GŁnther Rabl
speech opera after a novel by Werner Helwig
computermusic, 80min, 8-channel, Rastenberg 1988/89
actors: Alexandra Sommerfeld, Thomas Kamper
computermusic, 60min, 8-channel, Heumühle 2002

Somewhen in the 80ies a small book was found on the flee-market in Vienne, a novel "Der gefangene Vogel" (the bird in prison) by the almost unknown German author Werner Helwig (1905-1985). It soon became sort of a hot tip for its good story and strong expressionistic language and copies went round in some circles of Austrian artists. The book itself was not available any more and I think, it is still not.

It's the story of Betiri, a young man in Basque, who was destinated to become a miracle healer. After strong arguments with his family, which thought he would support the whole village by his profession, he lived a retired live in the mountains healing many people, as well as animals and plants. He did not take any money and not even gifts, because he felt, that he would loose his skills, if he did. But then he got 'trapped' and forced to heal the queen of Spain. After beeing put in jail and beeing punished to death for touching the queen without a permission, and after beeing pardoned again, he had no chance to refuse a present of the king. This is, where the story ends. We don't know, wether he really lost his skill, or if he gave it up as a part of that game called life.

The actress Alexandra Sommerfeld had the idea to put this story on stage and we decided to produce a speech-opera. For a second part we got the actor Thomas Kamper. At first I tried to do all the organization by myself, but after some months I had to realize, that it came to nothing. I was too exhausted to begin with the music, even if all other problems would have solved at the moment. So I cancelled the whole project quite drastically. Alexandra and Thomas, however encouraged me to continue and we found Konny Kilga as a production director. She doubled all costs and finally got it together.

Since the language of this novel is pure music, I completely relied on the text. First of all we made recordings of the text and a temporary edition, which served as a scaffold for my work. It was clear from the beginning, that Alexandra spoke the part of Betiri (his story, his monologues, his inner voices) and Thomas all the other parts (Betiri's family, his girlfriend, the ambassador, the king, the queen, the judge). I proposed an 8-channel situation for my music: 4 loud-speakers on stage, 2 behind the stage and 2 in front, above the audience. Creating profiles and movements in this constellation was an important part of my work.
I developed sort of leitmotives for all persons and subjects. But these motives are undergoing transformations during the whole piece and exchanging their aspects. I made use of some different scales, like 7 steps per octave for the burlesque scenes, 11 for the inner voices, 18 for the deeper layers of destiny.

At the beginning we thougth, we would need no microphones for the actors, but they were afraid to get lost in the music coming over 8 loudspeakers. This was a matter of conscience for me, because I don't belief in the idea of simple 'amplification'. Finally we found this solution: we put a set of 10 good microphones on stage routed to 18 loudspeakers, which were completely seperated from the loudspeakers for the music. Together with Alexandra I selected position and type of all speakers according to the character of the part, they had to represent, and Alexandra developed a choreography of movements within this setup.

For rehearsals Alfred Peschek let us his wonderful small concert room in Linz. Here we took a month to rehears with the original setup and equipment.
Wolfgang Musil did the microphoning and spectral compensation, Thomas Gorbach assisted directing the sound, and Yosi Wanunu developed an ingenious concept for the light, using bulbs and candelabras on stage.
Günther Rabl


Günther Rabl Werke 11 Listen to an example!Betiri.mp3  2,7MB
Alexandra Sommerfeld Thomas Kamper
Alexandra Sommerfeld as Betiri
foto: © Ani Mezadurian
Thomas Kamper as ambassador
foto: © Felicitas Kruse
GŁnther Rabl
Günther Rabl at the klangregie
foto: © Felicitas Kruse
stage Brucknerhaus
view of the stage at Brucknerhaus Linz 1999
8 speroid loudspeakers for the music –
6 on stage, 2 above the audience
10 microphones routed to 18 speakers for the actors
foto: © Ani Mezadurian
stage Kunsthalle Krems
view on the stage at Kunsthalle Krems 1999
foto: © Felicitas Kruse
There were two performances in November 1999,
one in the Brucknerhaus Linz and one in the Kunsthalle Krems.