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date: 10 July 2020

Vincent(ii)locked

  • Erkki Arni

Extract

Opera in three acts by Einojuhani Rautavaara to his own libretto; Helsinki, Finnish National Opera, 17 May 1990.

Vincent, an expressionistic study of Vincent van Gogh, takes the form of a long flashback. Towards the end of his life at the sanatorium of St Rémy, Vincent (baritone) recalls his work as a lay preacher in the mining village of Borignage, his stormy life with the prostitute Maria Hoornik (mezzo-soprano) and his tense friendship with Paul Gauguin (bass). He finds inspiration from the appearance of a girl, Gaby (high soprano), whom he sees as his muse. However, at a wild party with Paul’s friends Vincent becomes unbalanced and cuts off his earlobe. The final scene reverts to St Rémy; but instead of leading to Vincent’s suicide, the opera ends with his paean to sunshine and life.

Certain of Van Gogh’s paintings (‘Starry Night’, ‘Crows over a Wheatfield’, ‘The Church at Auvers’) are used as visual waymarks. In a number of attempts to subjugate Vincent, four grotesques appear in different guises: as staff at the sanatorium, as the authorities at Borignage and as a group of art critics. However, his brother Theo (tenor) offers support in his tribulations. The musical language of ...

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