Both these ensemble works, which may be performed together or separately, reassemble from completely different dramatic perspectives music from my opera Berenice, performed first at the Munich Biennale in 2004 and, in a revised and abridged version, at the Theater Heidelberg in November 2005.
In the Suites the music of Berenice alone becomes the focus of attention, takes the leading role. It must therefore both substitute for Durs Grünbein’s libretto (after Edgar Allen Poe) as well as try to compensate for the absence of the scenic and dramatic features which have such a suggestive influence on atmosphere: singers, actors, production, stage sets and equipment, lighting, video and so on.
At the very most, Poe’s Gothic Story of 1835 still reverberates here through allusions, breaks out from 'between the lines'. But even though they inspired the composition decisively, its basic conflicts between meditation and hysteria, beauty and decay, intimacy and horror have now been transformed into 'absolute' music. Berenice, Suites I [&] II therefore function according to dramatic rules divorced from the opera, which demanded a different approach to time. Several cuts were made, transitions reduced, scenes that lay far apart brought together, parts that belonged together broken up and regrouped. Moreover the absence of singers and actors led to considerable rescoring.
Berenice, Suite I (ca 28’) has been assembled in labyrinthine fashion as a sequence of several developing variations, which as the piece progresses interact and collide with one another. Furthermore the instrumental activity is supplemented by an 8-track tape using sounds derived from various metalworking machines, projected live and circling round the 19-piece ensemble.
Berenice, Suite II (ca. 12’) forms a stylistic counterpoint to this, uniting the songs of the opera into a medley.
Berenice, Suite I is dedicated in friendship to Durs Grünbein, the librettist of the opera, and Berenice, Suite II to Claus Guth and Christian Schmidt, director and set designer of the first performance respectively.
Johannes Maria Staud
(trns. Peter Burt)