Evening @ Opera

31.8.2019, 19:00, Triple Hall Karolina


Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Peter Rundel, Conductor
Jiří Nekvasil, Director
David Bazika, Stage Design
Claudia Barainsky, Soprano

Petr Bakla: There Is An Island Above The City (2018) *world premiere
Morton Feldman: Neither (1977; libretto by Samuel Beckett)

Morton Feldman’s composition Neither can be viewed as a deconstruction of the opera form. It lacks any conventional drama and the only “character” present on stage is the singer of the solo soprano part. The libretto, which was written by Samuel Beckett, consists of only a few lines. Neither makes an intense, unmediated and deep impression on the listener. The evening will also include the world premiere of Czech composer Petr Bakla’s piece There is An Island Above the City. Bakla says: “Don’t try to make your music more interesting than it actually is. It will help nothing.” Here, Bakla is attempting to create a composition as an “objective” exploration of the musical material.

Subject to change.


Petr Bakla – There is an island above the city (2018)

Born in Prague in 1980, Petr Bakla often employs basic pitch-based material (typically the chromatic and the whole-tone scales) in his compositions. He is interested in constructing situations and structural contexts in which these frugal musical elements can acquire a unique expressiveness and energy. A frequent feature of Bakla’s work is the simultaneous course of two musical/sound layers which, although usually markedly differing in dynamics to allow for a sense of “figure and background”, are not mutually subordinating – they are of equal importance, their “friction” creating specific tension and ambiguity. Bakla’s music has been performed in the Czech Republic, Armenia, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Armenia, Ukraine, and the USA (Boston, NYC, San Diego), in many cases commissioned and/or performed by distinguished musicians. His collaboration with the Ostrava Center for New Music has been of special importance.

         There Is an Island Above the City – A place we repeatedly want to return to without any practical need is, by definition, a place of pilgrimage. Coming up with a practical reason for writing music is difficult (this is certainly so in my case), and as with anyone else, what I have once discovered in music (where I was) has a tendency to recur in some form (I return). There Is an Island Above The City consists of three parts, with the length of the first two approximately corresponding to the length ofthe third. It may be said that I am approaching a place of pilgrimage from two directions.

Petr Bakla


Morton Feldman: Neither (1977)        

Samuel Beckett: „Mr. Feldman, I don’t like opera.“
Morton Feldman: „I don’t blame you!“
SB: „I don’t like my words being set to music.“
MF: „I’m in complete agreement. In fact it’s very seldom that I’ve used words. I’ve written a lot of pieces with voice, and they’re wordless.“
SB: „But what do you want?“
MF: „I have no idea!“ 


         This is how Morton Feldman recollected his conversation with Samuel Beckett, several years after it took place in September, 1976 in Berlin. At the beginning of 1976, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma commissioned Feldman to compose an opera, and the composer concluded that the textual component of the work should be created by Beckett. He was very well acquainted with the works of the writer and playwright, and some of Beckett‘s creative approaches had left a strong mark on Feldman. The composition was of great importance to Feldman, and he commenced preliminary  work on it immediately. In July, 1976 alone he completed three pieces (OrchestraElemental Proceduresand Routine Investigations), which were conceived as practice for collaboration with Beckett. On September 18th, Feldman‘s piece Orchestrawas premiered in Glasgow, and afterwards, Feldman left for Berlin to meet Beckett in person at the Schiller Theater to ask him to write the libretto. As is evident from the excerpt above, Beckett was rather reluctant to take part in the creation of the opera. Nevertheless, after Feldman showed him a draft of the score, in which he used excerpts from Beckett’s screenplay to his Film(1965) as textual material, he finally provoked Beckett’s interest in the project. The postcard with the short prosaic text neither arrived in Buffalo not long after they met. Feldman, who had been working laboriously on the opera even before he had the libretto in his hands, finished the composition on 30thJanuary 1977.

         Neither can be defined by the liminality of its form. It lacks a conventionally structured dramatic plot, the only “character” present on stage is the singer of the solo soprano part, the libretto consists of merely several lines of text, and a neutral vocal is sung over much of the composition. The structure of the music, as well as the textual component, are stripped of any stereotypical patterns that tend to be associated with the opera genre. It could be precisely for these reasons that Neithermakes such an intense, unmediated, and deep impression on the listener.

Petr Zvěřina




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