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date: 17 February 2020

Aventures, Nouvelles aventureslocked

  • Paul Griffiths

Extract

Pair of music-theatre pieces by György Ligeti to his own text; Stuttgart, Württemberg Staatstheater, 19 October 1966.

Ligeti’s achievement in Aventures is a theatre without words, owing less to Blacher than to Beckett, silent films, comic strips and the interest in vocal acoustics he discovered when he arrived in Cologne in 1956. Three singers (soprano, contralto, baritone) and seven instrumentalists (flute, horn, cello, double bass, harpsichord, piano doubling celesta, percussion) join in a stream of episodes that includes a nonsense ‘conversation’ without accompaniment, a male solo of drunken exhibitionism, a chattering hubbub interrupted by isolated cries, and finally, a contralto ‘aria’ of solitariness and expectation. The result, as Ligeti has said, is ‘an imaginary stage action that is undefined as to content but precisely defined as to the emotions displayed … one experiences a sort of “opera”, imagining the fantastic vicissitudes of imaginary persons on an imaginary stage’. The new vocal techniques explored by Stockhausen, Berio, Kagel and others provide the means for this precise definition of emotions, while the speed and suddenness of the cutting guarantee that pathos is subverted by wit, mystery by earthiness, lyricism by bathos....

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