KRIS DEFOORT (b.1959): House of the Sleeping Beauties.
Catalogue Number: 02L125
Label: Fuga Libera
Description: This effectively atmospheric, intentionally melancholy and slightly claustrophobic piece is based on the novel of the same title by the Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972). It tells the story of an old man visiting a strange brothel in which elderly men can spend the night sleeping next to young girls who are drugged with sleeping pills - very civilized, ritualized, and of course sad and symbolic of their approaching death and, paradoxically, their acceptance of this fact. Each scene is preceded by an acted introduction, a dialogue between the old man and the madam, the former disconcertingly concerned with the idea of dying while in the brothel. The action is described by female voices; a chorus of four describing the girls; a solo soprano, the old man's actions; a baritone, the old man's inner monologue, and his memories of women from his past. As he tries to defy the rules - of the house and his encroaching mortality - his increasing desperation and fear are vividly portrayed in layers of description that take the place of the conventional sung dialogue of characters. Even the final violation and death are treated ambiguously, as though from a distance, or in memory. Defoort's music is largely based in tonality, with more than casual references to Brittenesque vocabulary ad gestures, while the spoken prologues are played against a background of anonymous, sad, salonesque piano music. The music's subtle, understated, dark-hued tones perfectly match the story's mood of sombre, nostalgic despair. 2 CDs. English libretto. Barbara Hannigan (soprano), Omar Ebrahim (baritone), Susanne Duwe, Alice Foccroulle, Susanne Hawkins, Els Moondelaers (chorus), Asko/Schönberg; Patrick Davin.