Arbeit Nahrung Wohnung
Madrid - Venice - Stuttgart, 20,21 June 2008 - 15 October 2008 - 5 February 2009
Arbeit Nahrung Wohnung
(Work Nourishment Lodging)
music Enno Poppe
libretto Marcel Beyer
directing and sets Anna Viebrock
drama Malte Ubenauf
lighting Olaf Freese
with Graham F. Valentine (Robinson), Omar Ebrahim (Freitag)
Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart (countertenor Daniel Gloger / tenor Martin Nagy / baritone Guillermo Anzorena / bass Andreas Fisher)
musikFabrik (piano Benjamin Kobler, Ulrich Löffer, Ernst Surberg, Michael Wendeberg, percussion Alexandre Babel, David Haller, Lazlo Hudacsek, Michael Weilacher)
musical director Michael Wendeberg
live electronics Wolfgang Heiniger
sound Josh Martin (ZKM), Daniel Plewe
libretto and music commissioned by the City of Munich for the Muniche Biennal
production Munich Biennal, Staatsoper Unter den Linden Berlin
in collaboration with ZKM | Institute for music and acoustics
co-production La Biennale di Venezia, Musicadhoy (Madrid), Musik der Jahrhunderte (Stuttgart)
as part of the ENPARTS – European Network of Performing Arts project
with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union
Inspired by one of the most famous novels of William Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, the great traveller who had seen the world and crossed the boundless oceans and suddenly found himself forced to live in a microcosm entirely surrounded by the sea, Arbeit Nahrung Wohnung ( which can be translated as “work, board and lodging”) is a new opera by the German composer Enno Poppe.
The director, Anna Vibrock, has set Poppe’s opera, with libretto by Marcel Beyer, in four spaces: a kitchen with adjacent room, a corridor, and a large room in which we find not only the two protagonists – Graham Valentine and Omar Ebrahim – and the four singers of the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart who form the chorus, but also the members of musikFabrik: four keyboard musicians and four percussionists. In this way the music becomes an integral part of the theatrical events. Even though the instruments are concentrated for the most part in the large room, they also move to the other spaces, thereby giving a sonorous connotation to each of them.
Poppe and Beyer have not followed the chronological development of Crusoe’s story as told by Defoe, but simply highlight fragments which only occasionally come close to the events familiar to us. Not only: they also invert the beginning and end, so the scene of the rescue opens the opera while the solitude of living on an island alone appears at the end. “This Robinson”, declares the librettist, “loses his desire for human contact and cares nothing about being saved”. The libretto, written by Marcel Beyer, does not preserve textual elements close to the novel therefore, but concentrates on some features of the characters and their behaviour.
The character of Robinson is initially expressed by the spoken word and only as the opera moves forward does he sing. On the contrary, Friday, the friend and slave who saves Robinson from the cannibals, sings throughout the opera. For this work, Poppe has composed lieder, shanties (popular songs in which the solo voice alternates with the chorus) and music for a male chorus of sailors and fishermen.
Arbeit Nahrung Wohnung has been created as part of the European Network of Performing Arts, network of cultural relations planned by the Biennale di Venezia and involving six other European festivals of dance, music and theatre. The aim is to develop performance and training projects over a five-year period. The ENPARTS project – which has been recognised by the European Union within the setting of the Culture Programme 2007-2013 – begins this year with a co-production of three spectacles which will be presented from time to time in the various European venues of the institutions and festivals involved.
Enno Poppe’s opera is a project that the Biennale shares with Musicadhoy of Madrid, an institution that closely follows events in the new musical generations in Spain and Europe and Musik der Jahrhunderte of Stuttgart, which alongside its seasonal activities is also promoter of the Eclat festival, a think-tank of new music.
Arbeit Nahrung Wohnung received its premiere on 20 June 2008 at the Teatro Albéniz in Madrid, as part of Música y Ópera de Hoy; it was presented in Venice on 15 October as part of the 52nd International Festival of Contemporary Music organised by the Venice Biennale; it was then performed in Stuttgart on 5 February 2009.