First UK performances of epic Stockhausen opera Donnerstag aus Licht since 1985, Royal Festival Hall, 21-22 May

Stockhausen weekend with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Apartment House and London Voices, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, 1 & 2 June

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II. World premiere of Stockhausen-inspired work by contemporary electronic artist Actress, and his artificial intelligence recording and performance group Young Paint, featuring recordings of real-life debates on the subject of love by members of the UK Parliament, Royal Festival Hall, 14 May

Southbank Centre celebrates the pioneering music of Karlheinz Stockhausen with the first UK performances in over 30 years of his epic opera Donnerstag aus Licht, the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen - Sin {x} II, a new work inspired by Stockhausen’s Welt-Parlament and a weekend which features Stockhausen piano works played by Southbank Centre Artist-in-Residence Pierre-Laurent Aimard and guests, as well as Stockhausen vocal and chamber rarities performed by London Voices and Apartment House.

DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT Royal Festival Hall, 21-22 May Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) spent decades rebuilding the basic elements of music, discovering a new kind of music for traditional instruments and creating unheard worlds of electronic sound in a Cologne studio. When he finally turned to opera, aged 50, his ambitions reached new heights. He spent 26 years developing his seven-part epic, the Licht cycle, which explored the story of mankind as a cosmic saga, and linked each opera to a day of the week, a celestial body and a colour.

Donnerstag (Thursday, Jupiter, bright blue) is the fourth opera in the cycle (though the first to be composed) and follows the story of Michael, an angel in human form. Michael draws heavily on the composer’s traumatic childhood: he lost both his parents at an early age (Stockhausen’s mother, who suffered from depression, was institutionalised and became a victim of the Nazi enforced euthanasia policy and his father was lost, presumed dead on the Eastern Front); aged 16, Stockhausen witnessed first-hand the horrors of the second world war as a conscripted stretcher bearer. In the opera, Michael learns music, grows up, falls in love, travels around the world and overcomes the forces of evil before ascending again to heaven. Donnerstag is, put simply, the story of someone who uses art to try to transcend a brutal reality.

Fresh from critically-acclaimed performances in Paris, recipients of the Fondation Stockhausen first prize in 2013, Le Balcon and their founder and conductor Maxime Pascal (winner of the 2014 Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award) make their UK debut with two performances of the opera. They combine forces with Southbank Centre Resident Orchestra London Sinfonietta, the New London Chamber Choir and the Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble in a new production, directed by Benjamin Lazar.

ACTRESS X STOCKHAUSEN SIN {X} II Royal Festival Hall, 14 May

Welt-Parlament, the opening scene of Mittwoch, the third opera of Stockhausen’s Licht cycle, provides the inspiration for the world premiere of a new work, Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II, by British contemporary electronic artist, Actress (alias of Darren J. Cunningham) and his Artificial Intelligence recording and performance group, Young Paint. Co-commissioned by Southbank Centre and Holland Festival, this new composition for choir, AI, piano and electronics sees Actress present his reimagining Welt-Parlament (1995). In the original, members of a fictional parliament in the sky discuss the meaning of, and pass legislation on, love. This one-off live performance includes recordings of real-life debates on the subject of love by members of the UK Parliament, held at venues in the House of Lords during the Brexit negotiations. Joined on stage by the Netherlands Chamber Choir and Italian pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell, a former pupil of Stockhausen, and led by conductor Robert Ames, co-founder of London Contemporary Orchestra, Actress and the Young Paint AI will manipulate the parliamentary recordings live to deliver a multidisciplinary performance about the transcendent property of love in a world striving to assert borders.

STOCKHAUSEN WEEKEND Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, 1 & 2 June

A June weekend of Stockhausen concerts features Southbank Centre Artist in Residence Pierre-Laurent Aimard with Tamara Stefanovich (piano), Dirk Rothbrust (percussion) and Marco Stroppa (sound) in two Queen Elizabeth Hall concerts that feature seminal Stockhausen piano works Klavierstücke and Kontakte for piano, tape and percussion (1 June) and transcendental, electronic infused works Zyklus for percussion and Mantra for two pianos and percussion (2 June). The weekend also features Apartment House in Für kommende Zeiten (For Times to Come), Stockhausen’s rarely-heard collection from the late 1960s of seventeen text compositions, termed ‘intuitive music’ by the composer and produced primarily from the intuition rather than the intellect of the performer (2 June). London Voices perform Stockhausen’s 1968 vocal work Stimmung; the composer shaped 51 repeatable models - from vowel sounds, the overtones and timbral changes - performed by six singers intoning on one perpetual chord, inserting words, names and poems among the intonation. Each new model brings on a different, changed mood, according to its meaning and character. Robert Worby leads a study day examining Stockhausen’s life, works and influence (1 June).

Stockhausen: Cosmic Prophet will also include a number of creative learning opportunities via Composers Collective, launched by Southbank Centre in April 2018 as a free learning resource for anyone with an interest in composition, and with members of Streetwise Opera.

 

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