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My last contribution to "Sci-Fi September" is the opera Aniara.
The opera was composed by Karl-Birger Blomdahl and originally debuted in 1959. Ariana is based upon the epic science fiction poem of the same name, originally written by Harry Martinson.
I am no opera expert by any means, but I will say that I quite enjoy this piece. Rather than reading me fumble feebly with my description, I present to you a review of the opera found in Time Magazine from back during its 1959 debut:
After the nuclear explosion that atomized the planet Doris, the scientist named Mimarobe was seized by the space cadets and thrown into Captain Chefone's dungeon, accused of fouling the radiation apparatus that powered the electronic brain. As presented in Stockholm's Royal Opera House last week, this kind of interstellar meller was meant not for science-fiction escapists but for devotees of avant-garde music. Occasion: the premiere of Swedish Composer Karl-Birger Blomdahl's Aniara, widely hailed as the first operatic excursion into the world of outer space.
Based on a "space cycle" by Swedish Poet Harry Martinson, Aniara proved to be a lengthy allegory about man's journey through life "in the spiritual void" that sucks him at last to his own destruction. The curtain rises on the interior of a spaceship dominated by the towering electronic brain, a mechanism so advanced that it is nearly human. Ranged in front of it as ghostlike silhouettes, the passengers chant a lament for the planet Doris (actually the Earth) they just left behind.
The spaceship Aniara is one of several making the milk run between Doris and Mars, bearing loads of earthlings in flight from the threat of atomic destruction. A day's flight from Mars, Aniara's steering mechanism is jammed, and the ship wanders haphazardly out of the solar system ("We are always en route to infinity," sings the chief engineer); at the same time, the electronic brain reports the destruction of the planet Doris.
Mankind's Epitaph. From then on, the opera details the moral and physical collapse of Aniara's 8,000 travelers. The passengers seek to distract themselves, turning first to jitterbugging (led by a party girl named Daisi Doody), later to an atavistic sex cult called "Yurg," involving lascivious dances in a hall of mirrors. The chief engineer dies, and during a gaudy celebration is fired in a coffin to become a sun satellite. After 24 years of space travel, the remaining passengers die, aware too late that in the destruction of his home planet man had lost the only paradise he will ever know. A late survivor sings mankind's epitaph:
Buried in our huge sarcophagus We traveled on in desolate space, Released from the sting of implacable stars And through us all passed Nirvana's wave.
Mankind's Prayer. To this Buck Rogers apocalypse, Composer Blomdahl fitted an atonal score marked by vocal passages of labyrinthine difficulty and orchestration of such transparent delicacy that it sometimes seemed like chamber music. Frequently the chorus was used unaccompanied as a tautly dramatic background to the soloists' soaring vocal lines, and in some sequences Blomdahl abandoned the orchestra altogether in favor of taped electronic effects. One scene unfolds against a Jabberwockian mixture that includes the speaking voices of Eisenhower. Khrushchev, Hitler, Mussolini and the defendants at the Nürnberg trials.
The first-night audience gave Composer Blomdahl and performers a 15-minute ovation, and Stockholm's critics lathered their reviews with praise. Composer Blomdahl, 43, would own to only one temporary misgiving about his first popular success: during the two years he spent writing it, he feared that before it was finished its interspatial theme would already have become old hat.
According to the Wikipedia entry, the original performance was broadcast on Swedish radio. A later recording was recorded and conducted by Stig Westerberg. I believe this is the Stig Westerberg version, but I have no reliable way of guaranteeing this. Regardless, I hope you enjoy.