“Adam’s Passion” – a unique cooperation of Arvo Pärt and Robert Wilson premieres in Tallinn

As the world celebrates its most performed living composer, Arvo Pärt’s 80th jubilee this year, an equally influential artist, Robert Wilson, is paying his homage with a special production in Tallinn.

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and American theatre visionary Robert Wilson will come together for a new creation of modern music theatre titled “Adam’s Passion”.

The musical core of the production consists of three main works by Pärt, selected by the maestro himself: “Adam’s Lament”, “Tabula Rasa” and “Miserere”. “Sequentia”, a new work specially composed by Pärt, will blend the monumental landscape into a powerful story of depths and splendour of the humankind. Wilson’s staging will be a personal reading by the great theatre visionary of the music of the performance, born in close collaboration of two peerless authors.

The live event for the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste, Lucinda Childs, Michael Theophanous and other soloists and actors, local drama and dance students, designed for the unconventional space of the Noblessner Foundry in Tallinn will premiere on 12 May.

Pärt-Wilson-Noblessner_c-Kristian-Kruuser-465x309Pärt has selected three major works to be included in the production – two choral works – “Adam’s Lament” (2010) and “Miserere” (1989/1992) – and a double violin concerto – “Tabula Rasa” (1977). “Tabula Rasa” was one of the first compositions of Pärt’s distinctive ”tintinnabuli” style. Pärt chose this name for his method of composing that he developed in the 1970s, and to which he adheres to this very day. The term refers to the Latin word “tintinnabulum”, meaning “little bell”. Pärt turned to this personal style after having composed using dodecaphonic techniques in the 1960-s. He then remained silent for several years until 1976. “Tabula rasa” was recorded and released as a CD on the German independent label ECM New Series in 1984. It was this CD that led to Pärt’s international breakthrough. “Miserere” is a typical example of how Pärt starts from text. In this case he uses a section of the catholic liturgy that can be summarised as a cry to God for mercy, containing also the “Dies Irae”, a section about the day of last judgment.

“I could compare my music to white light, which contains all colours.” – Arvo Pärt

“Adam’s Lament” is Pärt’s most recent work to this date (2010). It is based on a text written by the Russian orthodox monk Saint Silouan (1866-1938), who lived in a secluded monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. This work depicts Adam lamenting the loss of paradise and expressing his deep grief that he has lost the God’s love due to his sin. Beholding his son Abel having been slain by his brother Cain, he foresees all the cataclysms of mankind and feels guilt. In the end, Adam begs once again for God to give him divine love – “love” being the last word of the piece.

Wilson, ”the Sun King of American avant-garde performance art” (The Times) is the founder and artistic director of The Watermill Center, a laboratory for performing arts in Watermill, New York. Since the late 1960s, Wilson’s productions have decisively shaped the look of theatre and opera. A master of modern theatrical language and one of the main founders of avant-garde theatre, Wilson has remained on top of the international scene since his breakout production of “Einstein on the Beach” (with Philip Glass, 1976).

Wilson described the staging of “Adam’s Passion” in August 2014. “In the process of staging ‘Adam’s Passion’, I am mostly intrigued by lighting solution. Without light there is no space, therefore it is important to find a solution full of light. I hope we will be able to reach a state of released senses in order to welcome the flow of ideas suitable for enjoying Pärt’s music.”

Tõnu Kaljuste, a leading Grammy-awarded international choir and symphonic conductor, a lifelong close collaborator with Arvo Pärt and one of best performers of his works, is the musical director and conductor of “Adam’s Passion”.


Cover: Scene from “Adam’s Passion” production. Photo by Kaupo Kikkas.

1 thought on ““Adam’s Passion” – a unique cooperation of Arvo Pärt and Robert Wilson premieres in Tallinn”

  1. after seeing the public last rehearsal yesterday, I urge everyone, interested in music and theatre that pushes the boundaries and confounds the senses, to fork out for a ticket for this bold, emotive and thought provoking collaboration, a chance to quiet your monkey brain and let two captains of their own prospective ships enlist you in their audio visual armada and sail you over the edge of your world : )

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