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Work of the Week – Peter Eötvös: Secret Kiss

On 27 January 2019 Peter Eötvös’ melodrama Secret Kiss will be premiered by ensemble Gageego! and actress Ryoko Aoki in Gothenburg. Eötvös, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday on 2 January, will conduct the performance.

In Secret Kiss, we are transported back to nineteenth-century to follow the intimate story of a young man, who having travelled from France to Japan, falls in love with the mistress of a local nobleman. Through the smallest of gestures, the two young individuals establish a sensitive but powerful connection. The subtly of this connection, the ‘secret kiss’ of the work’s title, is shown when they each drink from the same place on the same teacup.

Following on from his opera Senza Sangue (2014-2015/2016), Eötvös has once again taken his inspiration from the Italian author Alessandro Baricco, whose acclaimed 1997 novel Silk provides the plot for Secret Kiss, with an adapted by the composer’s wife, Mari Mezei.

Peter Eötvös – Secret Kiss: Noh theatre and contemporary music 

Ryoko Aoki, who will narrate Eötvös’ new work, is a renowned singer and performer in the field of Noh theatre. Having studied at the specialist Noh theatre school Kanze in Tokyo, her work often connects the traditional elements of Noh artistry with contemporary music, and it was her initial interest that spurred Eötvös to compose Secret Kiss.

The spoken text of Secret Kiss is accompanied by flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and percussion who together create the unique atmosphere of this extraordinary work. Evocative musical figures make direct reference to the story’s plot, while low woodwinds represent the powerful underlying emotional connection between the young lovers.

Then he rose and bowed.
The last thing he saw before he left were her eyes, staring mutely into his.
Perfectly mute.
Her eyes transfixed him, and her face was the face of a young girl.
(Secret Kiss, Scene 8)

Following the world premiere, Aoki will give further performances of Secret Kiss in Tokyo on 9 March, in Porto on 24 March with the Remix Ensemble, in Madrid on 17 April with the Plural Ensemble, and in Berlin, Cologne, and Budapest on 8, 15 & 17 September respectively with Ensemble Musikfabrik.


Adobe Stock / tenglao
The New York Times Style Magazine / Masanori Akao /