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May 16, 2013 8:00 PM - May 17, 2013 8:00 PM

Talea Ensemble - FAMA

Concert featuring Talea Ensemble, actress Bo Change, Tara O'Connor on contrabass flute, and vocal ensemble Ekmeles. Music by Beat Furrer: FAMA (2005) - US Premiere.

FAMA (2004-2005)
Aural theater in eight scenes for large ensemble, eight-part (SSAATTBB) and actress
Texts: Arthur Schnitzler, Lucretious, Carlo Emilio Gadda

Program Note:
A young woman before a mirror “Am I really so beautiful? – Is that me there who speaks?” She experiences herself though the projections of the society around her, reflects in the image of others. Her nakedness shows her exposed, defenseless, an object of desire. An obsessive view from without: she has not yet found herself, remains a stranger to who she is. In Schnitzler’s novel, Fräulein Else – which appears as the basic narrative layer – is sent out into the fine world of a glitzy Italian hotel in the Dolomites. Else has a hopeless, demure sense of the direction in which this society is leading her, a society whose women are kept on the end of leads attached to pearl collars. “When I marry, I will most probably do it cheaper” – marriage is another form of prostitution. Her mother’s beseeching letters pressure her: Else must find money to support her debt-ridden father, first thirty and then fifty thousand guilders. The sponsor’s price is high and leads Else to a world of self-destruction, a further “victim on the altar of a world of total reification” (Furrer).

The U.S. Premiere of FAMA:
The box theatre no longer exists since its last presentation in 2006. However, Beat Furrer and Talea are collaborating to present FAMA in an un-staged concert version. They will be joined in two concerts presented at the Bohemian National Hall by New York-based vocal ensemble, Ekmeles, and actress/singer, Bo Chang.

Bo Chang, actress
Tara O’Connor, contrabass flute
Ekmeles vocal ensemble
James Baker, conductor

Presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum and Czech Center New York.
Generously funded by ProHelvetia Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung and the Harry and Alice Eiler Foundation.



In May of 2013, Swiss/Austrian composer Beat Furrer will be in residence with the Talea Ensemble in NYC. This intensive week of immersion will include many layers of engagement with the composer: open rehearsals, lectures, in-concert discussions, performances of his chamber works, all culminating in the American premiere of Furrer’s masterpiece evening length FAMA, “an aural theatre in eight scenes.”

In 2001, Furrer wrote in the notes to his first opera, Orpheus’s Books, “The narrative, compressed into a single instant and captured in endless repetition, is projected into changing spaces. Filtering processes cause individual layers to recede into the background or come to the fore, thereby generating contrasting perspectives. Linear time gives way to spatial depth: processes are »verticalized«, and momentary snapshots are probed by movable filters in ever-new perspectives.” These ideas have already been at work in his earlier pieces, Nuun and still, and have proven to remain at the center of his thought, providing further impulse to create FAMA.

FAMA is scored for 22 instrumentalists, 8 singers, and one actress. The concept of the work borrows from a description of Roman poet Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” of the home of the goddess Fama (the Goddess of Rumor), “a place to which all the events and sounds of the world come and find resonance.” This space has an “overwhelming sensuality” where, “There is no shouting, but a murmur, like the sea, that sounds from a distance, or the last echoing rumble of thunder.” With this metaphor, Furrer adds another layer of narrative taken from Arthur Schnitzler’s short novel, “Fraulein Else,” about a young girl forced into prostitution in order to support her debt-ridden father.

Furrer conceived of a “space within a space,” a box designed as an instrument of and in itself, where the audience lies inside and the musicians and singers outside. The walls are moveable and are made of an acoustically reflective material on one side, and an absorbent material on the other, harnessing and transforming the perceptual space and in effect, the soul of Schnitzler’s character as she descends into madness. FAMA is intensely personal, evocative of existential drama, pain and heartache found in the sonic tapestry of the work. Furrer believes that every note’s decay is rich with drama and that every musical gesture has the power to tell a story. The musical materials that Furrer constructs can be heard as projections of Else’s thoughts, turning into shards as the piece progresses, changing context and meaning as her identity is lost. FAMA consists of scattered muttering and whispering of voices and instruments, a solo violin, a dialogue between bass clarinets and an unsettling scene featuring Else’s hysterical speech accompanied by contrabass flute.

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan


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From: May 16, 2013 8:00 PM
To: May 17, 2013 8:00 PM


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

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