Opera Matinée: György Kurtág's Fin de partie
World premiere of Kurtág's first ever opera, Fin de partie, based on a play by Samuel Beckett, recorded recently at La Scala in Milan plus a new piece from the New Music Biennial.
World premiere of 'Fin de partie', György Kurtág's first ever opera, written at the age of 91, recorded recently at La Scala theatre in Milan. Based on a famous play by Samuel Beckett and featuring four characters only, this is an existential reflection on the passing of time and the meaning of life, which unfolds in one act. La Scala Chorus and Orchestra, and a cast of soloists lead by the bass Frode Olsen, are conducted by Markus Stenz.
Then, the afternoon continues with another recording by the Suisse Romande Orchestra, our ensemble of the week, with its Music and Artistic Director, Jonathan Nott, conducting Schoenberg's Erwartung, Op. 17, a monodrama also in one act, featuring the soprano Angela Denoke in the sole role.
Closing the afternoon, a newly commissioned piece from the New Music Biennial that took place at the South Bank Centre in London earlier this month.
Presented by Kate Molleson.
Kurtag: Fin de partie, in one act
Hamm..........Frode Olsen (bass)
Clov..............Leigh Melrose (baritone)
Nell...............Hilary Summers (contralto)
Nagg............Leonardo Cortellazzi (tenor)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Markus Stenz, conductor
Schoenberg: Erwartung, Op. 17, monodrama in one act
Angela Denoke, soprano
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Jonathan Nott, conductor
New Music Biennial
Roderick Williams: Three Songs from Ethiopia Boy
Chris Beckett (poet)
Roderick Williams (baritone)
Eduardo Portal (conductor)
Four people live in the cramped space of a house by the sea: Hamm, an elderly gentleman confined to a wheelchair; his servant Clov who is instead unable to sit down; and Hamm’s very old parents, Nagg and Nell, neither of whom has legs, and who are stuck in two dustbins. The four living together proves difficult. Hamm cannot stand the presence of his parents and their chit-chat; Nell can hardly bear Nagg, while Clov cares for the other three with a detached, sarcastic air of weariness. All four are waiting for an end to this static, claustrophobic situation with its lack of possible developments.
The first character to appear is Nell, whose words recall a dim glimmer of memory: the sound of footsteps, the only sound to be heard on the beach (1. Prologue). Then Clov and Hamm appear; the servant is troubled and uneasy on his legs and he makes repetitive gestures, interspersed with short, nervous laughter; these are the same gestures he makes every day while carrying out his domestic chores (2. Clov’s Pantomime). The servant then expresses his conviction – or is it his hope? – that the situation in which he finds himself is about to end (3. Clov’s First Monologue). Hamm, on the other hand, reflects on his own sufferings and on those of his parents: despite a feeling of despondency and of exhaustion, he claims that he is incapable of bringing things to an end (4. Hamm’s First Monologue).
The lives of Nagg and Nell are sorely tried by their tremendous invalidities and exhausted by the wear and tear of time, by the monotony of their usual bickering, and by their mutual lack of comprehension; in the middle of their conversation, the memories resurface of their tandem cycling accident in the Ardennes, when they both lost their legs, and then of a boat trip on Lake Como. These are the only memories that still make them laugh and, at least apparently, give them a little nostalgia for a life spent together. Yet, Hamm, who wishes he could sleep, is irritated by his parents’ chattering and orders Clov to throw the bins, along with Nagg and Nell, into the sea. In the meantime, Nell dies: but none of the other characters appears to even notice (5. Bin).
Hamm wants to tell Nagg a story: in days gone by, a father had come to him on Christmas Eve asking for bread for his son and Hamm had decided to take him on (6. Novel). Nagg remembers when Hamm was a child and needed him (7. Nagg’s Monologue), then Hamm reflects on his difficult relations with others (8. Hamm’s Penultimate Monologue), before asking Clov for his tranquilliser: the servant replies that there are no tranquillisers left (9. Hamm and Clov’s Dialogue).
Hamm then tells Clov that he no longer needs him. Still, he asks Clov to say something that he may remember before leaving; Clov remarks that, up until that moment, Hamm had never spoken to him and that only now, as he is about to depart, does his master pay him any attention (10. “It’s over, Clov” and Clov’s Vaudeville).
It is time for Clov to reflect on his condition: he has never understood the meaning of words like “love” and “friendship” and yet he feels old, weary, incapable of forming new habits; he is bound to the physiological cycle of a daily life that is repetitive and always the same (11. Clov’s Last Monologue). As Clov is about to go, Hamm thanks him (12. Transition to the Finale). Then, even though Clov is on the very point of leaving, but he has not yet moved, Hamm realises he has been left alone (13. Hamm’s Last Monologue): it is up to him – and only him – to continue playing the endgame. (14. Epilogue).