Friday, July 9, 2010

Anaïs Nin Synopsis

Festival "Settimana Musicale Senese" begins today in Siena, Italy. Andriessen's new piece of music theatre "Anaïs Nin" (2009/10) will have its world premiere tomorrow at Teatro dei Rozzi. This monodrama opera is based on texts by Anaïs Nin and commissioned by the Accademia Musicale Chigiana of Siena and by the London Sinfonietta. Performers are Cristina Zavalloni, soprano, and Nieuw Amsterdams Peil instrumental ensemble. Interestingly, Andriessen will have his debut as a film director with the film that is incorporated in the piece.

Here is the synopsis and history of the piece written by Louis Andriessen:

Anaïs Nin Synopsis

I await my father with deep joy and impatience.

My Double! My evil Double!

Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin is a ‘monodrama', a musical stage play for one voice (Cristina Zavalloni), an ensemble of eight musicians (unconducted) on stage, and projected film fragments. The voice, Anaïs Nin, sings of her love affair with her father, the composer and pianist Joaquín Nin, whom she meets again after an absence of twenty years. Her lovers, René Allendy, Antonin Artaud and Henry Miller, get their word in both on film and on tape, recorded by the expressive singer Han Buhrs. These films are a compilation of existing material as well as new fragments.
The piece opens with a short TV-interview with Anaïs Nin, in which she says that she is forever restless, feverishly excited, and that nothing will satisfy her. ‘Only Henry senses the monster, because he too is possessed. I too will leave a scar upon the world.'
We see Anaïs Nin and Antonin Artaud making a romantic walk. On stage Nin sings of her ‘night of ecstasy' with him.
Then we see a film of someone making a speech and we hear René Allendy, Anaïs Nin's psychiatrist, talking about jealousy. She sings about her affair with him and of Artaud's criticism of her behaviour. Artaud: ‘What have you done to Allendy? You have done him harm.'
Following this Anaïs Nin sings about her renewed meeting with her father (film images). She is interrupted by a furious Henry Miller, but continues her story about the relationship with Joaquín. After a dramatic climax she phantasizes in a letter to her father about a moment of great peace, while sitting on his bed.
Later, in the room where Henry Miller lies asleep, Anaïs sings of her loneliness and perpetual hunger.
As the piece comes to a close, a recording of Joaquín Nin’s arrangement of a Basque Christmas carol is heard off stage, a gramophone disk from the thirties.

History of the piece
I knew about the father Joaquín Nin before I heard about the daughter Anaïs, because my father’s sheet music collection contained piano pieces and an arrangement of Spanish songs by the then famous pianist and composer Joaquín Nin. Only later, in the sixties, an American diary author became famous, mainly because of her sexual frankness. After some investigations she turned out to be the daughter of the composer. Again much later it became clear to me that she had had a love affair with her father.
After many years of intense collaboration with the Italian devil’s artist Cristina Zavalloni I realised that she would be very well suited to do the role of Anaïs Nin. In the meantime the volume of her diaries about the contact with her father had been published unabridged in English under the title Incest.
A few years ago two of my best friends, Gerard Bouwhuis and Heleen Hulst, had started a new ensemble, called Nieuw Amsterdams Peil (‘New Amsterdam Water Level’), consisting of some brilliant solo musicians, who decided to perform 20th and 21st century music for roughly 8 to 12 musicians, especially the more complex pieces, without a conductor.
All these things together opened the way for me to make Anaïs Nin. Reading the diaries from the years ‘32-‘34 I learned that this father was only one of the lovers amongst several others. This lead to my decision to grant an (outsider) role to three of them, namely the French film actor, poet and playwright Antonin Artaud, the American alcoholic turned into a writer by Anaïs Nin: Henry Miller and René Allendy. Artaud, under psycho-medical treatment himself, soon discovered Anaïs’ erotic hunger and advised her to consult his psychiatrist. Not much later this Allendy could be counted amongst her lovers.
The choice of instruments was influenced by the time of writing of the chosen diary fragments (early nineteen thirties). This explains the use of saxophones, clarinets (Sidney Bechet, Coleman Hawkins) and percussion (drumset including hi-hat, guiro, etc.).
The music closely tracks the irony, despair and passion of this many-sided and brilliant woman.

Louis Andriessen

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