Although the Attacca disc does not provide a great deal of detail about the origin these recordings, they appear to be live, probably of the premiere performances as captured in Dutch radio broadcasts. This is performed by the ensemble Kaalslag i. Of the two recordings, the Nonesuch is clearly preferable; while the premiere of De Stijl was a good one, this performance is still a bit rough around the edges and the recording perspective is distant, favoring the percussion over everything else. Louis Andriessen: De Stijl -- Trepidus -- Dances justifies its existence through inclusion of Dances, which, despite the title, is a mostly static work for voice and chamber orchestra.
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The four-part De Materie is representative of his bold and manifest operatic activity. In a different way, the delicate Writing to Vermeer , again in collaboration with Greenaway tenderly recomposes baroque music and its wider culture. The solo bass trombone elaborating a descending glissando motive slowly involves another trombone part and the two lines grow into a background structure supporting the singing of the principal character, the Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher.
Theatre of the World is certainly not the first stage work in which Andriessen is attracted to the grotesque. As a metaphor for mankind, the barge drifts away in an unpredictable direction. It is a Brechtian parody about film, opera, and their interrelationship. It mockingly depicts the world of western movies and an alleged conspiracy against composers. The Uruguayan composer Huan Manuel de Rosa is a macho violent guy who appears to care more about his horse than his mistress Esmeralda.
Yet despite his cruelty, Esmeralda does everything to please her lover. Suddenly they realize that they have arrived at Babylon. The tower of Babylon is the one depicted by Pieter Bruegel, in another painting laden with symbolism and critical of the actions of humanity.
The fact that the libretto is written in seven languages Italian, French, English, Dutch, Middle Dutch, Spanish and Latin probably refers both to the Tower of Babel myth, and to the fact that Kircher himself spoke several languages. The motive of the ship sailing on the river that makes one to forget is again a potent invocation of human nature in its more superficial, grotesque aspects. The tender and ecstatic aria of Sor Juana speaks of pyramids, of Pharaoh, and of associated glories.
It is profoundly melancholic and ecstatic at one and the same time. The singing characters in Theatre of the World are primarily male. Padre Atanasio is most of the time followed by the boy who turns out to be a devil in disguise. Likewise, the character of Pope Innocenzo XI is portrayed as particularly grotesque and conservative. His stiffness is underlined. A minor role is given to the hangman of Rome, too.
The young lovers, He and She, are likewise a reference to Romeo and Juliet. And hovering above all those characters there is the celestial presence of Sor Juana, a Mexican nun and poetess who was allegedly the platonic love of Athanasius Kircher. Hers is the most tender and most passionate music in this piece.
Even when an opera is named after a man, the most impressive roles may well be sung by women. The most obvious example of this is Writing to Vermeer, where the title character never appears, but is nonetheless the one who holds the power to objectify the women. Sor Juana also appears to be singing from far away as it were, from Mexico.
Those figures stand for an Ideal of female beauty for Dante and Kircher respectively. They appear as objects of desire, of comfort, and of longing, and as such they are out of reach. One boundary that Andriessen dismantles in his operas is between different vocal types: jazz singers, opera singers, early music singers, folk singers. He has no interest in such distinctions. The situation is not different in Theatre of the World, where, for example, the three witches, as well as He and She, are cabaret singers.
Musically they are also reminiscent of Spanish-Mexican folk songs. In terms of musical language Theatre of the World could be seen as linked to La Commedia to form a diptych. It is at least equally eclectic. It is intriguing to see just how many references, quotations and self-quotations Andriessen uses. The solo trombone reference appears at the beginning of Scenes 1, 8 and 9, where it is further developed in an ensemble context.
The whole character of Sor Juana is based on a kind of double reference — located somewhere between Hadewijch and Beatrice. There are several clear references to the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, most obviously at the beginning of scenes 4 and 5. At the end of his operas Andriessen often introduces some kind of Epilogue. And in Theatre of the World the characters of the four philosophers — Leibniz, Goethe, Descartes and Voltaire - are introduced only in the Epilogue.
The tranquility of a remote Dutch village, whose inhabitants consider the most important things in life to be sauerkraut and clocks, has been disturbed by the arrival of the devil-musician. Order, tradition and boredom have all been banished! Dutch version of the text was published in the program booklet.
Louis Andriessen: De Stijl; Trepidus; Dances
ANDRIESSEN DE STIJL PDF