Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Daphnes Garten Oberwart

Part 1: tschüß

Lynne and I said goodbye to the first run of this beautiful, tragic and true production by Peter Wagner. Martin Ganthaler, who played the bass in the attending choir, said it was the first performance where he felt he was taking a bow for someone else, in this case of course the subject of the opera: Daphne Caruana Galizia. The ovations were for her bravery and her strength, and when the piece ends with Katharina Tiwald's reworking of Mark Antony's "Here we are to speak of what we know, the good that women do lives after them" the tears that are shed are for her as well, and for her fellow martyred journalists.
But I must applaud all the performers: Janina's gorgeous Daphne, Michaela's wry portrayal of the voice, Marika and Johanna's beautiful blending, and Martin and Fernando's power and comedy. The comedy is so important in this piece. I couldn't think of another way to set the ridiculousness of the corruption and the denials of corruption, and the ineptitude of Daphne's killers.
I was so happy when Peter pulled the whole band out of the "pit" and forced them onto the stage to accept their due - thank you Davorin for navigating the score so adeptly. Too bad we had to bring down the fortissimi to not deafen all in attendance. Maybe next time, in Klagenfurt / Eisenstadt / Vienna.

Part 2: writing fast

As with Rattensturm, this piece had a short schedule, three-ish months from talking it over with Peter and Katherina before it needed to be in Davorin and the singers' dropboxes, along with all the attendant synthetic recordings, click tracks, parts and partiturs, and my own german-bing-crosby-mixed-with-teen-boy rendition of all the singing and speaking for Peter to use. Someday I should really learn some German.

But speed means once again theft, or at least accepting whatever first comes to mind, which sometimes turns out to be a chat-gpt-like interpolation between all one has heard before in one's own musical latent space. And I may have done a little more than usual in memoriam of my friend Mark Alburger, who died just recently after a mercifully short illness, whose style was based on troping the works of others, e.g. his Variations on Variations of Brahms on a Theme of Haydn. So, some examples in no particular order:

1. Scene 10 Übergriffig's opening, when I wrote it, seemed so familiar, and I puzzled over it until I realized it was in fact the opening notes of the I Spy TV series theme song.

2. Szene 09 Vom Meer: the opening is obviously taken from the opening of La Mer because of course.

3. Szene 06 I am from Austria: It's a short scene, and Peter said seems like it should be a scherzo. Always happy to have a starting point, and although maybe he was just indicating the literal meaning, I thought of the glorious 9th, and so in the pot she went. Curiously Martin was the only one who noticed, and he, being a bass, I prompted to sing the 4th movement of the aforesaid glorious 9th and I joined in until Michaela or maybe Martin looked at me like why do you know all the words and, strangely enough, when I went to meet Katherina's 8th grade class and she said, let's listen to some classical music so we know where we are with this composer guy, she played the European National Anthem and, when she saw me singing along, she mouthed toward me do you know all the words by heart, and I sheepishly said yes, which reminded me of:

4. When I first met Katherina, I told her I planned to set some of her words comically, and she said something about working in something Baroque. I think she said Baroque, although maybe it was baroque. Anyway, I loved my first composition teacher Robert Gross, who was a fine violinist and whose recording of the Biber Passacaglia I have also always loved, so in the pot she goes as well. It turns out that simple descending line is the basis of a lot of passacaglia tunes and chord progressions, including my own from Queer, and Philip Glass's I think Satyagraha, and some others, so I tossed in a bit of each.

5. The libretto starts with Daphne's death, so I wanted the piece to start with the explosion of the car, and I found a recording online of someone blowing up a car in the countryside - I believe for a sound effect - and it was preceded by bird noises, which I loved, as the birds brought to mind the garden of the title, and were such a beautiful and awful contrast to the Hackfleisch that follows. The birds reminded me of Messiaen, and two of the most beautiful pieces of all time are the two string solos in Quatuor pour la fin du temps, which consist almost entirely of major chords s l o w l y intoned on the piano while the string plays a chromatic melody above, sometimes resolving, sometimes straining against. I had been imitating this piece for some months in my not-often-enough piano improvisations, ever since Nikola Printz had talked about recording a vocalise of the cello movement, and recently I had a found a beautiful melody of my own, so into the pot it went as well.

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