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Soundstreams, Toronto’s leading contemporary music presenter of innovative experiences, mounts the world premiere staging of Claude Vivier’s Musik für das Ende. The production weaves together a narrative about Vivier’s life, combining Musik für das Ende with the composer’s Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele and an original monologue inspired by Vivier’s letters.

Claude Vivier’s Musik für das Ende, a theatrical work for 20 voices composed in 1971, is receiving its world-premiere staging on October 27–November 4 with Soundstreams, a leading presenter of contemporary music in Canada that produces uniquely crafted music experiences. Soundstreams presents this rarely performed work by the legendary Quebecois composer as part of its celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

This world-premiere production has been conceived in three seamless parts that follow a narrative shaped around Vivier’s life. Lawrence Cherney, Artistic Director of Soundstreams, explains: "Vivier lived a dangerous life—at the very edge of human experience—from there, he brought back a new sound, the sound of eternity. This production powerfully probes the relationship between the man and the music like no other has ever done before."

Part I features an original monologue inspired by Vivier’s letters and diaries, woven together by playwright Zack Russell. Actor Alex Ivanovici delivers the monologue in character as Claude Vivier. Part II is a presentation of Vivier’s Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele (Do You Believe in the Immortality of the Soul?), the composer’s final work before his tragic and gruesome murder. This second part—featuring tenor Owen McCausland and soprano Adanya Dunn alongside a vocal ensemble, percussion, and synthesizers—presents an eerie premonition of Vivier’s own death, staged on a subway platform.

This narrative leads the audience to Part III: Musik für das Ende (Music of the End). This 25-minute work depicts a ritual journey through life and death to a final ecstatic state—a rebirth beyond all conceptions of life and death. Conceived for a vocal ensemble (playing handheld percussion) and one actor, the challenging score for Musik für das Ende relies heavily on "chance music" and demands a high level of interaction and some nuanced improvisation as performers are instructed to exchange musical information on stage. At certain points in the piece, the performers are asked to weave their own stories and music of personal significance into their performance. Soundstreams has assembled an extraordinarily diverse vocal ensemble that has rehearsed over many weeks to achieve remarkably complex exchanges of rhythm, pitch, and language.

The production of Musik für das Ende is staged in Crow’s Theatre, an open theater with flexible seating on four sides to create an immersive and intimate experience for the audience. Soundstreams’ creative team includes award-winning director Chris Abraham, music director John Hess, playwright Zack Russell, designer Judith Bowden, lighting designer Kim Purtell, and sound design by Adam Scime.

Musik für das Ende is a special project supported by the Canada Council for the Arts to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. In addition, the season includes a staging of Vivier’s Zipangu on October 16 with choreography by Cree actor, choreographer, and director Michael Greyeyes as part of Soundstreams’ opening production Northern Encounters.

>  Further information on Work: Musik für das Ende

Photo: JA Billard

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