Fin de Partie, the masterly opera by nonagenarian György Kurtág based on Beckett’s Endgame, receives its first UK performance at the 2023 BBC Proms. The semi-staging at the Royal Albert Hall on 17 August features soloists and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Ryan Wigglesworth.
When György Kurtág’s long-awaited operatic setting of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame was finally premiered at La Scala Milan in 2018, it was immediately hailed as “the final masterpiece of twentieth-century music” (The New Yorker). Now five years on it receives its first UK performance at the BBC Proms, following further operatic runs in Amsterdam and Paris. The semi-staging of Fin de Partie at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 17 August by Victoria Newlyn features singers Frode Olsen, Morgan Moody, Hilary Summers and Leonardo Cortellazzi, with Ryan Wigglesworth conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
György Kurtág first watched Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame in 1957 and creating his operatic version became a lifetime obsession, finally fulfilled after 50 years of preparation and an eight-year composition period when the composer was aged 92. Like all Kurtág’s compositions, Fin de Partie is minutely detailed with kaleidoscopically fragmented instrumentation, but the resulting opera is more than twice the length of any other work by the Hungarian composer, marking it as the magnum opus in Kurtág’s late output.
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“Kurtág, the last survivor of the group of influential European avant-garde composers born in the 1920s has been steeped in Beckett all his artistic life… Beckett once told an actor preparing the play that he must “fill my silences with sounds”. Kurtág has done just that. Far from stamping on the face of mankind, this masterly composer has caressed it with all his own life’s worth.”
“Fin de Partie is a farewell not just to a life and a marriage, but also to a whole culture… modernism is always on the verge of leaving, it seems to say, yet it is also always here to stay – the opera is truly goodbye to all that… a miracle of dedication, craft and care.”
New York Times
“…an uncompromising work that is utterly distinctive, unforgettable and touching... The text is set as extended recitative, only rarely erupting into lyricism, and supported by an orchestral score that never uses more than the absolute minimum of instruments. There’s the dramatic directness of Monteverdi and the extreme instrumental compression of Webern… It’s surely his musical testament.”
Next season brings further outings for Fin de Partie, including concert performances in Kurtág’s home city of Budapest on 12 October and at the Elbephilharmonie in Hamburg on 14 October, and a new staging at the Theater Dortmund opening on 1 March.
Works by Kurtág are published by Universal Music Publishing/Editio Musica Budapest and represented for rental by Boosey & Hawkes in the UK, British Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland, and North America. For further information about Kurtág’s works, please visit the Editio Musica Budapest website.
Photo: The premiere staging of Kurtág's Fin de Partie in Milan (Photo: Brescia/Amisano, Teatro alla Scala)
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