Amazonas Music Theater


“Amazonas – Music theatre in three parts” is a coproduction of the Goethe-Institut, the Munich Biennale, ZKM | Karlsruhe, SESC São Paulo, Hutukara Associação Yanomami and the São Carlos Portuguese National Opera, in association with Operadays Rotterdam, Netzzeit (Vienna). The project is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the European Union’s CULTURE programme, Deutsche Bank, Petrobrás, Hamburg Süd and Fundaçao EDP. Media Partners: ARTE, Deutschlandradio Kultur, Antena 2 and RTP.

In three artistically self-contained parts, “Amazonas” tells of the climatic, political and cultural drama playing itself out everyday in Amazonia. The three composers, Klaus Schedl, Tato Taborda and Ludger Brümmer, create various soundscapes for the libretto by Roland Quitt (Parts I and II) and for the artistic concepts from the ZKM Centre for Art and Media (Part III). So “Amazonas” homes in on three dimensions of an issue that may decide a goodly portion of our global fate, casting a glance on the past, present and impending future of the Amazon region.


Part I: “Tilt”

Libretto by Roland Quitt, music by Klaus Schedl

Klaus Schedl | photo: privateIn a time after the end of time. Voices from afar join together to deliver a troubled report. It goes on till the machines switch off. The voices tell of the outrageous moment of a first encounter. They recount the nightmare of paradise, the horror of the nameless. They explain the need to replace nature with culture. They work themselves up into feverish visions of an artificial world in which man will ultimately become a machine made of gold. This piece is based on Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition report The discoverie of the large rich and bewtiful empyre of Guaiana. Raleigh set off in 1595 with 40 men to explore the Orinoko. Near what is now the territory of the Yanomami Indians, he expected to find the place the Spanish called “El Dorado”. Tilt follows the subtextual tracks in Raleigh’s report that were to prove the basic patterns of European thinking. Written from the perspective of an early discoverer, he already anticipated the whole mindset of conquest, landgrabbing and colonization that was to follow – and hold sway to this very day.

Part II: “The Sky Is About to Fall”

Libretto by Roland Quitt, music by Tato Taborda

Tato Taborda | photo: Michael ScheidlDon’t wait till you can see it! As a rule of survival in the rain forest, that goes for more than just the jaguar. The forest is impenetrable to the human eye, you’ve got to rely primarily on your ears to take your bearings. The shaman understands the voice of the forest, and the forest tells him a crack has appeared lately in the sky. The forest is the world, there is no point in trying to differentiate between the two, and the world is afflicted by a man-eating monster. It is invisible, descending with smoke and engine noise to devour people, devour their habitat, whilst the crack in the sky grows bigger. The monster’s agents are visible, however. They are ugly and fair-skinned, so they keep their flesh hidden under a second skin. They fight for abstract ideas and are passionate about useless objects. They think it would be a good idea to light up the Amazonian night with electricity. But doesn’t man need darkness to commune with himself? – A Queda do Céu (“The Sky is About to Fall”) explores how the southern Yanomami around Watoriki village explain the destruction of the Amazon region. The main source for the libretto is interviews with the indigenous population and their shamans. As advisor, interpreter and companion, the ethnologist Bruce Albert played a key part in putting this piece together; the second part is partly based on the book La Chute du Ciel (“The Sky Is About to Fall”) by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert, published by PLON in Paris.

Part III: “Awaiting a Suitable, Rational Solution to the Climate Problem”

Peter Weibel, Ludger Brümmer, Bernd Lintermann

Peter Weibel and Ludger Brümmer | © ZKM, ONUKIn the mythology of the Yanomami, the trees produce songs that tell and keep their past, their future and their stories. The animals and spirits also speak to them through the trees. A vocal ensemble personifies the forest, giving it and the Yanomami Indians a voice. Music is conceived of here not as a composer’s invention, but as a “molecular composition” – transmuting information from the rain forest into sound, rendering the internal workings of this gigantic bio-organism acoustically and musically apprehensible. The central stage prop is a conference table, used as an audio-visual instrument, at which representatives of the political, business and scientific communities and the church deliberate on the issue of the Amazon. And this is where a gripping confrontation with the voices of the forest begins.

Comments and reaction of Davi Kopenawa Yanomami to the theater production.