Sonntag aus Licht


Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007)
Sonntag aus Licht (1998-2003)

Sonntag aus Licht is the final opera in the cycle Licht.  The composition was completed in 2003, and the premiere performance was given in 2011.  For Stockhausen, Sunday was the day of the Mystical Union of Michael and Eve, the union leading to the birth of Monday.  As a composition, Sonntag has the purest music in the cycle Licht.  Of the many ideas developed by the composer, one key concept (already seen in Helikopter-Streichquartett) was the aspiration to have music in multiple dimensions of space, but set in a single time scale.

Team: 7 soloists, vocal sextet, 1 child soloist, choir, orchestra & electronics
First performance of the production: Fall 2025
Color : Gold | Celestial Body : Sun | Spiritual features : willpower and strength

Premiere of the opera
April 9 and 10 2011, Köln Opera

Duration : 4h38mn.

Scene 1 : Lichter-Wasser | Light Waters
The audience is seated in an area with aisles in a star formation, coming together in the center of the hall.  A total of 29 instrumentalists are positioned in groups of five along the sides and diagonal lines.  Lichter-Wasser follows the structure of a ritual, moving from one instrument to another, producing sound that circulates in a way reminiscent of the electronic ventures in the previous operas (e.g. Mittwochs-Gruss), but this time the music is performed with acoustic instruments.  The instrumentalists are given water to drink, then leave the stage singing.  The final scene is a duo by the soprano and tenor.

Scene 2 : Engel-Prozessionen | Angels Processions
One choir divided into seven “choirs of angels” sing and move around the audience, exalting the love of God and celebrating the Mystical Union of Michael and Eve.  On stage are the Angels of Water (Montag), the Angels of Earth (Dienstag), the Angels of Life (Mittwoch), the Angels of Music (Donnerstag), the Angels of Light (Freitag), the Angels of Heaven (Samstag) and the Angels of Joy (Sonntag), with, for the Angels of Joy, four soloists, including the soprano and tenor from Lichter-Wasser.  The angels sing (in order) in Hindi, Chinese, German, English, Arabic, Swahili and Spanish.  While the movement of sound in Lichter-Wasser was generated by musicians in fixed positions, for Engel-Prozessionen, the movement of the sound also comes from the singers changing positions.

Scene 3 : Licht-Bilder | Light Pictures
Two pairs of soloists (tenor + trumpet and flute + basset-horn) play variations on the Licht superformula, creating complex mirror-type effects.  The lyrics are from texts used for worship in different religions.

Scene 4 : Düfte-Zeichen | Scents-Signs
Seven types of incense, one for each day of the week are burnt and drift through the auditorium.  Each scent has a geographical reference (e.g. Ireland, Egypt or Mexico).  Large banners display the seven signs of the operas of Licht, and their secret symbolism is revealed by six vocalists.  At the end, a young boy seated in the audience is taken up into the sky by a flying horse.

Scenes 5 et 6 : Hoch-Zeiten | High-Times
The last scene of Licht, performed simultaneously in two separate auditoriums, celebrates the Mystical Union of Eve and Michael, going back over many scenes from previous operas in the cycle.  An orchestral ensemble divided into five groups performs in the first auditorium, while a choir, also divided into five groups, is in the second auditorium.  As the musicians and choir perform their parts simultaneously, repeating them seven times, the music from one auditorium is played into the other one through specially positioned speakers.  The work is a celebration of marriage in Hindi, Chinese, Arabic, English, and Swahili.  After the intermission, the audience changes auditorium and hears the work from “the other side.”

Sonntags-Abschied | Sonntags-Farewell
Sonntags-Abschied is a version for five synthesizers performing the part for the choir in Hoch-Zeiten.  It is performed in the foyer of the theater.

Light – Waters – 52mn
Orchestra with synthesizers

Orchestra instruments : 2 flutes, oboe, english horn, e-flat clarinet, clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, baritone saxophone, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, tenor horn, euphonium, 2 trombones, tuba, 5 violins, 5 violas.

Scene II : Angel processions – 41mn
A cappella choir
Sound projection

Scene III : Light pictures – 43mn
Flute with ringmodulation
Trumpet with ringmodulation
Sound projectionnist

Scene IV : Scents – Signs – 58mn
High soprano
High tenor
Boy’s voice
Sound projection

Scents deployed during the performance :
Monday : Cuchulainn
Tuesday : Kyphi
Wednesday : Mastic
Thursday : Rosa Mystica
Friday : Tate Yunanaka
Saturday : Ud Wood
Sunday : Frankincense

Scene V : High – Times – 74mn
Orchestra with conductor and 5 assistant conductors
Choir with 5 conducting choir members

The orchestra is divided in 5 groups :
Group 1 : 3 flutes, 3 violins
Group 2 : 3 oboes, 3 trumpets
Group 3 : 3 clarinets in B flat, 3 violas
Group 4 : 3 horns in F, 3 bassoons
Group 5 : 3 trombones, 3 cellos

The choir is also divided in 5 groups :
Group 1 : Sopranos 1 (3+3 or 4)
Group 2 : Sopranos 2 (3+3 or 4)
Group 3 : Altos (4+4)
Group 4 : Tenors (4+4)
Group 5 : Basses (4+4)

The following percussion instruments stand next to the 5 groups :

Group 1 : 1 crotale
Group 2 : 4 rin
Group 3 : 4 plate bells
Group 4 : 4 thai gongs
Group 5 : 4 sound plates

These instruments are played by the five assistant conductors.

Sunday’s Farewell – 35mn
Electronic Music (5 synthesizers)