SATURDAY OCTOBER 17
STREAM BEGINS 7PM AEST
(available to ticket holders for 24hours)
Australian Premiere - Gertrude Opera co-production with Monk Parrots, USA
music by David Lang
stories by Lydia Davis, and words by David Lang after Gottfried von Strassburg, Beroul, Sir Thomas Malory, Marie de France, Beatriz Contessa de Dia, Thomas of Britain, the yom kippur liturgy and Richard Wagner
David Lang’s love fail weaves fragments from medieval versions of Tristan and Isolde with new text putting a contemporary lens on the classic love story. Taking cues from Lang’s disjointed approach and disturbances caused by the global pandemic, director Luke Leonard places theatrical metaphors in the natural world with “distanced” actors performing choreographed movements in a field. Exploring the gaps of opera and filmmaking, love fail blends vocal performance and stage direction with video capture and digital effects to experience the accident of love under unusual circumstances.
An 'a cappella' (unaccompanied) chamber opera for four voices (SSAA) and simple percussion
First performance: 2012 International Festival of Arts and Ideas; Yale Repertory Theater; New Haven, CT, USA
love fail was co-commissioned by The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2012 Next Wave Festival, The International Festival of Arts & Ideas, The John F. Kennedy Center Abe Fortas Memorial Fund, The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, The Secrest Artists Series at Wake Forest University, and Hancher Performances at the University of Iowa.
Why is it that people still like the story of Tristan and Isolde? It has been told repeatedly for almost 1000 years, in many different versions, with all manner of strange details added or changed. “The greatest love story ever!” But why? Of course, there is excitement, drama, love, lust, shame, death, dragons. I think the real reason why is because the love of Tristan and Isolde begins by accident—they drink a love potion. They didnʼt mean to drink it, and they didnʼt mean to fall in love. They drink and—BAM!—it starts. It is almost a laboratory experiment into what love might be like without any of the complications of how real love begins or works— without the excitement, embarrassment, frustration, guilt or competition present in the courtships of ordinary people.
I thought I might learn something about love if I could explore this in a piece, putting details abstracted from many different retellings of Tristan and Isolde next to texts that are more modern, more recognizable to us, more real. First I scoured the literature and took my favorite weird incidents from the originals; for example, in Marie de Franceʼs version Tristan carves his name on a stick for Isolde to find, she sees it and immediately knows what message Tristan means to convey, and that message—incredibly—is many many pages long. Another example: Tristan and Isolde drink the potion, thinking it is wine, and Gottfried von Strassburg writes, dramatically, that it isnʼt wine they are drinking, but a cup of their never-ending sorrow. (This, near the chapter in which Gottfried lists all the other Germanic poets working in the 12th century, and then tells you how he rates among them.) I compiled the oddest incidents from these versions of their romance, took out all the names or technological information that would make the texts seem ancient, and put them next to stories by the contemporary author Lydia Davis. These stories are oddly similar to the Tristan stories—they are also about love, honor and respect between two people, but they are much more recognizable to us.
I based my words on scraps of the text I found on the internet—thank you google translate! I do want to acknowledge the translations of Robert W. Hanning & Joan Ferrante, A. T. Hatto, and Alan S. Fedrick, whose versions of these texts I consulted more than once.
— David Lang, 2012 / 2020
David Lang, composer
Linda Thompson, artistic director
Luke Leonard, video/
digital effects director
Patrick Burns, music director
Amelia Jones, soprano
Heather Fletcher, mezzo soprano
Belinda Paterson, mezzo soprano
Alexandra Amerides, contralto*
*GO 2020 Young Artist
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