Freitag aus Licht (Friday of Light) by Karlheinz Stockhausen, a message of hope and love launched towards the sky, is dedicated "To all children" and is performed on the stage of the Lille Opera by Le Balcon and its conductor Maxime Pascal, in a staging by Silvia Costa.
After Donnerstag, Samstag and Dienstag - the last of which was performed at the Philharmonie de Paris in October 2020 -, Le Balcon is pursuing with the same determination its project of the complete seven days of Licht with Freitag (1991-1996) in which Stockhausen says he wanted to translate into music "archetypal human temptations".
Freitag is the day of the temptation of Eva (soprano) by Ludon (bass) - aka Lucifer. Frei-Tag (Free Day) is also the day of the children, those of Eva through the orchestra of flutes and clarinets that she conducts, and those of Ludon (children's choir) who sing, forming a joyful tutti in the first act. However, they are the ones who confront each other in the second part (Kinder-Krieg) where the synthesizer/sampler echoes the violence of the battle.
Other presences and emanations of the characters of Freitag aus Licht, Elu (basset-horn) and Lufa (flute) evolve in Eva's bosom while the Synthibirds (synthesizers) are rather in Ludon's camp. Eva's world is white and instrumental, which contrasts with Ludon's world, black and choral.
The plot is as follows: Ludon proposes to Eva to unite with his son Kaino (baritone) in order to procreate; Eva hesitates and then agrees at the end of the first act. She meets Kaino one evening in the moonlight and unites with him. But war breaks out between the two factions of children, scattering those of Eva. Eva repents and prays... "Darkness becomes light".
In Licht, each opera follows the same ritual, with the Greeting before the performance begins and the Farewell to the departing audience; these two moments in Freitag are devoted to the electronics that are one of the defining components of this intergalactic show.
The effect of the Weltraum, the music of the Friday of Light that resounds in the foyer (the first 66 minutes of the Freitag"tape") operates even before entering the hall, putting us in condition to enter this sacred cave, as strange as it is irrational, imagined in all its aspects, musical, scenic and even gestural, by Stockhausen.
Three sound layers are heard: that of the electronics already mentioned, projected continuously in the space of the room (where the composer's voice sometimes passes); that of the plot deployed in ten "real scenes" and crossed by the flow of the electronics; and that of the twelve "sound scenes" diffused on twelve channels and functioning in alternation with the previous one.
The idea, always declining that of the temptation, is to present ten couples of beings and objects of the everyday life combining male and female (a man and a woman, a dog and a cat, a racing car and its pilot, a soccer and a footballer's leg, a mouth and an ice-cream cone, etc.) and to constitute a collection of sounds of the world that gives to hear this dreamer of unheard.
Stockhausen had planned couples of dancer-mimes to embody these binomials. Silvia Costa puts the objects in the hands of the child-demiurges. We see them, in white coats and on the upper level of the stage, operating these sound machines and deploying their creative energy, the choreography of gestures sometimes taking precedence over the sound dimension. As the scenes progress, the roles are exchanged and the pairs hybridize, showing the effervescence of this noisy world, full of color and fantasy, which contrasts with the ceremonial of the world below.
The framework of the libretto composed by Stockhausen is a juxtaposition of words without narration - "day night birth / holy night - candle flame / no time / comet indicates Friday temptation" etc. - delivering messages and sung by the characters and the children's choir as an action of grace. - delivering messages and sung by the characters and the children's choir as a thanksgiving.
" Licht is similar to a ceremony marked by repetition, incantation, psalmody," notes Maxime Pascal who, as conductor, will always remain invisible! "It is a block, a formula with two voices, each of which mirrors the other," he continues, evoking the melodies of the Stockhausian "super-formula" that structures the entire Licht project and gives each opera its harmonic-melodic context and its general form.
The vocality in Freitag aus Licht is intrinsically linked to the instrumental writing and detached from any Western tradition. The high voice of the children (the magnificent Maîtrise de Notre-Dame) in the central choir of the first act takes on a hymnal, fervent and bewitching dimension; one thinks of Stockhausen's Gesang der Jünglinge but also of Xenakis'Oresteia of Xenakis, when the children agitate their African percussions (kind of maracas) while sending messages of love ("Emilie Fleury Silvia Costa Olivier Mantei my little Josephine my little Markovits...") to those who welcome them in their house!
The choir is supported by the ensemble of flutes and clarinets (the students of the CRR of Lille superbly prepared) as are the three solo voices by the couple of flute and basset-horn (exemplary Charlotte Bletton and Iris Zerdoud) who can substitute themselves for the characters. In a register often stretched towards the high register, the luminous voice of the French soprano Jenny Daviet assumes with panache all the figures that the composer draws for her, sometimes inscribing her singing on the electronic flow. The Cuban bass Antoine HL Kessel confines himself in the low register of his richly timbred voice, leader of the choir in which he sings with the boys.
The superb love duet in the second act between Eva/Jenny Daviet and Kaino/HalidouNombre (baritone), where the two characters recompose the moon in Silvia Costa's original scenography, could be engraved in the annals of Stockhausenian singing. The vocal writing looks more towards the Asian world (slides, undulations, stretched lines and times, etc.) and the instrumental emission (rolling/rolling of the baritone) when flute and basset horn support the voices and dialogue with them. The two lovers come together and blend their tessitura, the most sensual and original musical coupling ever heard.
"Repentance" (real scene 8) is another highlight where Eva kneels at the place where she was united with Kaino, singing and performing the gestures ofInori (a work of prayer and worship in the composer's catalog) which looks towards the Christian rite as much as towards yoga or Buddha's postures.
The material is rich, the content loaded with symbols and the imagination without borders of this world-work covering some three hours of performance that Silvia Costa and the team of costumes (Bianca Deigner) and lighting design (Bernd Purkrabek) manage to represent in its plastic beauty, its abundance and its coherence, all at once. Escaping from the sight of the public but in contact with the performers through the screens, the conductor Maxime Pascal and the forces of the Balcony - Augustin Muller and Étienne Démoulin at the sound, Florent Derex at the projection - work in the shade to make blossom the magic of this total spectacle transcended by the poetic imagination of Stockhausen.
Lille Opera, 7-11-2022
Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007): Freitag aus Licht, opera in one greeting, two acts and a farewell, for three voices, three solo instruments, children's orchestra, children's choir, chorus, synthesizer and electronics. Music, libretto, scenic action and gesture by Karlheinz Stockhausen; stage direction, Silvia Costa; lighting design, Bernd Purkrabek; costumes, Bianca Deigner; sound projection, Florent Derex; electronics, Augustin Muller and Étienne Démoulin. Jenny Daviet, soprano, Eva ; Antoin HL Kessel, bass, Ludon ; Iris Zerdoud, basset horn, Elu ; Charlotte Bletton, flute, Lufa ; Halidou Nombre, baritone, Kaino ; Sarah Kim and Haga Ratovo, synthibird. Mixed choir (twelve singers) Le Balcon ; Maîtrise Notre-Dame de Paris (children's choir), les enfants de Ludon ; Élève du Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Lille (children's orchestra), les enfants d'Eva. Dancers: Rosabel Huguet Dueñas, The arm; Susanne Meyer, The mouth, Jean-Baptiste Plumeau, The leg; Child actors: Edgar Cemin, Arsène Jouet, Alexis Mazars, Stéphane Poulet, Marin Rayon, Colette Verdier directed by Johanne Carillon. Choir director Émilie Fleury; musical director Maxime Pascal.