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This summer brings world premieres of two new stageworks by Ondřej Adámek. INES opens at Cologne Opera on 16 June, retelling the Orpheus myth in a post-apocalyptic future, while his new music theatre piece Connection Impossible (Unmögliche Verbindung) is staged for the first time at the Bregenz Festival on 27 July.

The opera INES, the latest collaboration between composer Ondřej Adámek and director and playwright Katharina Schmitt, is staged by Cologne Opera under the baton of the composer, with six performances at the Staatenhaus Saal 3 opening on 16 June. Cast in a prologue and five scenes, the full-evening work is scored for soloists, a large chorus and full orchestra. The opera combines a contemporary retelling of the Orpheus myth with a disturbing dystopian vision of the future after a nuclear catastrophe.

The title of the new stagework refers to the so-called INES scale (International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale), which is used to determine incidents in nuclear power plants. The starting point for this dark vision of the future is the ancient tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, which inspired Claudio Monteverdi to write one of the earliest operas ever - L'Orfeo - at the beginning of the 17th century, thus founding an entire genre.

This tragic love story has repeatedly given rise to artistic explorations over the centuries, and INES similarly focuses on a couple that is torn apart by unfortunate circumstances. Here, however, it is not divine will, but a man-made disaster of our time. A young man, a woman dying of an unexplained illness, figures possessed by strange voices - these are the characters in Adámek and Schmitt's dystopia. Both authors have already worked together on the music theatre piece Alles klappt, which caused a sensation at the Munich Biennale in 2018.

Adámek's INES focuses on the aesthetic development of opera singing and associated techniques as well as the inclusion of the choral collective within the stage framework. “I search for new, unheard sounds that carry energy, poetry or emotions,” comments the composer. “I combine conventional instrumental or vocal sounds, pull out the technical stops with singers and instruments and invent new instruments inspired by the sound principles of different cultures.”

The synopsis provided for the new stagework describes how, after a future nuclear disaster, O is filled with an irrepressible grief because his lover E is dead. He can no longer hear her, no longer remember her face and would like to become a shadow himself. The unity of place and time seems to be dissolved; the lovers separated from each other forever. For while O exists in the linear time of the living, E is absorbed in the timelessness of the dead and must watch her body become an immobile and transparent shell.

> Visit the Cologne Opera website

The Bregenz Festival is also presenting an Adámek premiere this year: on 27 and 28 July 2024, the new music theatre piece Connection Impossible (Unmögliche Verbindung) will be unveiled on the festival’s workshop stage. The composer is on the rostrum, conducting the two solo voices Tara Khozein and Hanni Lorenz, 12 players from the Ensemble Modern – who he has collaborated with on many projects – and singers from the Bregenz Festival Choir. Performances will be preceded by an introductory talk about the new work.

The theme of the hour-long stagework, extending Adámek's series of works concerned with language, is speechlessness in extreme emotional situations – for instance the death of a beloved person, communication bans in prisons, or polarizing emotions, expectations and reproaches in political discourse. The composer developed the concept of the work with German director and author Thomas Fiedler, who is staging the work in Bregenz together with designer Christian Wiehle. A special kind of compositional process sees the musicians involved from the outset and playing a decisive role in shaping the form of the work through new musical means of expression.

Connection Impossible was co-commissioned by the Bregenz Fesitval and Ensemble Modern. Following the Austrian performances in Bregenz, the German premiere follows on 9 October at the Philharmonie in Cologne with the same performers conducted by the composer.

> Visit the Bregenz Festival website
> Visit the Ensemble Modern website

Recent months have witnessed a sequence of high profile performances for the Czech-born, now Spain-resident composer who signed with Boosey & Hawkes in 2022. Last December brought Adámek’s chamber orchestra work Sinuous Voices to the Philharmonie in Berlin with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester conducted by Robin Ticciati, following the orchestra's German premiere of the score in 2019. The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group presented Let me tell you a story, for Korean-style voice and ensemble, at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham in April, following their successful collaboration on Whence Comes the Voice? in 2022.

This summer brings a feature for Adámek at Avanti’s Summer Sounds festival in Porvoo, Finland, including an opening concert on 27 June combining Let me tell you a story, Karakuri and Whence Comes the Voice? with traditional songs from Nordic countries, Czech Republic, Madagascar and Japan. The festival’s closing event on 30 June includes the violin concerto Follow Me, performed by soloist Tami Pohjola and Avanti! under the baton of the composer. A further performance of Follow Me is presented by the London Symphony Orchestra with soloist Isabelle Faust on 31 October at the Barbican in London.

Ondřej Adámek’s earlier catalogue is published by Éditions Billaudot, Paris.

>  Further information on Work: INES

Composer photo: © Villa Massimo / Alberto Novelli

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