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Ligeti: Le Grand Macabre, 1a part.

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Published on Mar 17, 2013

Liceu, Catalan subtitles.
Le grand macabre (1974--77, revised version 1996) is György Ligeti's only opera. The opera has two acts and its libretto -- loosely based on the 1934 play, La balade du grand macabre, by Michel De Ghelderode -- was written by Ligeti in collaboration with Michael Meschke, director of the Stockholm puppet theatre. The original libretto was written in German, as Der grosse Makaber, but for the first production was translated into Swedish by Meschke under its current title (Griffiths and Searby 2003). The opera has been performed also in English, French, Italian, and Hungarian. Unlike many operas, this one was written specifically with flexibility of language in mind.[citation needed] Only a few notes need be changed to perform the opera in any of these languages.
After having seen Mauricio Kagel's anti-operatic work Staatstheater, Ligeti came to the conclusion that it was not possible to write any more anti-operas.[citation needed] He therefore resolved to write an "anti-anti-opera", an opera with an ironic recognition of both operatic traditions and anti-operatic criticism of the genre. From its brief overture, a mixture of rhythmic sounds scored for a dozen car horns, to the closing passacaglia in mock classical style, the work evolves as collage of sonorities ranging from a grouping of urban sounds to snippets of manipulated Beethoven, Rossini and Verdi. Ligeti's opera is replete with irony and ambiguities, conveying a deadly serious message in a lightened humorous way.[citation needed]
Its central subject is mortality and its central character is Death, in the form of the character Nekrotzar, written to be sung by a bass-baritone, who arrives in a city of skyscrapers. The streets are strewn with litter and populated by vagrants, giving the audience the impression that they are in a land on the verge of an apocalypse. Along with the drunkard and the astrologer, Nekrotzar proceeds to the court of Prince Go-Go, and a series of disjointed scenes raises the question of whether they are witness to the impending doom or it has all been a farce.[citation needed]
Le grand macabre was premiered in Stockholm on 12 April 1978 (Griffiths and Searby 2003) and has received more than 30 productions (Everett 2009, 29). In preparation for a 1997 production at the Salzburg Festival, Ligeti made substantial revisions to the opera in 1996, tightening the structure by means of cuts in scenes 2 and 4, setting some of the originally spoken passages to music and removing others altogether (Griffiths and Searby 2003). The revised version was premiered in Salzburg on 28 July 1997, in a production directed by Peter Sellars (Steinitz 2003, 239). The composer was annoyed by Sellars's production, which opposed Ligeti's desire for ambiguity by explicitly depicting an apocalypse set in the framework of the Chernobyl disaster (Everett 2009, 29).

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