by Barbara Black
Inukshuk, a project in experimental music theatre, will bring the harsh beauty of the Far North to the D.B. Clarke Theatre on Monday, June 1.
The production, which will be mounted again the next day at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, is a partnership between Music Professor Wolfgang Bottenberg and the Austrian experimental company Arbos, last seen at Concordia in Viktor Ullman's The Emperor of Atlantis in November 1996.
The Arbos company is committed to mounting Bottenberg's 1985 opera, Inuk, with libretto by poet and retired English Professor Henry Beissel, based on his well-known 1974 play Inook and the Sun.
While the funding is being put together for a full production, Arbos and its Montreal counterpart Kataq have decided to stage a concert version of three excerpts from Inuk and the premiere of another work inspired by the Arctic, Earth and the Great Weather.
Inuk and his father are hunters. When his father dies, Inuk must bring back the winter sun. He does this with the Arctic animals and spirits, who are full-fledged characters in the opera. While nature presents a fierce challenge, the boy comes to an understanding of his place in the natural order.
When Inuk was performed by students in Seattle in 1996, one impressed reviewer said, "It is truly a mystery and a tragedy that Bottenberg's two-act opera has been ignored by professional companies. From the opening chorus, the listener is treated to sensuous music reminiscent of Orff's Carmina Burana."
Bottenberg's musical influences are mainly European. When he wrote Inuk, from 1982 to 1985, he stuck to his modernist European musical tradition, but he says now that he is becoming fascinated by Inuit music.
The performers of the Inuk excerpts on June 1 will be Richard Dumas in the title role, soprano Deantha Edmunds as the Wind and Sun, Grˇgoire Legendre as the Moon, and Janusz Sliwka as Inuk's father and the Spirit of the Ice, with piano accompaniment by Dana Nigrim.
The production by Arbos of Earth and the Great Weather, a world premiere, will feature two Inuit throat-singers and drummers from Greenland, plus five Austrian musicians. The composer, American John Luther Adams, was trained in California, but was composer in residence from 1994 to 1997 with the Anchorage Symphony, the Anchorage Opera and the Alaska Public Radio network.
The Austrian-Canadian Inukshuk project is an attempt to bring European and aboriginal ways of thinking about nature into dialogue. It takes its name from the inukshuk, a traditional stone marker in the North, which has a counterpart in the mystical "Stoneman" of the Alps.
Photo: (Above) Most inukshuk are built of seven flat stones in this humanoid shape to mark distinctive geographic features or good hunting spots. This one, outside the McCord Museum on Sherbrooke St., is a monumental structure of 200 stones made by artist Jusipi Nalukturuk, of Naqsaluk Island, 2,000 km north of Montreal.
Arbos music theatre company (Austria)Kataq music theatre group (Montreal)
from the chamber opera Inuk (concert performance)
Libretto by Henry Beissel, music by Wolfgang Bottenberg
and the world premiere of
Earth and the Great Weather, a sonic geography of the Arctic by John Luther Adams
June 1, 8 p.m.
D.B. Clarke Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Admission, $8; seniors and students with ID, $5
For information, please call 848-4742