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Luigi Nono [1924–1990]
Prometeo – Tragedia dell’ ascolto
based on texts by Aeschylus, Walter Benjamin and Friedrich Hölderlin
assembled by Massimo Cacciari
for 5 vocal soloists, 2 speakers, choir, solo strings, solo winds, glasses, 4 orchestra groups, live electronics and 2 conductors [1981–84, 1985]

Cyndia Sieden soprano | Silke Evers soprano
Susanne Otto alto | Noa Frenkel alto
Hubert Mayer tenor
Caroline Chaniolleau speaker
Mathias Jung speaker
Instrumental soloists of the Ensemble Modern
Schola Heidelberg | Walter Nußbaum coach
Konzerthausorchester Berlin
Live electronical realization: Experimentalstudio des SWR
André Richard head of sound direction / artistic coordination
Michael Acker, Reinhold Braig, Joachim Haas sound direction
Matilda Hofman conductor (II)
Arturo Tamayo conductor (I)

Length: ca. 2,5 h, no interval

A production of the musikfest berlin | Berliner Festspiele
in collaboration with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin,
the Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker and the Salzburger Festspiele.
Supported by means from the Hauptstadtkulturfonds


During the last years of his life, Luigi Nono redefined music theatre. His Prometeo became a key work of this genre, and its influence continues to be felt on today’s composers – in the areas of experimental music theatre, concert music, sound installations, musical spatial collage and sound art. In Prometeo, the dramatic quality is genuinely and exclusively generated by the music. “Tragedia dell’ascolto” – tragedy for listening – is what Nono called his composition, theatre for listening that develops an incredibly strong pull which transmutes the hearing of sounds into something truly dramatic and takes the transfixed listener on a fascinating acoustical voyage of discovery.

In his last years the politically engaged composer called old certainties into question, broke down old categories of thinking, and dissolved the traditional boundaries between dramatic and concert genres, between word and tone, and between voice and instrument. With the ancient myth of Prometheus as its point of departure, Prometeo is a philosophical and artistic reflection on humanity, utopias, failure and hope. Passages of texts by Aeschylus, Friedrich Hölderlin, Walter Benjamin, Friedrich Nietzsche and Rainer Maria Rilke mark out the framework of content but are not set to music in the traditional sense. The sung texts in Prometeo are in part normal, in part electronically alienated, at times determining the direction of the music only as traces or even silently. The parameters of space and timbre take on enormous significance compared with the traditional constants of pitch and rhythm. Through the combination of varied chamber-musical instrumental groups, live electronics and spatially distributed vocalists, the sounds in Prometeo assume unimagined dimensions.

Wolfgang Rihm, a close friend of Luigi Nono’s in the last years of the Italian composer’s life, who has himself made opera history with important works, regards Prometeo as a milestone in the evolution of musical theatre: “These perspectives approach that of a ‘birth’ of theatre ‘from the spirit of music’”, he wrote, alluding to Nietzsche, shortly before the world premiere of Prometeo. In 2011 at musikfest berlin, the work will be performed in the Chamber Music Hall of the Philharmonie, the same venue where in 1988 Prometeo received its Berlin premiere in the presence of Luigi Nono.