Freitag aus Licht

Karlheinz Stockhausen

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007)
Freitag aus Licht (1991-1994)

Friday from Light is the opera of temptation:  the temptation is to use the body as if it were a musical instrument, the temptation to turn one sound into another.  A special interest for Karlheinz Stockhausen is the focus on the way sound moves through space, creating mobile sound in relief.

Freitag features three musical dimensions:  the first, Weltraum, is a composition for electronic music by Karlheinz Stockhausen which he produced in his studio.  The second has twelve scenes of ballet performed by twelve pairs of dancers dressed up as everyday beings and objects.  The third has dramatic action involving the main characters in the libretto and their respective children.

Team: 5 soloists, 12 couples of dancers, children orchestra, children choir, choir & electronics
First performance of the production: Fall 2022
Color: orange | Celestial body: Venus | Spiritual features: knowledge and wisdom

Freitags-Gruss | Friday’s greeting – 1h08mn

Large flames lighting up the foyer are from candles that gradually melt away.  The electronic music of Weltraum can be heard not only in the foyer, but also in the auditorium.

Acts 1 and 2: Freitag-Versuchung | Friday’s Tempation – 2h25mn

Eve and Ludon (a new personification of Lucifer) meet, and Ludon offers her the hand of his son, Caino, but she hesitates.

Soon after, Eve, while walking with her children who are carrying western-type instruments, runs into Ludon with children who form a choir and who have African instruments.  The two groups play, one after the other, and Ludon suggests to Eve that the choir and orchestra play together.

Eve agrees, and the children play a tutti.  Ludon goes over to the choir and sings with them.  When Ludon and Eve are left by themselves, Eve finally agrees to wed Caino.  They disappear.

The next scene occurs at night.  A lake can be seen shimmering in the moonlight.  Eve meets Caino and, in rapture in union together, they sing a sensual duo.  Eve leaves him, sailing away on a ship;  a red comet crosses the heavens;  and Michael, betrayed, utters a heart-rending cry.

A battle is being waged between Ludon and Eve’s children;  some fall down wounded.  Just as Eve’s children appear to be winning, a flying rhinoceros comes to the rescue of Ludon’s children.  They all disappear in great commotion and fury.

Eve repents. While praying, she sees a vision of Michael, then, further in the distance, a divine light.

Freitags-Abschied | Friday’s Farewell – 1h20mn

As was the case for Friday Greeting, the work Weltraum can be heard in the foyer and other parts of the building.  The audience walks out into a strange orange-tinted haze.

Le Balcon
Children orchestra of Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Lille
Choir: Maîtrise Notre-Dame de Paris
Maxime Pascal, musical direction
Silvia Costa: stage direction, scenography
Rosabel Huguet Dueñas, stage manager’s assistant
Elena Zamparutti, scenography assistant
Bianca Deigner, costumes
assisted by Domitile Guinchard
Bernd Purkrabek, lights
Florent Derex, sound projection
Augustin Muller and Étienne Démoulin, electronics
Emilie Fleury, children choir’s conductor
Alain Muller, singing coach

Jenny Daviet: Eva – soprano
Halidou Nombre: Kaino – baritone
Antoin HL Kessel: Ludon – bass
Charlotte Bletton, Lufa – flute
Iris Zerdoud: Elu – bassethorn
Sarah Kim, Haga Ratovo, Synthibird – synthesizer
Rosabel Huguet Dueñas (the arm), Suzanne Meyer (the mouth), Jean-Baptiste Plumeau (the leg) – dance

Singers: Emmanuelle Monier, Pauline Nachman, Marie Picaut, Michiko Takahashi, Léa Trommenschlager, Ayako Yukawa, Frédéric Albou, Arthur Cady, Bertrand Bontoux, Jean-Christophe Brizard, David Colosio, Florent Martin

Demiurge Children: Colette Verdier, Marin Rayon, Alexis Mazars, Stéphane Poulet, Edgar Cemin, Arsène Jouet

Duration: approx 3h, intermission included.

Production Opéra de Lille, Le Balcon En coproduction avec le Festival d’Automne à Paris et la Philharmonie de Paris

“Make the music visible”

Programme note by Silvia Costa, stage director and scenographer

Putting on a Karlheinz Stockhausen opera is a unique adventure. The stage director’s role is highly unusual, tackling a work for which the composer has imagined a complete universe, with not only his sounds and words, but also his gestures and even some elements of the set and costumes. What freedom can we find when performing Freitag aus Licht, beyond simply carrying out his profuse and detailed indications? How can we stay faithful to his project while also making it come alive? How can we appropriate it and roll it out in accordance with his vision?

The first step was to understand how the score – entirely hand-written with exceptional precision – and its language’ work. That is when I understood what I had to do: make the music visible, by highlighting it, establishing principles, leaving space for inspiration to create forms, listening to sounds to imagine an aesthetic ; and never asking myself any questions about the why. Never.

In the Licht cycle, Freitag is the day of Eva’s temptation, betrayal, and repentance. The narration is rather abridged, but understanding the plot in detail is not essential. In addition, the language is deliberately onomatopoeic and relies more on sensation and reminiscence. Everything is here as a form, as a force. I imagined space as a structure on different levels, each one corresponding to a type of scene. The Realszenen, or “real scenes”, which constitute the dramatic narrative, are on ground level, on earth, in the present, on the closest level closest to the audience. The Tonszenen, or “sound scenes”, take place on the highest level, as if in an Olympus inhabited by twelve pairs of everyday objects that Stockhausen has imagined as a collection of sounds from the world, a mixture of human, animal, and machine, which will, like lovers, hybridize to give birth to imaginary and monstrous beings.

All of this leads to a larger concept, that of the world’s dichotomies, of contrasts, and the opposition of forces: good and evil, black and white, woman and man, left and right. But Freitag also shows how these oppositions can be overcomee through union, even when it seems impossible. From that standpoint, the children – those from the choir in black and from the orchestra in white – seem central to me and I wanted to expand their importance. On-stage for most of the performance, the children are the real demiurges of the space; they give life to the hybrid couples and overturn the principle of opposition in the Kinderkrieg war scene. I chose to represent this scene as a primordial chaos: the clash of the “white” and the “black” children causes an explosion of colours, like an Indian celebration, and all these colours symbolise the unlimited possibilities of the world. It is also an echo of Freitag’s dedication “to all children”.

For Stockhausen, creativity was the driving force behind art and existence. When putting on his work, you need to constantly seek this principle of invention, to be free while staying true to a system, to be visionary while remaining structured. Crazy, but coherent.

The philharmonie de Paris.

First Act : Charlotte Bletton (Lufa), Iris Zerdoud (Elu), Jenny Daviet (Eva) and Antoin HL Kessel (Ludon).

Acte I, Kinder-chor : Choir of the maitrise of Notre-Dame (Ludon’s children), the students of the CRR de Lille (Eva’s children), Sarah Kim and Haga Ratovo (the Synthibird).

Acte II, Fall

Acte II, Fall : Jenny Daviet (Eva) and Halidou Nombre (Kaino).

Alexis Mazars, Arsène Jouet, Colette Verdier, Marin Rayon, Edgar Cemin and Stéphane Poulet (the child actors), Hugues Rondepierre (the leg) and Rosabel Huguet Dueñas (the arm).

Acte II, Kinder-krieg : Choir of the maitrise of Notre-Dame (Ludon and Eva’s children), Sarah Kim and Haga Ratovo (the Synthibird).

Frédéric Albou, Bertrand Bontoux, Jean-Christophe Brizard, Arthur Cady, David Colosio, Florent Martin, Emmanuelle Monier, Pauline Nachman, Marie Picaut, Michiko Takahashi, Léa Trommenschlager and Ayako Yukawa (singers).

Final bow