Shadowtime: the Ferneyhough and Bernstein opera about Walter Benjamin premiered ten years ago

PDF of libretto published by Green Integer

To celebrate the tenth  anniversary of the Munich premiere of Shadowtime Green Integer has made available a PDF of the libretto:
the new pdf 
& also the print edition 

The Shadowtime CD is available from NMC 
on I-Tunes & Spotify (but you must search title only).
Musical director – Jurjen Hempel / Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart / Solo Performers: Nicolas Hodges (piano/reciter), Mats Scheidegger (guitar).  

YouTube excerpts: "
Staleae for Failed Time," "Amphibolies" extr., "Opus Contra Naturum" with music

Synopsis of Opera 

Eric Denut Inteview with Charles Bernstein —  All About Jewish Theater; rpt from Argonist Online (2005)
Brian Ferneyhough on "Words and Music" — Argonist Online (2005)
Ferneyhough interview on Shadowtime with John Warnaby, Music Web (2004) 

French translation by Juliette Valéry. German translation by Benedikt Ledebur available on request

World premiere on Tuesday, May 25, 2004, at Prinzregententheater, Munich, with subsequent peformances May 27 and May 28
Additional Performances
October 26 and 27, 2004, Festival d'Automne à Paris, Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers
July 9, 2005 at the English National Opera
July 21 and 22, 2005 at the Lincoln Center Festival, at the Rose Theater, New York
September 30, Oct. 1 & 2, 2005 -- RuhrTrienniel at the Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum (Germany)
BBC 3 broadcast on Opera on 3, November 12, 2005.
& with thanks to Joséphine Markovits

Andrew Porter writes in TLS: "Ferneyhough creat[es] music from thoughts of Benjamin (and much else) with exuberance, generosity, mastery. Wonderful sounds, musical moves that tell, technical exigence turned to eloquence: I listened spellbound." David Patrick Stearns calls the opera "a monument to the constructive poweres of the mind" in the Philadelpia Inquirer. Fred Kirchit, in the NY Sun calls Shadowtime "one of the brightest presentations of contemporary music this season."

Wolfgang Schreiber, in Süddeutsche Zeitung, calls Shadowtime "darkly hypnotic." Brian Ferneyhough is " ... an outstanding musician of his generation ... a modern stylist on the tracks of Schoenberg-Webern-Boulez, who, despite beginnings in postmodernism, is a composer and musical thinker who pursues great density of expression and a blazing constructivism. ... There is pure artistic fervor here, and it is gripping. ... a musical adventure of the most artful complexity, freed from all expectation. ... Brian Ferneyhough's opera is an apex of modern operatic artistry, and the greatest co-production of the Biennial to date.

Tess Crebbin, in Music and Vision, says "Bernstein's libretto, plain and simple, is the finest contemporary libretto that I know of."

Andrew Clements, in The Guardian, writes that Shadowtime has "music of wonderful detail, with sometimes an extraordinarily powerful charge. Beneath his tangled modernist rigour Ferneyhough hides a passionate commitment to expression."

John Warnaby, in Sight & Sound, declares that "Shadowtime is Ferneyhough’s unique contribution to music-theatre: essentially his magnum opus, incorporating most of the fundamental elements of his creative imagination."Keith Potter in The Indpendent (London), prasises onductor Jurjen Hempel; "the singing and the playing of an 18-piece ensemble appeared of a uncommonly high standard."

Von Claus Spahn, in Die Zeit, says, "Ferneyhough takes on the absolute challenge (and extraordinary demand) of music as an intellectual force. He take up the inheritance of Anton Webern and the serialists. He insists on material progress for the medium."

Shadowtime is a "thought opera" based on the work and life of Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). Benjamin is one of the greatest philosophers and cultural critics of the twentieth century. Born in Berlin, he died on the Spanish border while trying to escape the fate that awaited most of his fellow Central European Jews. In its seven scenes, Shadowtime explores some of the major themes of Benjamin's work, including the intertwined natures of history, time, transience, timelessness, language, and melancholy; the possibilities for a transformational leftist politics; the interconnectivity of language, things, and cosmos; and the role of dialectical materiality, aura, interpretation, and translation in art. Beginning on the last evening of Benjamin's life, Shadowtime projects an alternative course for what happened on that fateful night. Opening onto a world of shades, of ghosts, of the dead, Shadowtime inhabits a period in human history in which the light flickered and then failed.

Reviews & Essay:

NEW YORK—July 2005
Opera News, Oct. 2005 (Arlo McKinnon)
Paris Transatlantic
, Sept. 2005 (Nicholas Rice)
New York Newsday, July 26 (Daniel Schlosberg)
New York Sun,
July 25 (Fred Kirshnit)
Mappemunde, July 24 (Tim Peterson)
Sequenza 21, July 23 (David Salavage)
Fait Accompli, July 22 and July 23 (Nick Piombino)
Seen & Heard (Bruce Hodges)
The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 23 (David Patrick Stearns); also in Andante
The New York Times, July 23 (Anthony Tommasini)
Poetics List, July 23 (Donald Wellman)
The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 21 (David Patrick Stearns)
The New York Times, July 17 (Jeremy Eichler)
New York Press, July (Allan Lockwood)
Newark Star-Ledger, July 10 (Willa Conrad)
PennCurrent, July 7 (Judy West)
Stanford Magazine July/August

RUHR TRIENNIEL, Bochum (Germany) October, 2005
Westfälische Rundschau (Sonja Müller-Eisold), Oct. 4, 2005
Waz, Oct. 4, 2005
NRZ, Oct. 4, 2005 (Johannes Glauber)
Westdeutsche Zeitung (Sophia Willems)

LONDON—July 2005

Stride Magazine, July (Ira Lightman)
TLS, July 22 (Andrew Porter)
Seen and Heard, July, 2005 (Anne Ozorio)
Classical Source (July 2005) ( Richard Whitehouse)
musicircus, July (Rob Witts)
The Observer Review (Guardian/UK), July 17 (George Hall)
The Evening Standard, July 11 (Fiona Maddocks)
The Guardian, July 8, 2005; preview/interview (Andrew Clements); also in All About Jewish Theater

— May 2004
Süddeutsche Zeitung, May 27, 2004: text only;   jpeg image of page,   pdf of page (Wolfgang Schrieber
Frankfurter Allgemeine, May 27, 2004 (Juliana Spinola)
Die Welt, May 28, 2004 (Egbert Tholl); virtually same review in Stuttgarter Zeitung, May 27, 2004
Niederlandeweb, May 24,. 2004
Münchener Merkur, May 27, 2004
(Markus Theil)
Berliner Zeitung, May 27, 2004 (Klaus Georg Koch)
Augsburger Allgemeine, May 27, 2004 Rüdiger Heinze)(jpg file)
Südwest Press, May 27, 2004 (Jürgen Kanold) (gif file)
Abendzeitug, May 27, 2004  (Marianne Reßinger(jpg file)
Die Zeit, June 3, 2004 (text only); or: link to newspaper site (Claus Spahn)

Music & Vision, June 3, 2004 (or: text only version) (Tess Crebbin)
Seen and Heard, June 2004 (John Warnaby)
Süddeutsche Zeitung, May 27, 2004 (English translation)
The Guardian, May 28, 2004 (Andrew Clements)
Financial Times, May 27, 2004 (Shirley Apthorp)
Sunday Times, June 6, 2004 (Paul Driver)
The Independent, June 24, 2004 (Keith Potter)
Gema News (English version) (Reinhard Schulz)
Radical Philosophy 127 (Sep/Oct 2004) (Esther Leslie)

Festival d'Automne press dossier
Süddeutsche Zeitung, May 27, 2004 (traduction française)
Omar Berrada Entreitien -- Les Lettres française, 26 Octobre 2004
Le Figaro, 28 Octobre 2004 (Jacques Doucelin)
Le Monde, 31 Octobre 2004 (Pierre Gervasoni)

Earlier Reviews and Commentaries:
Excerpt from "Doctrine of Similarity" with a commentary by Roger Kamenetz, published in the Forward (NYC), March 2004
See Richard Toop's program notes on Scene II, "Les Froissements d'Ailes de Gabriel"
Preview in The Prospect, 4/29/04
Review in The Times, London, March 17, 2004
Review in The Guardian, March 16, 2004
Review of "Opus Contra Naturam,", February 2004

Charles Bernstein & Brian Ferneyhough, May 27, 2004, at the Munich premiere (photo by Susan Bee) & at Lincoln Center Rose Theater, July 22, 2005.

Charles Bernstein Reading from the libretto:
at Kelly Writers House, University of Pennsylvania, October 13, 2000:
1. Introduction
2. Rimes for Stefan (from Scene One)
3. Dialog between Holderlin and Benjamin (from Scene One)
4. Doctrine of Similartity (Scene Three): excerpts published by the Forward, with commentary by Roger Kamenetz
5. Dew-&-Die (from "The Doctrine of Similarity," Scene Three)
6. Anagramatica (from "The Doctrine of Similarity," Scene Three)
7. Pools of Darkness: 11 Interrogations (Scene Five)
8. Seven Tableaux Vivant (Scene Six)
9. Stelae for Lost-Time (Scene Seven)
* "Death Is the Cool Night" from "Seven Tableaux Vivant"
•Entire KWH reading as one MP3 file
Entire KWH reading in RealAudio (link to index page; file in real audio)
Also available:
Scene VII ("Steale for Failed Time") at Harvard University's Houghton Library (link to mp3 file)
2005 radio interview & reading (Cross-Cultural Poetics): part one (28:02), part two (30:07)


Walter Benjamin images by Susan Bee


Judiska Teatern, Stockhom production
February 20-22, 2006
Magnus Andersson, Solo Guitar
Brian Ferneyhough, Recital
Franck Ollu, Conductor
Fredrik Ullén, Solo Piano
Staging: Pia Forsgren 
Set design: Tomas Franck and Kenneth Björk 
Costume: Mikael T Zielinski  

Shadowtime web site at EPC

photo from Scene V (Walter Benjamin and border guard), Munich premiere, by Regine Koerner © 2004

Five more photos of the production by Regine Koerner.
Photo by Stephanie Berger (New York Times)
Flash animation/sound courtesy Festival d'Auomne (links directly to flash/sound)