Osvaldas Balakauskas: Approaching La Lointaine

There were some radical challenges to the historical memory and traditions of the opera genre during the 20th century. On the other hand, operas were and still are being written, which continue, develop and transform the long-lived traditions. This year Osvaldas Balakauskas, who is trying this genre for the first time, will present his angle: he is quickly approaching the end of his new opera La lointaine. "I have been carrying the thought that opera is still an interesting thing for a while, that it is not going to die as the avant-gardists have been predicting", admits the composer. "Finally a concrete offer came from the management of the Warsaw Autumn Festival, indicating the theme and the size, guaranteeing the production, and the vague dream has acquired a shape."

The organisers of the festival planned a night of three chamber operas, where three composers would respond to the ideas, derived from Czesław Miłosz's book "The Land of Ulr". According to this project, each of them should tell his or her story through the lives, ideas and work of the three historical personalities depicted in the book - the British poet and artist William Blake, Swedish theosopher Emanuel Swedenborg and Lithuanian-born French poet Oscar Milosz.

"I was offered Milosz, whose poetry I have used in my previous work Le silence. It is a chamber piece: three vocal parts for soprano, tenor and baritone, accompanied by the ensemble of nine instruments and tape. The text consists only of Milosz's French verses about love, hardly noticeably drawing the trajectory of moods from idealism to disappointment. Thus there is no plot, no action. I am not thinking about the production at all. I have seen in Paris Einstein on the Beach directed by Bob Wilson, and I realised that it is possible to 'stage' any music. And what about my music? Melodious, essentially consonant..."

On May 15 in Vilnius, at the Lithuanian Academy of Music, the pianists Artas Balakauskas and Indy Srikaranonda will premiere a new work for two pianos by Osvaldas Balakauskas with a tentative title Seasons.

Two premieres of Balakauskas' works are included in the "Hermann-Hesse-Festival 2002" dedicated to the 125th anniversary of birth of the writer and taking place in his home town Calw (Germany) and its surroundings. On August 14 the programme "Baltische Impressionen" features Balakauskas' Concerto variabile performed by Carsten Hustedt (flute), Cornelia Monske (marimba) and St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra under Donatas Katkus. This composition is a new version of Concerto for oboe, harpsichord and strings (1981), an absolute hit in Balakauskas' entire output. Next to its original version, it has been adapted for flute, string quartet and harpsichord. Gidon Kremer had played the oboe's part by violin, accompanied by "Kremerata Baltica".

Next day the festival's programme announces "The Baltic Jazz-Rock Project" at Hirsau Klosterspiele including the premiere of Glasperlen-Spiele for jazz soloists and string orchestra, co-authored by Osvaldas Balakauskas, Vidmantas Bartulis and Tomas Kutavičius. Balakauskas has tried many techniques - from dodecaphony to minimalism. However, perhaps all his work is imbued with everlasting affection for jazz. Swing is likely to come out in this piece too.

© Aleksandra Pister

Lithuanian Music Link No. 4