AUNG (2010/2011) für inszenierte Sängerin/Performerin, Ensemble und live-Elektronik,
Text: Helga Utz
Kompositionsauftrag von BIT 20 (Norwegen) und Integra/ Birmingham in Zusammenarbeit mit NOTAM (Norwegen)
UA 1. 10. 2011 / The Royal Danish Academy of Musikc, Studio Hall, Kopenhagen
Anna Clementi /BIT 20/Baldur Brönnigmann

The subject is the inhuman conditions under the military government in Burma (Myanmar) against which the West does not see itself able to take action. Human rights organizations accuse the military junta in Burma (Myanmar) of human rights abuses such as forced labor, compulsory evacuation of villages, torture, rape, and the use of child soldiers, as well as indiscriminate arrests and the abuse of prisoners. In spite of abundant natural resources, the populace is very poor. Over half of the national budget is spent for the military, the intelligence services, and the police.

Because of the catastrophic situation, the international committee of the Red Cross, which normally only expresses criticism in confidence, decided to take the extraordinary step of publically reproaching the government for serious human rights violations.

The most well-known opposition leaders are the comedian Zarganar, who was banned from working and is currently in prison, and Aung San Suu Kyi.


Historical background  Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, successfully fought for Burma’s independence from English colonial rule, but was assassinated shortly before attaining his goal. He would have become Burma’s first elected president and undoubtedly wanted to establish democracy in Burma. Today’s junta, however, sees in him a representative of their own interests, and claims him as “father.” On the other hand, for Suu he represents the humane world without violence. Thus both sides exploit his memory for their goals. Moreover, it is surely the fact that Suu is the daughter of Bogyoke Aung San, who fought against the British and the Japanese, that has protected her from assassination.


Aung San Suu Kyi received her formal education in India, where her mother, who always upheld the memory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, was active as Burma’s first female ambassador. There Aung San Suu Kyi attended the best schools and became friends with Indira Gandhi and her sons Rajiv and Sanjay. She initially studied political science in Dehli, later philosophy, political and economic science in Oxford. She worked in New York at the UN and, with her husband Michael Aris, a scholar of Tibetan studies, in Bhutan. The couple had two sons. While Aung San Suu Kyi taught and did research in Kyoto and in India – also about recent Burmese history and her father’s role in it – Burma, under the brutal dictator Ne Win, was sealed off from the rest of the world.

    Aung San Suu Kyi’s life changed completely when she returned to Burma in 1988 to be with her terminally ill mother – in the midst of political unrest: the people were demonstrating in the streets for democratic reforms. Burma’s “second struggle for independence” (Aung San Suu Kyi) began. As the daughter of her father, the civil-rights activist could not watch indifferently, as she said, and became active politically, and was soon a symbolic figure. In spite of threats of armed force and a ban on public meetings, she traveled throughout the country on an election campaign for the National League for Democracy (NLD), of which she was a cofounder, and dauntlessly advocated civil disobedience. The regime however disregarded her grandiose election victory in the spring of 1990, and arrested, tortured, and killed numerous opposition members; Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. Yet she was not to be silenced so easily. With a ten-day hunger strike, she won the assurance that her fellow campaigners would be well treated in prison. In July 1990, the European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and a year later she received the Nobel Peace Prize “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights” – the world became aware of her fate and of that of her country.

After six years, her confinement was suspended, on strict conditions, for the first time, and she was able to receive foreign journalists. Two years later she was again in custody, which continued until November of last year. She left her two sons behind as adolescents, and never again saw her husband, who died of cancer in 1999.

AUNG is the second joint project by composer Iris ter Schiphorst and librettist and director Helga Utz, who founded oper unterwegs, an opera company dedicated to contemporary opera, three years ago in Vienna. Their first joint project, the children’s opera Die Gänsemagd (“The Goose Girl”), was premiered to great acclaim two years ago in Vienna’s Dschungel as a production of the taschenoper, and subsequently staged in Berlin’s Radialsystem.

Anna Clementi has already premiered numerous works by Iris ter Schiphorst, singing, among other things, the main role in the 3D opera Annas Wake, and in the multi-media opera Silence moves (with which she won the 1997 BLAUE BRÜCKE composition competition); at the end of the 1980s she was the singer in intrors, an ensemble founded by Iris ter Schiphorst that primarily performed electro-acoustical compositions.

Dag Henning Kalvoy, from the Norwegian studio, NOTAM programmed the live-electronics.

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