chapter  1
19 Pages

An anti-anti-opera

Ligeti began work on various ideas for an opera during the late 1960s, initiating what would become, as Richard Steinitz characterises it, a ‘winding road to Breughelland’.1 The development of ideas for the opera is well documented in comments made by Ligeti in interviews and in a handful of studies that present theoretical perspectives on the opera.2 Yet much remains to be said about how Ligeti’s engagement with music of the past translates into a new approach to composing opera and the implications of this for the understanding of musical postmodernism. This chapter traces the background for the opera, focusing to begin with on the narrative and initial musical conception. This discussion will prompt questions of history, the status of musical material and the ‘situatedness’ of the listener. Moreover, it will examine the relation of the opera to its own past in response to the historical narratives of today on musical postmodernism.