Commissioned by Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. First performaed on 10 January 2010 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, by Ian Bostridge (The White and Well-Groomed Dog), John Tomlinson (The Stranger), Roberto Valentini (The Police Inspector) and members of the Orchestra of the Academy of Saint Cecilia conducted from the piano by Antonio Pappano
UK Premiere reserved
At the edge of a city, at midnight, a stray dog from what was evidently a good home encounters a distraught man on the run. It emerges from the latter’s monologues that he has survived a difficult and humiliating period that is none the less shrouded in obscurity. He suffers unspeakably, and everything he says tells of bitterness, loneliness and distress. But we never discover the actual reasons for his pain, only that those reasons still exist. Pursued by a posse of policemen, the stranger kills the little dog in his distress and panic. A murderer, he now sinks appreciably from one qualitative level to another. On the one hand, the music ascends (for the ascension of our little dog), while on the other it descends into the unfathomable depths of the stranger’s soul.
Franz Werfel makes it possible for his reader (and also for me, the composer) to read his poem on various levels. I have wanted to set his ‘dramatic poem’ The Sacrifice to music since the early fifties. This dream has now come true thanks to a commission from the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
Programme note © 2009 Hans Werner Henze