Today there was the first rehearsal with the actress Aylin Yay who will be the narrator in the upcoming joint Hardscore/De Bijloke production, featuring ‘Chut!’ (a world premiere!) and ‘Paternel’.
I already conducted ‘Paternel’ in 2013, but this time I invited Raf de Keninck to conduct both pieces. I prefer leaving conducting to the professionals 🙂
For the sopranos Laurence Servaes and Ines Madeira it will a reprise, Annelies Van Hijfte will complete the cast, although she’s done already several things of mine in the past.
By the way, Annelies has been chosen by all the members of the band Hardscore to become the new singer for the ‘Carbon Fixation’ project, planned for October 2017, again in De Bijloke.
I like chamber operas very much, and if the cultural life would a be more favorable for maverick composers, I think i’d like to compose yearly a new one. Somewhat like in the old days, like Donizetti did. To name only one.
But opera and music theatre have become almost off limit for people like me working outside regular houses. See: two more pieces are ready, but when I try to pitch them I always get the same answers:
1. You aren’t part of our core group of composers.
2. We prefer to present young composers. (which means that they suggest me to quit composing… The sad thing is, that only now I begin to know what to do or not to do for the theatre)…
Vocal music composing started for me in 1991, when Roland Peelman asked me to compose an a capella piece for his vocal ensemble ‘The Song Company’ famous in Australia and in many countries in the far East. (Not entirely true, for in 1981 I already a long cantata ‘Inmediaciones de la noche’, though let me consider this work as somewhat juvenile, although it was presented for the Composer’s Rostrum then, the year that Luciano Berio won 🙂
I almost didn’t dare to accept the Australian commission, because writing for solo voices seemed to me an almost impossible task once you’ve heard the output of lets say Monteverdi. I think I’ve never felt greater pressure of the past than when attempting to add my vocal lines to the incredible vocal repertoire spanning several centuries…
In the end I wrote a piece called ‘Airs à gogo’, on a text by Voltaire (I never could forget the sketch of Monty Python with these beer drinking philosophers in the Outback; I wanted to add an extra pun by letting these Australian artists sing in French. They did it marvelously.
No reason to laugh AT ALL. The only thing I could feel was awe when I heard the result)
Many more piece followed for this ensemble (Aida vede, The roughcast songs, Old airs and the only partially performed XXX songs) .Some even had their first performance live on the Australian broadcasting company ABC.
I’ve always been attracted to narratives, so it was a natural thing after this first contact with singers to tackle an opera. ‘Ga.n’ for four singers and an ensemble of synthesizers was a complete disaster. The librettist, the stage director and the composer, all were novices and completely inexperienced concerning the mechanics of writing for the stage. I maybe composed a nice LOOKING score, 500 pages of meat handwriting, which I rehearsed for more than a year with the singers. I conducted and played one of the synthesizer parts, but I never got the combined sound of the synths right in the hall. It sounded well enough at home, but amplification problems still haunt me nowadays. And the piece was way too long. One hour and a half. Sheer hubris.
And left me terrified again when I heard the word ‘vocal’. I composed my second symphony, again with an amplified singer, and a solo piano part for Iris, (I definitely ignored the tale of the mule and the stone 🙂 and once again I think I botched it. Another large impractical score…
Hardscore the band was then founded, meaning that I learned the hard way to compose songlike material.
Slowly my confidence grew. Though I waited for almost 20 years to give it opera another real try. (In 2003 I composed a kind of choreographed cantata for Ensemble Leporello, sung in Swahili!, directed by Dirk Opstaele, but only three songs and two suites remain on my working list…)
This time I asked an experienced theatrical writer to write a libretto: Philippe Blasband with whom I now already have collaborated several times. And LOD invited an experienced stage director: Johan Dehollander. This time it was bingo: ‘Middle East’ became a minor success, and toured in Belgium, Holland and France. Moving often people to tears. Maybe I indeed needed to compose these former six or seven hours of vocal music before I got it right 🙂
Then followed ‘Tongval’ (own libretto), a short opera about opera, ‘Noite inquieta’ on texts by Pessoa, and then Simon Bauwens, assistant to Gerard Mortier in Madrid, invited me to compose a one act opera for the Teatro Real in Madrid.
I was free to choose the writer which lead to a splendid collaboration with Rosa Montero. We managed to finish the opera in 7 months, but then came the terrible news that the head of this theatre vetoed the performance. Apparently talking and singing about divorce is still not possible in catholic Spain. This opera remains unperformed and may remain so, because mounting a production with six singers is way to expensive for vzw Hardscore…
This didn’t stop me to compose yet another vocal piece ‘Double takes’ with lyrics of my own inspired by photos of Ronny Lauwers. Sadly, this score is gathering dust too on my shelves…
But when De Bijloke proposed to present Paternel again, I immediately felt this program needed a kind of prequel, for Paternel only lasts about 45-50 minutes. ‘Chut!’ adds about 15 minutes and connects it to the devastating events we witness all too often concerning the migration and fugitives.
Machteld Timmermans will once again direct both pieces…
And last week I finished a score with four arias from ‘Middle East’, for piano and high voice.
Let me call it yet another reason to rejoice! 🙂