Three new works – Beat Furrer in Witten and Hamburg
Beat Furrer’s work is in the spotlight at the Witten Days for New Chamber Music from 24 to 26 April 2015. A new work for orchestra and Enigma VII for a cappella chorus will be premiered by the WDR Symphony Orchestra under Titus Engel and the WDR Radio Choir under Rupert Huber. The programme also includes other chamber music works. Two weeks later Beat Furrer’s new opera la bianca notte / die helle nacht after Dino Campana will be premiered in Hamburg. The poet, who narrates in order to survive, becomes the inspiration for a music theatre work which deals with the question of identity. The textual basis are the Canti orfici by Dino Campana, who allowed the futuristic ideas of his time to flow into poetic texts full of suggestive power. The conductor at the Hamburg Staatsoper is Simone Young.
Beat Furrer’s opera la bianca notte / die helle nacht takes as its starting point the character of the Italian poet Dino Campana, who wrote in order to survive. From the scene of futurism, the composer builds a bridge to the present.
“Vivo in uno stato di suggestione” – “I live in a state of suggestion” –, says the main character at the conclusion of Beat Furrer’s opera la bianca notte / die helle nacht after Dino Campana. Dino narrates to exist, he writes poetry, invents, writes. “Narrating generates identity” is the theme of his opera, according to Beat Furrer, the “crisis of the industrial society, the crisis of identity”. The opera tells this story with the help of a historical character and its contemporary history: the Italian poet Dino Campana and modernism at the beginning of the 20th century. The period which features in the opera is the transition from the euphoria of turning points and of progress, of futurism to the catastrophe of the war, that “great time in which the unimaginable which one cannot imagine happens, and in which that which can no longer be imagined has to happen...”, as Karl Kraus wrote in 1914.
Beat Furrer determinedly did not compose a historical opera, did not pursue a biographical documentary account, neither is his work a drama about an artist. Rather, in its special quality Campana’s poetry becomes the starting point of the work, or more precisely: his conception of an abolition of time and his shaping of time – playing with speed, with rhythms, with an energy and power which recalls the Futurist Manifesto. Dino Campana, according to Beat Furrer, “was probably the only Italian writer of his time who was capable of giving the new futurist ideas life with a great poetic power and a strong connection to the Italian and French literature of earlier centuries. His poetry survived the trends of his day.”
Beat Furrer: “The protagonist Dino narrates in order to evoke his own existence, his identity, his persona. He conjures up the identity by creating counter-realities. Dino Edison illuminates the night by inventing stories. He invents his adversary, the Mephistophelian character of Regolo, the seducer with the craving for something new as the demon in the heart, he invents Russo, his reflection, who writes maniacally and in the process believes he can save people by this means. Sibilla is a character from the world of the futurist scene, a successful writer of a provocative autobiographical tale, Una donna, lachrymose and eccentric. These worlds of Dino and Sibilla can no longer by synchronized. The fortune teller Indovina represents Dino’s place of longing, is the source of its creative power.”
Dino Campana’s poetry forms the textual basis of the libretto, as well as letters and documentary material. The historical Campana fictionalised himself in his quasi-autobiographical work, and, incidentally, his life and his breakdown ran in striking parallel in its turning points to events in world history: in 1914 he self-published his Canti orfici. The original title “Il più lungo giorno” (The longest day), can be understood as a starting point for a literary narrative form unlike any other. Poem, diary-like narrative, note, novella, aphorism, gloss, mix together to form an autobiographical fiction of a character who, as wanderer, observer, traveller, portrays a powerful image of its world, in a literary language of the highest poetic power and stylistic level.
Dino Campana was a vagabond, vagrant, globetrotter who managed to get as far as South America. After years of restlessness and literary work, he made contact with the artistic circles and the futurists around Marinetti, haunted literary circles as a disputatious guest and sought in vain for a form of existence which would enable him to write and publish. He ultimately failed. In 1918 he was admitted to the mental institution of Castel Pulci and remained there until his death in 1932, a total of 14 years. His “case” was described in 1938 in a publication by the psychiatrist Carlo Pariani. From conversations which he had in the last years of his life, the doctor conveyed a picture of an insane poet who believed that he could control the fate of the world by means of telegraphic currents.
Beat Furrer: “What fascinated me and led to another form of narrative was Campana’s idea of a compressed narrative, the idea of sections of time. With him an almost mythological timelessness is important, which stands in a dialectic relationship to a restless, raging narrative. This brought me to a form of narration which works with these sections, particularly in the ensembles, an intertwining of various sonorities which give the respective characters their very own space ... characters which develop from the beginning to an end.”
In several respects the opera is a counterpart to Beat Furrer’s music theatre work Wüstenbuch; starting from a symbol of wilderness, it suggests the absence of a story. la bianca notte / die helle nacht now allows the fate of a character to appear in different layers of time, in concentrations and superimpositions. The opera tells the tale of someone who is doubly excluded, who is denied recognition in society and in his art, and finally also in love. nativeIt describes becoming alienated, a loss of native land, of order in the world. It narrates the breakdown of this character who loses his way and merges into an anonymous mass. But it always allows those utopian dreams to appear for which enchanting images are found in the poetry, which are the source of longing and of creative striving and are therefore the basis of its existence. The utopia, the happiness, however, finally dimishes to the supposed suggestion. The last scene shows Dino, apparently happy, but no longer in the position to assert his artistic ego:
“I am called Dino. I am a telegraph station. I am extremely happy, for I create the whole order of the world. I do not live. I live in a condition of continual suggestion.”
Marie Luise Maintz(from [t]akte 1/2015 – translation: Elizabeth Robinson)