While the revolution is approaching its climax outside, business is normal in the 38 salons of Madame Irma‘s luxury brothel ‚Le Grand Balcon‘. The clients slip into their chosen roles and act out their secret wishes and desires with the help of the ladies of this establishment: as a bishop receiving confession from a female sinner, a judge enjoying the game of power and humiliation or a general who is riding to his heroic death on the back of a horse played by one of the girls. Madame Irma is waiting impatiently for the head of police from whom she hopes to receive protection for her establishment; he in turn engages in the fantasy that his character will ﬁnally be utilised in the game of role-playing. In the meantime, the revolutionaries led by Chantal, a former prostitute previously employed by Madame Irma, have reached the brothel. The envoy of the king appears and reports that the queen and the real bishops, judges and generals have been disempowered. In order to retain the existing state of order, the head of police requests Irma and her clients to present themselves on the balcony in their roles as queen, bishop, judge and general. The crowd accepts this masquerade and the revolution fails. The head of police ﬁnally sees his dreams coming true: Irma creates a 39th salon as a mausoleum in which clients can live out their fantasy role as ‚head of police‘.
Peter Eötvös was searching for a text for an opera in which the action onstage would literally explode. His search led him to an ideal work: Jean Genet’s stage play Le Balcon, which had received its ﬁrst performance in London in 1957 and presented a blend of different levels of play-acting and reality. Here, everything is a game: not only the ‚real‘ revolution, but also the life depicted in the salons of the brothel; ultimately a masquerade and a suspension and negation of reality. The music also plays with different levels of reality. At one point, double bass, clarinet, horn, trumpet and the violinist playing the straw ﬁddle leave their customary places in the orchestra and join in the action onstage as human props. Eötvös considers the close connection between language and music as essential and therefore demands that performances of this opera are given in French with surtitles. Genet‘s linguistic subtleties are translated into shimmering, colourful music: we hear allusions to French chansons of the 1950s interwoven with Baroque representational music with serialistic and minimalistic elements producing a tonal impression skilfully evocative of the surreal parallel world of the ‚Balcon‘. ‚What I found most important was that Genet’s wonderfully frivolous and poetic language remained comprehendible. This explains why I utilised numerous grotesque and comic elements of cabaret music. On occasions, my music steers very close to the world of French chansons with Fréhel, Jaques Brel, Yves Montand and Leo Ferré as my ‘models’.‘ (Peter Eötvös)
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Sprechrollen: 3 Revolutionäre / 3 Fotografen / Sklave · 3 Schauspieler