Dedicated to the ageless works of William Shakespeare, the Salzburg Taschenopernfestival presented the world premiere of Sarah Nemtsov’s “miniature opera-monologue” verflucht
in September 2019. Just 15 minutes long, the piece was performed in a programme of “five new Shakespeare operas” by soprano Tehila Nini Goldstein and the österreichisches ensemble für neue musik led by Peter Rundel in a staging by festival founder and artistic director Thierry Bruehl. Referencing Lady Anne’s monologue from Act I scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Richard III
, librettist Gerhild Steinbuch has created for Nemtsov a monologue that explores the paradoxical nature of human beings: how a burning desire to destroy everything at all costs co-exist with a pure, almost naïve love for the world.
miniature opera - monologue for (mezzo) soprano and ensemble
with text by Gerhild Steinbuch
WP: 24.09.2019, Salzburg
"At the beginning of the second scene of Richard III
, Lady Anne enters and curses Richard. Her monologue is an enormous act of protest. It may appear pointless, yet it is in this protest and the profound human experiences and (emotional) impulses behind it that hope finds a harbour. Here the individual is revealed as defiant, emotional and vulnerable. What does Shakespeare have to do with us? Naturally we can find points of reference in his plays, existential ones. Moreover, cursing still goes on today – one might even speak of an inflation of cursing – but it is not so much enchantment as a sign of powerlessness. We stand on the brink of disaster. We see abuses, abysses...and are helpless. (At least we have cursing!)
I asked the playwright Gerhild Steinbuch to write a new monologue based on this Shakespearean scene, a curse for a woman in the 21st century (and therefore timeless) – devastating everything yet also revealing great love for everything. A utopia (or is it a dystopia?): reduce to ashes and rebuild!
What she produced is verflucht
for the singer Tehila Nini Goldstein, a concentrated text which I have followed musically and structurally. Tehila has far more vocal colours at her disposal than classical opera singing normally offers, so there was also an influence from the Yemenite-Jewish tradition and Tehila’s virtuosity in handling microtones. Perhaps one might find reminiscences in it of the speech-song of a Kate Tempest (an artist I greatly admire), where the same principle holds: the voice should no longer sound nice or polished. We don’t need these masks any more..."
Tehila Nini Goldstein
"A 23-minute revenge aria with contemporary colours and expressive means, full of twists and impressive perpetuations."
"Sarah Nemtsov’s verflucht
proves to be the perfect symbiosis of composition and staging... Goldstein curses out of every available resonating chamber, and as her fury grows, the percussion instruments grow along with her in rage. She walks around the corpse of her father-in-law, conjures him and the orchestra as in a black mass."
Kleine Zeitung, 25.09.2019
"Nemtsov’s music glows in powerful dark colours and cunningly calculated shifts of tension."
Salzburger Nachrichten, 25.09.2019
Score of verflucht
Photos: Viola Gies/Klang21