About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network

New York

Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



Cassandra Predicts Catastrophes

New York
Czech Center New York-Bohemian National Hall
02/06/2014 -  & February 7, 2014
Michael Jarrell: Cassandra

Anna Clementi (Cassandra)
André Bartetzki (Electronics), Argento Chamber Ensemble, Michel Galante (Conductor)
Pamela Hunter (Visualization), Dalibor Pys (Camera), Michaela Pysova (Video Mix)

M. Jarrell, A. Clementi (© Andi Olsen)

Arnold Schoenberg must be turning over in his crypt. Cassandra, by the Swiss composer Michael Jarrell, would have been the music and pictures he would have died for.

Schoenberg knew what he wanted in his music for (a never-created) film. He came close in the nightmarish Erwartung, though he always needed a singer for this monodrama, and Cassandra is pure speaking. He came even closer in Survivor from Warsaw, but he never could have imagined the mixture of video and live camera to make this phantasmagoria come alive. He knew the metaphorical binding of legend and truth in Moses und Aron, but that was never completed. Michael Jarrell, though, in his orchestral mixture of fable, stream-of-consciousness, and the agony of an ancient Cassandra in the horrors of Communist East Berlin, created a terrifying picture last night in the Bohemian National Hall.

The production of this monodrama by Nimrod Opera Zurich needed one great actor, and in the Swedish-Italian eclectic Anna Clementi, he has his star. Ms. Clementi stood at the side of the stage relating the psyche as Cassandra, the who endured one of the Greek tortures which the CIA could never image. Cassandra always predicted the future correctly, but nobody ever believed her.

That was the petite figure in the semi-darkness. On the screen were produced not only the most variegated images, but the live camera of Ms. Clementi herself. Yes, her English, while accent-free, was often hidden behind the voluminous Argento Chamber ensemble. But the visualizations of this grinding piece easily replaced mere words (translated by Jan Van Heurck).

Michael Jarrell’s previous work in New York was just as shattering. “A Musical Mediation on the Nature of Linguistic Translation” was linguistically a mélange of surrealism, jeux de mots, imagery on a Spanish poem. But here too, the music was a maelstrom of unrelentingly harsh sounds.

In Cassandra, Mr. Jarrell was working on a piece written by an East European writer, and the changes of demographics–from ancient Greece to (then) Stasi prisons and rapes–all were right. One didn’t have to think about whether the mythical Cassandra would have thought this way.

Come to think of it, the Greek gods never put a restriction on her prognostications. Cassandra in the Sixth Century B.C. could have predicted out own wars and fascisms and horrors as easily she predicted the next day’s weather. “The flow of images which race relentlessly through my head - the words cannot keep up with them,” she says.

In the images on the screen, pour relentlessly onto her torture, and her foretelling of our words. Rather, the words of 1983, when Ms. Wolf wrote them. She died two years ago, but methinks would have been mesmerized by the coruscating grimness of Ms. Clementi.

M. Galante (© Coco T. Dog)

The music is bound to the words and visions with the same persistent discordance. Conductor Michel Galante had a clamorous orchestra–two percussionists with an endless supply of gongs, tubular bells, drums–two horns, the usual brass and a few strings. And from the beginning one hears this not in terms of a dodecaphonic row, but as a mammoth endless mural of music.

Those external sounds, though, become the complement to Cassandra’s hopeless precognitions. And historically, Cassandra is the exact dramatic replica of Sophocles and Euripides. No serious Greek dramatist took the day’s headlines for their meat. They took stories of ancient times, and–with probably shattering music, actors standing on elevated shoes, and probable shouting to the multitudes–provided a contemporary situation to the tales of Homer (who himself took stories of events which happened centuries before his own time).

Michael Jarrell obviously understood this, and his Cassandra, the wailing of Ms. Clementi, the drums and discords of Mr. Galante, and the powerful visualizations on screen, are eerily apt for out own times of endless genocides and –despite electronic Drones, computers futuristic paraphernalia–the most barbarian warfare.

Harry Rolnick



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com