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Aniara (opera)

Aniara (opera)

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Aniara is an opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 in two acts by Karl-Birger Blomdahl
Karl-Birger Blomdahl
Karl-Birger Blomdahl was a Swedish composer and conductor born in Växjö. He was educated in biochemistry, but was primarily active in music and by his experimental compositions he became one of the big names in Swedish modernism. His teachers included Hilding Rosenberg...

, with a libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 by Erik Lindegren
Erik Lindegren
J. Erik Lindegren was a Swedish author, poet, critical writer and member of the Swedish Academy . Grandson of composer Johan Lindegren....

 based on the poem Aniara
Aniara (poem)
Aniara is a poem of science fiction written by the Swedish Nobel laureate Harry Martinson in 1956. It was published on 13 October 1956...

by Harry Martinson
Harry Martinson
Harry Martinson was a Swedish sailor, author and poet. In 1949 he was elected into the Swedish Academy. He was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in Literature in 1974 together with fellow Swede Eyvind Johnson. The choice for Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson was very controversial as both were on the...

, that was premiered in 1959. The opera was described by the composer as a "review about Man in Time and Space".

The score of Aniara is varied and makes full use of a range of musical idiom
Idiom
Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made...

s, including jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, serial writing and an electronic tape
Tape Music
Tape Music is an experimental 10" vinyl release by Jack Dangers. The vinyl release was coupled with the album Sounds Of The 20th Century No2 when released as a flexi disc vinyl....

. The narrative
Literary technique
A literary technique is any element or the entirety of elements a writer intentionally uses in the structure of their work...

 is sung primarily by Mimaroben, a bass-baritone
Bass-baritone
A bass-baritone is a high-lying bass or low-lying "classical" baritone voice type which shares certain qualities with the true baritone voice. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing three Wagnerian roles: the Dutchman in Der fliegende...

, who operates the electronic tape, Mima, the computer, and by the chorus
Choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

. In essence the opera (and poem) deal with the relationship between the individual and the group through time.

Many representatives of the international press were in Stockholm for the premiere in 1959 at a time when the space age was beginning. Blomdahl said in interview that the opera (in common with his next opera Herr von Hancken) was founded on "modern man's complexity and his basically impossible situation"; Aniara dealt with "the downfall of the group". A production was mounted in Gothenburg in 1994.

Roles

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 31 May 1959
(Conductor: Sixten Ehrling
Sixten Ehrling
Sixten Ehrling, , was a Swedish conductor who, during a long career, served as the music director of the Royal Swedish Opera and the principal conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, amongst others....

)
Mimaroben baritone
Baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

Erik Saedén
Erik Saedén
Carl Erik Saedén, born 3 September 1924 in Vänersborg, died 3 November 2009, was a Swedish bass-baritone whose career was principally centred on Stockholm, both on the operatic stage as well as the concert platform...

The blind poetess high soprano
Soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

Margareta Hallin
Daisi Doody soprano Kjerstin Dellert
Kjerstin Dellert
Kjerstin Dellert is a Swedish opera singerBorn in Stockholm, Dellert made her debut at Stora teatern in Gothenburg in the 1950s...

Libidel dancer
Three chief technicians 2 tenors, baritone Sven-Erik Wikström, Arne Ohlson, Bo Lundborg
Comedian, Sandon high buffo tenor
Tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

Olle Sivall
Isagel dancer Loulou Portefaix
Den stenstumt döve tenor
Tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

Ragnar Ulfung
Ragnar Ulfung
Ragnar Sigurd Ulfung is a Norwegian operatic tenor. Described in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians as "a brilliant actor with an incisive voice", he was particularly known for his portrayals of Herod and Mime . He is also an opera director...

Chefone bass-baritone
Bass-baritone
A bass-baritone is a high-lying bass or low-lying "classical" baritone voice type which shares certain qualities with the true baritone voice. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing three Wagnerian roles: the Dutchman in Der fliegende...

Arne Tyrén
Chorus: space cadets, passengers

Synopsis


Controlled by the computer
Computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

 Mima, the space ship Aniara leaves the poisoned Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, heading for Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

. Through Mimaroben, who is the operator of Mima, the emigrants learn of the evil of mankind.

During the celebration of midsummer, the vessel is thrown off course, causing panic, and forcing a journey to the constellation
Constellation
In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms, patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth's night sky....

 Lyra
Lyra
Lyra is a small constellation. It is one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and remains one of the 88 modern constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union. Its principal star, Vega — a corner of the Summer Triangle — is one of the brightest...

 which commander Chefone says will last for the rest of the lives of the crew and passengers. When the Earth is destroyed, Mima cannot continue, and Sandon makes jokes about the safety on board, but when the mute describes in signs the end of the world he becomes silent. Chefone blames Mimaroben, who, with the pilot Isagel, is taken away.

The commander deals as best he can with the increased despair and moral deterioration among those aboard, depicted in a scene in a hall of mirrors, where Daisy Dodd, her lesbian partner, and the passengers dance, and the blind poetess speaks of her cult of Light, which has replaced Mima.
The body of the dead chief technician is shot into outer space in the direction of the star Rigel
Rigel
Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation Orion and the sixth brightest star in the sky, with visual magnitude 0.18...

. The 20th anniversary of the voyage
Voyage
- In music: :* Voyage * Voyage * Voyage , by In Fear and Faith* Voyage , by Ayumi Hamasaki* Voyage , a disco music group** Voyage, an album by the eponymous band...

 is celebrated, and the blind poetess ecstatically sees the city of heaven, but is taken away.

The final scene shows the last night onboard where Isagel dances and the blind poetess sings of the joy of death. A light beam sweeps over the dead passengers and Mimaroben prepares for the end. Finally darkness descends over the occupants of the space ship, and the audience in the theatre.

Recordings


The first performance was broadcast by Swedish Radio; a subsequent recording was conducted by Stig Westerberg
Stig Westerberg
Stig Evald Börje Westerberg, born 26 November 1918 in Malmö, Sweden, died 1 July 1999 in Lidingö, was a Swedish conductor and pianist, whose career was based mostly in his home country.- Biography :...

, and included Viveka Anderberg, Björn Haugan
Bjorn Haugan
Björn Haugan was a Swedish born, Norwegian operatic lyric tenor.-Background:Björn Haugan was born in Söderhamn Municipality in the province of Hälsingland within Gävleborg County, Sweden...

, Stefan Parkman, Mikael Samuelson
Mikael Samuelson
Mikael Samuelson is a Swedish barytone opera singer, actor and composer.Samuelson is the son of the famous musician and music arranger Bror Samuelson...

, Thomas Sunnegårdh and Jerker Arvidssonin among the cast.