29.8.2020, 18:30, BrickHouse (Hlubina Coal Mine)
Music theatre, 2019–2020
Music: Michal Rataj
Librettist and director: Katharina Schmitt
Dramaturgy: Viktorie Knotková
Stage design: Pavel Svoboda
Light design: Zuzana Režná
Costumes: Patricia Talacko
Sound: Matěj Šenkyřík
World premiere, 45 min
The composition of Michal Rataj’s A Study of Aphasia mixes music and sounds with the texts of Katharina Schmitt, focusing on spatial and performative aspects of contemporary music-theatre. It is a music-theatre performance for mezzosoprano, violoncello, female vocal quartet, live electronics and one actress. In his book Children’s Speech and Aphasia (1918), the Austrian linguist and founder of logopaedics, Emil Fröschels, describes the relationship between the development of language skills among children, speech impediments and psychology. Among other topics, Fröschels mainly focuses on the area of speech loss or aphasia. Inspired by Fröschels’ book and one particular scene from Ingmar Bergman's Persona (the one in which the actress loses her voice), Schmitt and Rataj explore language, speech and voice. For them, the question, “who speaks?” is just as important as the question, “who cannot speak?” or, “who cannot be heard?” The performance is concerned with the study of voice as a fundamental element of identity. The dramaturgical framework is based on a situation between a mute (speechless) character and a speaking one, which results in a palette of different vocal expressions such as singing, Sprechgesang (speech-song), whispering, speaking and screaming. The states between speaking and lack of speech are presented in relation to the psychology of the characters. The spatial sound of the performance mirrors them.
Michal Rataj (1975) studied musicology and composition in the Czech Republic (FF UK, HAMU), in Germany (HU Berlin, UdK), in the UK (RHUL) and in the USA (CNMAT, UC Berkeley). He mainly focuses on the composition of electroacoustic and instrumental music, and since 2008, he has presented his solo sound performances in Europe and in the USA. Rataj is interested in the compositional aspects of surround sound, and experiments with painting pictures with sound. In 2002, he participated in the creation of the radio program Radioateliér for the Czech Radio station Vltava, and founded the internet portal rAdioCUSTICA, which is focused on mapping the contemporary scene of acoustic arts in the Czech Republic. Since 2014, he has been collaborating externally with Czech Radio. Rataj teaches composition and electroacoustic music at HAMU and NYU Prague. He has participated in many European music festivals (e.g. MetaMorf Trondheim, LAB30 Augsburg, and V:NM Graz). Rataj has done the music and sound design for a large number of radio plays, and has scored dozens of films. He has collaborated with Otakar Koska, Radim Procházka, Lucie Králová, Martin Řezníček, Hana Železná, Kamila Zlatušková and Robert Sedláček.
Katharina Schmitt (1979, Bremen) is a playwright and director. She studied directing at the Prague Academy of Arts and works as a director and playwright. She has received accolades such as the Jakob-Michael-Reinhold-Lenz-Award for Playwriting for her play Knock Out, the Martha Saalfeld Award for Literature, an EHF 2010 Fellowship, a research fellowship from the Berlin Senate for Culture and an Alfred Döblin Scholarship from the Berlin Academy of Arts. Katharina Schmitt has collaborated with many international theatres and festivals, such as the Prague National Theatre, Thalia Theater Hamburg, Schauspiel Leipzig, Watermill Center New York, Festival Musica Strasbourg and the Munich Biennale, among others. Since 2012, she is one of the associate directors of the Studio Hrdinů theatre in Prague. Schmitt has worked extensively as a librettist and director within music theatre, opera and radio art: in 2016, she directed György Ligeti’s operas Aventures & Nouvelles Aventures, the opening of festival NODO Ostrava, and, in 2017, Jiří Kadeřábek’s opera No Man, for which she co-wrote the libretto, at the Prague National Theatre. In 2018, she directed Everything Goes to Plan by Ondřej Adámek, for which she wrote the libretto, at the Munich Biennale. Her radio work has been produced and broadcast by Deutschlandradio, ORF, Český Rozhlas, and WDR, receiving nominations for Prix Marulić and for Grand Prix Nova.