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Knut VAAGE (b.1961)
Someone is Going to Come (2000)
Libretto: Jon Fosse and Knut Vaage, adapted from Fosse’s play of the same title
She: Siri Torjesen (soprano)
He: Ketil Hugaas (bass-baritone)
The Man: Nils Harald Sødal (tenor)
BIT20 Ensemble/Ingar Bergby
rec. 27-28 March 2004, NRK Studio Minde, Bergen. DDD
AURORA ACD 5043 [60:10]

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Jan Fosse is a major figure in the modern literature of Norway. Initially establishing his reputation as a novelist, he has largely worked as a dramatist since the mid-1990s and his work has been extensively performed across Europe and in the U.S.A. He has been widely described as the most important Norwegian dramatist since Ibsen.  He writes in a very austere fashion, brief speeches often repetitively patterned. Someone is Going to Come (Nokon kjem til å komme) was first performed in 1996. A later Parisian production of the play prompted Le Monde to describe him as “the Beckett of the 21st century”.

Knut Vaage (working in collaboration with Fosse) adapted Fosse’s play as the libretto for his own one act opera, which was premiered in 2000. The text has a distinctive poetry, creating through its highly patterned language a powerful exploration of the tensions inherent in human relationships; it occupies a theatrical idiom which, paradoxically, straddles the boundaries between realism and absurdism. It presents an elemental theatrical situation in simple language.

A man and a woman seek - so they say and perhaps so they believe - to be alone together; they have bought a very isolated old house near the sea; we know nothing of them, they are called simply ‘He’ and ‘She’. The tensions in their relationship are hinted at; another character (‘The Man’) appears briefly. The house, which was formerly occupied by the grandmother of ‘The Man’, is gradually revealed to contain disturbing reminders of its previous occupants – from photos on the walls to an unmade bed, right down to an unemptied chamber pot. ‘The Man’ makes a pass at ‘She’. The cracks between ‘He’ and ‘She’ widen.

Vaage’s setting employs an eight-piece ensemble: viola, flute, clarinet, bassoon, double bass, cello and two percussionists. The instrumental resources are well used; the instrumental intimacy aptly but powerfully evokes the jealousies and fears of ‘He’ and ‘She’, the laughing, disturbed menace of ‘The Man’. Perhaps, though, one might have hoped for a little more by way of musical evocation of the surrounding emptiness.

All three singers give intense, compelling performances, sustaining the tension throughout. Siri Torjesen, well known for her work in contemporary repertoire, and Ketil Hugaas, experienced operatic performer, work particularly well together and are utterly convincing in their presentation of the central relationship. They disturb and move the listener in equal measure. Though Nils Harald Sødal has a less prominent role, he handles it very persuasively, not least in his long set-piece towards the end of the opera, which is a minor masterpiece of menace and dramatic pacing.

Someone is Going to Come moves to a memorable conclusion, musically speaking, which I wouldn’t want to give away any more than I’d want to reveal the ending of a detective story I was urging someone to read.

This is a chamber opera of authentic quality, which makes a real virtue of the limitations of the genre; it is a powerful study in psychological claustrophobia, in the quasi-Pinteresque threat of the outsider who seems essentially an externalisation of the dynamics which govern the relationship between the other characters.

The CD comes very handsomely packaged, with a full libretto in both Norwegian and English translation.

Glyn Pursglove







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