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Le Grand Macabre [Import anglais] Coffret, Double CD, Import
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Description du produit
Description du produit
Zu den wenigen jüngeren Opern, die es erfolgreich ins Repertoire geschafft haben, gehört zweifellos "Le Grand Macabre" von György Ligeti, einem der wichtigsten Komponisten des 20. Jahrhunderts. Ursprünglich entstanden in den 1970er Jahren, hat Ligeti das Stück voller komisch-absurder Szenen zwanzig Jahre später für Aufführungen in Paris überarbeitet. In der dazu produzierten Referenzaufnahme leitet Stardirigent Esa-Pekka Salonen das Philharmonia Orchestra. Zu den prominenten Sängern gehören Jard van Nes, Derek Lee Ragin, Willard White und Charlotte Hellekant. In AUDIO hieß es: "Echt irre, was der Avantgarde-Senior in diesem Geniestück zusammengebraut hat: eine freche Collage aus Comic und Slapstick, abgeschmeckt mit Sarkasmen und vibrierenden rhythmischen Modellen."
Créé en 1978, cet opéra adapté de La Balade du Grand Macabre de Michel de Ghelderode constitue l'un des sommets de l'oeuvre de Gyorgy Ligeti. Le compositeur y déploie en effet les multiples facettes de son écriture orchestrale et vocale pour exprimer la vision à la fois funèbre, burlesque et dérisoire d'un monde en proie à la folie, au mensonge et à l'illusion. Le titre renvoie directement à une peinture de Breughel dont Ligeti actualise, par-delà les siècles, la verve et l'ironie grinçante. -- Michel Marmin
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A écouter absolument. Bien mieux que la version de 1974.
Ligeti dit lui même que c'est un anti-anti-opéra.
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But then I got the Wergo version (live in 1987), and was not so impressed. Most of it, I understood, was due to the interpretation, which was too slow in spots for my tastes, but it also sounded distracted in the arrangement. It was hard to keep your eye on the goal with all the extended slapstick and farce going on.
Now comes this new version, edited and revised by Ligeti himself in 1997. And what a difference it makes. It is in English this time, but you'll still need the libretto, as some of the sung parts are just not understandable anyway (mostly the high register parts). However, the energy on this is just fantastic. It kicks and pops right from the start, and rarely lets up. The end section is much better done, providing a more logical and appropriate ending for the piece. Ligeti has abandoned the half-opera half-play aspect of it, opting this time for more opera, and it works beautifully. The opera has been cut from two hours in its original version to a more compact hour and 3/4, but you'll never miss the sections that are gone.
The only complaint I have is that Sibylle Ehlert seems to struggle unduly with her part as Gepopo; I can only imagine that, since this is a live recording (you can hear the audience laugh audibly during certain sections), running around and gesticulating wildly interferes with her ability to sing the passages as smoothly as the rest of the cast. She does the honors of repeating most of the performance on Sony's Ligeti Edition #4 in a variation of Gepopo's announcements, and does a stunning job there. Her performance issues do not interfere with the enjoyment of the piece; she still brings the energy.
The plot is a little loopy, and it's hard to discern a lot of coherence in it, but it's still fun. Death arrives in the personage of Nekrotzar to the little run-down hamburg of Breughelland. He ensnares the village drunk as his slave, and announces that he intends to destroy Breughelland at midnight. Along the way, we meet the two lovers who start and end the opera (and are completely oblivious to the fact that anything has occurred), Astradomors (the court astrologist) and his dominatrix wife Mescalina, Venus (not sure what her function is here, but it's a pretty part), and Prince Go-Go and his completely disfunctional cabinet. Nekrotzar storms into Prince Go-Go's audience, making lots of loud and pretentious pronouncements about destroying them all, gets really drunk, passes out and blows his opportunity to fulfill his mission (we assume, anyway; no one seems to have died by the end of the piece except after the proposed deluge by Nekrotzar has come and gone). The whole piece may be an attempt to point out the absurdity being consumed with the thought of death, but that's certainly going to be up to interpretation. In the end, Nekrotzar bubbles away to nothing, while most of the political factions involved in the farce tear each other to shreds.
Ligeti's use of instrumentation is, as always, innovative, and works as a whole. There are passages in here that are classic Ligeti, and with the new recording, it's so much easier to hear the subtlety of the arrangement. Kudos to Salonen for a fine job of balancing all the sections and keeping everything together; it can a difficult piece both to perform and to listen to, but this version makes it a pleasurable and enjoyable treat.
What doesn't come up much in the other reviews is just how funny this opera is. It's a dark, dark comedy--some people just don't get dark comedy--but a comedy it is. The language, in translation, is often coarse and rough-hewn, but it's an accurately sharpened version of the way a lot of people speak. The music is in places slapstick but in other places is truly sublime. It has been pointed out that there's not much respect for authority figures in this opera. That's OK with me.
Ligeti spent a lot of time reworking this piece, removing impracticalities in performance and instrumentation. He ended up with a cohesive, hilarious whole. There are some real challenges for the singers, but I don't hear a weak voice in the entire performance. I find it quite listenable on its own. Readers on the the East coast will have an opportunity to see the Met perform this in the 2009-2010 season. I'm jealous.
I should also point out that Ligeti extracted a short suite from this opera that's available here as well as on a couple of other CDs. The suite itself is available in two forms--one with trumpet and one with soprano. The suite got me interested in the opera and it may serve as a stepping stone for others.
Le Grand Macabre, by far the lengthiest of Ligeti's works, represented a culmination of Ligeti's work to date. After this he seemed to feel that he could not go on rewriting works like Atmosphères and Aventures, and like Beethoven, he fell relatively silent for a few years before resuming in a more neoclassical vein with the horn trio. Alas, although I enjoy experimental theater, and support efforts to extend music theater and other forms of theater beyond simulationism, I've never warmed to Meschke's libretto. Rendered in a more-or-less traditional operatic context (albeit with postmodern music), this setting of Gheldorode's ballade seems more pompous and self-indulgent than surreal or profound. Perhaps this text just isn't the caliber of Beckett, Jarry or Robert Wilson. Or perhaps a less ostentatious theatrical context would better suit the work. But I think that deploying the accoutrements of traditional Western opera to construct a satire of that tradition is probably a losing proposition overall: it's just too "easy" to poke fun of a genre that requires so much suspension of disbelief. The most successful avant garde operas tend to either stay outside the capabilities of conventional opera companies (Einstein on the Beach, for example, uses neither a traditional orchestra nor bel canto singers), or else look to extend the artform musically and dramatically rather than looking backwards (Taverner, Ulisse, Die Soldaten, etc.).
Ligeti always seemed better suited for nonsensical or abstract texts than he did with concrete texts. The vernacular often took him toward a literalism that undermines the depth of his highly cultivated musical language. Contrast the overly particularlized text painting and straightforward puns of Le Grand Macabre to Aventures/Nouvelles Aventures, especially in a good staging that brings out the humor. Or consider how powerful and radical Ligeti's Requiem, with its jaded Latin text, still sounds 40 years later (Stanley Kubrick or no). But then -- and this is a big caveat -- I've never seen a live staging of this opera. And as of December 2009, I've only heard of a single North American production (San Francisco, 2004) -- sadly, opera companies this side of the Atlantic are very conservative, since they rely on local patronage from corporations and wealthy individuals, and get little public support. So there's a good chance that I'm missing something that would be evident when the work is entrusted to a skilled director. Several European productions have been very well received, so I reserve the right to change my mind.
Whatever misgivings I have about the libretto don't extend to the music, which is marvelous. Much of it sounds like Aventures/Nouvelles Aventures, but in English and with a full orchestral accompaniment. A few passages are closer to the Ligeti of Atmosphères and Volumina. Many passages anticipate the neoclassical orientation of late period Ligeti. The music of the lover couple (whose characters were named Spermando and Clitoria in the original, but now bear expurgated monikers) is often reminiscent of Clocks and Clouds, sometimes with undulating chromatic lines in the strings and woodwinds outlining chromatic scales in an example of classic Ligeti micropolyphony. Other passages represent a departure, and presage the more pitch-oriented works of Ligeti's late period. And there's a good dose of postmodern pastiche, such as the passage starting at 1:16 of Track 6 in the opera's first scene, which I read as a quotation of common modernist licks. The second scene is of a style associated with post-War composers like Tippett and Birtwhistle. And the work ends with a diatonic passacaglia of tenuous tonality. Nekrotzar's Entrance in the third scene may be the most famous excerpt, a passacaglia over a crazy distortion of the theme from the finale of Beethoven's Eroica symphony. There are other allusions to specific pieces, such as Offenbach's Can Can in Scene 2. And of course there are plenty of parodies of operatic conventions, such as the male lover being sung by a female singer in a satire of the trouser role tradition, or the moralizing ensemble ending recalling operas like Don Giovanni (or The Rake's Progress). What remains constant is Ligeti's mastery at eliciting an almost unbroken succession of unexpected colors from the voices and instruments.
A full libretto is supplied. The recording makes a nice contrast with the original German version of Le Grand Macabre, which you might be able to track down from the Wergo recording, either complete or condensed into a concise and very enjoyable format (as there was originally much more spoken dialog than the 1997 version). And of course this recording is in English, which Ligeti now prefers over the German or Swedish of the original. The play by Michel de Ghelderode is in French, so Ligeti and Meschke retained the language of the title.
Having not seen the recent San Francisco production I can only imagine the wild visuals, but the performers in this spanking new edition are spot on. Ligeti has considerably abridged and tightened the opera (first written in 1974-77), and has greatly refined his original vision (the composer has even gone on record preferring the English libretto to the original German.) The Wergo original is of interest primarily to completists.
Let me just add that history is everywhere present in LGM; this is the closest Ligeti's come to a "collage" work, which seems completely appropriate given the darkly surreal subject matter. He would never produce something quite like this again, but let us hope against hope that he finishes the long running operaplanned on the Alice books. For more about Ligeti, I recommend the Richard Steinitz work and life (although the earlier bios by Griffiths, Toop and Burde are great as well).