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Mauricio Sotelo: De amore – Una maschera di cenere

  • Chamber opera (1996-1999)
  • Duration: 100’
  • Instrumentation details:
    flute, clarinet, saxophone - violoncello, contrabass - perc (2) - pno - tape and live electronics
  • Choir: SATB vom Tonband
  • Composer: Mauricio Sotelo
  • Librettist: Peter Mussbach
  • Text author: Wallace Stevens
  • Dedication: a Peter Ruzicka
  • Commission: Stadt München für die Münchener Biennale

Work introduction

The plot of our opera is based on a musical structure in which some of the elements of its make-up – electronic tape and instrumental voices – are already fully extant. This form, already successful in earlier works, resembles a palindrome with a central axis on which the elements reappear transformed, raised to another spatial level and another dimension, considered from another perspective.

This is not what compositional terminology calls a “mirror;” the structure is spiral-shaped. Imagine something sonic which twists in ever smaller concentric circles hurtling toward a central focal point, whence they are again hurled outward farther and farther away as they grow, describing aimless circles.

Librettist, director and set designer Peter Mussbach discovered a curious similarity between this shape and the structure of a discourse on love. Simply expressed, it could be called Encounter – Union – Separation, including all the infinite nuances which at once characterise and categorise various kinds of love-story. Beginning and End are here one and the same – empty, desperate waiting; to flee from misery, to escape a situation of the greatest pain, to be free of the burden of love and to await a coming love which will liberate us and reconcile us with the world again.

The opera begins with the Epilogue and ends with the Prologue; the central part consists of the Union or Attainment with, on the left, Hope or Expectation and, on the right, Desperation, Hopelessness and Pain. At the outset, the audience experiences the drama through Her – after passing through the central axis it is He who leads us to the tragic end. Two female figures (cantaoras - flamenco singers) accompany the action continuously; they have a key role (the elder sister particularly), since they are the reflection of the lovers’ innermost feelings. They sing what the lovers would be unable to say to us, what they do not know about their own feelings and the others’. The cantaoras are the mirror of the lovers’ voices, the mirror of the weak yet impressive voice of the Woman’s lover, which she recalls fragmentarily, far beyond hearing, a heartrending, emaciated voice she recognises because it sounds from the Masks which magically functioned in Greek tragedy to lend a clonic origin to a voice and to distort it, as if it were arising from the subterranean Beyond.

The voices of the cantaoras conduct a dialogue – not with the lost, ecstatic, desperate lovers, but with their exhausted voices; they circle them, colour them, vitalise them – they are an interplay of tonal perspectives which, like a refracting crystal, express at once profoundest pain and playful lights, irony and fun – burleria.

Mauricio Sotelo

World première

Gasteig, München (DE)
Mauricio Sotelo
Main soloists:
Tonband + Live-Elekronik; Roberto Fabricciani, fl, Ernesto Molinari, clar, Marcus Weiss, sax, Yves Savary, vlc, Johannes Nied, cb, Yukiko Sugawara, pn, Stefan Blum, Christian Dierstein, perc.; Salome Kammer - Frau, Markus Eiche - Mann, Marina Heredia, Eva

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