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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Ligeti’s “Le Grand Macabre” of gluttonous Breughelland, explains the Louisiana suffering and Washington’s long standing lack of care. Amazing indeed!

“Le Grand Macabre by Gyorgy Ligeti” landed in Breughelland right here at the New York Philharmonic Hall. Was it all about Fossil Fuel gluttony and Washington? Prescient Louisiana? We are flabbergasted because we realized we saw it all there and decided on presenting it to you – our readers – with the hope to reach out to even a larger circle of wise folks.

We did not add an additional word to the libretto, we just shortened it by condensing it in order to bring out the flavor we were seeking. You will see clearly the obvious premonitions that there will be an environmental catastrophe and that “Ministers” will push a monarch in an administration that has good intentions but is weak on actions.

“Le Grand Macabre” was heard and shown by the New York Philharmonic May 27 -29, 2010, thanks to a bravado by new Philharmonic Music Director, Mr. Alan Gilbert who coincidentally is the first native New Yorker to hold this post. Mr. Gilbert is a Harvard graduate and of the Curtis Institute and The Julliard Schools of Music. Before coming to the Philharmonic he was the chief conductor and artistic advisor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra that made him conductor laureate at the end of his stay there. “Le Grand Macabre” comes at the end of Mr. Gilbert’s Inaugural Season at the New York Philharmonic. We hope that the Members of the Board will not reprimand him for this daring performance. It must be noted further that this Opera had the World Premiere of its original version in Stockholm, April 12, 1978, at the Royal Swedish Opera with Elgar Horwarth conducting. The revised and shortened version was first performed July 28, 1997 in Salzburg in a Peter Sellars production with Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducting.

It is based on on a Michel de Ghelderode play “La Balade du Grand Macabre” and the libretto resulted from a cooperation of Gyorgy Ligeti with Michael Menschke, as Ligeti decided he wanted to create an Opera from that original play. and what Ligeti was trying to answer was the question: “If you knew that the end of the world was imminent, that a comet was about to crash into our planet and obliterate it forever, how would you chose to spend your final hours?”

His answer was, supposedly, “People will spend their final moments doing pretty much whatever they have done before. They’ll jockey for power, they’ll revel in stupidity, they”ll pursue love, they”ll engage in posturing, they’ll get drunk. It is essentially an absurdist treatment in which Ligeti manages to make the unthinkable approachable by rendering it comical.” The notes say that Ligeti told a broadcast interviewer “The threat of collective death is always present – but we try to eliminate it from our consciousness and enjoy to the maximum the days that are left to us.”

The theatrical approach of the script as shaped by Ligeti belongs to the Absurdist school of Alfred Jarry and Eugene Ioneco – the latter also Romanian who lived in Paris like Ligeti. Characters from their plays could have just walked throug Ligeti’s work and cartoonist Saul Steinberg would have found himself at home there either. This is no coincidence and it is rooted in the survivalist background of someone who, born into a family in Transylvania and a history of suffering from Nazism and Stalinism, the self defense is absurdism.

The US audience did not exactly know what to make out either from the music, nor the content, but having this absurd element in it we found it great and are ready to forgive the critics that had hard time of finding their footing, or the busloads of folks that left at intermission. We loved it and had no difficulty seeing in it what we wanted to see in it. How can we miss it when it starts indeed with CAR HORNS! I saw my way from the first Car Horn Prelude – and did not miss the sequence. After all, the TVs these days are all about Louisiana and the ineptitude of Washington stretching back for generations – the Washington dominated by Oil & Car interests that made devil-deals that felled  land, water, and air.

Then who can miss the concept of BREUGHELLAND?

Just see Breughel’s Icarus faculty.smu.edu/tmayo/icarus.jpg for link to Ligheti, but there is more to it – Brueghel, Bruegel or Breughel (Dutch pronunciation: [?b?ø???l]) was the name of several Dutch/Flemish painters from the same family line.
To us the most interesting is Pieter Brueghel (1525-69), usually known as Pieter Brueghel the Elder to distinguish him from his elder son, was the first in this family of Flemish painters. You’ll often find his name spelled as Bruegel (Pieter spelled it like that from 1559 onwards), but just as well Breugel or Breughel – the latter as in our case here.

Pieter was born in Breda in the Duchy of Brabant, which is now part of The Netherlands but back then part of the Flanders.

His paintings are full of images of eating and feasting and being merry – plain gluttony and success. this is the image of a world that sees no limits – the world that later was built on the promisse of oil. And this is my point – Breughelland is to me gluttony-land – and this is the give away of this opera – to me – in my interpretation – these days of the Gulf of Mexico blow-out.
{Note: Flanders or Vlaanderen and the Netherlands (aka known as Holland) or Nederland share the same language. It’s called Flemish, or “Vlaams” in Belgium and Dutch, or “Nederlands” in The Netherlands. And the name Holland, although it’s often taken to mean the whole of the Netherlands, is really part of that country only, the area of the provinces called Zuid Holland and Noord Holland (South and North Holland). }

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WORK IN PROGRESS.

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CAR HORN PRELUDE – SCENE ONE:

PIET THE POT:               O golden Breughelland,
that never knows a care,
fill all your children with delight!
O long lost paradise, where are you now?

NEKROTZAR – from the burial chamber, distant as from the underworld
Perish, but not for bliss!

PIET:                                 Oh my!
All these heavenly twists and turnings!
Such curvings!

AMANDO:                       Miserable scoundrel! That for the worm!

PIET:                                 Mercy, lord! I spoke no word!
It came from above, so who spoke?
The Almighty!

NEKROTZAR:                 Shut up!
And rejoice to be still alive!

PIET:                                You spoke of death, not punishment!
Hey, friend! You go too far!
Hey! Look out!

NEKROTZAR:                Piet the Pot, your time runs out;
so hear the bitter words of these tidings:
that all, all men on earth, must perish!

PIET:                                Any fool knows that!

NEKROTZAR:                 But no one knows the hour.

CHORUS OF SPIRITS – off-stage during Nekrotzar’s declamation:
Destruction soon draws nigh,
thou art in peril great,
for death will be thy fate.

NEKROTZAR                 The will of the Almighty

PIET:                                Oh, please,
spare the people of Breughelland!
Oh please, oh please!

PIET:                                Oh, Breughelland!

CHORUS OF SPIRITS: Destruction soon draws nigh,
though art in peril great,
for death will be thy fate!
Take warning now,
at midnight thou shalt die!

Nekrotzar – mounts Piet, who serves as a horse, with difficulty:
Make room! Room for the Great Macabre!
The end of time has come!
The world! The world will meet its doom!
Gee-up, horse!

—- —- —-

SECOND CAR HORN PRELUDE – SCENE TWO – DANCE:

ASTRADAMORS:         Oh my dreary nights, dark with bitterness!
I could strangle her!
Could choke her, could stab her,
could crush her or throttle her,

brain her or drown her or knife her or hang her,
murder, slay her, kill, behead her,
hang and slaughter, impale, butcher,
poison her drink and destroy her!
Immolate, massacre, put –

PIET:                               Friend Astradamors! it’s you?

ASTRADAMORS:         Friend Piet the Pot! It’s you?

NEKROTZAR:              Fire and death I bring,
burning and shriveling!

NEKROTZAR, PIET & ASTRADAMORS: Thousands of men will die
hearing my battle cry!

NEKROTZAR:             Yes I am but a loyal
and zealous destroyer!

PIET & ASTRADAMORS:                            Death is his employer!

NEKROTZAR:                   My duty here is past When all have breathed their last!

NEKROTZAR:                   Earthquakes will soon arrive, leave not a soul alive!

NEKROTZAR:                   I am powerful!
‘Neath me ye shall cower!

NEKROTZAR:             I am the slayer,
Satan’s purveyor!

PIET & ASTRADAMORS: For we shall expire!

NEKROTZAR, PIET & ASTRADAMOR: No living thing remains!

PIET: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

—– —– —–

SCENE THREE – DOORBELL PRELUDE:

WHITE MINISTER & BLACK MINISTER:  Tweedledum!

THE WHITE MINISTER UNROLLS A WHITE DOCUMENT WITH BLACK LETTERING AND GESTICULATES WILDLY WITH IT UNDER THE BLACK MINISTER’S NOSE:    Here Black party skunk, my resignation!

THE BLACK MINISTER UNROLLS A BLACK DOCUMENT WITH WHITE LETTERING AND GESTICULATES WITH IT UNDER THE WHITE MINISTER’S NOSE:         Here white party polecat, my resignation!

PRINCE GO-GO – appears in front of the curtain:  Gentlemen, I beg you!
You should put the interests of the nation . . .

WHITE MINISTER & BLACK MINISTER:              … above mere selfish egoism?
Prince Go-Go, if you insist!
Appeasement, appeasement!

GO-GO:                                                                           Yes!

WHITE MINISTER & BLACK MINISTER:            All right, then, Highness, the riding lesson!
Mount your steed!

THE TWO MINISTERS LIFT PRINCE GO-GO BY FORCE ON TO THE ROCKING-HORSE:  Gee-up!

GO-GO:                                          We’re feeling giddy!

WHITE MINISTER:                    Gallop!
But keep the reins loose!

BLACK MINISTER:                    Now keep the reins tight!

WHITE MINISTER:                   Cavalry charge …

WHITE MINISTER & BLACK MINISTER:        … as in war!

GO-GO:                             Never war!
Stop it! We surrender!

GO-GO:                            We make a protest!
It’s laid down in our constitution …

WHITE MINISTER & BLACK MINISTER:  Constitution?
Ha, ha …

GO-GO:                          Enough! Enough! Enough!
Forgive me! beg your pardon!

BLACK MINISTER PRODUCES A BLACK SCROLL WITH WHITE LETTERING: Now memorize this speech!

WHITE MINISTER PRODUCES WHITE SCROLL WITH BLACK LETTERING:    My speech – here! Black on white!

BLACK MINISTER:                        White on Black!

GO-GO:                                              Gentleman, I beg you!
Our dear nation!

WHITE MINISTER & BLACK MINISTER: Forgive me!

GO-GO:                                             What’s that?

BLACK MINISTER:                       Well, a … hm …
A decree raising the value-added tax
by one hundred-and-only percent.

GO-GO:                                            Not one cent!
Your tax, say, is much too high!

WHITE MINISTER & BLACK MINISTER:   Highness! I shall resign!

MYSTERIOUS ENTRANCE OF THE GEPOPO CHIEF:  Pssst!

GO-GO:    Ha! Head of my secret service! What a leisure!
You turn up just at the proper time!
Well, what new intelligence message do you
bring us now?

GEPOPO:                      Cococoding Zero, Zero:
highest security grade!

GEPOPO:                      Birds on the wing!

GEPOPO:                     Double-you see!
Snakes in the grass!
Rabble. rabble, rabble!
Riot, riot!
Unlawful assemblies!
Communal insurrection!
Mutinous masses!
Turbulence!
Panic! Panic!
Groundless! Groundless!
Phobia! Wide of the matk!
Right of the track!
Hypopochondria!

GO-GO:                        What did you say?

GEPOPO:                     Password – Go-Go-lash!
Demonstrations, ha!
Protest actions, ha!
Much discretion!
Close observations!
That’s all!
Not a squeak!
Confidential!
One more thing:
Bear in mind:
silence is golden!

THE PEOPLE OF BREUGHELLAND:  Our great leader!
Our great leader!
Our Great leader!
The people’s friend!

Go-Go:                                                          Come, now let me do it!

GO-GO, ON THE BALCONY, RECEIVES THE ACCLAIM OF THE PEOPLE. THEN HE TALKS TO THE PEOPLE. HIS VOICE REMAINS INAUDIBLE; ONLY HIS GESTURES CAN BE SEEN.

WHITE MINISTER & BLACK MINISTER:      I shall resign!

GO-GO:                                                                     To hell with your resignations!
You will stay!

GEPOPO:                                                                  Stern measures!

GO-GO!                                                                     Stern measures!

GEPOPO & GO-GO:                                               Stern measures!

WHITE MINISTER & BLACK MINISTER:      Stern measures?
How come?
Against what?

THE HANGMEN AND DETECTIVES PRESENT THE GEPOPO CHIEF WITH ANOTHER DISPATCH. HE READS IT.

THE PEOPLE OF BREUGHELLAND – mixed chorus, off stage:       Hear us, Prince, oh, hear us!
Dread and fright do sear us!
Great our alarm, yet fear no harm
if thou be ever near us!

GEPOPO:                                                            Kukuriku!  Kikeriki!
He’s coming!

GO-GO:                                                               Who’s coming?

GEPOPO:                                                            Coming!

GO-GO:                                                               What is this Macabre?

GEPOPO:                                                            Coming! Coming!
Look there! There! There! There!
He’s getting in! He’s getting in! He’s getting in!
He’s in!
The guard! The Guard! The guard!
Call the guard!

THE GEPOPO CHIEF AND HIS ATTENDANTS FLEE IN PANIC. INSTEAD OF THE EXPECTED DISASTER, ASTRADAMORS SUDDENLY STORMS ON TO THE STAGE.

ASTRADAMORS:                                           Hurray, hurray!

GO-GO:                                                             Hurray, hurray!
My two Ministers have fled!

ASTRADAMORS:                                            My Prince!

GO-GO:                                                              My worthy sage!

GO-GO & ASTRADAMORS:                         Huzza, huzza!
For all is now in order!
Huzza!
Huzzarazazaza!

THE PEOPLE OF BREUGHELLAND – mixed chorus in the stalls:          Oh! Prince Hear us!

GO-GO:                                                             But tell me, my good friend, I pray:

what is this cloak you wear today?

ASTRADAMORS:                                       A funeral kind of mantilla,
ready for the Dies illa!

THE PEOPLE OF BREUGHELLAND:    Prince! Hear what we say!

GO-GO: Quiet down there!

THE PEOPLE OF BREUGHELLAND: Prince! Help us!
Please save us!

GO-GO: Yes, yes, I’m coming …
What do you want dear people?

Wailing siren: Prince Go-Go is completely intimidated; clings to Astradamors.
Help! Help me! Save me!

ASTRADAMORS: Under the table, quick, and not a sound!

Grandiose entrance of Nekrotzar with scythe and trumpet, riding on Piet’s back, together with his fiendish entourage.

THE PEOPLE OF BREUGHELLAND: Hear us!

NEKROTZAR: For the day of wrath and retribution has come!

THE PEOPLE OF BREUGHELLAND: O mighty Macabre!
Have pity!
Strike us not dead!

NEKROTZAR: Now will searing, scorching heat!
glow and burn as from a thousand suns,
and the waters of the oceans turn into vapor,
and loudly the mountains split asunder,
and the bodies of men will be singed,
and all will be turned into charred corpses
and shrink like shriveled heads!

THE PEOPLE OF BREUGHELLAND: But me, me, me, let me go on living:
pity take on me, me, me!
No, me, me, just me!
Punish all the rest,
but not me, me me;
do not kill me!
Not me! Not me! Not me!

ASTRADAMORS: There is no need to fear:
there is still some time to spare …

PIET & ASTRADAMORS;                     To our great and singular macabre colleague
Nekro, alias Tsar,
the inexorable reaper-man!

NEKROTZAR:                                       To arms now! Rise!
Time to set to work on my holy task!
But first let me sip this chalice
fill’d with human blood!
And may the pressed-out juices of my victims
serve to strengthen and sustain me
before, alas, my necessary deed begins!
Up!

PIET & ASTRADAMORS – fill Nekrotzar’s glass again:       He drinks! Hurrah!
Cheers, Nekro!
Bottoms up!

NEKROTZAR:                                       Blood tastes good!

NEROTZAR:                                          More there!
Ah yes … What was I saying?
Ah! … I’m weak and old …
My flesh is cold, so cold!
So much have I destroyed,
the world so oft made void!
Sodom, Gomorrah rent!
The great deluge sent! …
… Caligula!
Thoderich!
Genghis Khan!
Ivan the Terrible!
Napole-poleon Bonaparte!

Prince Go-Go, Piet & Astradamors, fully drunk, carry Nekrotzar with great difficulty to the rocking-horse and seat him on it.

NEKROTZAR:                                      The command comes from on high that sun,
moon, and stars
shall now be extinguished!

Suddenly semi-darkness: pale, celestial light.

Yes, it’s done! It’s done! All is done! …

— — — — — —

SCENE FOUR (EPILOGUE)

In the lovely country of Breugelland, Piet and Astradamors are floating freely above the ground, they are dreaming that they are in heaven.

PIET:                                                     Ghost Astradamors, are you dead?
See we are floating to Paradise:

ASTRADAMORS:                               We’re floating higher.

GO-GO:                                                 Is no one there?
Anyone there?
Are they all dad?

All of them, every single one dead?
Only me alive? I alone? Forgotten?

RUFFIACK, SCHOBIACK & SCHABERNACK:    Ha, we are three soldiers,
risen from the grave,
sharing all the booty
which the good God gave!

RUFFIACK:                                      Halt! A civilian!

GO-GO:                                            Oh, but no, gentleman all,
we are Prince Go-Go, the prople’s friend,
your sov’reign!

SCHABERNACK:                            You’re dead too, baby! Understand?

GO-GO:                                            You can call me baby” if you want to
At times like this we all should be good
comrades, right?
We’ll give you high decorations, silver and gold,
and relieve you of the oficial duti –

NEKROTZAR:                                Your highnes still alive?
Have I not just laid to waste the entire
goddamned world?
My scythe! My trumpet! Horse! Come!

GO-GO:                                            Later, my friend …

suddenly addressing the three ruffians –    And you! Attention! Stomach in, chest out!
to Nekrotzar:                                               –    Tell me now: who are you?

NEKROTZAR:                                  Which … where is my grave?

MESCALINA:                                   Ashtaroth! Behemoth!

NEKROTZAR:                                  Damnation!

MESCALINA:                                   Beelzebub!

NEKROTZAR:                                  Oh, save me!

Mescalina has caught Nekrotzar; she holds him firmly and about to plunge the spit into his chest.

GO-GO:                                              You there! Seize hold of that fury!

The three ruffians suddenly fling themselves on Mescalina.
to Schabernack –                             Hey you! You run and fetch a rope!

Schabernack reappears. He is dragging behind him the two Ministers, tied up with a long rope.

BLACK MINISTER & WHITE MINISTER:         Innocent! Innocuous! Virtuous! Decorous!
Altruist! Humanist! Humanitarian!
Mercy!

MESCALINA:                               Highness! These I know too!
And am ready to expose them!

WHITE MINISTER:                   Highness, it was she who thought up those infamous taxes!

MESCALINA:                               Oh ho, sweetheart, and who was it
wanted to overthrow the Prince?

BLACK MINISTER:                    Highness, the Inquisition was her idea!

MESCALINA:                               Oh, ho, dearie, and who wanted to be a tyrant and –

WHITE MINISTER:                    Who invented mass graves?

MESCALINA, BLACK MINISTER & WHITE MINISTER:  Who?

MESCALINA:                                He! You! They!

WHITE MINISTER:                    She! You! They!

BLACK MINISTER:                    You! She! They!

GO-GO:                                          Soldiers! Do your Stuff!

——————————

If no hint was clear, just think of President Obama, The Democrats, The Republicans, BP but not just BP – it is all oil and car and other power brokers. It is about fire and water and earthquakes and tremors, the military, the farmers, the engineers, the scientists – it is about you and me.

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