Transcript

Text: The 1871 revolt of the Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution in 1905, and the workers’ protests in Turin provide the material for Luigi Nono’s most compelling opera “In the Bright Sunshine Heavy with Love” / Oskar Negt about Peter Konwitschny’s legendary production of this work at the Hannover State Opera - -

Text: REVOLUTION WITHOUT PATHOS / Oskar Negt about Nono’s revolution opera “Al gran sole carico d’amore”

Text: The People: And although we know you’ll turn to violence / no other language do you understand. / We’ve decided that it’s only common sense to risk our lives / and make a stand.

Alexander Kluge: “Al gran sole carico d’amore.” You have seen it, right? It’s about …

Oskar Negt: Well, it’s an opera about revolution. It is basically an opera that tries to capture the ruptures of the revolution, less the October Revolution but rather the 1905 revolution and … France in 1871, the Commune …

Kluge: Women see it as well. It’s a requiem for the failing revolution against the backdrop of the passion with which women fought for the revolution.

Negt: I accompanied Peter Konwitschny’s production, I was present for all rehearsals and discussed the work with the actors. And I was pretty impressed that it’s still possible to put such an opera about revolution on stage.

Text: Oskar Negt, philosopher

Kluge: It got standing ovations.

Negt: Standing ovations, and it was named opera of the year … the best opera of the year in Hannover. That’s primarily thanks to Peter Konwitschny, who tried to maintain a very careful balance between the individual identities of the fighters in the chorus and the notion of the general.

Text: Peter Konwitschny

Kluge: They are real people who die.

Negt: Real people. That became noticeable also during the rehearsals: Peter Konwitschny made an effort to call each of these 70 people by name, to address them personally, and this created a very impressive combination of the collective and individuality.

Kluge: More tragedy, and sometimes you get a sense of catching a glimpse of reality.

Negt: In regard to the failed attempts, this also means that he manages to convey the fundamentally humane core of the Paris Commune and the 1905 Revolution and the women’s movement, a reference to the women’s movement, without pathetic platitudes. Instead, you get the impression that there is still an unresolved potential in these movements. Not in the October Revolution or other successful revolutions, but precisely in those that failed but still leave something behind for the people.

Kluge: The 1905 Revolution in Russia had an enormous appeal. I think Rosa Luxemburg actually traveled out there. And in fact, communication between St. Petersburg and Kiev was faster than the telegraph. It was intuition. That means, there wasn’t actually any communication, they simply had the same ideas. It was like a basic current …

Text: MYSTERIOUS LONG-DISTANCE EFFECTS in authentic revolutions

Negt: Well, there are these spontaneous elements, elements of spontaneous resistance that find expression here and are channeled into a collective will without there being any conductors or leaders.

Kluge: Those actually get mocked. They appear in the role of vocal coaches, with comical effect. It’s like seeing Napoleon III’s reactionaries in a puppet show.

Negt: Exactly.

Text: Lenin (as choirmaster): In Memory of the Commune

Text: LENIN, Stefan Schreiber

Negt: It is an enormous achievement to put such a somewhat cumbersome opera on stage in a way that makes it lively and fascinating.

Kluge: So that it almost turns into a number opera. He basically developed a number opera in the classical sense. He interrupts the homogenous work structure that Nono developed, and the effect is like beautiful jewelry or fragments.

Text: Oskar Negt, philosopher

Negt: And it was exported immediately to Edinburgh. They had a performance there. And the stage design is set up so the walls get increasingly narrow.

Kluge: The move closer together until finally they crush the people.

Negt: Not quite. Through a window, they have …

Kluge: It looks like the Titanic. Like a ship wreck.

Negt: The walls get increasingly narrow, but there is still a sliver of light, of hope, an escape route. It’s small, so it’s not a lofty prediction of a better future. “The victory will be ours” becomes a fractured slogan, a fractured message. But it’s not staged in way that suggests the revolutionaries will eventually succeed, no matter the conditions, no matter the failure of their attempts, their revolutionary attempts. It’s simply a sliver of hope that remains.

Kluge: The first part already focuses on the 1870/71 Commune. Could you describe that? The Prussians have surrounded Paris after winning the Battle of Sedan. Napoleon III has capitulated. The actual war was over. And then Paris rises.

Negt: The Parisian proletariat rises, the Parisian workers, the people of Paris.

Kluge: And bring back the French Revolution in the besieged city of Paris. With balloons that carry their messages into the world. A lot of postcards are mailed back and forth, pamphlets are exchanged …

Negt: But it’s only Paris, isolated from the rest of the country. It suffers the same fate as the actual French Revolution that fails to include the rest of the country and thus is beaten down by Prussian troops.

Kluge: Paris has its own political theater, but with actual people from the Quartiers …

Negt: With actual people. And Marx celebrates this, and he says: For the first time, we see something like a return of the political power into the social totality of life and production.

Kluge: The only example where an actual soviet republic emerges. Where people spontaneously begin to govern themselves.

Negt: It’s a very short period. But at least they have banks, and something like self-government would certainly have been possible if the Prussians hadn’t been about to destroy this experiment.

Text: The Prussians free Napoleon’s soldiers so they can break up the rebellion

Kluge: And they achieve this by freeing the prisoners of wars, the mercenaries, Napoleon III’s former army that was defeated and is sitting in the prison camps … they are put under the command of the bourgeois government in Versailles, which then uses them to take back Paris. That’s the year of Marcel Proust’s birth, in the midst of this chaos, in Paris. Strange. The tevolution releases its children, and at the same time a person is born whom the Commune was not able to predict, who is very good at analyzing the developments but certainly not a revolutionary.

Text: Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

Negt: But you don’t have to be one in order to be able to analyze the revolution and the atmosphere of the times. He’s a revolutionary in other ways. In particular “La Recherche du Temps Perdu” is also a search for an understanding of the revolution as a means to bring back lost time. And that’s an important aspect of Proustian thought, I think.

Kluge: He is a revolutionary of thoroughness. Is that something you might say? A revolutionary of thorough description.

Negt: Of precise description. Thorough, I am not so sure, but certainly precise description.

Text: Johannes Harneit, musical direction

Text: Luigi Nogo (1924-1990)

Johannes Harneit: The music is incredible. If you imagine that today – in the 1970s people were appalled about this kind of tune. But that’s because they weren’t paying attention to how it was framed. They couldn’t deal with the tune, that’s the crazy thing about it, they couldn’t deal with the tune and didn’t recognize the battle he was trying to express. I think that’s amazing. And in a way, it’s still … the accompaniment is so difficult that the choir (everyone on stage has to sing) has to be grateful if they hit the right tone. Because, the accompaniment [demonstrates] … now take this note. If he had done this [demonstrates], you could say: Okay, makes sense. But he doesn’t.

Text: “Beauty is not opposed to revolution” Louise Michel / Che Guevara

Text: REVOLUTION WITHOUT PATHOS / Oskar Negt about Nono’s revolution opera “Al gran sole carico d’amore”