Effi Briest (2000) (with Helmut Oehring)
for deaf soloist (female), voice, male soprano, female speaker; 18 instruments, tapes
(FP: Bonn, 2001) duration: 90 min.

Music theatre psychogram in four acts after Th. Fontane

commissioned by Theaters der Bundesstadt Bonn

deaf soloist (female), voice, male soprano, female speaker; solo trp-3cl-2tpt-perc(2)-acc-pft(=sampler kbd)-elec.gtr-elec.bass gtr-2vlc.3db-live electronics

World Premiere: 09/03/2001, Kunsthalle, Bonn
Christina Schoenfeld/Salome Kammer/Arno Raunig/Ingrid Caven/ Jorg Wilkendorf/ Ensemble musikFabrik NRW / Wolfgang Ott
Ulrike Ottinger, dir.

When a composer whose works centre around communication and language collaborates with an artist who is known for her multimedia operas to bring Fontane’s Effi Briest to stage, one almost expects a tension between interpretation and deconstruction. It is all but surprising that the work follows the narrative structure of the novel without major gaps. However, both composers have always shown great distrust in the claim of language to produce communication between human beings. As a result they present both the possibilities and the prevention of communication; sound, language, gesture, movement and image intermingle, often failing to create a continuous flow of communication. The complex texture of changing forms of expression makes the depth psychology of the conflict between wish and convention visible, while the identity of voice, character and actor is often ambiguous. The music expresses the intricate relation of language to traditional forms, as the fateful and tragic dimension of the plot is presented on a canvas ranging from chanson to baroque aria.

effi_1.jpeg effi_2.jpeg effi_3.jpeg effi_4.jpeg ingrid-caven-als-effi-3.jpeg


Fotos: Ulrike Ottinger

“The famous story of the noble daughter who is married and has a lover does not happen for the first time in the Briest family. Hardly accidentally, the introductory scene makes it clear that the daughter is going to be married to the former adorer of her mother, Baron von Instetten for the purpose of social advance. The hopes of both fail, the mother wastes away, Instetten advances, Effi dies from unloving coldness. Thus a female fate is passed on from one generation to the next.
In order to recount this in a more general way, the two authors deliberately separate role and text. The theatre of voices is underlined with acoustic sounds which, rather than a drama, create a mood, an atmosphere. The instruments, which combine an ensemble of new music with rock guitar, accordion and big-band, are marked by a sense of reduction. Sounds, often pianissimo, appear dampened, tending towards polluted noise. To this are added radio signals, hissing noises and voices as if from a film, their flatness suggesting emptiness and loss of perspective.”
(Frank Kämpfer, NZfM, 3/2001)

“genuine theatre music which paints states of with a variety of shades.”
(Stefan Keim, Die Welt, 13.03.2001)

Oehring/Schiphorst: triumphant premiere of Effi Briest in Bonn (August 2001)
Helmut Oehring and Iris ter Schiphorst scored a triumph with press and public for the staging of their opera Effi Briest in Bonn in March. The work explores the inner psychological world of Theodor Fontane’s celebrated novel Effi Briest (1895), describing an ill-fated marriage set in the Biedermeier period. However, rather than retelling the narrative, it teases out strands and reassembles them in parallel montage, enhanced in Bonn by the abstract and stylised production of film-maker Ulrike Ottinger.
The cast of four stage soloists migrates between depicting Fontane’s characters and assuming multiple aspects of Effi Briest’s psyche. This splintering of personality is reflected in the artists’ differing performance styles: the wit and vulnerability of chansonnier Ingrid Caven, the graphic gestures of the deaf mime artist Christina Schönfeld, the virtuoso singing of female soprano Salome Kammer, and the other-worldly timbre of male soprano Arno Raunig. As in many Oehring/Schiphorst works a solo trumpet emerges from the supporting ensemble and the soundworld is transformed through live electronics.
Even before her marriage turned into a ghostly prison, Effi had experienced intimidation in her parents’ home. The music creates a theatrical background in sombre colours. A threatening rumble with nervous interjections, flickerings and tremblings…a static landscape of reduced expressiveness. But as such it mirrors the loss of communication experienced by the main characters… the artistic achievement of this wonderful team feeds yet again on the longing for the fulfilment of longing, and this is, in this work, very beautiful.”
Süddeutsche Zeitung

“The literary source appears to have served as a template onto which the creators could demonstrate what they could do with the genre of opera. They question conventions – and ignore them. For instance the division of labour in composing the work clearly represents a radical break from the classical tradition. The authors equally did not compromise their vision in the hope that their work would have a better chance to enter the repertoire. The opera Effi Briest is in the truest sense of the word a unique Gesamtkunstwerk.”
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