Georg Friedrich Haas
CREATED at the Festival of Schwetzingen, 27 May 2016
PERFORMANCE IN GERMAN
MUSIC Georg Friedrich Haas
LIBRETTO Händl Klaus
KÄRNTNER SINFONIE ORCHESTER
MUSICAL DIRECTOR Bas Wiegers
STAGE DIRECTOR Immo Karaman
SET DESIGN AND COSTUMES Nicola Reichert
VIDEO PROJECTION Laszlo Zsolt Bordos
A hospital room. Ever since what her family refers to as "the accident" — in fact an attempt to commit suicide by drowning in an icy lake — Michaela has been in a coma. Around her are her loved ones: her daughter, who suffers the same pathological silence as her mother, her husband Michael, her sister Jasmin and husband Alexander, with whom the patient had an affair. But don’t expect intrigue in Koma, the latest creation of the Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas. In this opera premiered in May 2016 at the Festival of Schwetzingen, the composer invites us to a radical sensorial experience that plunges deeply into the most piercing taboos of our post-modern society: suffering, illness and death. Haas drags the spectator through the psychological marshes of an untenable condition, that of parents confronted with the presence-absence of Michaela, weighed down by all that is said and not said about her act, about the anguish and hope distilled from the slightest evolution of her state, edging a bit towards life or a bit towards death, the cold professional objectivity of the doctors and health-care providers. And that of Michaela, consciousness all but eclipsed yet peopled with the sonic echoes of the words exchanged around her, that seek to coax her back towards this side of life.
The music of Georg Friedrich Haas, which relies on sounds that go beyond the traditional 12-tone chromatic scale and play on micro-tonal and harmonic frictions, excels in reflecting this state mid-way between the familiar and the radically unknown, to provoke atmospheres where the awareness of time is distorted and abolished, and manages to make palpable the painful traces of human voices within a spirit in a half-vegetative state, creating a dark world in which identities dissolve rapidly in parallel with that of Michaela. As already tested in his orchestral piece In Vain in 2000, Haas here introduces into his score an extra-musical element of capital importance to the work: the lighting. It plays a key role in this brilliantly conceived drama: for the familial and medical activity organised around the immobile body, full lighting; for the murmured secrets that reveal the adulterous affair between Michaela and her step-brother, half-darkness; for the interior life of the young woman cut off from the world and for the expression of the suffering of her loved ones, total darkness, thus abolishing for the spectator any distinction between the emotions of the characters. A remarkable success praised beyond the Rhine with the Creation of the Year 2016 award from the magazine of reference Opernwelt, Koma is one of the most original lyric works of recent years, and proposes a unique sensorial and musical experience.