Cecilia Arditto Delsoglio

4. The text

We don’t want to produce a new text based on Camus’ novel but to make selection of the existent text, sung in French with eventual subtitles in German translating but also commenting the actions in a sort of meta-text.

 The text in this opera works in different levels.

  1. Informative clear text: Text that helps to follow the story (as minimal as possible) and to emphasize dramatic contain (see my musical moment “Je t’aime- je ne t’aime pas”, or “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte”. )
  2. Text as texture: singers and ensemble sing and speak texts from the original novel (in French). The text has not to be fully understood; only some significant words stand out from the general texture. Singers and instruments on stage create an intelligible language of an emotional nature[1].

The text is minimal, but that doesn’t mean that it´s not important. Together with Annette Müller and Bart Broens we want to create a substantial filter of the novel, selecting the phrases that, like pillars under a construction, hold the drama in a subtle but effective (and understandable) way.
Bart Brouns, expert in German language with a deep knowledge of French literature, is also a musician. His collaboration in this project, is to select the original French texts from the novel that also can be understood by a German audience, creating a semantic link between the two languages. The question is: which words in the French novel can be understood by German speaking audiences?
We want to use French language in the opera. The sound of the French language, beyond the meaning of the words, brings the opera into a “French existentialism stimmung”.

  1. Funeral scene: solo of Meursault with the coffin of his mother (he doesn´t look at her). A distant choir of the funeral participants comment on Meursault behavior. Voulez-vous auparavant voir votre mère une dernière fois ? » J’ai dit non/ Wollen Sie Ihre Mutter vorher noch ein letztes Mal sehen?» Ich verneinte.



  1. The beach. Singers and musicians play bowls with water OR sand, creating a “surround system” with simple means. The sound of the water OR sand + instruments, goes in crescendo, ending with the fatidic gun-shots. The stage possibilities for water are interesting. Glass containers full of water, with a proper light design, can create a very poetic scene. “…tout s’arrêtait ici entre la mer, le sable et le soleil, le double silence de la flûte et de l’eau.” “…alles wurde unbeweglich zwischen Meer, Sand und Töne: das zwiefache Schweigen von Flöte und Wasser”. You can hear the sound of sand together with the musical instruments in my piece “The dearest dream” https://vimeo.com/296329584#t=180s (starts at minute 3:00)


  1. Meursault. Baritone solo. He is talking with himself in a mirror. The choir is more distant and softer than ever. He is busy with his own thoughts, untouched by the outside world. Mais tout le monde sait que la vie ne vaut pas la peine d’être vécue. Aber jeder weiß, daß das Leben nicht lebenswert ist.


  1. The jail. Singers and musicians play long metal bars against the floor. Sound and image come together. C’est justement pour ça qu’on vous met en prison. On vous prive de la liberté. » Je n’avais jamais pensé à cela. Je l’ai approuvé : « C’est vrai, lui ai-je dit, où serait la punition ? «Das ist doch die Freiheit. Man nimmt euch die Freiheit.» Dieser Gedanke war mir noch gar nicht gekommen. Ich stimmte ihm zu: «Das ist richtig, sonst wäre es ja keine Strafe.»



  1. Meursault duo with Marie. The text says that Marie is one woman and also all the women that he met before. The choir formed by all the female players of the ensemble and the female singers are the musical echo of Marie (singer 2). “Je ne pensais jamais à Marie particulièrement. Mais je pensais tellement à une femme, aux femmes, à toutes celles que j’avais connues” Ich dachte dabei nicht besonders an Maria. Aber ich dachte so sehr an eine Frau, an Frauen, an alle, die ich gekannt”



  1. The trial is a polyphonic multilayered scene. A group of ventilators is on stage. The oscillating heads follow the trial as if they were the heads of the people in court. This scene is rich in meanings: the ventilators are related to the suffocating summer, but they also are a metaphor for members of society as robots.

Ventilators can be switched on and off from a distance following musical cues. A whole kinetic choreography can be organized on stage synchronizing singers, instruments and objects creating a “Grand Finale”.

See “Musica invisible for flute and ventilators”, https://vimeo.com/48767850#t=14s (starts at 00:14)

Other elements from the novel present in this scene are: the bell of the judge in counterpoint to the bells from outside; there is also a vibraphone solo emulating the typist, who annotates the events of the trial.

See “Esta tarde leo a Adorno”, (vibraphone solo) https://vimeo.com/264749844

(starts at the very beginning)

L’après-midi, les grands ventilateurs brassaient toujours l’air épais de la salle et les petits éventails multicolores des jurés s’agitaient tous dans le même sens. Am Nachmittag wirbelten die großen Ventilatoren die dicke Luft im Saal durcheinander, und die kleinen, bunten Fächer der Geschworenen bewegten sich alle im gleichen Takt.

[1]   See “Tissue” (minute 11 in the video – bar 147 score) to see how instruments sing/speak and play simultaneously creating “text-textures”