Informationen über Bartleby – Short Opera in 11 Stages (2003)

(Libretto by Benjamin Schweitzer and Norbert Lange based on the novel by Herman Melville)

Instrumentation: 4 Soloists (mezzo-soprano, alto or bass-baritone, baritone, speaker)
Ensemble: 0-1(CA)-1(Bcl)-0, 0-0-1-0, Perc (1), Acc, 0-0-1-1

Commissioned by: European Centre for the Arts Hellerau (Dresden)

Publisher: Schott Music, Mainz

Duration: ca. 11′

FP: 30.9./1.10. 2004, Dresden (Dresdner Tage der zeitgenössischen Musik)
Direction: Rainer Holzapfel, ensemble courage, Cond.: Titus Engel

Further performances: HAU Berlin (Direction: Mareike Mikat, cond.: Yordan Khamdzalov), performances: 27., 28., 29.9.2006


To all pleas, orders and commands, Bartleby reacts with his subversive and untouchable sentence “I would prefer not to”. This statement became one of the most popular and, at the same time, most cryptical ciphers of literary history, analyzed, among others, by Gilles Deleuze in his essay Bartleby, ou la Formule (1989).

In Informationen über Bartleby, the plot of Melville’s novel only takes a minor role; instead, a few of its core sections were chosen as text material. Starting from a comparatively conventional setting which presents the four main characters (Bartleby, the Lawyer, Turkey and Nippers), the composition undergoes several states of alienation: the lines start rotating among the singers, then the text is turned into fragments, finally scattered into mere phonetic material. After a short interruption in about the middle of the piece (which has to be filled in improvisational) follows a re-development to the state of the beginning. The pivotal point of the piece, based on the part of the novel where „Bartleby’s Formula“ appears for the first time, is placed at the penultimate position among the scenes; the eleventh scene is almost identical to the first: the whole opera assumes the form of a loop that could be endlessly repeated.

Co-Librettist: Norbert Lange, *1978 in Gdynia (Poland). Studies philosophy at Munich and Berlin and Creative Writing at Institute of German Literature at Leipzig. Main genres: lyric, essays and (experimental) short stories.