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A Wintery Spring / Il serpente di bronzo

Saed Haddad *1972
Jan Dismas Zelenka 1679-1745

A Wintery Tale / The Bronze Snake

A Wintery Spring
Dramatic Lamento in three scenes - commissioned by Oper Frankfurt & The Ensemble Modern
Libretto by Khalil Gibran. Translated into Arabic by Saed Haddad

Il serpente di bronzo / The Bronze Snake
Cantata ZWV 61
Libretto by Stefano Benedetto Pallavicini, based on the Old Testament
First performed 1730, Dresden
Sung in Italian with English and German surtitles

ca. 2 hours 15 minutes, including 1 interval
an introductory talk, in German, begins in 30 minutes before every performance

While not trying to tell a story about the Arab Spring, the composer's choice of texts and sound world circle around analysis of geography, history, languages, religions and finding new ways of bringing people together. In his dramatic lamento Haddad takes up motives from the last decade of Middle Eastern history, focusing on generally applicable opinions not linked to any specific recent events. The libretto is based on poems by Khalil Gibran, whose poetry and philosophy have been part of the composer's life for a long time. The central themes in Gibran's poetry are closely linked to the meaning of life, love and death in different cultural circles and religions. Gebran wrote most of his early works, at the beginning of the 20th century, in Arabic and most of his later ones in English. He wanted to move his readers and listeners. The composer is also driven by this desire: his music built on physical and metaphysical characteristics: including beauty, energy & magic in the first; and harder to pin down terms like the existential, spiritual & transcendental in the second.

The first ever staged performances of the baroque cantata - The bronze snake - follows Haddad's dramatic lemento. The Bohemian baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka's libretto tells the Old Testament story of the snake which God sent the Israelites as a punishment for their impatience and ungratefulness in the desert after being led out of Egypt. Many died from it bites. God told Moses to fashion a bronze snake and put it on a stick. If someone who had been bitten looked up at it, they were healed. The words in this unfairly forgotten cantata are vivid and expressive. The composer wrote several outstanding spiritual works for the court in Dresden. This unconventional orchestral vocal work enjoyed a Renaissance in the last third of the 20th century.