aus LICHT Part 2 consists of excerpts from two days of the LICHT cycle. In SAMSTAG (Saturday) Michael takes on Lucifer and there’s nothing I love more than an angeological showdown. MONTAG (Monday) is all about Eva and her fecund mother goddessness. And the finale is Stockhausen’s take on the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. It all starts with a bang, or rather a boom, as four brass ensembles greet us with the diabolical, low-pitched fanfare, SAMSTAGS-GRUSS. Stockhausen is so polite, saluting us and seeing us off each time! Then Marta Goméz Alonso performs the hypnotic KATHINKAs GESANG, a flute solo composed for Stockhausen’s life partner Kathinka Pasveer, who is also the music director for these productions. Goméz Alonso is a black cat in a ruched costume taking dead souls through 24 musical exercises in aid of higher consciousness. Six percussionists wearing their instruments represent the senses, the usual five plus thought. To my delight, they don’t just produce the most fascinating sounds, but they also look like a Dalek marching band. Kathinka’s ritual is complicated stuff, but set designer Urs Schönebaum and director Pierre Audi do a beautiful job of translating it into visuals, with video, pictograms and numbered snippets of notation on two giant discs. Afterwards, the prodigious Goméz Alonso and the amazing LED-lit Daleks receive a richly earned acclamation.

<i>aus LICHT</i>: Day 2 © Ruth & Martin Walz
aus LICHT: Day 2
© Ruth & Martin Walz

I diligently consult the programme booklet to delve into the significance of LUZIFERs TANZ. However, as soon as I see the huge brass and woodwind orchestra stacked on the tiered stage in white robes, I decide to have a sensory rather than a cerebral experience. This massive pandemonium over persistent knells, in which sections of the orchestra represent the dancing features of a human face, is testimony to Stockhausen’s seemingly limitless imagination. Maybe you have to be born on Sirius, like he claimed to have been, to cast a saxophone section as a left eye. Resonant bass Damian Pass as Lucifer leads the dance. Onscreen, actor Johan Leysen’s flaring nostrils and rolling eyes help us identify which part of the face is “on”. Then Michael, Chloë Abbott on her silvery piccolo trumpet, enters on a gliding platform to challenge Lucifer. Apparently, this is the first time a woman has played Michael, although everyone knows angels don’t do gender. Michael is pushed back and mocked by Davide Baldo with startling antics on the piccolo flute. Like Kathinka, he is also a black cat. I’m sure this has a deep philosophical meaning, but I just think of him as Lucifer’s familiar.

<i>aus LICHT</i>: Day 2 © Ruth & Martin Walz
aus LICHT: Day 2
© Ruth & Martin Walz

After a long break for dinner, MONTAGS-GRUSS, a basset horn recorded to sound as if underwater, ushers us into the realm of Eva, with prominent roles for the Netherlands Youth and Children’s Choirs. Their first appearance is magical. Three processions of girls and young women in white, carrying candles, converge towards the stage. Their other-worldly harmonies and murmurs in praise of Eva turn the Gashouder into a fairy cathedral. Despite not following a conventional plot line, the components of LICHT are connected musically and conceptually. A drawback of the “highlights from LICHT” format is that relationships between key themes get lost. We skip a number of developments and go straight to BEFRÜCHTUNG (Conception). Suffice it to say that Eva, impregnated by a piano solo, must give birth again to her animal-human hybrid children so that they can come back as seven musical boys – rebirth and transformation through music. The boys are born through a gap in Eva’s statue, a giant wire fruit bowl. It has great design and they should be selling functional replicas of it at the merchandise kiosk.

<i>aus LICHT</i>: Day 2 – KATHINKAs GESANG © Ruth & Martin Walz
aus LICHT: Day 2 – KATHINKAs GESANG
© Ruth & Martin Walz

Eva, now voiced by Johanna Stephens-Janning’s basset horn, teaches the boys songs for each day of the week. Then she clones herself three times and seduces them. Metaphorically, I hope. This is accompanied by finger clicking and electronic samples of moans, knives being sharpened and a plethora of other sound effects. Here Stockhausen loses me again. While admiring the sinuous basset horns and the clever boys with their tricky solos, I feel it’s all too gimmicky and repetitive.

The last chapter, however, is utterly captivating. Flautist Felicia van den End, silver-tressed and in floaty tulle, makes an entrancing Pied Piper, reeling in the children with silly games. The choir echoes her compulsively, so this piece is also repetitive, but in a mesmeric way. And it hums with rhythmic energy. The electronic desk produces crowing cockerels, mooing and roaring engines, but also bombs exploding. Although this Piper is supposed to lead the children to heaven, the association with the generations seduced and killed by Nazi ideology is inevitable. What a breathtaking, sinister ending, as the children’s pure voices follow the flute along the aisles towards a white circle of light. I wonder if Part 3 can top it.

****1