As part of the 1st Baden-Württemberg Opera School Meeting from 16 to 23 June 2019 at the Wilhelma Theatre in Stuttgart, the Trossingen University of Music performed a Monteverdi pasticcio "in stile rappresentativo" – a cross-university production on various artistic levels. The Landeszentrum MUSIK–DESIGN–PERFORMANCE was intensively involved with a digital production.

Oxymoron as a powerful stylistic device

Old boy, "more haste, less speed", less is more – in everyday use the rhetorical figure of "Oxymoron" seems rather insignificant. In the process of creating a baroque opera, however, the clash of two supposedly mutually exclusive opposites becomes a powerful stylistic device. The tensions are created as in nature, where powerful electrostatic charges in the form of lightning and thunder can express themselves powerfully.

Music, too, lives from contrasts, just as all earthly life and the cosmos are determined by polar rhythms – and so we are in the middle of baroque theatre: it tells of human life in the field of tension between elementary forces of nature, divine powers and contradictory affects.
With "Orfeo" by Claudio Monteverdi, the Trossingen University of Music picks up on a masterpiece of Baroque music that enjoys the reputation of being the first opera in music history. At its premiere in 1607, instrumental music, singing, dance and stage were understood as a unity for the first time. In Monteverdi's work, narration takes place on all artistic levels; it uses language and poetry, transforms them into music, sounds and gestures that unfold in dance, which in turn enters into a multi-layered dialogue with architecture, painting and sculpture in the space of the stage set.

The multi-layered dialogue of the Baroque opera is reinterpreted and expanded in Trossingen: the Institute for Early Music develops music, singing, and explores the Baroque stage languages of dance, gesture, and drama. Together with dancers, this framework is refined, expanded and brought to the stage in intensive rehearsals. The visual dimensions are designed by the Landeszentrum MUSIK–DESIGN–PERFORMANCE. The Landeszentrum works with state-of-the-art digital means, video technology, digital scenography, virtual reality and audio technology, thus forming a strong counterpart to the historical performance practice of the Institute for Early Music. Here the circle to the Oxymoron closes. On closer inspection, modern technology is not a foreign body to the aesthetics of the Monteverdi era, but an antithesis that can generate expressive tensions. And it can subtly integrate itself into the Baroque. Baroque theatre loves trompe-l'œil and ephemeral fantasy worlds, which deal with the great themes of humanity by all means of art. This is closely related to the virtual worlds of our time.

Musical Direction

  • Marieke Spaans
  • Jan Van Elsacker

Staging

  • Bernd Niedecken

Historical Gestures

  • Deda Cristina Colonna

Choreography

  • Bernd Niedecken
  • Deda Cristina Colonna

Digital Scenography

Composition for Digital Media

Instrumental and Vocal Ensemble

  • Students of Trossingen University of Music

Developing the Idea of Immersive Sound

Seit Ende 2016 baut das Landeszentrum MUSIKDESIGNPERFORMANCE an der Staatlichen Hochschule für Musik Trossingen Brücken zwischen künstlerischen Traditionen und innovativen Ansätzen des digitalen Zeitalters.

Since the end of 2016, the Landeszentrum MUSIKDESIGNPERFORMANCE at the Trossingen University of Music has been building bridges between artistic traditions and innovative approaches of the digital age.

Within the framework of the Trossingen production "in stile rappresentativo", space and spatiality are at the centre of the digital staging, which allows us, as it were, to trace a line of tradition back to early compositional practices. Fra Ruffino d'Assisi, the cathedral music director in Padua, first wrote eight-part psalms "a coro spezzato" around 1510-20, i.e. for a divided choir. Adrian Willaert further developed this technique, especially in his eight-part Salmi spezzati of 1550. The invention of spatial music in the 16th century thus immediately preceded the compositional work of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). St Mark's Basilica in Venice, whose illustrious list of famous music directors also includes Monteverdi (in 1613), stands paradigmatically for the relationship between architecture and compositional idea: the position of sound becomes the parameter of music. This period thus marks a climax of visionary, sensual creativity in music and the reception of sound. It was not until the 20th century that this idea of immersive sound was taken up again and developed further. This was only made possible by the detachment of sound from the instrument through the universal sound converter, the loudspeaker. Architects and composers jointly explored the fascination of spatial sound with the new technical possibilities. Famous examples are the Philips Pavilion by Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenakis (1958) or the "Kugelauditorium" as a German contribution to the 1970 Expo in Osaka by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Boris Blacher and Fritz Bornemann.

The Landeszentrum MUSIKDESIGNPERFORMANCE integrates spatial sound experiences into the opera evening through a sound dome in the foyer of the Wilhelma Theatre in Stuttgart. Before and after the stage programme, spatial sound compositions and digitally composed music with the sound material of compositions by Carlo Gesualdo by Ludger Brümmer will be performed. This material will also be used to create a metadramaturgy in the course of Monteverdi's original compositions and to consciously confront them with modernity.

In addition, the extension of the stage space with digital scenographic elements by Thorsten Greiner and Dagmar Vinzenz creates a conscious counterpoint to the historical performance practice of the Institute for Early Music. Among other things, they transform characteristics of Baroque stage sets and stagings into abstract visual geometric forms and algorithmically generated particle streams.

Impressions

We would like to thank Ralf Pfründer and Elko Baumgarten for the photographic documentation.