escamotage

Electronic music theatre.

For singer, actor, percussionist, analogue synths, live electronics.

What can we really know about something that we cannot percieve? A magician comes on stage to perform the old ‘cup and ball’ routine but things don’t seem to go as they should. His female assistant has an obsession with quantum physics with a particular fixation for Schrödinger’s Cat, the famous gedankexperiment of the Austrian physicist, which describes how if we take reality to a quantum level a cat can be both dead and alive at the same time. As the stage becomes gradually transformed into a place of transit where Newtonian physical laws break down, the magicians become increasingly frustrated by their attempts to perform any magic routine whatsoever, and withdraw to the dressing rooms where they become subjected to the full impact of the bizarre effects of quantum logic, relayed into the hall with live sound and video. In this way the performers themselves begin to undergo the same physical patterns of appearances and dissapearances like balls under the magician’s cups. All this unfolds in a peculiar manner, time doesn’t flow in the normal direction, and the failures of the magicians on stage are constantly thrown up again and again, recurring in fluxuating time fields; and like the cat in the gedankexperiment, the performers become trapped in a state of limbo.

  • concept, composition, texts: Yannis Kyriakides
  • stage director: Paul Koek
  • light installation and video: Joost Rekveld
  • voices, performers: Stephie Büttrich, Rick Elstgeest, Bo Koek
  • analogue synths, laptops: Anne Wellmer, Marko Ciciliani
  • production: FNM der Staatsoper Stuttgart (D), VeenFabriek (NL)

Press Reviews of the World Premiere on 10 July 2005.

“ Quantum theory in the hands of jugglers—a brilliant idea. escamotage portrays central concepts of quantum theory in action and music. (...) The Forum Neues Musiktheater has never been this brilliant before. (...) That both things are possible—an experimental work in progress and a perfect premiere that is also a theatrical experience that is a decided pleasure for the senses—is demonstrated for the first time by this escamotage. ”

SWR2.

“ Yannis Kyriakides has succeeded in dressing the highly theoretical theme of quantum physics in three-dimensional images. (...) The realization for they stage by the director Paul Koek takes on the complexity of the material with delicate sensibility. (...) Yannis Kyriakides unfolds a complex kaleidoscope of sounds with a sensitive feeling for dramaturgy and spatial effect. (...) The fascinating music is almost like a soundtrack to a film. ”

Deutschlandfunk.

escamotage is the latest workshop production at the Forum Neues Musiktheater, that ambitious annex of the Staatsoper Stuttgart that sees itself as a laboratory for opera. (...) Composer Yannis Kyriakides, a specialist in live electronics, causes big band sounds to blast from the speakers. Tatters of show music that sound as if they had been chased through a sound shredder. Magicians in red glitter suits jump about in high spirits and demonstrate grotesque hat tricks in abundance. A prima donna with uncanny instincts (Stephie Büttrich) soon begins singing blues-tinged lines about Schrödinger’s cat, a thought experiment about the transition between life and death. In short, an off-beat variety theater meets quantum theory, circus tricks meet Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Is the appearance of the world merely a sensory illusion, a cheap trick? (...) Director Paul Koek, cofounder with Johan Simons of the Hollandia-Ensembles, and his troupe VeenFabriek contribute cheeky alternative theater charm. The result is a clever mixture that includes meditative moments as well. ”

Südwest Presse.

“ It begins, it lasts a while, and it ends. For that reason alone, Yannis Kyriakides’ quantum-pinching and richly electrifying work of musical theater, escamotage, premiered at the Forum Neues Musiktheater in Stuttgart, is not staged quantum theory but rather a sensory supposition about things that cannot be perceived by the senses: experimental physics' revaluation of all worlds. Kyriakides takes the sheet over heavy theoretical mysteries and pulls it away by its auratic corners, and the result is light science fiction material, even though it treats science fact. (...) The quantum leap into the Spaceship Enterprise of triviality and back into unusual syntheses of sound is as deliberate as the harsh cutaway to the honky-tonk world: theory as variety theater—and a three-ring circus free for two illusions to go wrong, from the hat trick to the card trick. Little wonder, when the supposed reality is a illusion and illusion is the scientific truth. Kyriakides quotes showbiz fanfares that split their atoms and accelerate their particles until they become techno trash. But the composer is capable of more, for example when the singer Stephie Büttrich conjures up texts on quantum theory in a litany-like tone: science as meditation on the ungraspable. ”

Cannstatter Zeitung.