In May 2010, Alan Gilbert collaborated with the director Doug Fitch on György Ligeti’s »Le Grand Macabre« in New York. The press was full of praise and the performance went down in history as a milestone of modern musical theatre.
»»An exhilarating success, a brilliant performance of Ligeti’s daunting score and a disarming production.««
The New York Times on the New York production
Ligeti’s music was a focus at the Hamburg International Music Festival 2019, and as part of that the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under Alan Gilbert brought to Hamburg a version specially adapted for the Elbphilharmonie.
The work is »an opera about the existential crisis in the modern world, about finding meaning in life – with all its nonsense and craziness«, argues Alan Gilbert. Ligeti’s opera is one of the world’s most-performed contemporary operas.
The opera is set in an »anytime century« and gets underway as Nekrotzar, the personification of death, climbs out of his grave and prophesies the destruction of humanity as the bell rings midnight. The august protagonists in Ligeti’s »Breughelland« respond to this message in their own unique ways: the drinker »Piet the Pot« becomes a slave to the »Grand Macabre« Nekrotzar; the astronomer Astradamors is cheered up by the prospect of being rid of his obscene wife; the Chief of the »Secret Political Police« fears that the portentous news may cause crowds to gather; and the lovers Amanda and Amando are initially completely unaware of the impending catastrophe. The annihilation of humankind ultimately comes to nothing because Nekrotzar is too drunk.
Ligeti’s composition calls for outstanding musical and acting performances. And Doug Fitch – with a multimedia production and live animated video projections, as well as Catherine Zuber’s flashy science-fiction costumes – takes the audience deep into the fictional world of the composer.
Le Grand Macabre / Opera in Two Acts
Staged performance in English
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
Elizabeth Watts Amanda
Marta Fontanals-Simmons Amando
Mark Schowalter Piet vom Fass
Werner Van Mechelen Nekrotzar
Wilbur Pauley Astradamors
Heidi Melton Mescalina
Claire de Sévigné Venus
Anthony Roth Costanzo Fürst Go-Go
John Relyea Schwarzer Minister
Andrew Dickinson Weißer Minister
Audrey Luna Chef der Gepopo
Rob Besserer Atmosphericist
conductor Alan Gilbert
Catherine Zuber cotume design
Clifton Taylor lighting design
James R. Smith assistant director
Doug Fitch scenic and projection design, director