Stockhausen’s mammoth seven-opera “Licht” cycle in Amsterdam, plus “Helicopter String Quartet”

Posted on: June 6, 2019

“How big can opera be? Try 680 musicians and technicians, performing 15 hours of music from an opera cycle originally 29 hours long,” writes Parker Ramsay in Tuesday’s (6/4) Washington Post. “Karlheinz Stockhausen’s ‘Licht’ cycle … completed in 2003, involved one opera for each day of the week. In Amsterdam, the Holland Festival is attempting the first overview of this sprawling work over three days…. At Friday’s opening performance, the Archangel Michael appeared onstage not as a triumphant seraphic body, but as a child grieving the loss of his parents to the ravages of war.… A mammoth chorus of trombones and trumpets dressed in barbed wire moved throughout the room, using their instruments as ray-guns and laser beams, as extraterrestrials invaded Earth three times…. The epitome of the project was one of Stockhausen’s most famous or infamous works, the ‘Helicopter String Quartet.’ … Members of the Pelargos Quartet climbed into four separate helicopters, sporting headphones and with metronome and microphone and, while the helicopters hovered, sent their sounds at once into the cosmos and back down to earth…. If anything, the message of this ‘Licht’ adaptation was that to find love and foster reconciliation, humanity cannot think small.”

In photo: The helicopters used in a recent performance of Stockhausen’s “Helicopter String Quartet” at Amsterdam’s Holland Festival. Photo by Janiek Dam.

Posted June 6, 2019