Known as the “master of the miniature,” Hungarian composer György Kurtág has taken on a big task. The now 92-year-old world-renowned artist will have his first opera open on November 15 at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy.
“Fin de Partie,” which sets music to the Samuel Beckett drama of the same name (“Endgame”), is the very first foray into the genre of opera for Kurtág, and also the longest composition by the avant-gardist. He cherished the desire to set Beckett's play to music for several decades. Kurtág worked on the 450-page score for some seven years, lately in close contact with Markus Stenz, who will now conduct the first performance.
“Kurtág has used the text and scenes in the French-language libretto one to one and actually transfers the speech melody to the vocal parts without any affected operatic gestures,” Stenz says in the German weekly DIE ZEIT. “And the music always supports the flow of speech and the musical subtext always arises from the word.”
Stenz is not the only person to be amazed by the enormous energy and spirit of purposefulness that Kurtág has displayed working on his first opera. The international music world has been looking forward with great anticipation to the performance of this work, commissioned by the Fondazione Teatro alla Scala. The opera, directed by Pierre Audi, will present the audience with a sort of combination of chamber-music theatre and theatrical chamber music.
Engaging in an extraordinary work, the cast includes Frode Olsen, Leigh Melrose, Hilary Summers and Leonardo Cortellazzi.
“Extremely little happens in Beckett's play – and Kurtág matches this musically. Both have mastered the art of saying a great amount with very few notes or words,” Stenz said. “The sounds that Kurtág finds for the story are inspiring and colourful: concentrated psychograms made up of both pessimistic and humorous colours.”
The production at Teatro alla Scala is a coproduction with the Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam. The premiere in Amsterdam, also led by Markus Stenz, will be on March 6, 2019.