Isabel Mundry (1963)

Ein Atemzug - die Odyssee (2003 -2005)

musical theater

stage work

  • General information
    • Composition date: 2003 - 2005
    • Duration: 1 h 30 mn
    • Publisher: Breitkopf & Härtel
    • Libretto (details, author):

      Zürn, Emcke et Pascoli

Detailed formation
  • soloists: 1 solo mezzo-soprano, 1 solo countertenor, 1 solo tenor, 1 solo bass voice
  • mixed choir à 30 voix (soprano [], contralto [], tenor [], bass voice [])
  • 5 flutes [dont 1 dans l'ensemble de chambre] , 5 oboes [dont 1 d'ensemble de chambre] , 5 clarinets [dont 1 d'ensemble de chambre] , 4 bassoons, 3 horns, 4 trumpets [dont 1 d'ensemble de chambre] , 3 trombones, 1 tuba, 5 percussionists [dont 1 d'ensemble de chambre] , 1 accordion, 20 violins [dont 1 d'ensemble de chambre] , 9 violas [dont 1 d'ensemble de chambre] , 6 cellos [dont 1 d'ensemble de chambre] , 4 double basses

Premiere information

  • Date: 7 September 2005

    Allemagne, Deutsche Oper Berlin


Table of contents

  1. Gefaltete Zeit (overture)
  2. Überleitung
  3. Penelopes Atem [soprano, accordeon, orchestra]
  4. Hermes’ Weg über das Meer
  5. 5a. Lotophagen – 5b. Zyklop – 5c. Äolus, Lästrygonen – 5d. Kirke – 5e. Aides – 5f. Sirenen – 5g. Skylla und Charybdis – 5h. Helios – 5i. Rückkehr im Schlaf
  6. Krieg in Ithaka
  7. 7a. Wiederbegegnung – 7b. Fortgang


Program note

The Odyssee as the theme of an opera – at first glance this would seem to be a return to a subject of the nineteenth century. But Isabel Mundry is not concerned with relating the history of the hero. The work focuses on aspects on perception that intersect the Homeric text in a multitude of ways: the loss of special and temporal orientation, the confrontation with the unknown, the flight into forgetting, the experience of foreign gazes and inhospitable spaces. This is what is contemporary about the Odayssey fort he composer and this is what also informs the music-theatre concept behind the work. From the beginning Mundry was interested in creating a music theatre text that operates on the margins of opera and choreography.

"I felt that for the transposition of this work, which is at the juncture of myth and novel, to the musical stage, it was essential that the categories of time and space not be stable factors but should become the object of the interpretation through the action. Thus I decided not to transpose a selected chapter, but to musically arrange the composition of the entire book and – as in the book – to let the music begin at a moment in which Odysseus's adventure is already over. In the course of the piece, this is related three times from different perspectives: first from the point of view of the council of the gods, as an "overture" in compressed time; then as a recollection experienced by Odysseus; and finally as a narration recounting when Odysseus and Penelope meet again.

I project the variety of spatial perception in the Odyssey onto a sound-space plane: in Odysseus's memory, the landscapes of adventure are depicted on the stage as permanently shifting spatial sounds. The human voice also explores spatiality, from the intimate sound of the breath to the song of a soloist and the chorus. The interlocking of time planes is also reflected by the respective instrumental track pursued by the three performers (Penelope, Odysseus, Athena/Hermes), a track that articulates a temporality freed from the characters. Thus Odysseus does not sing while he is still pursuing his journey. The performer is musically represented by a trumpet at first; only after his arrival in Ithaca does he take on a voice."

Isabel Mundry