Based upon a 1993 book by the controversial filmmaker Peter Greenaway, Rosa: The Death of a Composer premiered at Amsterdam’s Muziektheater in 1994, with libretto and direction by Greenaway and a score by the leading Dutch composer Louis Andriessen. The Sunday Times (UK), in a review of the premiere, said: “[I]t is clear from the maturity of the Rosa score that [Andriessen] has developed an idiom in which minimalism, a distinct sort of rhythmic Stravinsky-anism and mainstream modernism are blended with masterful, totally personal ease; an idiom in which it is triumphantly impossible to distinguish between pop, jazz and classical styles.”
Based upon a 1993 book by the controversial filmmaker Peter Greenaway (Prospero’s Books; The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover), Rosa: The Death of a Composer premiered at Amsterdam’s Muziektheater in 1994, with libretto and direction by Greenaway and a score by the leading Dutch composer Louis Andriessen. The Sunday Times (UK), in a review of the premiere, said, “[I]t is clear from the maturity of the Rosa score that [Andriessen] has developed an idiom in which minimalism, a distinct sort of rhythmic Stravinsky-anism and mainstream modernism are blended with masterful, totally personal ease; an idiom in which it is triumphantly impossible to distinguish between pop, jazz and classical styles.”
Although collaboration between Andriessen and Greenaway commenced with the 1991 television film M is for Man, Music, Mozart, Rosa: The Death of a Composer marks Greenaway’s first foray into opera. Rosa, as described in Greenaway’s original book, is concerned with the strange deaths of composers throughout history, beginning with Anton Webern in 1984 and ending with John Lennon in 1980.
Over the course of the 12 scenes in Rosa, Greenaway specifically identified ten cases of composers being murdered, and intends to build cases on them all. It is not clear whether the other eight composers are real or fictional, but it is known that the title character, Juan Manuel de Rosa, is alleged to have been born in Brazil and shot dead in 1957, near an abbatoir in Fray Bentos, Uruguay. His alleged killers are, oddly enough, named Jack Lully and Hank Alcan, after two composers who died very untimely deaths in the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, respectively.
In the story Rosa shares his fictional life with his fiancée Esmerelda and a black mare, which he keeps imprisoned on a treadmill. Rosa, famous for his scores for Hollywood westerns, considered himself a real cowboy, and prized his horse over his woman. In a desperate effort to win Rosa’s affections, Esmerelda, the character at the heart of the opera, tries to become the object of his affection: a horse. Only after Rosa’s death, in true western fashion, and the subsequent investigation does Esmerelda finally achieve her ambition: she is burned to death in the body of Rosa’s stuffed horse.
And, in typical Andriessen fashion, the work is scored for a non-traditional ensemble: woodwinds, brass, four saxophones, amplified strings, two pianos, two electric guitars, bass guitar, synthesizer, and amplified voices. It is heard on this recording in a performance by the combined efforts of the Schönberg and Asko Ensembles, conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw.
Produced by Willem Hering and Ron Ford
Recorded June 29-30, 1998 in the Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam.
Recording and editing engineer: Adriaan Verstijnen
All music written by Louis Andriessen
Libretto/scenario written by Peter Greenaway
Design by David Cohen
Cover art: Untitled (1977) by Susan Rothenberg. © 2000 Susan Rothenberg / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz
Lyndon Terracini, baritone
Miranda Van Kralingen, soprano
Marie Angel, soprano
Roger Smeets, baritone
Christopher Gillett, tenor
Phyllis Blanford, mezzo-soprano
Schönberg Ensemble and Asko Ensemble:
Reinbert De Leeuw, conductor
Flute: Govert Jurriaanse, Eleonore Pameijer, Miriam Teepe, Eline van Esch
Oboe: Marieke Schut, Evert Weidner, Hans Cartigny, Oliver Boekhoorn, Esther Probst
Saxophone: Peter van Bergen, Leo van Oostrom, Michiel van Dijk, David Kweksilber
French horn: Lenno de Ruijter, Wim Timmermans, René Pagen, Morris Powell
Trumpet: Willem van der Vliet, Hendrik Jan Lindhout, Reijer Dorresteijn, Bert Langenkamp, Bob Koershuis
Trombone: Toon van Ulsen, Edwin Kruunenberg
Bass Trombone: Peter van Klink
Tuba: Arjan Stroop
Percussion: Ger de Zeeuw, Wim Vos, Murk Jiskoot, Tom van der Loo
Mouth organ: Jan Verwey
Piano: Gerard Bouwhuis, René Eckhardt
Synthesizer: Niek de Vente
Bass guitar: Rob Zeelenberg
Electric guitar: Patricio Wang, Olaf Tarenskeen
Violin: Jan Erik van Regteren Altena, Marijke van Kooten, Alida Schat, Sebastiaan van Vucht, Erik Kromhout, Josje ter Haar, Suzanne Huynen, Karen Segal
Viola: Liesbeth Steffens, Bernadette Verhagen
Cello: Doris Hochscheid, Eduard van Regteren Altena
Double bass: Quirijn van Regteren Altena, Pieter Smithuysen
Vocal ensemble: Ineke Berends, Tineke Mulder, Inez Hafkamp, Els Zomerdijk, Harrie Buijs, Ruud Fiselier, Jan Majoor, Wojtek Okraska
Hammond organ: Louis Andriessen (7)
Bass guitar: David de Marez Oyens (7)
Drums: Arno van Nieuwenhuize (7)