moody (Elysian Quartet)|
|helicopter pilot||Miles Fletcher|
|helicopter pilot||Will Samuelson|
|helicopter pilot||Alistair Badman|
|helicopter pilot||Nigel Barton|
|helicopter pilot||Chris Holland (alternate)|
|sound projection||Ian Dearden|
Marie Louise Crawley,
Emma Hollick (cover)
|Basset Hornist||basset horn||Fie Schouten|
|Synthesizer||synthesizer||Antonio Pérez Abellán|
|The Delegates||chorus|| London Voices,|
Ben Parry (chorus master)
|sound projection||Kathinka Pasveer|
Wednesday is the day of cooperation and reconciliation among Michael, Eve, and Lucifer, and its exoteric colour is bright yellow.The following list of 24 "scenic features" of the whole opera is found in the preface to the score of its final scene:
Mittwoch is in four scenes, which are preceded by a greeting and followed by a farewell.
The Wednesday Greeting consists of the electronic music from the fourth scene, Michaelion, and is played in the foyer amidst flues, winds, blowers, kites, balloons, and flying doves.
The World Parliament convenes in a session above the clouds, and the subject for debate is love. As the parliamentarians arrive via transparent elevators at the top floor of the skyscraper or floating glass dome, helicopters and doves occasionally pass by in the blue sky beyond. The debate is carried on in unknown languages, with occasional lapses into intelligibility in the local language. Delegates rise to present their interpretations of love, with the President commenting on each view. When a janitor interrupts with the news that an illegally parked car is about to be towed away, the President realises it is his, and rushes out. A coloratura soprano is elected temporary President, and the debate is continued. After a final large vowel spiral, the parliamentarians synchronously declare the central theme of the opera: "World parliament Wednesday from Light, day of reconciliation, love". The session is adjourned, all rise and exit while singing further attributes of Wednesday ("day of spaces", "day of women's rights", "day of Mercury", "day of reconciliation", "day of flying", "day of new languages", etc.) on a G♭. Unsure where he should exit, the fattest bass stops, turns to the audience in embarrassment, and before leaving stutters, "Now the next scene would follow".
Eleven instrumentalists compete for posts in an orchestra, while floating high in the air. Telescopic observation reveals a variety of airborne scenes: a cathedral roof, aeroplanes flying over the sea, ships in a harbour, etc. In the last solo, the double-bass player becomes convulsed in an obsessive-compulsive fit of scraping and groaning, until the appearance of the mysterious figure of a mummy who, with a stroke on a Chinese gong, releases the bassist from his affliction.After all auditions have been completed, a horn player unexpectedly enters the hall, playing a signal, after which all of the players fly upward in a tutti finale.
The solos are accompanied by electronic and concrete music in octophonic spatial projection, and each is associated with a particular image:
The four musicians of a string quartet are first introduced to the audience by a moderator, who describes the technical details of the performance. The players then walk or are driven to four waiting helicopters, followed by video cameras transmitting back to television monitors in the auditorium.
They are then carried into the air by the helicopters, from where they play a synchronized, polyphonic composition while reacting to the sounds of the rotor blades. Their playing is also influenced by the movements chosen by the pilots. From time to time their playing comes together in the same rhythms and bowings, even though it is plain they are isolated and kilometers apart. Video cameras and microphones transmit their images (including views through the glass cockpits of the world below) and sounds to four towers of video monitors and loudspeakers in the auditorium on the ground.
After returning to the ground and concluding the composition, the musicians and pilots disembark and return to the auditorium, still followed by the video cameras. Once in the auditorium, the moderator introduces the pilots to the audience, and asks players and pilots about their experiences. Questions are also taken from the audience.
The Michaelion is a galactic headquarters where a meeting of delegates from different stars has been called in order to elect a new President. He or she must be a "galaxy operator" who can translate universal messages no one else can understand. The scene consists of three sub-scenes.
As the delegates arrive, the word goes round that the favourite candidate is named Lucicamel. In the auditorium, someone is listening to a short-wave radio, occasionally mimicking the sounds. After a while, he leaves.
Lucicamel, who is a Bactrian camel, arrives accompanied by a trombonist dressed in white, and is greeted by the delegates. In a series of events, he presents himself to the assembly.
As Michael's Operator, Luca listens to broadcasts received on a short-wave radio in order to provide reports in response to problems successively posed by eleven delegates, who imitate him, poorly but humorously.
The Wednesday Farewell is the electronic music from scene 2 which, like the electronic music for act 2 of Dienstag , is projected octophonically through speakers arranged at the corners of a cube surrounding the audience. Here, however, it is played "beyond mirrored visions", in the form of video projections of the eleven space-events of Orchester-Finalisten, in the foyer as the audience departs.
The premiere performances were sold out. The venue's capacity was 500 with the audience moving between the two massive halls of Argyle Works. Birmingham Opera Company fielded a 100 strong acting company of "Vick's wonderful army of talented volunteers",a trademark of the company, who performed alongside the singers and instrumentalists, and sometimes also amongst the audience, "holding the fulcrum between humour and mystery on which the whole production was so skilfully balanced". Writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , Jörn Florian Fuchs cited Kathinka Pasveer's musical direction as a "truly brilliant realization of the score". Agreeing with this assessment of Pasveer's accomplishment, David Fallows added that "one of the important details of any live performance of Stockhausen has always been the sheer gorgeousness of the sound projection, making its impact right from the first moments of the magically lucid Wednesday Greeting". Anna Picard concluded in The Independent that it was an "unhurried, ecstatic promenade production" and that "Stockhausen's dream was realised wittily and lovingly".
Rupert Christiansen gave the production 4 out of 5 stars in The Telegraph , but he dismissed its third scene Helicopter String Quartet which he felt was "a banal gimmick, wasting an obscene amount of money and fuel to generate only a hideous amount of pointless noise". Christiansen cited Stockhausen's "bonkers sense of humour" as "a saving grace" of the production.Nick Richardson, writing in the London Review of Books, disagreed about the Helicopter Quartet, describing it as "fantastic on Thursday night, particularly at take-off, the strings' vigorous tremolos locking with the throb of the rotor blades and the warm, bass hum of engine".
Gisela Schwarz wrote in the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that Graham Vick had ably captured Stockhausen's diverse religious views without dismissing them as merely esoteric.Stephen Pritchard's review for The Observer concluded that the production was "undoubtedly" worth the reported £920,000 expense of the production:
This repertoire pushes the musicians to their absolute limits; the score may appear random but it's extraordinarily controlled and tightly organised, with passages of exquisite tranquillity. The message is resolutely warm, heartfelt and loving, moving in and out of language, space and time. It's a major achievement.
Mark Swed summed up his view of the production in the Los Angeles Times by writing, "the event was astonishing for the soul and simply beyond belief".
In addition to the opera itself, various parts of which may be performed separately, there are four independent pieces made in different ways from versions of the Mittwoch formula:
No integral recording of Mittwoch aus Licht has yet been released, although all of the components have now appeared. The SWR broadcast the whole opera in October 2003 using selections from the first six of the following CD releases plus the 1998 Bayerischer Rundfunk recording of the dress rehearsal of Michaelion.
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