AkhtamarII - an Opera by Ekehardt Rainalter


Ekehardt Rainalter sees in the notion of an open house, which the new Haus der Musik in Innsbruck has aimed to be from the very start, the ideal setting to continue his work about the “postdramatic state”. The aim and purpose of Akhtamar was/is to allow the question of political aesthetics to flow into the emergence of a progressive form of opera. 

From 2010 to the present day, Rainalter's opera projects have attempted to set progressive elements of music into a context with architecture as a social constellation of power. At the time when these projects were first being performed, the Heart of Noise Festival came into being in Innsbruck. Ekehardt Rainalter's new opera attempts to see the potential of these two black blocks of art, the Heart of Noise - Festival and the Haus der Musik, as a currently unique opportunity to breathe fresh air into a somewhat dusty high culture.?

Since 2015, Ekehardt Rainalter has been connected as an architect with the development of the new Haus der Musik. Perhaps without even realizing it himself, he has been concerned with a wide-ranging idea, i.e., with the idea of a takeover of power in a positive sense. Those who talk about a takeover of power today generally use the term in connection with totalitarian corruption. Power is a term charged with deep negativity in an infantile society, and an authentic democrat always seems to need to be impotent. In order to be for the system, you have to be against the system. The system is not an individual. It is a secret system. We ourselves are the system.

Nevertheless, this is clear to Rainalter: as long as conditions are as they are within the current form of the economy, independence will always exist only to a certain extent, and that is defined, at best, by attitudes. 


The working method 

The basic ensemble comprises approx. 14 performers with whom Ekehardt Rainalter has developed the pieces below in recent years. Although some ensemble members come from classical theatre, film or other fields, the cooperation has never resulted in a traditional piece based on a musical composition and a dramatic text. Methods and rituals of collective authorship, performance and discursive failure were developed without recourse to traditional models. This is also one aspect of the new: you never know where it comes from.

The majority of the ensemble live and work currently in Innsbruck, for example in cooperations like ton-not and  columbosnext or  Verschubu Records. Some have moved their place of residence to Vienna, Berlin, or the countryside but come back to Innsbruck at regular intervals for productions.

One aim is to open up the HdM enduringly, with a first production, to a contemporary culture that makes its flexibility into its own strength. Together we would like to show that there are logical ways, in respect to classical opera productions, to set people in relation to the dominant class. Because otherwise, what are such institutions as the Haus der Musik being built for?


Ekehardt Rainalter's works from the last 5 years (selection) 

2012 – Akhtamar, 2000-year opera, Treibhaus Ibk

2013 – Excellenzcluster Punk (Universalbürger-Festival), FTI Ibk

2013 – Exstatic Outburst (Mini-opera in 3 acts), HON Ibk

2014 – Epigonia, ´pataphysical opera, Treibhaus Ibk

2015 – “Excel”the numbers opera, FTI Ibk

2016 – “Cold Stars”theatre parcours in Hopfgarten

2017 – Argo, 3-part concert installation, FTI Ibk

2018 – sculptural relief in motion (SRIM2), VKM Vienna

since 2017 – work on the art film Epigonia


On the opera's content: 

Akhtamar, the monastic island in the Van Lake in Eastern Anatolia has had to relinquish its name to cigarettes or brandy already. The brand logo is provided by the tragic story of Princess Tamar, whose lover drowned following an intervention by her father. The monastery on the island was destroyed during the genocide practised on the Armenians in 1915, the church was plundered and the monks killed. Afterwards, the Ataturk narrative led to the foundation of the Turkish Republic. The soldiers who fell in the war of liberation gave the flag its red colour. Since 2012, now there has also been an opera that adopts the name Akhtamar and looks forward into a 2000-year future. It is about the foundation of a state and the associated narrative. Two children, non-identical twins, are presented as a model of productive misunderstanding.

Communication grows rampantly over space like weeds. Both are available in reciprocal definition as a founding myth. The energy of decay is contrasted to an equivalent, a coup to the state, the world to space, a joke to the stone. Here, there is no society but only self-centred individuals who fight against each other. The citizens' cold anger leads to a form of action following the narrative of revenge. Those who oppose the state stand up against the order of God. Man as a social being is one who maintains through beheading that he is a non-sovereign sovereign in the style of King Ubu.

The Akthamar orchestra consists of seventeen musicians. Four of these play with the feelings of the rest. The material emerges from conversations, generous use being made of the oeuvre from the last 2,000 years, rapidly pocketing what one can before being caught. It is simultaneous misuse and radical empathy. The orchestra is large, the percussion section is extensive. There are  transmissions and electronic live-passages, in some cases voices are alienated electronically. A chamber music-like prologue is followed by a major prelude. While the entire orchestra plays for the seven images of the opera, the three so-called passages only employ a small ensemble. In the fourth image there is an orchestral interlude, a “transformation music”. Most of the music is atonal, e.g. the lovers sing a duet in seventh intervals; with two Beethoven citations and two songs, the composer also permits himself some tonality, giving us an amused wink as he does so. In some cases, the composition by Rainalter, Breitenlechner, Lanzmaier and Lauterer is consciously contrary to the mood of the libretto, so generating enigmatic atmospheres. During the composition processes for this opera, the composers also made an intense study of different noises produced by water.