Latter i Mørket (Laughter in the Dark)

(1989-1992)
Tage Nielsen
Kammeropera i 3 akter. dansk og tysk version.
Marianne Rosen after Nabokov’s novel
S, mS, T, 2 Bar soli + 1.0.1.1/1.1.1.0/perc/pno/1.1.1.1.1
Music drama and stage music
90:00
1993
B.0211
B4, 297 pages

”Laughter in the Dark” is a chamber opera with a cast of five (soprano, mezzo soprano, tenor, baritone, bass baritone) and a mute child part. The orchestra consists of 13 players (three woodwinds, three brass winds, percussion, piano and a string quintet). The libretto by Marianne Rosen is based on Vladimir Nabokov’s novel of the same name. The opera plays for appr. 90 minutes. 

The scene is set in Berlin about 1930. This is easy to hear in the music, which may primarily lean towards expressionism and neo-Romanticism but also contains a touch of corny jazz, pop and clean dance music in the manner of the 20s. As a whole the work is characterized by a very sophisticated use of quotes and quasi-quotes in order to create a sense of irony and distance.

In the musical dramatization. Nabokov begins his novel with the following words: ”Once in Berlin, Germany, there lived a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable and happy; one day he left his wife in favour of a young mistress; he loved but was not loved himself, and his whole life ended in disaster, - This is the whole story, and that might have been all, had it not been for the use and pleasure in telling it,...” There can be no doubt that the author enjoyed writing this infamous and deeply fascinating story filled with erotic obsession, jealousy, deceit, misfortune, death etc. In short: we are dealing with a dense psychological drama, which seemed perfectly suited for an opera with a veristic stamp.

The opera was composed between 1986 and 91 and was first performed by the Danish National Opera (Den Jyske Opera) in Aarhus in May 1995. After that it was performed at the theatre in The Old Town in Aarhus before it was transferred to the Court Theatre in Copenhagen. In 1996 and 97 the German version of the work was performed by the Berliner Kammeroper in Berlin, Innsbruck and Copenhagen.

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