New Opera DIE GRÖSSTE FUGE To Have U.S. Premiere At Roulette Intermedium

This opera features the virtuosic bass/baritone Nicholas Isherwood as Ludwig van Beethoven with DGF String Quartet.

By: May. 06, 2024
New Opera DIE GRÖSSTE FUGE To Have U.S. Premiere At Roulette Intermedium
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On Thursday, June 13, 2024, at 8 pm, composer Elliott Sharp will present the US Premiere in English of Die Grösste Fuge (The Greatest Fugue), A Time Travel Opera at Roulette Intermedium in Brooklyn. 

This opera features the virtuosic bass/baritone Nicholas Isherwood as Ludwig van Beethoven with DGF String Quartet, prerecorded electroacoustic backing tracks, and projection design by Janene Higgins.

Tickets: $25 in advance ($20 Student/Senior w/ID) and $30 at the door.  Tickets available at A live stream will be available free of charge on YouTube at 8 pm on the day of the performance and archived for future viewing. 

Recently, Infrequent Seams released the double CD of Die Grösste Fuge, which is available for streaming. It received rave reviews from sources such as The Moderns: “The performances are every bit as grand and in-your-face as the work’s subject deserves” and Touching Extremes: “Isherwood masterfully portrays Beethoven’s torment.”

One may imagine Ludwig von Beethoven in the 1820s in ill health and nearly deaf, bitter and lonely with his economy in tatters, and clinging to his delusions of nobility. He must escape but it is impossible. Yet escape he does but not by his own agency. He becomes unmoored from the tethers of his daily life and mind to travel in time to an incomprehensible future, surprisingly both magnificent and horrendous. Once he has returned to his normal life he processes his experiences in “this greatest fugue” (die grösste Fuge) and begins to create a string quartet, Die Grösse Fuge. 

In writing the libretto for Die Grösste Fuge, Elliott Sharp drew inspiration from Beethoven’s letters and notes as well as from works by Schiller and Goethe. These excerpts were never used verbatim but translated, often multiple times from German to English and back again using AI translation software. In addition, some texts were run through “cut-up” software that would simulate strategies invented by Brion Gysin and often used by William Burroughs to reveal layers of meaning within a text by literally cutting up the printed words and phrases on a page and resequencing them. Some of these same strategies were employed in creating the music. Melodic materials would be extracted and turned into seeds that could then be expanded and layered to form vocal melodies and contrapuntal accompaniment. Rhythmic motifs would be looped and reversed, recombined and transformed. However, first and foremost, the settings of the songs are designed to flow from the words themselves so that the meaning, while layered, is always in bas-relief.

About the Artists

Elliott Sharp - - is a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist, and author who leads the projects Orchestra Carbon, SysOrk, Tectonics and Terraplane. His compositional strategies have encompassed the use of fractal geometry, chaos theory, algorithms, genetic metaphors, and new techniques for graphic notation to yield work that catalyzes a synesthetic approach to musicmaking as well as functioning as retinal art. In 2015, Sharp was awarded both the Berlin Prize and the Jahrespreis from der Deutscher Schallplatten Kritiks. In 2014 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fellowship from the Center for Transformative Media. He has been featured in the Darmstadt and Huddersfield festivals, New Music Stockholm, Au Printemps-Paris, Hessischer Rundfunk Klangbiennale, and the Venice Biennale. His book IrRational Music, a mix of memoir, cultural discussion, and music theory was published in 2019. He is the subject of the documentary “Doing The Don’t” and has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Sharp’s composition Storm of the Eye, composed for violinist Hilary Hahn, appeared on her Grammy-winning album In 27 Pieces. His opera Die Grösste Fuge premiered in Bonn as part of Beethoven@250 and his opera Filiseti Mekidesi premiered at the RuhrTriennale in 2018. His Walter Benjamin opera Port Bou premiered in NYC in 2014 at Issue Project Room and in Europe at Berlin Konzerthaus in 2015. Sound installations include Foliage, Fluvial, Chromatine, and Tag. Sharp’s collaborators have included Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; pianist Cecil Taylor; Ensemble Modern; pop singer Debbie Harry; blues legends Hubert Sumlin and Pops Staples; Arditti, JACK, and Kronos quartets; jazz greats Jack Dejohnette and Sonny Sharrock; media artists Christian Marclay and Pierre Huyghe; Radio-Sinfonie Frankfurt; and Bachir Attar, leader of the Master Musicians Of Jajouka.

Nicholas Isherwood - - has sung in the world's leading festivals (Salzburg, Aix, Festival d'Automne, Avignon, Almeida, Biennale di Venezia, Holland Festival, Munich Biennale, Wien Modern, Händel Festivals in Göttingen and Halle, Tanglewood, Ravinia, etc.) and opera houses (Royal Opera House, Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Amsterdam, Lyon, Châtelet, Théatre des Champs Elysées, Rome, Torino, Genova, La Fenice, La Scala, etc.), working with conductors such as Joel Cohen, William Christie, Peter Eötvös, Gabriele Ferro, Nicholas McGegan, Paul McCreesh, Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Helmuth Rilling, David Robertson, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky , Marco Angius and Arturo Tamayo. Isherwood has worked closely with composers such as Sylvano Bussotti, Elliott Carter, George Crumb. Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Steve Lacy, Olivier Messiaen, Giacinto Scelsi and  Iannis Xenakis, as well as Pascal Dusapin, Luca Francesconi, Wolfgang Rihm and Francesco Filidei, Vittorio Montalti and Matteo Franceschini. Isherwood collaborated with Karlheinz Stockhausen for 23 years, singing numerous world premieres. He has improvised with Steve Lacy, Joelle Léandre, David Moss and Sainkho Namtchilak.  He has made over 65 compact discs for labels such as Erato, Stockhausen Verlag, Naxos and Harmonia Mundi and has appeared in three films for television.  An active pedagogue, he has taught master classes at schools such as the Paris Conservatoire, Musikhochschule Köln, Salzburg Mozarteum and Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi and held positions at SUNY Buffalo, Notre Dame, Calarts, the Ecole Normale de Musique and the CNSMD in Lyon. 

Media artist Janene Higgins - - works in projection design, installation, single channel video, and video performance, often in collaboration with preeminent composers and improvisers of New Music. Her videos and digital media have been presented internationally at festivals and venues including the 2021 Venice Biennale, BTHVN 2020, the Ruhrtriennale, The New York Video Festival, and Documenta. She has worked professionally as a graphic designer in New York for over 25 years, in magazines, fashion, and advertising.


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