In this years Kürten courses there will be a panel about the question, how the operas of the LICHT-cycle should be staged. This question arose after the staging of DONNERSTAG last year in Basel; the production was highly controversial and there have been many discussions, also in this forum. There had been even contributions that said, the Stockhausen-Stiftung should not allow productions in that kind. Therefore it seems to be useful to discuss this item in a time, when there is no actual and urgent question to decide - just as a general problem. I was asked to promote this discussion in Kürten and therefore, to prepare for that, I want to ask for your opinion: Do you think there should be some guidelines? What are important aspects to decide what is appropriate and what is not in a project to stage an opera of Stockhausen's?
A work of art is a bit like a child: When it's grown up, it will leave home and has to find its own way. Trust it.
Trying to conserve a sort of "definite way of reading" has never been a good idea. Imagine we would be forced by order of the composer or his heirs to show a Wagner opera only in the same way it was done during his lifetime, with candlelight and real horses on stage. It would be ridiculous.
An opera consists from a score and a libretto. This is what the artist has to deliver. It should show what composer and lyricist had in mind. But it should not be taken as a book of law. You can't preserve a given production forever. Of course there's the keyword "Regietheater", but the answer to overdoings by some directors should not be repressions from heirs, publishing houses et cetera. Art has always been a field of experimentation, and the risk of failure is part of that. In the end, the audience will decide anyway, there's no taste police needed.
Besides this: Who will be the one who has to decide whether it's appropriate or not, and who has to decide about who it is? You see, this leads to nowhere.
I must say that with all due respect, the notion that "an opera consists of a score and a libretto" is deeply problematized in Stockhausen. I do not think that Stockhausen believed that an opera was just a libretto and a score. Instead, I think he felt as though much of the staging, the costumes, and the movement was also an integral part of the opera. It is true that two different stagings of the same work COULD fulfill his desires, as the La Scala and Covent Garden productions of DONNERSTAG proved. But, I think Stockhausen wanted to challenge the notion that the essense of an opera was simply to be found in its notes and its words. Certainly it's not for me to say that a director "should" or "shouldn't" do this or that -- but we have at least to try and READ Stockhausen's stage directions the way he wanted us to read them. That's just the simple respect we owe the creator.
I think that one of the great things about the LICHT cycle is that directors are challenged to find new ways to reinterpret the texts while remaining faithful to the spirit of the composer. Where is that line drawn? Perhaps we needed a performance like Basel in order to help clarify where the border is between banality, repetition and stasis -- and dispassion for the composer's intent. I'm not necessarily saying that Basel was EITHER of those two extremes -- yet, I do think it helped us in way to understand what these complex and thrilling works are.
As I will also be involved in that discussion in Kürten this year, I thought it best that I do not become too involved in the discussion here on the forum, but rather step back and let others contribute.
However, I did just want to make one point. And that is that I think Stockhausen was very clear that, for him, the music was always the primary element in LICHT. He said at one stage that the truest manifestation of the characters of LICHT is in their formulas, and that these are brought to life through the text and ultimately the staging. He remarked that he began with the music, and then developed the stories and the libretto and the stage directions after this. At another time he said that music, the music of the score, is like a genetic code, and that it is through performance that the code becomes aware, and is given life.
In this way, then, I think that always a staging of LICHT must begin with the music. The music of LICHT has so much depth to it, and there are so many things to discover within it. I never cease to be fascinated by these discoveries - it is like all the million possibilities of Hesse's Glass Bead Game, where so many ideas can be connected.
This is not to say that the stage directions in the score are not important. They are very important. But always, I believe, a staging must be connected most deeply with the music and this should, I think, be the first way in which we think about how LICHT should be presented on stage. A staging must find a way of bringing the music onto the stage.
From this perspective, then, I believe there is real value in providing more and more opportunities for anyone performing LICHT to discuss how the music connects with the staging. A performance could loyally follow every stage direction and still miss this critical point, I believe. Whether the opposite is possible is a question of much debate - that is, can a staging go against the stage directions and still be loyal to the music?
I think the connections between the music and the staging are much deeper, much more profund, much more complex, in the operas of LICHT than in any other operas, even more so than those of Wagner, where similar questions often arise. But for Wagner, music was a vehicle for expressing drama. For Stockhausen, drama was a means of expressing music.
I say all of this without reference to Basel, because I know we have discussed that a lot here already and, as I understand Thomas's intention with this thread, we are now trying to think about the issue in more general terms.
I think it would be wonderful for as many people as possible to come along to the courses in Kürten this year and participate not only in this discussion but in the many classes and workshops that are held over those nine days where we all get to develop such intimate knowledge of the music. It is, I think, through understanding the real essence of the music and, in the case of LICHT, the real structure and personality of its genetic code, that so many wonderful and exciting possibilities for staging begin to emerge.
For sure, in LICHT everything is developed from the music as source of all reality (for Stockhausen). But I think, in the moment the problem is not a bad quality of the musical performance, but that stage-directors act high-handed. The problem is that LICHT is not at all an opera like all the others, but is uncomparable, is situated in a realm of its own, and if you do not get really into it, you must misinterpret the work; there is always the danger, that you stick to something superficial and totally miss the point. In most cases the rule could be: The less you do on stage, the better! But the idea of a stage-policy is absolutely terrible....
I agree with you Thomas. My point is just that getting into the work, and getting into its essence and depth, should (I believe) begin with understanding the music, and exploring what the music's implications are for the staging. The music tells us so much, that even the libretto and stage directions do not tell us!
Of course, this is only the beginning. There is much else to think about as well.
But I do believe there is a lot to be gained from sharing ideas, and from engaging in robust discussions about ways of bringing the music to stage in lively, meaningful productions that respect the score and the composer, but which are also inventive in exploring the many depths and meanings that are within the scores.
I also agree with you, Thomas, that policies on staging would be a bad idea, particularly if they are to be prescriptive and to restrict creativity - but if they offer ways of understanding possibilities, and if they provide creative guidance that opens up, rather than closes down, possibilities then maybe they could be of benefit. So maybe not policies so much as opportunities to learn. For example, I think it is good to encourage anyone staging Stockhausen's operas to come to Kürten to spend some time learning about their background and about how Stockhausen envisaged the music informing the staging. Directors might then make their own decisions about what to do with this, but it would be good to encourage the discussion I think. Of course, this will not always be practical - but I think encouraging and enabling the possibility would be a good thing.
While I don't claim to be a Stockhausen scholar, I don't believe any of the operas of Licht have been truly represented yet. There is that strong element of ambition in Karlheinz intentions that can be impossible to actually create (unless it was animated, like a movie). Some of these ambitious and sometimes esoteric things that Stockhausen tried to convey (Mittwoch is a big example) will come off too Dada-esque (of Fluxus) if not approached correctly. After all, one bad (or unsatisfying) performance can put people of an entire composers output. I mean this especially in perspective of someone that hasn't familiarized themselves with the music, stories/themes and aesthetic of Licht, like me or you.
What do you think? How much input did Karlheinz actually have to those 2004?2005? (can't remember) performances of the entire cycle?
Zitat von Ulrich im Beitrag #5The problem is that LICHT is not at all an opera like all the others, but is uncomparable, is situated in a realm of its own, and if you do not get really into it, you must misinterpret the work;
This is exactly the problem I wanted to point out. When you say "if you do not get really into it, you must misinterpret the work", you imply that there is a valid interpretation that has to be matched. Where would this interpretation to be found if not -- I insist on this -- in the score and the libretto with stage directions, sets and persons? (And maybe the tradition that adds up from former performances, and of course the financial and technical frame you have at your disposal. If you don't have four helicopters, is it better to find a different way, or would it be better to accept that the opera cannot be performed? I would prefer the first way.)
Of course every director will read Stockhausen's writings about LICHT to get the background before starting a new production. But a director who is worth his salt finally will have to find his own interpretation and a way to transform his interpretation onto stage under the given circumstances. He might fail, he might succeed or he might end up somewhere over the rainbow then, but I think there can't be an "official" referee to decide about that but the audience.
Jan, you point to a very interesting and basic point, when you write, that it is basically the score, that matters. Yes, that is true - but the score is not self-sufficient. It has to be interpreted, does not interpret itself automatically. If you interpret LICHT with a mind that is trained by traditional operas and sticks to that, you will miss the point. The best example for that is DONNERSTAG. When you take it for granted, that in this opera ordinary people are acting on stage - people who can be interpreted psychologically - you will misinterpret the work. And, now seen more from a distance, this is a merit of the staging of this opera in Basel last year: to have shown, that this, I would say: more traditional way of interpretation leads to nowhere and does not meet the intentions of the composer and the work. But that you do not get from the score alone, but from the essays and interviews of Stockhausen himself. Here we learn: Michael (and all the other protagonists) is no individual, but a spiritual power that operates universally and in a specific way. And that has to be expressed on stage. There cannot be a Stockhausen-guru or an absolute referee - but that does not mean that everything is possible. There is a "wright" and a "wrong", and that will emerge from the discussions of the Stockhausen-community in interpreting the texts. But, I fear, every now and then, there will be the misfortune, that we are confronted with something "impossible", when we attend a Stockhausen-production.
I feel that it could be useful to have a discussion-forum on the music of Stockhausen. There are so many people from all over the world, young and old, learned and eager to get into contact with this musical world: musicologists, composers, musicians, music lovers; people who plan concerts - who write books or have to give lectures and so on. So there should be much stuff, many ideas that we can share. And when we have open questions, there may be people who studied just that and could give a hint or a stimulus.
A problem might be the English language, but i feel that is the only possibility that many people who are interested can participate. And we can exercise tolerance to mistakes!