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12.12.04

Multimedia Canetti

Heiner Goebbels, Eraritjaritjaka, 2004Eric Dahan's article (Au diapason de Canetti, December 10) for Libération describes the premiere of a rather interesting new work of musical theater. Eraritjaritjaka is called a musée des phrases (museum of sentences), and it uses the words of Nobel laureate Elias Canetti, set to music and staged by Heiner Goebbels and performed by André Wilms and the Mondriaan Kwartet. Performances at the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe (temporarily housed in the Ateliers Berthier, in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, during renovation of its home theater) will continue until December 19. The work was premiered on April 20 at the Théâtre Vidy in Lausanne, Switzerland, and it appears in Paris as one of the last big events of the annual Festival d'automne (see my post on this from last year). It completes a trilogy of works that began with Ou bien le débarquement désastreux (texts by Conrad, Goebbels, and Ponge, with African music) and Max Black (texts by Paul Valéry, Lichtenberg, and Wittgenstein).

With Eraritjaritjaka, an aboriginal word that means "driven by the desire for a lost thing," Goebbels searches for a sort of lost European humanity, the endangerment of which Husserl predicted as early as 1928. When it was a project, this work was called Die Provinz des Menschen (The Territory of Man), the title of one of the most famous texts (along with Le Coeur secret de l'horloge, Masse et puissance, and Auto-da-fé) by Elias Canetti, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981, who was born 100 years ago and died 10 years ago.

It is beginning with extracts of all these texts that Heiner Goebbels composed his new work. The figure of the Sephardic Jewish writer, born in Bulgaria and having lived in Vienna, Zurich, Frankfort, and Berlin before taking refuge in London the day before Kristallnacht, is not the basis for a narrative epic, but rather for a new experience in musical theater, a Museum of Sentences (the play's subtitle) served by a dramaturgical and technical presentation of rare sophistication.

For an hour and a half, a writer soliloquizes, invades the space, before letting himself be invaded by the music and trying to escape from the performance. On the stage, the Mondriaan Kwartet plays the tormented Shostakovich, the prespectral Scelsi, the static Bryars, the suave and haunted Ravel, the traumatic Crumb, and finally Bach the reconciler. Wilms immediately brings a human density, a way of being uncomfortable in oneself, but at the heart of things.
This page on the work (with the nice picture reproduced here) lists the following pieces performed by the Mondriaan Quartet:
  • Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 8, op. 110 (1960), first and second movements
  • Alexei Mossolov, String Quartet No. 1, op. 24 (1926), Andante non troppo
  • Giacinto Scelsi, String Quartet No. 1 (1944), Quasi lento
  • John Oswald, Specter (1990)
  • Vassily Lobanov, String Quartet No. 4, op. 49 (1987/88), Adagio-Presto
  • Gavin Bryars, String Quartet No. 1 (1985)
  • Maurice Ravel, String Quartet (1902/03), movements 1-4
  • George Crumb, Black Angels: 13 images from the Dark Land (1970), movement I ("Departure")
  • J. S. Bach, Die Kunst der Fuge, counterpoint 9, BWV 1080/9
There are also these brief news notices on the work:If you can read Dutch, there is this page from the Mondriaan Kwartet, with a .PDF file of an article on the work; according to Goebbels's Web site (in English), the work will be produced in a number of other cities after this performance. You can also see several great pictures of the production.

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