Kafka Fragments, Linbury Theatre, London
Monday 01 April 2013
Few composers can inject as much significance into thirty seconds of music as Gyorgy Kurtag, and few writers have equalled the aphoristic terseness of Franz Kafka, so Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments represents a marriage made, if not in heaven, certainly in a grimly harmonious version of hell.
Kurtag’s work for soprano and solo violin weaves together scraps from Kafka’s letters and diaries, and the resulting cycle of forty songs - ranging in length from four minutes to twelve seconds – runs the gamut of all the moods in Kafka’s monochrome world. ‘I am always trying to convey something that can’t be conveyed,’ he wrote, ‘to tell something I have in my bones.’ Kurtag views his musical calling with even more detachment, declaring that ‘composition has its own rules: what happens is what the composition wants, not what the composer wants’.
But that’s just the words and music: when your director is a video artist as resourceful and inventive as Netia Jones, and when your soprano has the charisma and versatility of Claire Booth, you get a very heady brew. Last year Jones triumphantly staged two Knussen-Sendak children’s operas which had been thought unstageable, getting live actors to interact with back-projections which she animated in real time.
Her staging of Kafka Fragments harnesses similar techniques in an austere piece of surrealism. Jones believes that although this work has no ‘story’ it does have a structure, and she has realised this with compelling force, presiding with her laptop at one side of the stage while violinist Peter Manning conjures microcosms at the other, with Booth hurling herself around the space between in bursts of mime and dance.
That space may be ‘empty’, but it’s filled with the most intense drama as Jones’s light-show interacts with voice, body, and violin. Sometimes Booth seems to be floating in a sea of flowing calligraphy, sometimes she’s wrapped in delicately rustling foliage, or pinioned by hard shafts of light; she’s by turns comic or tragic, hero or victim, as directed by Kurtag-Kafka whim.
This process may feminise an explicitly masculine inner world – some of the thoughts turn on a boy’s sexual rejection – but its deeper truth is existential. One provocative pensée entitled ‘Offensively Jewish’ runs: ‘In the struggle between yourself and the world, side with the world.’ Manning’s violin sings as expressively as Booth does in this mad whirl of fears and uncertainties, hopes and dreams.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 2 Malaysia issues arrest warrant for Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law after she publishes stories on leader Najib Razak's financial affairs
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 4 Sex with robots will be ‘the norm’ in 50 years
- 5 Barack Obama turns 54: US President's best put downs to celebrate his birthday
The Great British Bake Off, series 6, preview: The most popular show on television is back
National Geographic Traveller Photo Contest 2015 winners in pictures
US bookshop offers Go Set A Watchman refunds over false marketing as 'nice summer novel'
Sherlock season 4: Benedict Cumberbatch will be 'a lot less brattish' in Victorian special
Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar enter Forbes’ highest paid actors list for first time
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke