The Little Match Girl
[Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern]
Music with Visuals by Helmut Lachenmann
Premiered on September 14, 2013 at the Ruhrtriennale Festival, Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum, Germany
Ever since its 1997 world premiere, Helmut Lachenmann’s only work in the genre has been considered the ultimate late 20th-century opera. While refusing the theatrical narration of the fairy tale in the sense of a plot with figures, dialogues, scenes, and arias, the work nonetheless follows the course of Andersen’s text precisely, whereby all the action is dissolved in the music itself. Yet hardly a single tone is created in a conventional way. The acoustic palette used by this extraordinarily diverse music ranges from the swooshing, hissing, grating sounds of the strings, the sounds of rubbing, clapping, and knocking to various breathing and vocal techniques. The result is a beguiling acoustic cosmos of noise and sounds, a threatening and piercing sonic aura of convincing sensuality.
Despite all its strangeness complexity, this music is also quite concretely visual and leads the attentive listener though Andersen’s scenes of cold abandonment while making directly audible the young girl’s visions of life in warmth and safety and her revolt against the dominant torpor with the swish of a match.
For Lachenmann’s Little Match Girl, Robert Wilson created a space, stage, and lighting concept especially for the Ruhrtriennale's "Jahrhunderthalle" (Century Hall), where Lachenmann’s original idea was realized to a degree that is scarcely possible in an opera house. The acoustic space enhanced the listener’s experience of immersing entirely in the music.
With the hr-Sinfonieorchester and conductor Emilio Pomárico, the music was presented by an orchestra and a conductor with many years of experience in performing Lachenmann’s music.