Jörg Widmann’s »Babylon« deals with the boundaries of language, and indeed of linguistic confusion. The composer places the multicultural society of the pre-ancient, culturally advanced metropolis of Babylon at the centre of his opera. It is not only the Babylonians who move between chaos and order, but also the Jewish exile Tammu, who forsakes his erstwhile love, the Soul, to turn instead to the Babylonian priestess of war and free love, Inanna.
When a human sacrifice is called for to appease the gods who once punished the people of Babylon with the Flood, the Priest-King chooses Tammu. After Tammu is executed, Inanna decides to go down into the underworld to convince its ruler, Death, to allow her lover to return to the world of the living. Finally, a new covenant is made between the gods and the people, and order is – at least temporarily – restored.
Widmann’s musical score is a lush tonal kaleidoscope of the heterogeneous society of Babylon, a fascinating collage in which a broad variety of timbres, tonal scenes, and sound structures collide. The work makes numerous references to musical history and familiar subjects, including Mozart’s »Magic Flute«. An opera in Cinemascope, which had its world premiere in Munich in 2012 and is now coming to the stage in a new version.
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