andrias scheuchzeri is a three-act opera inspired by the karel čapek's novel titled 'war of the newts'.
porte renaud composes the music, writes the libretto, and directs the visual artistic approach for this opera.
the artist has been fostering an æsthetic community since 2021, bringing together volunteers from dédale for this venture.
1-kilometer-long opera, this work will unfold in public space on 5 places in the popular neighborhood named briand, where the artist lives and works. the stages are interconnected by wanderings for a performance lasting over 4 hours.
for this project, 150 professionals and 150 volunteers, including a significant portion of the neighborhood's residents, come together.
since 2021, the artist and volunteers have been organizing intermediate and creative stages, as well as experiments, in preparation for the full implementation of the opera in its final form by 2025.
currently, 2 performances are planned in mulhouse (france), and 1 in prague (czech republic).
van toch, commissioned by a major commercial company, travels the globe in search of rare resources. desperate due to the depletion of these resources, he mistreats local populations to force them to reveal new locations. this leads him to an allegedly cursed island, where he discovers giant bipedal salamanders that he manages to domesticate to help him find what he needs. he aids them in defending themselves against sharks, their natural predators. he is convinced that a marvelous business opportunity lies ahead, and he plans to disperse the salamanders worldwide so that they can assist him in finding coveted riches.
van toch meets bondy, a billionaire industrialist, to whom he recounts his story. this meeting is made possible by povendra, bondy's assistant. some time later, people worldwide start encountering salamanders along the coastlines. even a salamander kept in a zoo reads the newspaper to its keeper. the world becomes obsessed with and consumed by the topic of salamanders.
van toch dies, and bondy convinces world leaders to declare a global state of emergency, announcing a new era where the trade in salamanders will ensure humanity's survival as they are to be exploited to expand the continents.
povendra becomes obsessed with these salamanders, mirroring society's fixation.
gradually, the salamanders organize, assert themselves, and are recognized as independent beings. until one day, a self-proclaimed representative, suspected by some to be human, claims that the salamanders need to expand the oceans by destroying all the continents. to achieve this, the salamanders ask for human assistance since the comfort of the humans has become entirely dependent on the technologies controlled by the salamanders.
porte renaud's music is compact and operates through accumulation and dispersion of motifs that produce tense harmonies and counterpoint. melody remains central in his work, where contemporary writing tends to consider sound and textures for themselves. he designates his melodies as assonant to indicate how they emerge and find their place within a musical architecture where repetition occurs in successive layers and less systematically than in minimal music, for example.
• rewriting history
this is not a strict adaptation of karel čapek's novel ‘war with the newts’. this fiction serves as the basis for numerous discussions between the artist, participants, and current events to bring forth a cathartic narrative. karel čapek's novel is both dramatic and humorous in its depiction of facts and its accumulation of false archives, each with its own tone. the idea is to maintain this spirit in the rewriting. certain key elements of the dramaturgy are retained, such as the guilt of povendra, the gatekeeper of industrialist bondy in the book (and the billionaire's assistant in the opera).
traditionally, opera is associated with lyrical voices. for this opera, as other composers have done recently (with success in kaija saariaho's ‘innocence’, for example), it aims to combine lyrical voices, whose registers are less strict than in classical opera, with non-lyrical voices. for the latter, porte renaud primarily offers non-singers, and for some lead roles, assistance in developing a vocal expression consistent with the character, starting from the constraint of raw vocal material. a singing choir composed of lyrical and non-lyrical voices is present throughout the opera. it varies depending on the scenes, with lyrical soloists singing when not singing lines for their characters, creating a vocal and scenic continuumamong all the characters, with the singing choir representing
the collective unconscious.
the symphonic orchestra forms the basis of this opera. depending on the scenes, some of its instruments may be absent. additionally, other instruments such as the marimba, saxophones, ukulele, electric guitar, ondes martenot, accordion, euphonium, and gamelan are included. furthermore, some instruments are specifically created for the opera, such as the ‘flagphone’. two instruments regularly take on solo roles: the cello and the flute.
• the neighborhood as a stage(s)
one of the significant choices in this creation is to utilize outdoor spaces. this opera is also a street performance.
this opera is a dense and lengthy proposition (estimated to be 4 hours at the moment), where each act, each scene, and each interlude should have their own coherence to create a presentation that can be appreciated by the audience both in its entirety and by sampling certain moments.
• staging, sets, and costumes: the visual dimension the recurring colors throughout are fluorescent orange and khaki, which the artist began using in his painting in 2020. surprisingly, these colors correspond to the choices made by editions cambourakis for their 2012 french edition of ‘war with the newts’. porte renaud, in collaboration with participating contributors, incorporates elements of his visual vocabulary developed over the past dozen years into the opera's visual language. for now, an atmosphere of german expressionism haunts this production. some volunteers co-sign or sign specific elements of the staging.
• participative creation and non-implicit gestures
the participatory aspect of this project is not structured around a morality of cultural accessibility but rests on the firm belief that a collective of diverse individuals, including a significant portion of non-experts, can reinvent forms. the artist-author and all participants form a community that awakens æsthetically through the artistic creation process in which they are engaged. the prevalent logic that makes the process the final artistic action, tangible through forms derived from ordinary life, is completely contradicted in porte renaud's proposal. he is equally committed to creating a new opera, among all the existing operas (which can exist outside and beyond its process), as to deconstructing social assignments and the underlying ideologies of cultural and social policies through a reexamination of the opera form. porte renaud prefers nuisance (in the sense of anselm kiefer) to disruption, which elevates the reality-that-is-not-sufficient through a furious composting of æsthetics.
between participants' testimonies and videos presenting the intermediary representations discover the stages of creation of the participatory opera of territory andrias scheuchzeri inspired by karel čapek's novel titled ‘war with the newts’.