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Le Grand Macabre

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György Ligeti


Michael Meschke und György Ligeti (nach Michel de Ghelderode)


12 April 1978, Stockholm (Royal Opera)




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About the opera Le Grand Macabre

Le Grand Macabre (1974-77, revised version 1996) is György Ligeti's only opera. The opera has two acts and its libretto - loosely based on the 1934 play, La Balade du grand macabre, by Michel De Ghelderode - was written by Ligeti in collaboration with Michael Meschke. The original libretto was written in German, and the opera has been performed also in Swedish, English, French, Italian and Hungarian. Unlike many operas, this one was written specifically with flexibility of language in mind. Only a few notes need be changed to perform the opera in any of these languages.
After having seen Mauricio Kagel's anti-operatic work Staatstheater, Ligeti came to the conclusion that it was not possible to write any more anti-operas. He therefore resolved to write an "anti-anti-opera", an opera with an ironic recognition of both operatic traditions and anti-operatic criticism of the genre. From its brief overture, a mixture of rhythmic sounds scored for a dozen car horns, to the closing passacaglia in mock classical style, the work evolves as collage of sonorities ranging from a grouping of urban sounds to snippets of manipulated Beethoven, Rossini and Verdi. Ligeti's opera is replete with irony and ambiguities, conveying a deadly serious message in a lightened humorous way.
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