About The Opera

Music by David Sylvian / J.S. Bach
Concept: Martin Haselböck, Frank Hoffmann, Virgil Widrich 

“... tomorrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified - have tortured - have destroyed me”. Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat 

U.S. PREMIERE

Mysterious. Unsettling. Thrilling. A nameless person sits on death row, awaiting his execution. What possessed him to murder his wife? He begins to tell his story, the story of the black cat. Edgar Allan Poe’s novella delivers a dark journey into the abyss of a desperate murderer’s soul. It is accompanied by a musical mashup combining English songwriter David Sylvian’s works and arias from J.S. Bach’s cantatas—a collaboration with Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra.

This production integrates music, drama, dance and multimedia stage design, breaking the boundaries between performing arts and visual arts. Two dancers along with a singer and a baroque ensemble perform a work of contrasts and extremes, from baroque ensemble to visual multi-media, from Bach to Rock.

"The music of the narrator-protagonist was penned by J.S. Bach. Seven of the most beautiful tenor arias, accompanied by baroque ensemble, enable the sentenced murderer in his cell to re ect on the monstrous events that led to the dreadful deed. The music of the descriptive ashbacks is by David Sylvian, one of the most unique, unconventional, and uncompromising songwriters of our time. Together with virtuoso instrumental works of Bach, the work features four big dance scenes. Dramatic highlights of the narration are emphasized by the overlaying of additional sound treatments. This remix was developed by me, incorporating some additional music and sonic elements by Ernst Krenek, myself und Ülo Krigul." (Martin Haselboeck) 

The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe

Poe's short story was first published in the August 19, 1843, edition of The Saturday Evening Post. It is a study of the psychology of guilt, often paired in analysis with Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". In both, a murderer carefully conceals his crime and believes himself unassailable, but eventually breaks down and reveals himself, impelled by a nagging reminder of his guilt.

One of Poe's darkest tales, "The Black Cat" includes his strongest denunciation of alcohol. The narrator's perverse actions are brought on by his alcoholism, a "disease" and "fiend" which also destroys his personality. The use of the black cat evokes various superstitions, including the idea voiced by the narrator's wife that they are all witches in disguise. Poe owned a black cat. In his "Instinct vs Reason -- A Black Cat" he stated: The writer of this article is the owner of one of the most remarkable black cats in the world - and this is saying much; for it will be remembered that black cats are all of them witches. In Scottish and Irish mythology, the Cat Sìth is described as being a black cat with a white spot on its chest, not unlike the cat the narrator finds in the tavern. The titular cat is named Pluto after the Roman god of the Underworld.

Although Pluto is a neutral character at the beginning of the story, he becomes antagonistic in the narrator's eyes once the narrator becomes an alcoholic. The alcohol pushes the narrator into fits of intemperance and violence, to the point at which everything angers him – Pluto in particular, who is always by his side, becomes the malevolent witch who haunts him even while avoiding his presence. When the narrator cuts Pluto's eye from its socket, this can be seen as symbolic of self-inflicted partial blindness to his own vision of moral goodness.

The fire that destroys the narrator's house symbolizes the narrator's "almost complete moral disintegration". The only remainder is the impression of Pluto upon the wall, which represents his unforgivable and incorrigible sin.

 David Sylvain - Songwriter (*1958)

(born David Alan Batt, 23 February 1958) is an English singer-songwriter and musician who came to prominence in the late 1970s as the lead vocalist and main songwriter in the group Japan. His subsequent solo work is described by AllMusic critic Jason Ankeny as "a far-ranging and esoteric career that encompassed not only solo projects but also a series of fascinating collaborative efforts."[3] Sylvian's solo work has been influenced by a variety of musical styles and genres, including jazz, avant-garde, ambient, electronic, and progressive rock.

 

 

Johann Seb. Bach (1685-1750) 

Bach was a German composer and organist. The most important member of the Bach family, his genius combined outstanding performing musicianship with supreme creative powers in which forceful and original inventiveness, technical mastery and intellectual control are perfectly balanced. While it was in the former capacity, as a keyboard virtuoso, that in his lifetime he acquired an almost legendary fame, it is the latter virtues and accomplishments, as a composer, that by the end of the 18th century earned him a unique historical position. His musical language was distinctive and extraordinarily varied, drawing together and surmounting the techniques, the styles and the general achievements of his own and earlier generations and leading on to new perspectives which later ages have received and understood in a great variety of ways.

Synopsis

A nameless person sits on death row, awaiting his execution. He has been convicted of murder. He has killed his own wife. But he does not understand: how did this happen? What possessed him to do this? He begins to tell his story. The story of the black cat. 

Cast


National Endowement for the Arts    Arts Council City of Long Beach Art Works Opera America KUSC

This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov
Supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.
Long Beach Opera events are supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission