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György Ligeti * Le Grand Macabre (1977, cd 1999 sony music entertainment inc.)

My attention was drawn to this composer for two reasons: first I was suggested to listen to him by a colleague who I introduced to Nicholas Lens (see reviews elsewhere), second the opera singer Derek Lee Ragin sings both on Lens’ “Terra Terra” as on “Le Grand Macabre”, which (three?) is of course an appealing title for a classical cd.
This opera was composed by the Hungarian composer Ligeti between 1975 and 1977 and had it’s premiere in 1978. Later it has been reworked several times, because there was demand for Swedish (for the premiere), German, French, English and Italian versions. The cd that I had is an English version performed in 1999.
Ligeti wanted something more than just an opera and wrote some kind of opera/play that goes a few steps further than operetta. It has been quite hard to get singers that can not only sing (and sing Ligeti!), but also act and talk in a descent manner.
I think quite much of this opera must get lost on cd, because there is of course no acting to be seen and everything has to come through the ear. DVD must be a perfect medium for opera!
As the title suggests “Le Grand Macabre” can be fairly dark at times and Ligeti sure puts some unusual elements in his opera, but no electronics like Lens, but who would expect that from an almost 80-year old composer?
Pretty nice for an opera, but not exactly what I’m looking for in modern classical music.

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