Rehearsals are currently in full swing: the children and young people of the vocal heroes choirs plus the adult community choir are learning to sing in a new language, “moonish”. Director Ela Baumann is teaching them to feel like mysteriously flowing moon-beings and, using tubing, to move around as a single mass, while young instrumentalists, together with members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, rehearse Andrew Norman’s rhythmically intricate music.
Dealing with fear
The American composer Andrew Norman’s new opera entitled A Trip to the Moon, which receives its premiere in the Philharmonie under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle in June 2017, tells of a close encounter of a special kind: scientist Professor Barbenfoullis’ team of astronomers travels to the moon and meets some strange moon beings. Their language, which consists only of vowels, is strange, as is the close connection between the beings themselves. The inhabitants of the moon, in turn, are suspicious of the newcomers. Can they trust them – or are they up to no good? They invite the astronomers to a feast, and want to celebrate with them – but when one of the moon children disappears, the lunar beings believe that the people are to blame. The situation becomes even more tense...
“The children ask questions about identity and renunciation: who am I without my wand, and what happens when we give up our wands?”
Philipp Lossau, assistant director
“In our stage rehearsals with the community choir, it can be seen that problems that arise from being connected by the tubing can only be solved if the group works together.”
Ela Baumann, director
Composer Andrew Norman's inspiration for his new opera A Trip to the Moon came from a silent movie: In 1902, Frenchman Georges Méliès made the short 10-minute film Le voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), which today is regarded as the first science fiction film and as a “classic”. Andrew Norman, a great Star Wars fan since childhood, was instantly grabbed by it: “The special thing about this story is that it shows how to deal with the fear of strangers.”
Rescue by umbrellas and magical musical wands
Of course, at the end of the opera, everything turns out well – because it wasn’t the people who took the child but a monster. After the astronomers drive out the monster with their umbrellas, they receive the sacred moon wand, thanks to the moon children, which allows them to repair their rocket and return to Earth. These moon wands have a special aspect: They are magical musical wands, each with its own individual pitch and assigns the child it belongs to a certain position in both the musical scale and in the community. In this way, Andrew Norman links his music to the story. The composer also shows in the encounters between George and the Moon princess Eoa that it is an advantage to communicate, even if one speaks different languages and comes from different worlds. The two fall in love and become the mediators between the communities.
Watch the opera free of charge in the Digital Concert Hall