FAMA is coming! Mark your calendars for American Immersion: Beat Furrer for May 14-17. Together with the Austrian Cultural Forum and the Bohemian National Hall, Talea will present an evening of chamber music as well as the US Premiere of Beat Furrer’s chamber-opera, FAMA. Read what Michelle Lou says about her experiences upon first hearing Furrer’s masterpiece.
In November of 2005, I was invited by Beat Furrer to attend the first night of his monodrama, FAMA at the Kunsthalle in Vienna, Austria. It had just received its premiere at the Donaueschingen Music Days the month before. I was living in Graz on a Fulbright Fellowship to study with Furrer at the time. This piece has left many indelible images in my memory, both sonic and visual. There are so many layers in this work that makes it so experientially rich. It was such a striking experience: like I was being pulled closer and closer into an incredibly intimate space, as if being drawn into the emotional and psychological mind of Else. She is the lone character, adapted from a short novel by Arthur Schnitzler about a young woman forced into prostitution to financially support her father. To tell his story, Furrer layers the metaphor of Ovid’s telling of Fama, the Goddess of Rumor. He builds a kind of container around her of sound and space that represents her existential struggle. This container is a resonance of her inner world. We become voyeurs. With the metaphor of Fama, she mutters and whispers into our ears as instruments and voices murmur. Telling us secrets. Voices and music shift from being internalized thoughts to outward expressions until it is too difficult to tell which is which. I remember most vividly Scene IV, the duo between contrabass flute and Else. This scene placed me on the edge of my seat, perception heightened as Else engages in a hysterical monologue while the flute answered her in otherworldly sounds. She seemed like she was both right up against my ear and yet impossibly distant. I also recall the process by which the instrumentation became more and more fragmented as the piece progressed. The climax, signaled by a tam tam roll brought the piece to its finality, and the instruments dropped out one by one. After I left the venue and walked out into the brisk air and through the Museums Quartier back to a friend’s apartment, the work was still resonating in my mind’s ear and it took me a moment to realize where I was. You know, I was very lucky to see FAMA within the sound room that he designed for the piece. It added to the experience, but I am confident that the absence of the box does not take away from it. It is an astonishing work, so potent with metaphor and affect that the stark sensation of intimacy and existential drama prevails in the music and not in the staging. I am very excited to see Talea present its US premiere this month in NYC. It will be more than interesting to layer an experience of this work over another after so much time has passed.
Director of Communications and Outreach, Talea Ensemble