Irmin Schmidt, founder of the legendary group CAN, has written an opera: GORMENGHAST Commissioned by : Wuppertaler Bühnen, the work was performed in the English language and premiered at the Operahouse Wuppertal on 15. November 1998.

Inspired by Mervyn Peake's masterpiece of gothic fantasy, English novelist Duncan Fallowell wrote the libretto in St. Petersburg, combining romance, comedy and futurism into an adventure of epic strangeness peopled by unforgettable characters.

The opera is in 3 acts and centres on the rise and fall of Steerpike, a courageous, clever and charming kitchen-boy who becomes by degrees the murderous tyrant of Gormenghast Castle and its domain. In the process he bewitches and destroys Fuchsia the daughter of Gormenghast's opium-addicted ruler. Finally he meets his own dramatic death. The other inhabitants of this vivid decaying realm are drawn into the terrible tale.

Irmin Schmidt, who studied under Ligeti and Stockhausen, not only created in CAN one of the most influential of avant garde groups, but is also a classical conductor and pianist and has composed music for over 70 film productions. His work transforms elements of the popular, ethnic and classical into a wholly original musical language.

In both libretto and music, this integration of high culture and popular culture is not like anything which has gone before: it is achieved with perfect naturalness, carrying the art of opera forward into a new phase. The result is both accessible and magically unexpected : GORMENGHAST is a major addition to the world of musical theatre.

Worldwide release on SPOON/ MUTE January 30th, 2000:

Spoon CD 44 - Extracts from the Fantasy Opera GORMENGHAST

Music and scenario: Irmin Schmidt
Libretto: Duncan Fallowell
inspired by Mervyn Peake's trilogy
Sound engineer and programmer: Jono Podmore
produced by: Irmin Schmidt und Jono Podmore
Mastered by Miles Showell at Metropolis, London
With the singers of the World Premiere (Wuppertal Operahouse Schillertheater NRW), recorded live in performance
Musical Director : Simon Rekers
and the Brandenburger Symphoniker conducted by Irmin Schmidt

A phantasmagorical soundworld of electronics, symphony orchestra and pounding beats which envelopes singers who effortlessly stretch from Pop to Classical virtuosity.

"The sheer range of "sensurround" sound is bewildering, loud, sensuous, always intriguing, especially the rustles of exotic percussion emerging from around the auditorium. If Richard Strauss had written rock music, this is what it would have sounded like - gloriously, unashamedly lush."

Rodney Milnes, The Times, 24.11.1998


1. OVERTURE 00:54
2. GETRUDE'S ARIA: Touch Danielle Grima 09:23
3. SWELTER'S ARIA: Be A Happy Carnivore! Florian Simson 06:15
4. STEERPIKE'S SONG: Oxygen Stefan Vinzberg 07:01
5. FUCHSIA'S SONG: Rainbow Party Claudia Visca, 06:52
6. ENSEMBLE: Joy Claudia Visca, Elise Kaufman, Sabine Schnitzer, Stefan Vinzberg, Reiner Beinghaus 03:23
7. THE TWINS' DUET: Triumph Elise Kaufman, Sabine Schnitzer 03:07
8. BARQUENTINE'S ARIA: Possess Me, Chaos! Ulrich Wewelsiep 02:14
9. SEPULCHRAVE'S ARIA: Behold The Night! Mark Morouse 09:44
10. DUET FUCHSIA & STEERPIKE: The Birds Are Leaving For The South Claudia Visca, Stefan Vinzberg 06:45
11. FUCHSIA'S ARIA: Fall, Friendly Rain Claudia Visca 05:48

Special thanks to: Holk Freitag, Martin Griesemer, Albert Lohmar, Sebastian Peake, Hansgeorg Schneider

Worldpremiere of the Fantasy Opera GORMENGHAST at Wuppertal Operahouse, Schillertheater NRW on 15. Nov. 1998 with:

Musical Director: Simon Rekers
Director: Michael Sturminger
Stage-design & costume: Renate Martin and AndreasDonhauser
Choreography: Bennie Voorhaar
Dramaturgy: Martin Griesemer
Live sound engineer: Thomas Dickmeis
Lord Sepulchrave: the Earl of Groan (lyric baritone)
Mark Morouse

Lady Gertrude: the Countess of Groan (dramatic mezzo soprano)
Danielle Grima

Fuchsia: the daughter (soprano)
Claudia Visca

Titus: the son (dancer, pantomine)
Jakob Fedler / Thomas Hartung

The Twins:


sisters of the Earl of Groan (coloratura sopranos)

Elise Kaufman
Sabine Schnitzer

Barquentine: the Master of Rituals (tenor, rock singer)
Ulrich Wewelsiep

Steerpike: the kitchen boy (tenor, rock singer)
Stefan Vinzberg

Dr. Prunesquallor: the court physician (countertenor)
Reiner Beinghaus

Flay: the Earl's manservant (actor)
Markus Dietz

Swelter: the kitchen master (lyric tenor)
Markus Heinrich / Florian Simson

Nanny Slagg: the children's nurse (actress)
Walter Theil

Pre-recorded material including performances by:

Brandenburger Symphoniker

Jaki Liebezeit - percussion
Michael Karoli - guitar
Matthias Lorenz - cello
Jessica Wynne - voice
Boys choir Hampstead School - London
Directed by: Diedre Broadbent

The original recordings with the Wuppertal Sinfonieorchester could not be used for the CD.
They have been replaced by the Brandenburger Symphoniker
Conducted by Irmin Schmidt
Recorded by Jono Podmore
Assistants: Gerd Nesgen, Ricky Ojijo
October 1999 in Brandenburg, Germany

The orchestral recordings and the performances in Wuppertal and Gelsenkirchen have been generously supported by Musicstore, Köln, Große Budengasse 9-17

All rights reserved, Messer Music Ltd. London,
represented by Bucks Music Ltd. London
Fax.++44171/ 2296893

Representative for grand rights:
U.K: Chester Music London

Germany: Internationale Musikverlage Hans Sikorski
Fax: ++ 49/ 4o/ 41 41 00 40

More Info about GORMENGHAST, BIOS, Links and e-mail addresses



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