Shiva for Anne
For ten years now, Berlin-based Swiss composer Mela Meierhans has concentrated on lamentations for the dead and death rituals in the monotheistic religions and cultures of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. As a border-crosser par excellence, she created her “Jenseitstrilogie” during this period. Following successful performances of the first two parts, “Tante Hänsi” and “Rithaa” (MaerzMusik 2006 and 2010), she now closes the trilogy with “Shiva for Anne”, a music theatre about mourning and remembering in Jewish culture. This stipulates three days of crying, seven days of lamenting, thirty days of mourning. The Shiva is the phase of mourning during which the family remains at home for seven days and receives visitors offering their condolences; it serves the purpose of exchanging memories.
Mela Meierhans’ music is based on the seven days and seven nights of the Shiva, during which there is lots of talk and laughter but also tears. This is why the voice – both song and speech – plays a very important role in the composition. Meierhans also uses the procedure in this composition of allocating the alphabet to individual notes. In “Rithaa” she derived the tone series from the Arabic alphabet, in “Shiva” she refers to the Hebrew alphabet. She creates twelve tone rows out of the first twelve letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
British-born but Basel-based poet Anne Blonstein was originally meant to write the libretto for “Shiva”, but she sadly died in 2011. She is considered to be one of the most important contemporary female poets in the English-speaking world. In her poems, she often used the Hebrew alphabet and studied numerical sequences in Hebrew, acronyms and rabbinic interpretations in Hebrew. Poems by Anne Blonstein form the foundation of the libretto, and are expanded by her friends’ personal memories. Blonstein and Mela Meierhans enjoyed a long-term collaboration. There is therefore also a personal story behind the central motif of the tribute. “Shiva for Anne” is dedicated to Anne Blonstein.
Mela Meierhans, artistic director
Raphael Immoos, conductor
Irina Ungureanu / Rebecca Ockenden, soprano
Barbara Schingnitz / Leslie Leon, mezzo soprano
Daniel Issa, tenor
Jan Sauer, baritone
Robert Koller, baritone/speaker
Tiago Mota, bass
Alexandre Babel / Rie Watanabe / Michael Weilacher / Daniel Eichholz, percussion
Nathalie Buchli, production management Kulturist GmbH
Helma Schleif, production Berlin