"On July 1, Olivier Messiaen's Saint François d’Assise was premièred at the Nationaltheater
– bringing one of the most important music-theatre works of the past decades to Munich audiences for the first time. The musical direction was in the hands of [General Music Director] Kent Nagano, one of the most profoundly familiar interpreters of Messiaen’s works, and performance artist Hermann Nitsch devised the production concept."
"In the 1970’s, the Director of the Paris Opéra, Rolf Liebermann, beguiled the sixty-year old Olivier Messiaen to compose his first and only stage work. The deeply pious composer, who with his entire œuvre invites the listener to experience and share the mystery of religious faith, wrote an opera lasting over four hours about a 13th century saint: Saint François d’Assise.
The “scenes franciscaines”, first performed at the Paris Opéra in 1983 are neither hagiographic nor are they a drama about the historical founder of a religious order, who was beatified in 1228. The man Francis, who surmounted his self involved fear of life through his fear of death and his repugnance at the spectacle of ugliness, makes room in his inner being for an illumination that shatters the borders of the individual and thus experiences the existence of God.
The saint’s story, his pathway through anxiety and inner darkness to a condition of perfect grace, told in eight stations as in a mediæval miniature or a church window, was Messiaen’s point of departure for a musical meditation on the spirituality of modern mankind."
Text © Bavarian State Opera 2011.
[I enjoyed tremendously the Berlin State Opera production of the work, staged by Daniel Libeskind.)
[I also recommend the new DVD of Aribert Reimann's 2010 Vienna State Opera commissioned staging of "Medea". It won a major German opera of the year award for 2010.]
Photo credits: © Bavarian State Opera 2011. Olivier Messiaen's Saint François d’Assise. Co-production of the Bavarian State Theater, Munich and the Teatro alla Scala, Milan.