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Oscar Bettison’s first opera, The Light of Lesser Days, is premiered by Asko|Schönberg and singers Katrien Baerts and Barbara Kozelj at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek in Utrecht on September 9.

The Light of Lesser Days, Oscar Bettison’s first foray into opera, premieres on September 9 as part of Gaudeamus Muziekweek. Soprano Katrien Baerts and mezzo-soprano Barbara Kozelj sing the lead roles, joined by Asko|Schönberg and conductor Clark Rundell. The performers take the work to the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam on September 16. Also in September, Ensemble Klang releases the premiere recording of another Bettison vocal work, Presence of Absence, featuring soprano Michaela Riener and the Matangi Quartet. This exciting month of Bettison music comes on the tails of the world premiere of his latest ensemble work, La Arqueología del Neón, with the Talea Ensemble at the TIME:SPANS Festival on August 23.

Years before he began writing The Light of Lesser Days, Bettison discovered Werner's Nomenclature of Colours, a taxonomic guide to 110 colors and where they can be found in nature. The book and its poetic, often vivid descriptions inspired Bettison during the development of The Light of Lesser Days, for which he also wrote the libretto.

The one-act opera features two characters: Selvina (played by Baerts) and Meline (played by Kozelj) in a grey institutional room. As they read the same book that inspired Bettison, the vivid descriptions transport them to a series of fantasy worlds, bathed in the different colors—from forests, stormy seas, and winter scenes to a palace that holds memories. Between their flights of imagination, Meline attempts to piece together fragments of her memory and identity.

Bettison states: “This opera is about memory, and the loss of memory. Our memories tell us who we are.”

The instrumental ensemble is amplified with specially designed omniwave speakers that create a wall of sound, and the musicians’ live playing is often layered with multiple pre-recorded versions of their solo lines, creating a shimmering effect.

Bettison explains that Presence of Absence (2016) for mezzo-soprano and ensemble paved the way for his first opera: “I wouldn’t have been able to write Light of Lesser Days if I hadn’t written Presence of Absence.” The piece features the Anglo-Saxon poem “The Ruin” about the fall of Rome, alongside texts by Bettison. Performed by Michaela Riener, Ensemble Klang, and the Matangi Quartet, the premiere recording of Presence of Absence is released on September 10 on Ensemble Klang’s own label.

> Purchase the recording

Bettison’s momentous fall season also includes the world premiere of his La Arqueología del Neón with the Talea Ensemble on August 23, and continues with the premiere of a solo euphonium work, Utterance 214 […"the cool water of the stars"…] for Melvyn Poore in Germany, October 2.

> Read more about La Arqueología del Neón

>  Further information on Work: The Light of Lesser Days

Photo: Arne Bock

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