The CETC (Centro de Experimentación del Teatro Colón) has been very active recently. This article covers three widely divergent offerings.
The young Argentine composer Patricia Martínez obtained the Composition Doctorate at Stanford, Cal. She also studied electroacoustic techniques at Quilmes University and computer music at Paris´ IRCAM. Now she presented a continuous diptych called "Breve sueño" and based on a poem by John Donne: "After a brief dream we wake up eternal" (literal translation from the hand programme). "Más allá" is a dancing piece based on a text by Martínez herself; it is reproduced in the programme but there´s no actor/actress reading it. The music is electroacoustic and recorded by the ensamble CEPROMUSIC of Mexico DF (director José Luis Castillo).
My synthesis: "If my body is a bother, a silence, ...just dissolved matter...always without time, and if life is only a dream, a sphere of words exiled in the air... just an apparent limit of the wind that spreads the substance...stopped in an instant whilst it burns and destroys itself...?". A tall order indeed for choreographer Melanie Alfie. Three very different (and competent) dancers, María Aguirregomezcorta, Luciana Brugal and Ivanna Ramonino, perform difficult interlaced anguished steps. I wasn´t attracted by the sounds, but I admit not being convinced by most electroacoustic music.
Musically I enjoyed much more "Los durmientes", second part of the diptych. Ten vocal and instrumental pieces are based on material taken from "Testi orientali inediti sopra i sette dormienti di Efeso" (Fourth Century, translated from the Coptic and the Syriac into Italian by Ignacio Giudi, 1884-5), and Donne´s "Death, be not proud". Five singers and five players coordinated by Santiago Santero gave us the contrasted, intense and varied music, and two dancers (Brugal and Ramonino) brought a visual touch. Mariela Yeregui helped with the electronics and Sergio Iriarte with the lighting. Some titles of the fragments indicate the general feel of this creation: "Persecution", "The dream", "Haikus/ Madrigals on Dreaming", "Resurrection", "Resurrection mirrored", "Death". The staging as such was flimsy, with little movement except for the dancers; can it be considered a semiopera, as so many works written today that are hard to place in a category? I rather feel it is more like a concert.
A curious thing has happened in Buenos Aires concerning a tale by Hans Christiana Andersen: the poor match girl that dies from winter cold has inspired two current composers to write scores about it. Last year Helmut Lachenmann´s "Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern" ("The Little Match Girl"), premièred at the 1996 Salzburg Festival, reached the Colón. It lasts two hours, uses a big orchestra and is "made largely with obtrusive sounds" (Paul Grifffiths). Colleagues didn´t like it, feeling it was chaotic and unpleasant (I was traveling at that time).
And now, the CETC has premièred "The little match girl passion", an unusual combination of the Andersen tale with the Saint Matthew Passion (!) written by the American David Lang (words and music). For it he won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008. Fifteen fragments in 40 minutes. Twelve singers in semicircle sing stark simple music based on short ascending melodies and rhythmic chords. It has a spare expressivity but it has little variety and grows monotonous.
The vocal group Musica Inaudita did very well; the singers are truly professional, and the pure bell-like soprano of Mercedes García Blesa stood out. The conductor wasn´t identified but it probably was Pablo Piccinni, for he has an interesting career as such and is listed as one of the baritones. There were a few instrumental touches. The Brazilian group Superuber accompanied the story with black-and-white projections, generally apposite.
An interesting concert was added to the announced season. The talented Italian pianist Giusy Caruso (debut) offered a valuable combination of Twentieth Century composers. She presented each score with useful concepts in Italian.
The early Eight Preludes by Olivier Messiaen are already characteristic of this very personal creator. Himself a pìanist, these colorful pieces have such titles as "Ecstatic song in a sad landscape", "Defunct instants", "The impalpable sounds of a dream" or "Bells of anguish and farewell tears".
Jacques Charpentier, born 1933, wrote an enormous cycle called "72 études karnatiques". Karnataka is a state in the deep South of India with Dravidic people very different from those in the North; their music is striking and imaginative and they use various modes to express moods of nature. We heard from the eighth cycle "Quasi sonata", an arduous 11-minute piece that attracted me a great deal.
Pierre Boulez is now ninety; he wrote his epigrammatic "Notations" decades ago. Twelve pieces in less than ten minutes: scintillating, extremely hard to play, uncompromising.
George Crumb, born 1929, is a grand old man of the American avantgarde. His "Eine kleine Mitternachtsmusik" ( a pun on Mozart´s "Eine kleine Nachtmusik") has as subtitle "Ruminations on ´Round Midnight´ by Thelonious Monk" (he was one of the quirkiest and most creative jazzmen). Written for amplified piano, it is a sprawling piece (18 minutes) with some recited passages. Although I liked it, I also felt that it overstayed its welcome; some editing seems in order.
Caruso seemed to me a most accomplished player, who has internalized all this complicated music to the point that they seem second nature for her. It was a pleasure to hear her, and she gave us a rousing encore, Ginastera´s "Danza del gaucho matrero".
For Buenos Aires Herald