Photo: Matthieu Fappani


Karlheinz Stockhausen DONNERSTAG aus LICHT

Southbank Centre, London, UK

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928–2007) was a visionary of electronic music and – through this trail-blazing work – one of the most important composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Due to its artistic, musical and electronic complexity, the piece in question – DONNERSTAG aus LICHT – is seen as being extremely difficult to perform. In May 2019 however, the Southbank Centre in London, together with the French ensemble Le Balcon will attempt a new production. The opera comes from the composer’s opera cycle LICHT, which orientates itself around the seven days of the week. DONNERSTAG (Thursday) was composed by Stockhausen between 1977 and 1980 with a self-written libretto. The piece – formed of a welcome, three acts and a conclusion – is semi-autobiographic and follows the protagonist, Michael (and angel in human form), on a journey from being a boy with the traumatising death of his parents and his younger brother, through to being accepted by a renowned music academy and performing on a subsequent world tour. The story largely reflects Stockhausen’s youth, as he lost his parents and his brother as a result of the Nazi regime in Germany.

This concert represents the first UK performance of Stockhausen’s monumental work in 34 years, since the Royal Opera House’s previous performance in 1985. The multi-faceted piece contains orchestra music, tape with electronics, voices, dance and theatre. Written for 14 soloists, 3 voices, 8 instrumentalists, 3 dancers, a 60-piece choir and an orchestra, the piece revolves around 3 melodies which themselves belong to 3 characters: the devil, Michael and Eva. The Paris-based ensemble Le Balcon – founded by its conductor, Maxime Pascal, while still at university – will direct the production. In 2013, the ensemble won first prize of the Stockhausen-Foundation award and in 2016 and 2017, they performed an array of excerpts from DONNERSTAG aus LICHT. In the performance in the Royal Festival Hall, Maxime Pascal will combine the capabilities of Le Balcon, the London Sinfonietta, the New London Chamber Choir and students at the Royal Academy of Music; the staging by Benjamin Lazar will be an adaptation for the concert hall of that used in the theatre production. The challenges this piece poses for the artists involved are big, but within that is a unique opportunity to make Karlheinz Stockhausen’s work known to a new generation through an innovative production. An accompanying programme will give insight into further aspects of the work and life of the composer.

May 21 & 22, 2019
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, UK

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