“Not yet awakened and not yet more secure”
Notes on the opera Die Blinden by Beat Furrer
The blind ones, who do not know precisely where they are, are awaiting the return of their priestly leader. They find him dead in their midst just before the end of the drama. That is the entire plot of Furrer’s opera Die Blinden, from Maurice Maeterlinck’s eponymous Les Aveugles [“The Blind Ones”], a shortened version if his drame statique joined with fragments of Plato’s Cave Allegory and passages from Hölderlin and Rimbaud in a kind of montage. The peril of the darkness arouses longing for the power and energy of the light which Plato and Hölderlin conjure and which Rimbaud emphasises; the four stories are facets of a joint passion.
Furrer explains his motivation for making the textual levels into a montage as deriving from “a musical necessity to find various relations of words to music. The Maeterlinck level is homogeneous, calling for homogeneous musical expression; that language is not fractured per se. I could have placed a person in the foreground, but that makes no sense in view of the anonymous society of Maeterlinck’s figures – which is why it seemed reasonable to use texts which were very different from one another. The Cave Allegory is even more stylised, even further from the drama.
“The dramatics emerge from the montage. The gradation of the Plato chorus and the Maeterlinck soloists brings Maeterlinck’s anonymous society somewhat more into the foreground – Maeterlinck as the central level, the middle, with Plato in the background – and something breaks open in the Rimbaud as if someone were actually torn out. The two Hölderlin passages are caesuras, where a different, slower time takes hold.”
The montage of texts entails a gradual, dramatic effect of developing from the shadowy silhouettes of Plato’s Cave Allegory to the phantasms of Hell in Rimbaud’s words. Furrer says that the blind ones are in an endless, bottomless plunge, referring to a poem by Georges Bataille which he also recalled while working on the opera:
Avoid extinguished a thousand times
Such a scream
Bored through you
Such a long, long drop
Christian Scheib - from the CD booklet, Die Blinden by Beat Furrer (direction), Klangforum Wien, 1991. WDR/panClassics