Neuwirth: Bählamms Fest at Ruhrtriennale

Neuwirth: Bählamms Fest at Ruhrtriennale

It is over 22 years ago that Bählamms Fest (The Feast of the Lambs) celebrated its premiere as a commission from the Vienna Festival. With great effort, the electronics have been adapted to today’s possibilities and requirements, making Bählamms Fest playable once again. Under the musical direction of Sylvain Cambreling, and staged by Irish directing-duo Dead Centre (Bush Moukarzel and Ben Kidd), Bählamms Fest has just opened the Ruhrtriennale 2021 under the new direction of Barbara Frey.

Bählamms Fest (1993/1997-1998)

Music theatre in 13 scenes
Text: Elfriede Jelinek after Leonora Carrrington
2S.Ms.Ca.Ct.T.Bar.Man’s voice.2Child’s voice - - hn.2tpt.trb.tba - 2perc - - 2vl.vla.2vc.db - live-elec.samples
WP: 19.06.1999, Vienna

Picture of Bahlamms Fest by Olga Neuwirth
Bählamms Fest at Ruhrtriennale, 2021


RuhrtriennaleDead Centre (dir.), Ensemble ModernSylvain Cambreling (cond.)

Watch stream   Go the event page

Previous performances

19.06.1999 (WP)
Vienna Festival, Nicholas Broadhurst (dir.), Klangforum Wien, Johannes Kalitzke (cond.)

20.06.2002 (EA)
DeutschesSchauSpielHausHamburg/Hamburgische StaatsoperVera Nemirova (dir.), Patrick Davis (cond.)

06.09.2002 (EA)
Luzerner Theater/Lucerne FestivalKazuko Watanabe (dir.), Christian Arming (cond.)

Live recording of the world premiere

About Bählamms Fest

Her husband is an alcoholic, her mother-in-law a lascivious tyrant, her brother-in-law a half-wolf – and the country house is in the back of beyond. Sheep graze outside while Theodora the young wife sits in the nursery hoping for snow. Trapped in the morbid, repressive world of the Carnis family, she dreams of breaking away. Jeremy, the seductive wolf-man figure, promises her the opposite of bourgeois torpor. But love will not bring salvation, just more dead lambs, while inside the house of Carnis, hatred rears its head and with it the persecution of anyone different. In a fantastic, surreal orgy of Christmas celebrations the boundaries between the present and the past, the living and the dead, man and beast, desire and reality all break down. The house as a space that protects the individual dissolves into thin air.

In their intermedia opera Bählamms Fest based on Leonora Carrington’s play The Feast of the Lambs, Olga Neuwirth and Elfriede Jelinek gaze into the gaping cracks in the house that the surrealist »built« while fleeing across Nazi-occupied France in 1940. Neuwirth, who calls Bählamms Fest her own »House of Usher«, blasted unfamiliar escape routes out of this intolerable reality into unreal visual and musical spaces in the 1990s. The Irish directing duo Dead Centre will transport Neuwirth’s pioneering intermedia work to a time where the boundaries between reality and virtuality really have disappeared and escaping into fictitious worlds of wish fulfilment takes on new resonances as an expression of despair at inhuman coldness and barbarism.
—Text by Ruhrtriennale, published with kind permission by the presenter

Picture of Bahlamms Fest by Olga Neuwirth
Bählamms Fest at Ruhrtriennale, 2021


“Neuwirth has created a pandaemonic sound-space full of quotations, noises and musical objets trouvés within which she directly juxtaposes the foreign and the familiar, fulfilment and disaster... The seemingly anarchical mixture of children’s songs and brutal discharges of sound, operatic gestures and melodrama, distorted ländlers and glassy tape sounds are miraculously subsumed into a higher unity: this music never seems eclectic. On stage, Dead Centre’s visuals suggestively transmit this surreal play with identities and replications, happily resisting the temptation to impose an interpretation which could only reduce the piece.”

—Süddeutsche Zeitung, 16.08.2021
“Every metaphor, every note is perfectly placed.” —Der Freitag, 19.08.2021

“Along with the atmosphere generated by the depth of the space, as effective as that may be, it is Neuwirth’s music that carries the evening. And it could not be in better hands than those of Sylvain Cambreling and the fabulous Ensemble Modern, augmented by all manner of live electronics. Neuwirth delves dauntlessly and lustily into a universe of sound, not shying away from fragmentation or allusive quotation. She lets her music moan, groan and howl as though the Jahrhunderthalle itself were discharging audible segments of its past.”
—Der Standard, 20.08.2021

“For women and persons facing discrimination, life in the patriarchy is no walk in the park... Analytical approaches to this topic are proliferating like ivy and Bählamms Fest could be understood as just such an analytical approach. But it is clearly more than that: a lamento, a horror film, a manifesto and, in its staging by the theatre company Dead Centre, great political art.”
—Die Zeit, 19.08.2021

“Olga Neuwirth not only has a soft spot for the grotesque. She thinks thoroughly in terms of music theatre.  Her music in Bählamms Fest is altogether multifarious. Fitted into this unreal world are the otherworldly sounds of the theremin with its singing sine waves... Through morphing, she can mix human voices and animal sounds, which also reinforces the surreal quality already intended by Leonora Carrington and her theatrical version of history.”
—Deutschlandfunk, 16.08.2021

“It as if cunning terror and dazzling shock had found their way into an opera score by Richard Strauss and a symphony by Mahler: trilling, clanking and chirruping; the noise of a radio station search. At time the music trumpets an attack and imitates a fire-engine siren; at others it waltzes into three-quarter time and conjures up the bleating of suffering lambs.”
—nachtkritik, 15.08.2021

Picture of Bahlamms Fest by Olga Neuwirth
Bählamms Fest at Ruhrtriennale, 2021

Photos: Volker Beushausen/Ruhrtriennale

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