Bio & Texts – Pierrot lunaire

Marlene Monteiro Freitas

Born in 1979 in Cape Verde, Marlene Monteiro Freitas is a dancer and choreographer. She studied dance in Brussels and Lisbon, followed by collaborations with Emmanuelle Huynh, Loïc Touzé, Tânia Carvalho, Boris Charmatz, among others. After establishing her first company Compass in Cape Verde, she now works with P.OR.K – co-founded by her – in Lisbon and collaborates with O Espaço do Tempo. Her oeuvre is characterised by unity of openness, hetero- geneousness and intensity and includes such productions as e.g. Guintche, Of ivory and flesh – statues also suffer, Jaguar (2015 – winner of the prize for best choreography of the Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores) or Bacchae – Prelude to a Purge. In 2017, she was distinguished by the government of Cape Verde for her cultural achievement. In 2018, she created Canine Jaunâtre 3 for Batsheva Dance Company. Likewise in 2018, the Venice Biennale awarded the Silver Lion award for dance to Marlene Monteiro Freitas.

Ingo Metzmacher

Whether as an opera conductor, orchestra leader, festival director or book author: Ingo Metzmacher is consistently committed to music, especially of the 20th and 21st centuries. Making new things audible and familiar things audible new: this has been his great passion since the beginning of his versatile career. Ingo Metzmacher was General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera, Chief Conductor at the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam and Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the German Symphony Orchestra Berlin. Since 2016 he has been the Artistic Director of the KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen. Metzmacher is a frequent guest at world-famous orchestras and opera houses and is the author of the books Don’t Be Afraid of New Sounds and Curtain Up! Discovering and Experiencing Opera.

Sofia Jernberg

Sofia Jernberg is a Swedish experimental singer, improviser, and composer. She is widely known for expanding the “instrumental” possibilities of the voice and is active both as soloist and in various bands. Her musical partners include internationally acclaimed performers such as Peter Evans, Eve Risser, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Kim Myhr and Heiner Goebbels. Jernberg is also working on the contemporary classical music scene, in which she serves as both singer and composer. As a singer she has premiered pieces by com- posers such as Emily Hall, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Sigurd Fischer Olsen, and Lars Bröndum. She was a soloist with Norrbotten NEO when they performed Arnold Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire in 2010, and in Salvatore Sciarrino’s Lohengrin in 2014. Jernberg has composed for several established ensembles such as Duo ego and Norrbotten NEO. Other artists have included Jernberg’s practice in their work and/or jointly developed forms of interdisciplinary collaboration, such as visual artist Camille Norment in Rapture at the Venice Biennale 2015, or within the cinematic work Union of the North by artists Matthew Barney, Erna Ómarsdóttir, and Valdimar Jóhannsson. The artist is holding lectures and workshops at various universities around Europe

Klangforum Wien
A collective of musical adventurers, explorers and tightrope walkers, Klangforum Wien is made up of 24 musicians from ten countries. In company with leading contemporary composers, they are constantly enlarging the form in which they work. Open minded, aurally perceptive and virtuosic in performance, Klangforum Wien challenges its audiences with an unmistakable sound and creates experiential space. It offers the best of sensual experiences, immediate and inescapable; and the novelty in its music speaks, acts and beguiles.

On Pierrot lunaire

“I believe I am approaching a new way of expression,” wrote Schoenberg in his diary on 12 March, 1912. After a period of hesitation, he had just found his way into composing Pierrot lunaire. The rest of the score would rapidly follow in an onrush of inspiration, later to be canonized as a crucial moment in modernism. Apart from its familiar place in music history, however, Pierrot lunaire remains an inexhaustibly fascinating creation: visionary and experimental, yet somehow timeless.

The piece, for all its novelty and inspiration, originated as a good old-fashioned commission. Viennese actress Albertine Zehme commissioned Schoenberg to compose fresh settings of poetry she had been performing as part of her repertoire. Zehme’s performances featured an exaggerated recitation style with accompaniment – a variant of melodrama – but she felt the poems needed a bolder musical personality.

The collection of 50 poems on which Schönberg based his Pierrot lunaire where published by Belgian poet Albert Giraud (1860–1929) in 1884. Giraud’s Pierrot is a moonstruck, jilted clown borrowed from the late-Renaissance world of Italian commedia dell’arte but reimagined as a figure for the modern alienated artist. The Pierrot character cast a wide spell over writers, painters, and compo- sers of the early twentieth century (film, too, if you include Charlie Chaplin).

Schoenberg’s expressionistic use of Sprechstimme and free atonality are two of the signatures of Pierrot lunaire. A third, which has had a particularly wide- ranging influence, is its novel chamber-style instrumentation. Pierrot’s kaleidoscopic variety of timbres includes the all-important interplay between the instruments and the voice. His instrumentation reflects Giraud’s phantasmagorical imagery with cinematic detail.

Yet, for all its ingenious, highbrow intricacy, Pierrot lunaire breathes the world of cabaret and is a prototype of performance art. Ambiguity is its ultimate signature, for it exists between speech and song, comedy and tragedy, irony and hysteria, tradition and the avant-garde. (Thomas May)