Artistic works

»You are the musical dramatist to the manner born: your field is the stage.«[1] (Curt Sachs)

(Carl Orff, 1939)
(Carl Orff, 1939)

   

»Fortune meant well with me when she guided a catalogue of an antiquarian bookshop in Würzburg into my hands where I discovered a title which attracted me with its magic powers: Carmina Burana.« This is how Carl Orff described the discovery of the manuscript from Benediktbeuren which was to become the basis for his most well-known work. The collection of songs on love, the zest for life and drinking selected by Carl Orff from this manuscript and transformed into a scenic cantata has become the most successful composition within the genre of contemporary music theatre.
 
Fairy tales as the »playful daughter of myth« provided Orff with a never-ending source of inspiration for his works. He utilised the fairy tale ›Der Mond‹ by the Brothers Grimm as the basis for his ›Kleines Welttheater‹. The opera ›Die Kluge‹ is similarly based on fairy tales. In ›Die Kluge‹, language assumes an even greater significance than in ›Der Mond‹.
The incisive musical style is inspired by a drastic and ribald collection of proverbs from 1846.
»Language has always been a major element in my scenic creations: in the ›Bernauerin‹, the spoken word becomes the ultimate creative source« commented Carl Orff. In the Bavarian comedy ›Astutuli‹, which in part is a form of revilement of the audience, the musical moment is embedded in the rhythmical language. The works ›Comoedia de Christi Resurrectione - Ein Osterspiel‹ and ›Ludus de Nato Infante Mirificus - Ein Weihnachtsspiel‹, also thrive on their Bavarian idiom.

In 1949, Carl Orff’s ›Antigonae‹ was given its first performance at the Salzburg Festival. The musical dramatist Orff was inspired by the eloquence of Friedrich Hölderlin’s adaptation of Sophocles’ tragedy. With this work, he created a completely new form of music theatre which was further continued in ›Oedipus‹, also in a translation by Friedrich Hölderlin. After this, Carl Orff was of the opinion that »only a work such as ›Prometheus‹ by Aischylos … could continue this progression«. The first performance of this composition in 1968 was celebrated as a historical occasion in music theatre, but was also received with great incomprehension.

Carl Orff concluded his life work with his most personal composition ›De Temporum Fine Comoedia‹, the ›Comedy of the End of Time‹.

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[1] Curt Sachs from CO-Dok II,14
Image: OZM

Excerpt from Carmina Burana 1975

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Foto: Madeline-Winkler Betzendahl, Deutsches Theatermuseum München

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