As performances of Aus LICHT now approach in Amsterdam, I thought I would just offer a few of my thoughts on what is to come.
It is, I believe, one of the most exciting events to be on the musical calendar in a very long time and, for all of us who love this music so much, an incredible event: never before has so much of this huge work been performed as a single project and it will be a wonderful opportunity for us to experience so much of LICHT within the framework of a single, coordinated artistic vision.
I have little doubt that there will be many views about the production and I know from what I have seen at rehearsals earlier this year that there will be some aspects that I will not like, and others that I will see as very beautiful. I think it is good and important that we keep lively and open discussions going about these issues and that we all (not least of all myself) remain open to having our perceptions and misperceptions opened up. I look forward to those discussions over the coming weeks and months within the sort of considered and respectful context that Thomas has so wonderfully been able to maintain as moderator of this forum.
However, may I also say - maybe even plead - that as we undertake those discussions that we do not lose sight of what I feel confident is going to be an amazing musical experience over the three days of Aus LICHT. It has been my huge privilege to attend several rehearsals over the past year and it has been such a wonderful thing to see how this large body of young musicians (singers, instrumentalists, sound projectionists, dancers), most of whom have been learning the parts they are performing for the first time, have grown into these hugely challenging roles. They have worked incredibly hard - working over and over, for long hours, on every detail to get it right. I have often seen musicians at work, but this has been extraordinary.
I think it is easy to forget that coming as a performer to a work such as LICHT is not like coming to established repertoire. Not only for the obvious reason that there are so many aspects to Stockhausen performance practice that are new and more multi-dimensional than what many musicians are used to, but also because for almost everyone the whole thing is new. It's not like mounting another production of Wagner's Ring where, huge though that is, chances are that most of the cast will have performed their parts somewhere before, some of them many times. Half of LICHT is as long as all of the Ring and in Aus LICHT it has been a huge learning experience for everyone. And that means not only that every person has had to learn their part, but also that the whole process of a large number of people working cooperatively on a single project means they have had to learn how to learn their parts together. Every time I have come to The Netherlands to watch rehearsals I have been staggered at how committed these people have been to doing that well, and to supporting and enabling each other in the process, under the constant, vigilant, and skilled guidance of Kathinka Pasveer and Suzanne Stephens who, of course, created so much of these roles in their premiere performances or at least were at the side of the composer as the notes were written.
So we are, in a word, in for a treat with the music. A rich and fertile collective of new talent has been harvested through this process who will all have so much more to give afterwards in the ongoing task that we all want to see supported: the promotion and continued performances of Stockhausen's music.
So whatever debates might ensue over matters of staging, or whether this or that piece should have been included instead of some other, I really do hope the huge achievement these artists have accomplished as musicians will be something we all celebrate loudly and for a long time. If you get moved by something you hear - and, believe me, you will - please, please take time to thank the people who did it!
If we are ever to see a full performance of LICHT, the people coming together to perform half of it in Amsterdam in the coming weeks will, I feel sure, be crucial to making it possible.
To me, Stockhausen fan without any musical qualifications except enjoying, the Aus Licht project as a whole was perfect. Please let me explain this a little more. I enjoyed the performances in every aspect: Selection of acts, the musicians, sound, video, lighting, costums, the hall itself. The beauty was breathtaking. The minimalistic staging is reinforcing the music, the consistency of the staging facilitates the mental processing of the different acts. Even my impression that some acts have been performed elsewhere in a more attractive way, contributes to my appreciation: in theory it is possible that new productions will have their own attraction, and my desire to visit other productions of the Licht Operas is not diminished. And thanks to the unique and consistent staging, new performances will not affect my memory of this excellent Aus Licht project. I will cherish that memory. Thanks to all people involved!! Ellen
I agree very much with you Ellen. For me it was an overwhelming experience, unlike any other I have had. The power and conviction of the performances, from really every one of the musicians, dancers, and sound projectionists, was astounding. The sense of huge and cosmic power in the music, together with its human intimacy and the ways in which the music of LICHT resonates so deeply within us, every bit as much as it does around us: for me all of these were amazing. It far exceeded my expectations and even the staging won me over more than I expected it to.
I know Pierre Audi removed some of Stockhausen's composed movements and added some of his own, and I understand why people would be angry about this (there were some aspects of this that angered me too) - but I ultimately felt he allowed the music and its spirit to come through. Maybe this was more attributable to the power of the music than to the staging itself, which was mostly quite minimal and I think the visual power of it was at least as much about the lighting design as the movements on stage itself. I was at times a little distracted by the huge screens - but I can also understand why they were needed in such a large space. The sound in there was so magnificent. I didn't expect it to work so well. The sound projectionists did a stunning job.
For me it was overwhelmingly wonderful to hear the members of the audience talking about the experience - they were carried away to new heights by it, filled with wonder and a sense of awe. Even I, an agnostic, could believe in angels during ENGEL-PROZESSIONEN and UNSICHTBARE CHÖRE. I heard a story of another member of the audience who said he now doubted his atheism. To me, all of this just shows how powerfully the music worked in these performances, and how it was (at least for many people and at least for the most part) supported and enlivened by how it was performed. People had such a strong sense of something bigger than themselves in LICHT and from Stockhausen.
So, yes, there were things to criticise in the staging and I do not for a moment wish to suggest that those criticisms are trivial - but the overall impact of the whole experience: musically, scenically, sonically, was for me tremendous. The musicians, the sound projectionists, and the people who trained them over the past two years at the Conservatorium, and then worked so tirelessly with them in rehearsals - especially Kathinka Pasveer but also Suzanne Stephens and Adrian Heger, and also the choir conductors - deserve so much praise for their work.
I will want to write more about this but will first need to collect my thoughts some more because I am still floating in a place far beyond ground level, and also I am keen to hear others' impressions because I know some will have different views to my own. But for me it was overwhelming and I am very, deeply, thankful to everyone involved.
AUS LICHT in Amsterdam 2019 was simply a great experience. What can be said beyond that? I met people who are ”Stockhausen specialists” and who join this platform. They all had their different favorite piece, their different favorite performance. They all could criticise certain things (staging, musical performance) but never the same ones. So clearly there are individual tastes, individual observations. So what can be said objectively? I try to give an answer away from my own preferences. First of all, and I think most will agree, was the sound very good. I never experienced the electronic music in such a good way. Second point is, and I think most will agree, too, the fact that young musicians played this music with the greatest matter of course, or implicitness. Not only the music: I remember how strange it was 30 years ago for instrumentalists to move around while playing. This is normal now. Third point is the staging without any ideological ballast. I know that Audi changed some staging prescriptions of Stockhausen but the overall impression was a sympathetic rendering of the scores. The humor and the cheerfulness of the music were perceptible. – There have been smaller drawbacks. I could mention them but I think it is not fair. This is something for the musicians who have to work on it. I have to summarize: AUS LiCHT was a great success. I am glad to have been there in Amsterdam. My next post will deal with the reception in the German newspapers.
Yes, I saw a little of the same thing - but the wonderful thing about that was that the people who found some parts not so much to their liking were so enthused by the parts they loved that they seemed keen to keep on discovering more.
As we all know, when music is new to us, we sometimes have to give it time. I think this can be true even for people who have already discovered and begun to love Stockhausen's music. I think a big mistake in listening to Stockhausen's music is to expect every piece to sound the same or to impress us in the same way - because, of course, Stockhausen was always exploring new ideas in everything he wrote. This to me is one of the endless wonders of LICHT - that the music is all so cohesively connected through the use of the Superformula, but every part of LICHT has something different to discover in it.
It is nice to think that this production of Aus LICHT has sparked this curiosity in people - both the Stockhausen newbies and even those who were already familiar with some parts of LICHT: a curiosity to discover more and to find the treasures in the things that might at first seem more puzzling and difficult to approach.
For me as for most of us attending "aus LICHT" in Amsterdam the first thought is: gratitude. For all the musicians who played and acted incredibly well, many of them studying an enormous amount of time to present the music; for the perfect sound in the big hall, for the staging and, above all, for the daring spirit to plan this huge project! It has been a big success, and everybody agreed to that. Now some additional remarks: When I think of the productions of parts from LICHT I attended, I have the impression: What the opera cycle needs is a stage director who is willing just to illustrate on stage what the music expresses. Even to approach the music in a naive way can be very helpful. For me that was the case here in Amsterdam, also in the 2 productions by Carlus Padrissa (La Fura dels Baus) and his team, in Birmingham and in FREITAG in Leipzig (DIENSTAG I was not able to attend). But when the stage team has a strong own concept (for instance psychological or marxistic or political), as we saw it in Basel, the production will fail. Because: Stockhausen's music above all needs space. If it is forced into a narrow frame it will loose its full power. But even when the staging is a bit superficial, it is ok because there still is the space for the music which will tell everything. And that was the case in this production. Sure, one can imagine better solutions in many scenes; often one could realize that understandibly there was not time enough to go deeper - for instance in the first night the important erotic dimension of MONDEVA and MISSION was missing. But that did not a real harm to the presentation of the work.
The Amsterdam production was something like a digest of the cycle. For me that resulted in the impression: Stockhausen as the genius that he is, was in the center. This time I had the same impression as years before when I for the first times attended the Kürten courses: Unbelievable the richness of the music, its grandeur, its diversity - and it is very important to make that clear, to show that. Really great! But what came more into the background was the spiritual dimension of the operas, their specific content. That will unfold when every day of the week has its own performance - and that will be quite another challenge in staging the music.
Finally a remark on the huge circular building in which it took place. At first it seemed to be ideal with its two stages and the possibility to change the chairs as the music demands it. But sometimes I had the impression that the room was too big. In KATHINKAs GESANG the six percussionists were very distant. You could hear them perfectly, but for the piece it is essential, I think, that the public is touched by the mood they represent; Richard Toop once said that there is something incredibly sad that comes from them. I could feel that in the much smaller room of the Muffathalle in Munich - but here it was impossible. The same thing I felt in INVASION: In the big room the fighting scenes for me had much of a (brilliant) show; I could not feel the threatening impact of it as in the smaller space in Kürten. That might be a problem for bigger productions hopefully to come.
I agree with Thomas. The staging was so cautious, so reserved, that the music was able to breathe. The quality of the music, its richness was clearly perceptible for everyone. I want to add one remark to what I already wrote: There was no grimacing, there were no abrupt non-intended body movements of the musicians like in early performances of new music. We forgot this but that’s how it was. I cannot praise the musicians enough for their ”natural” playing which of course was the result of long practicing but also of a familiarity with this kind of music. We can be happy to be witnesses of this evolution.
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!