L'espace dernier

Matthias Pintscher: L'espace dernier

”Since my very first attempts at composition, I’ve been fascinated by the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud and his life... The excitement I felt the first time I encountered his poetry has remained undiminished to this day” wrote Matthias Pintscher to Hans Peter Jahn in 2001. He then described a constant revisiting of Rimbaud’s poetry, including works from the cycle ”Monumento”, and particularly the poem ”Départ” from ”Les Illuminations”.

”A text is reflected in a space belonging to it. The text travels from piece to piece, and thus also from space to space...” Matthias Pintscher explains this ever-new examination. ”The space” is, so to speak, given as a title in parentheses in Pintscher’s most extensive examination to date of Rimbaud’s poem Départ. For his music theatre piece L’espace dernier ”en quatre parties sur textes et images autour de l’œuvre et de la vie d’Arthur Rimbaud” [in four parts on texts and images about the work and life of Arthur Rimbaud], composed in 2002-03 and premiered at the Opéra Bastille in Paris in 2004, Pintscher created a detailed scenario of texts, visions of bodies, space, movement and light, with which he projected the texts over the musical realisation into the depth of the space: an acoustic plumbing of the depths of a theatrical scenario in perspective.


”The blue silence...”

The ideal space which Matthias Pintscher takes as the starting point for his music theatre piece is the ”last”, the ”unfathomable” – perhaps the room in which the poet died. ”Pourquoi l’azur muet et l’espace insondable” is the quotation which dominates the first section of the four-part work. Rimbaud had completed his body of poetry by the age of 18. He died aged 37 in Marseille, following a leg amputation after visiting Africa as a travelling salesman. In Pintscher’s music theatre piece, Rimbaud himself doesn’t appear, but rather is present through his poetry and in accounts from people who were around him, such as his African servant and companion Djami, his sisters Vitalie and Isabelle, and his mother.

The large musical structure which Matthias Pintscher visualises, with two actors (”Die Frau” [The Woman], ”Der Mann” [The Man]), a body of singers comprising both a coloratura and a lyric soprano, dramatic mezzo-soprano, high tenor and bass-baritone and 16 vocal soloists, an orchestra divided into three groups, other instruments grouped around the space and live electronics, is concerned with the acoustic depth dimension of musical material. The objectivity of language and sung word is transformed in the complex sonority of the score and transferred in turn into the spatial perspective. The poet’s mysterious personality is translated into an enigmatic soundscape of the greatest fascination – into sound creations such as the ”Textgewitter” [text storm] for the vocal soloists in the second part, “a whispering chorus gradually building up, growing and heightening in intensity” or the dramatic high point of a musical inferno of the “Saison d’enfer” in part three. All this reflects the forsakenness, the obsessive drivenness of Rimbaud’s artistic personality and perhaps the sadness surrounding it: ”Et l’horizon s’enfuit dans une fuite éternelle...” – ”And the horizon escapes into an eternal flight...” are the words Pintscher gives to the servant Djami – an image which in turn alludes to the infinity of the imagined, unfathomable space depicted aurally in Pintscher’s work.

Marie Luise Maintz
(translation: Elizabeth Robinson)
(aus takte 1/2008)