Mittwoch aus Licht

Opera

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007)
Mittwoch aus Licht (1995-1997)

Mittwoch is the opera of cooperation and reconciliation with the three protagonists of Licht coming together in an alliance.  Air is the element of Wednesday, and exerts a major influence on the writing of all four scenes.  The scenes are not held together in a structured narrative, but in a shared relationship built around the idea of unification as expressed in the music itself.  The music of Mittwoch is a work to open boundaries:  opening up the concert hall, increasing the number of spatial dimensions for a single time dimension in music, opening a vision of music flying above, music produced by musicians raised up into the air.

Mittwochs-Gruss | Wednesday Greeting
A tape of electronic music (Michaelion, from the fourth scene of Mittwoch aus Licht) is heard in the auditorium.  The audience sees sails and kites and has the impression that the wind is blowing.  The music moves throughout the full scope of space.

Scene 1 : Welt-Parlament | World Parliament
Here is a world parliament comprised of an a cappella choir standing in a semi-circle on stage.  The Speaker of the house of parliament, in the center, addresses the group, calling on the Members of Parliament to describe their ideas of love.  Twelve soloists appear from different directions and move towards the center, singing about love, and with a range of contrasting texts.  The speaker is witty in his corrections and congratulations on statements made by the Members of Parliament.  A coloratura soprano suddenly appears, taking the Speaker’s chair, singing and even conducting the choir at one stage.

Scene 2 : Orchester-Finalisten | Orchestra Finalists
The electronic music (concrete music) of Orchester-Finalisten generates eleven sound spaces, emerging and combining to be superimposed in layers of three and projected as octophonic sound.  The sound takes the audience inside Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, above a swimming pool where the shrill voices of children can be heard, into a souk in Marrakesh, over a harbor, by a steam train, and more.  Twelve soloists (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, violin, viola, cello, double bass), hover and glide through the air, flying close to the audience.  Each one plays a solo, as would a virtuoso musician auditioning for an orchestra.  As time moves forward, the sounds move further away from the conventional acoustic concept of a concert hall, and the audience has the experience of hearing the sound in ever vaster, more open spaces.  For Stockhausen, the audience is not in a state intended to observe the world, but to open the scope for clandestine experiences of sound.

Scene 3 : Helikopter-Streichquartett | Helicopter String Quartet
Stockhausen considered the Helikopter-Streichquartett to be one of his experiences of a dream come true.  It is the most famous work in the entire cycle of Licht and is the fulfillment of one of Stockhausen’s grand sound ideas, i.e. his aspiration to perform one piece of music in a number of venues at the same time.  The four musicians in the quartet enter the auditorium, bow to the audience, then leave.  Each one boards a helicopter, and they perform the music on their scores while in flight.  Both sound and image are broadcast in real time for the audience still seated in the auditorium via four screens and four groups of speakers.  At the end of the work, the musicians, together with the pilots, come back into the auditorium and are invited to discuss the work with the audience.

Scene 4 : Michaelion
Karlheinz Stockhausen’s imagination devised central intergalactic headquarters known as “Michaelion” where earthlings are, so it seems, endeavoring to elect a new president capable of efficiently translating cosmic signals.  One candidate is Lucicamel (Luzikamel), an animal followed by a trombonist.  The audience is thrilled with everything he says and sings;  but at the time of the election, the camel collapses, falling to the ground as if in a bullfight.  The animal is skinned and emerges as a monk clad in yellow.  Monk Michael, with enlightened, wise words and the music of Mittwoch aus Licht, finally convinces Lucifer to work in the interest of harmony in the cosmos.

Mittwochs-Abschied | Wednesday Farewell
In the foyer, the recording of the electronic music of Orchester-Finalisten is heard as the audience leaves the theater.

Wednesday Greeting – 54mn
Tape
Sound projection

Scene I : World Parliament  – 38mn
1 song leader
1 coloratura soprano
3 sopranos
3 altos
3 ténors
1 baritone
3 bass
2 actors

Scene II : Orchestra Finalists – 46mn
1 oboe
1 cello
1 pianist
1 violin
1 tuba
1 flute
1 trombone
1 alto
1 trumpet
1 double bass
1 horn
1 percussion
Sound projection

Scene III : Helicopter string quartet – 31mn
String quartet
4 helicopters with pilotes and 4 sound technicians
4 televisions transmitters
4×3 sound transmitters
4 columns of televisions and 4 columns of loudspeakers.
Sound projectionist/Moderator

Scene 4 : Michaelion – 59mn
Choir
Bass with short-wave receiver
Flute
Bassethorn
Trumpet
Trombone
Synthesizer
Tape
2 dancers
Sound projectionist

Mittwochs-Abschied – 44mn
Musique électronique et concrète | Electronic and concrete music

Premiere of the opera
August 22, 2012, Birmingham Opera Company à Argyle Works

First performance of the production
Fall 2023

Total duration : 4h27mn