HAPPY END: for animated film, live electronics, and ensemble
“A gently paced film animation- a boundless wander through imaginary cities. This long adventure is responded to by Aperghis’ music.”
He pulled the ogre’s boots off and donned them himself.
Once upon a time there lived a woodcutter and his wife, who had seven children, all of them boys. The eldest was only ten years old, the youngest only seven.
The woodcutter and his wife were very poor, and their seven children caused them a lot of hardship, because none of them was old enough to earn a living. What troubled the couple further was that the youngest was extremely delicate and never uttered a word, which they took to show his stupidity, although it was a sign of intelligence. He was very small; when he was born he was hardly bigger than a man’s thumb, for which reason Little Thumb was what he was called. —from Little Thumb by Charles Perrault.
Perrault’s fairy tale from 1697, is based on the character archetype of Tom, a small boy who, through his own wit and resourcefulness, is able to overcome enormous challenges to succeed despite everyone’s low expectations of him. In this particular story, “le Petit Poucet” saves himself and his brothers from a hungry child-eating ogre after they are abandoned in a dense forest by parents who could no longer afford to keep them. The tale, however frightening and improbable, reminds us of the moral to never underestimate the underdog. He turns up in other creative interpretations, for example, he and his brothers and the ogre appear in the last act of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” and also in Ravel’s “Ma Mere l’Oye.”
“Happy End” was created by French composer Georges Aperghis and Belgian video-artist, Hans Op de Beeck (with the voices of Edith Scob and Michael Lonsdale), who collaborated to bring an adaptation of “Le Petit Poucet” to the stage in 2007 at the Opera Lille in France with Belgian Ensemble Ictus. At an hour long, the work features a 16-member ensemble on stage with live electronics, projected video and prerecorded voices. It is an arresting, all encompassing experience that pulls the audience into the world of the story, becoming more than just a re-telling of the tale and closer to a psychological journey into the mind of its protagonist. It is described as “the result of a remarkable artistic triangle” that portrays “a boundless wander through imaginary cities.” (Klaas Verpoest) The black and white film contains animation, text and narration. While the music is a sonic representation of the visual, it is also critical fundamental matter with its own psyche.
Inventive composer Georges Aperghis’ (born in 1945 based in France) work teeters precipitously along spaces between concert music, theater and opera. He founded the Atelier Théâtre et Musique (ATEM) and influenced by his relationship with actors, has incorporated theatricality into his pieces, often treating the text, actors, voice, staging, musical instruments, and movement equally in his scores. His work is virtuosic, rhythmically complex, and exploits the limits of register and dynamics, yet at times exhibits a playful and absurd quality. Aperghis’ works defy categorization and immerse the audience in a totality of experience.
April 23, 2014
January 9, 2015
I/O Festival, Williams College
May 8, 2015
Institute for Contemporary Art
Georges Aperghis: Happy End (2007) *US Premiere
Animated feature film: Hans Op de Beeck, Bruno Hardt, Klaas Verpoest
Computer Music Production: Sebastien Roux
Conductor: James Baker
Funded by the French-American Fund for Contemporary Music, a program of FACE with major support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, SACEM, Institut Francais, the Florence Gould Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Supported in part by the Harry and Alice Eiler Foundation.