WORKS: Montag aus Licht
PERFORMER: Annette Meriweather, Donna Sarley, Jana Mrazova, Nicholas Isherwood; Choir of the West German Radio, Radio Budapest Children’s Choir, Zaans Cantatekoor/Peter Eötvös, Karlheinz Stockhausen
CATALOGUE NO: Complete Edition 36 A-E AAD
Montag is the third opera from Stockhausen’s projected Licht cycle to appear on CD. Like its predecessors Donnerstag and Samstag, it bears little resemblance to conventional opera but is more akin to a spiritual ceremony that presents, in ritual form, the personal cosmology Stockhausen has distilled from various ancient myths and mystical traditions. So Montag (Monday) is Eve’s day, a celebration of birth and rebirth in which the element of water, the colours green and silver and the soprano voice are the principal components of its sonic and visual imagery.
Female voices flow ceaselessly and sensuously through Montag, accompanied by sea-sounds and sustained synthesizer tones. There is little solo singing but a lovely interweaving of choirs, mostly of women’s and children’s voices. Stockhausen complements these with what he terms a ‘modern orchestra’ (ie synthesizers, samplers, percussion, electronics and prepared tapes) plus some exquisite music for solo basset-horn and solo flute.
Much of the libretto comprises a rich texture of ‘nonsense’ syllables, mixing surreal wordplay with hints of invocation, while the onstage action includes such bizarre items as a flying grand piano played by a budgerigar, all adding to Montag’s dreamlike, magical quality. There is no story as such. Rather, Eve’s first and second ‘birth-givings’ are followed by ‘Eve’s Magic’, in which a Pied Piper abducts Eve’s children as large white birds circle the stage, ‘wings beating slowly’.
The five-CD boxed-set includes both the ‘Monday Greeting’ (played as people enter the opera house) and the ‘Monday Farewell’ (played as they leave) plus a 200-page booklet designed and written by Stockhausen, who also supervised the recordings and mixed and mastered them for CD. The result is a beautifully packaged aural treat from one of the most extraordinary and gifted composers of the age. (Releases from the Stockhausen Complete Edition are available from specialist shops or by mail order from the Stockhausen-Verlag, Kettenberg 15, 5067 Kurten, Germany. It costs DM120, which includes p & p, but add for bank charges if paying by cheque.) Graham Lock