Pedro Garcia-Velasquez takes on Beckett

Connected news 21.03.2021

Postponed until next October due to health restrictions, the premiere of the new work by composer Pedro García-Velásquez should surprise many!

The creation was to take place on January 29, 2020, in Paris... 

Fortunately, a new date was quickly found by the Athénée theatre. It will be in October. In the autumn, the ensemble Le Balcon will perform, for the first time in public Words and Music in the version of the Colombian-French composer Pedro Garcia-Velasquez. For Words and Music is the name of a radio play by the British king of the absurd: Samuel Beckett, father of the long-awaited Godot. Written in 1962, the play features three characters: Croak, the lonely lord of a non-existent castle, in whose head his two imaginary servants are talking, Words, played by an actor, and Music, whose role is entrusted, unprecedentedly, not to an actor but to an instrumental ensemble. At first, Words and Music don't like each other: they bicker constantly. But as the play progresses, Words learns to sing...

The score of Words and Music has already been written in several versions: one by John Beckett, a cousin of the playwright, another by Humphrey Searle and a third by Morton Feldman. These three compositions offer very different interpretations of the character of Music, but also of the general atmosphere. 

Feldman's version, composed in 1987, lasts 25 minutes. 

The ensemble Le Balcon, of which Pedro Garcia Velasquez is co-founder, explored Feldman's version in 2013. Le Balcon, directed by Maxime Pascal has, by the way, the particularity of being an amplified instrumental ensemble. " This piece had deeply inspired me," explains the composer. The notion of an imaginary place, with this strange and intriguing castle, allowed us, at the time, to play with electronics and sound design... We had a complete trip! "Following this experience , Pedro Garcia Velasquez composed his " Théâtre acoustique ", a cycle of immersive pieces in which he explored the possibilities of 3D sound, to take the listener-spectator to the edge of reality, to the frontier between music and ambiences, sound landscapes.

To be listened to on headphones!

In 2019, Pedro Garcia-Velasquez returns to Beckett and goes for it: he composes his own version of Words and Music, which lasts about 45 minutes. The musician further explores the notion of a third place, a place nestled at the edge of the imagination, a place that twists and transforms according to the tensions and anxieties of the character. A bit like the eternally mysterious Château d'Argol of a Julien Gracq... In Pedro Garcia Velasquez's new version, the place is represented by electronics, which complete the orchestra and, a daring idea, a network of robotic arms: three are placed on stage, next to the ten musicians, the others are scattered throughout the hall, even in the balcony boxes! Each arm is a musician and taps on rudimentary sculptures, sometimes made of blown glass, sometimes of steel, sometimes of stone... So many materials that evoke, why not, a ruined castle.

Samuel Beckett set to music by Pedro García-Velásquez at the Giacometti Institute from Fondation Giacometti on Vimeo.

This new version is directed by Jacques Osinski, a leading specialist in Beckett's theatre. On stage, the orchestra Le Balcon, which plays Music, is joined by Jean-Claude Frissung as Croak and Johan Leysen as Words.

After this appetizer, come to the Théâtre de l'Athénée from October 8 to 10, 2021 to discover the new music of a radio play that has become a chamber opera, an undeniably dreamlike experience that opens the doors of the imagination wide.

Suzanne Gervais