SEBASTIAN FAGERLUND (b.1972): Autumn Sonata.
Catalogue Number: 10U076
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: If you've enjoyed Fagerlund's " ... accessible, tonal idiom, [in which] he writes music of massive momentum and rhythmic drive, monumentality and irrepressible force." in the orchestral works we've offered previously (04Q088, 07N102, 12S072, 03T078), well, this is the operatic version. Autumn Sonata is based on Ingmar Bergman's screenplay for his eponymous 1978 film, essentially without changing the plot, the characters, or the relationships between them. However, as the composer puts it, the medium of opera "lets me play around with the limits between the real and the imaginary, stretching them to the extreme. ... extensions of unrestrained fantasy can become absolutely momentous in an opera ... ". So Bergman's realistic, claustrophobic drama of remembered pain, neuroses and emotional disconnection gets the full operatic treatment, and turns into something grander, darker, and more universal. From the opening of the overture, which inhabits the world of megaliths and floes of the orchestral works, you know exactly what you're going to get. Charlotte, an aging, successful, vastly egocentric concert pianist, visits her daughter, Eva, who cares for her other daughter, Helena, who is mentally disabled. Eva and her husband lost a young son in a tragic accident, Charlotte recently lost her lover, and she had never been a satisfactory mother to the sisters, having obsessively concentrated on her career. Charlotte and Eva confront each other with blame and reproach, and subsequently both regret it. From the character of the music, one might be forgiven for thinking that this mournful little domestic tragedy is taking place in the lofty, echoing, shadowy halls of some granitic Gormenghast-like castle, rather than the rooms and environs of a small-town vicarage, an impression heightened when Charlotte's adoring public, without whom her existence is meaningless, appears as a chorus to comment on and participate in the action, along with the shade of Leonardo, Charlotte's dead partner. In a surreal but emotionally overwhelming scene, the mute Helena suddenly rises from her sickbed to tell her story, "the only completely pure and beautiful element in the entire opera" in the composer's words. The ostinato-driven exchanges with the chorus are monumental; the intensity with which the characters inhabit their emotional worlds, at cross purposes and and almost never intersecting, is harrowing, and the wrenching confrontation between Charlotte and Eva under the pitiless gaze of Charlotte's 'audience' in the second act is heartrending. 2 CDs. Swedish-English libretto. Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo), Erika Sunnegårdh, Helena Juntunen (sopranos), Tommi Hakala (baritone), Nicholas Söderlund (bass), Finnish National Chorus and Orchestra; John Storgårds.