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Work of the week – Chaya Czernowin: Infinite now

Chaya Czernowin’s new opera Infinite Now premieres on 18 April at Vlaamse Opera Ghent directed by Luk Perceval and with conductor Titus Engel. The opera is a co-production with the Nationaltheater Mannheim, Vlaamse Opera and IRCAM Paris.

Czernowin and Perceval worked together to construct the libretto based on a short story by Chinese writer Can Xue, Homecoming, and Perceval’s own play, Front, a dramatisation of the novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Both texts enact a suspension: in Front, soldiers are in the trenches, locked in never-ending fighting. They move some kilometres forward only to return back to their former position. In Homecoming, a woman attempts to pass through a house along her journey but gradually realises that it is impossible to leave. The two seemingly distant worlds fuse in Infinite Now in a search for the will to continue and find hope in the simplest elements of life.

Czernowin’s Infinite Now: Existence here and now

Infinite Now revolves around repeating and growing structures. Each act begins with the sound of an iron gate, often hardly recognisable, and this is followed by an orchestral interlude before the singing starts. The six singers are separated into two trios; the first trio sings material from Front and is comprised of a soprano, alto and bass. The second trio takes on Homecoming with mezzo-soprano, counter-tenor and baritone. The alto and countertenor take the lead roles, and when singing together, they blend into a single androgynous voice.

The opera is about more than Homecoming or the First World War. It is about our existence here and now. How we survive, how we are destined to survive and how even the smallest element of vitality suggests survival and with it, perhaps hope. – Chaya Czernowin

Further performances of Infinite Now follow in Ghent on 20, 22 and 23 April, and in Antwerp on 30 April and 3, 5 and 6 May. The German premiere will take place on 26 April at the Nationaltheater Mannheim followed by the French premiere on 14 June at the Cité de la Musique in Paris.


Photo: Early Infinite Now sketches by composer Chaya Czernowin