(from Lucifers Dance)
Saturday from Light (1981-1983)
for Bass vocal, piano, flute, 6 percussionists, trombone, piccolo flute, piccolo trumpet, symphonic wind band, men's chorus (with hand percussion), organ.
Staged with 2 solo dancers, ballet or mimes.

     SAMSTAG is LUCIFER's day, the Day of Death (and Resurrection). It is also the Night of the transition to the LIGHT. LUCIFER's instrument is the trombone, which is featured in the opening Greeting. LUCIFER has a dream of death and resurrection, after which a cat-like flautist protects his coffin with musical exercises. Then an orchestra made up in the image of LUCIFER's face battles itself into self-destruction. Finally a group of monks release a caged black bird into the sky.

     Act 1, LUZIFERs TRAUM (KLAVIERSTÜCK XIII), or Lucifer's Dream (Piano Piece 13), was written in 1981 for daughter and pianist Majella Stockhausen's 20th birthday, who premiered it in 1982. LUZIFERs ABSCHIED (Lucifer's Farewell) was the next to be completed, and the Händel Collegium Köln was featured in its 1982 premiere (in Assisi on the occasion of the 800th anniversary celebration of Saint Francis' birth). KATHINKAs GESANG (Kathinka's Chant, for flute and 6 percussionists), a dedication to flautist Kathinka Pasveer (for her 24th birthday) was begun in 1982 and premiered at Donaueschingen in 1983 (an alternate version using electronics instead of live percussion premiered in 1985 at IRCAM). LUZIFERS TANZ (Lucifer's Dance), a commission from conductor H. Robert Reynolds for the Michigan Symphony Band, was composed in 1983 and premiered in 1984 at Ann Arbor, Michigan (USA). Finally, SAMSTAGs-GRUSS (Saturday Greeting), also for H. Robert Reynolds, was completed in 1984 in time for the staged premiere of the complete SAMSTAG aus LICHT opera, held at the Palazzo dello Sport, produced by La Scala in Milan, Italy.

     SAMSTAG aus LICHT (Saturday From Light) is devoted to the character Lucifer, the antagonist of the LICHT saga. Apparently picking up from his departure at the end of DONNERSTAG aus LICHT (Thursday From Light), Lucifer is betrayed, dies, and is resurrected, after which he begins his campaign against Humanity once again with a "danse macabre" represented by the writhing features of a giant human face. There is very little in the way of "dialogue" (just a few rants and pronouncements from Lucifer), so this production is much more instrumental in nature (especially compared to the text-heavy Thursday From Light). However, there is no shortage of "spectacle"...
SAMSTAGs GRUSS (Saturday Greeting, Lucifer's Greeting)
     This opening Greeting is a kind of "dark fanfare" to the opera proper. Some of the other LICHT opera Greetings are employed more as electronic ambient music to "set the mood" as the audience arrives (for example in MONTAGs GRUSS and FREITAGs GRUSS), but SAMSTAG's Greeting is clearly an ominous "call from the depths", characterized by ritualistic tolling bells and low, menacing brass. In a live performance, there are 4 brass/percussion groups arranged around the audience.

Scene 1: LUZIFERs TRAUM (KLAVIERSTÜCK XIII) (Lucifer's Dream (Piano Piece 13)
     Lucifer (a bass vocalist) leans on a cloud (or sits in a chair) and looks into the distance. He plays a few chords on his piano. "Majella" (apparently his personal pianist/companion) enters and takes over the piano, allowing Lucifer to fall into a trance (his eyes remain open). Majella essentially provides the musical contours of his dream-reverie, which consists primarily of elaborated forms of the Eve and Lucifer formulas (a scrolling, 5-layer "light show" is projected which is designed to symbolize the musical melodies being played).

     During this dream/trance, Lucifer sometimes mumbles in his sleep (numbers, musical terms, etc.). Majella also contributes spoken numbers, whispers, whistling and plays the inside strings of the piano (sometimes with a "bone-headed mallet"). After one of Lucifer's half-conscious rants, Majella launches (small) rockets up into the sky towards a projection of the Earth (signifying Lucifer's distaste for the Earth and war against Michael). Shortly thereafter, Majella plays a "simple melody", based on a simplified form of Eve's formula. Lucifer jerks awake, enchanted. However, soon Lucifer begins "dying" from this entrancing melody. Majella begins playing the piano keys with her arms, legs and buttocks. After Lucifer has apparently expired (ironically, Lucifer's own companion has "killed" him!), she walks around the piano making magical gestures and then finally departs. However, Lucifer secretly sneaks a wink at the audience at the end, signifying that he will be back.

Further Analysis and Listening Guide

Scene 2: KATHINKAs GESANG (or LUZIFERs REQUIEM) (Kathinka's Chant)
     In KATHINKA's Chant as LUCIFER's Requiem, a cat-like flautist named "Kathinka" and 6 strangely-garbed percussionists (representing the "6 Mortal Senses": Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, Touch and Thinking) perform a ritual of 24 "Exercises" aimed at a giant piano-coffin containing Lucifer's corpse (the 6 Mortal Senses are situated around the audience). There is no dialogue in this scene.

     After a "Salute" fanfare, Kathinka performs the Exercises while navigating around two large mandala-diagrams with musical figures of each of the Exercises on them. This virtuoso flute solo is accompanied by the 6 Mortal Senses on metal plates, whistling, and playing "magic sounds" (small instruments, strapped to their bodies). After the 13th Exercise an "Exchange of the Senses" occurs, in which Kathinka suspends her flute in mid-air, and then rearranges the distribution of metal plates amongst the 6 Mortal Senses (who only play whistles during this interlude).
The color for SATURDAY is BLACK.

     After the remaining Exercises are complete, Kathinka performs a "Release of the Senses" (a cadenza-like recap of the Exercises) while moving in a spiral. During her spiral-dance she "releases" each of the 6 Mortal Senses who, one by one, drop their sound plates into LUCIFER's coffin-grave and then "fly away". The scene finishes with "Exit" (Kathinka climbs into Lucifer's grave, playing and singing), "11 Trombone Tones" (unseen flute-blown trumpet tones with "witches laughter") and finally the mysterious "Scream" (which could have any of 3 different meanings: reincarnation, death, or "entrance into Light"). At the end, four mysterious figures cover the piano-coffin in a flag with the Lucifer symbol (above right).

Further Analysis and Listening Guide

Scene 3: LUZIFERs TANZ (Lucifer's Dance)
     As the sounds of a giggling male chorus resonate in the hall, the piano grave from KATHINKA's GESANG erupts and Lucifer (portrayed by a "stilt-dancer") rises up. He first summonses a conductor by striking sparks from the floor with a giant hoof, and then conjures up a giant disembodied face, its eyes, nose and other features painted on black veils (behind which groups of symphonic brass and wind musicians sit).

     Lucifer calls out: "If you, Man, have never learned from Lucifer how the spirit of contradiction and independence distorts the expression of the face...LEFT EYEBROW DANCE!" and rips off the LEFT EYEBROW veil, revealing one small group of wind instrumentalists. This ensemble (flute, basset-horn, percussion) plays a hypnotic "dance" based on melodic figures from the LICHT super-formula. This procedure repeats for 10 instrumental groups, each representing a part of the human face (with introductions from Lucifer). In between each facial wind-band dance, short tutti "dance jams" between all of the so-far-revealed groups of the face take place as bridges. As Lucifer announces each face group, he moves in an exaggerated character pantomime, taking poses as an "ecstatic African dancer, a bizarre automaton, a vulgar boxer, a jaunty transvestite, obscene witch, martial arts giant", etc...

     During the UPPER-LIP DANCE, the protagonist from DONNERSTAG aus LICHT, Michael, appears in golden armor with a piccolo trumpet and plays a musical PROTEST. During the following tutti section, Michael is able to subdue the giant face orchestra and enchant it with a cadenza. However when the orchestra tutti resumes, Lucifer kicks Michael down, causing the giant face to feel pity and begin weeping in a TEAR-DANCE (the "tears" are represented by naked bodies coming down a rope from the giant face's left eye).

     Michael tries to get back up, but suddenly the cat-like figure of Kathinka (from Scene 2's KATHINKA's GESANG) erupts from the mouth of the giant face and plays a piccolo flute solo as part of the TIP-OF-THE-TONGUE DANCE, accompanied by a "ribbon-dancer" who wears 14 black ribbons over a skeleton costume. In the following RIBBON DANCE, the ribbon-dancer gradually tears off his ribbons and uses them to spell out SALVE SATANELLI ("Greetings, Satan's children") on the stage floor. Following this, the CHIN-DANCE begins, during which Kathinka and the ribbon-dancer retreat back down the throat of the giant face.

     Lucifer's stilt-dancer form moves offstage, but his bass vocalist incarnation then appears from the giant face's forehead in a cloud of smoke and sings: " cannot turn your countenance in harmony - towards the LIGHT." A final full orchestral tutti begins, interrupted by Lucifer finally singing the full LUCIFER formula: "If you have tried out your 10-part face in all dissonances, grimace rhythms, it will decay, empty and hollow, before it resurrects on SUNDAY in the realm of the souls, invisible to human souls."

     At this point during the opera the orchestra stages a strike and the scene ends in chaos.

Further Analysis and Listening Guide

LUZIFERs ABSCHIED (Lucifer's Farewell)
     The "Farewell" scene of SAMSTAG takes place at a church, both inside and in the outer courtyard. A male chorus situated in 2 columns around the audience intones St. Francis of Assisi's "Lodi delle Virtù" ("Hymn to the Virtues"). Lucifer, as a "Diabolical Wind Player" playing trombone, abruptly interrupts the proceedings and causes chaos. Eventually a sack from Heaven (filled with coconuts) arrives. The men file outside and set a wild bird free. Then they move to a stone slab and begin smashing coconuts on it. Finally they leave in a procession, with humorous dance steps, intoning the "Hymn to the Virtues".

Further Analysis and Listening Guide

Lucifer's Day
     Where Thursday From Light graduated from a domestic drama to a global odyssey to a cosmic festival, Saturday From Light expands in a parallel, but more "internal" fashion. The three Acts can be characterized as expanding "horizontally" from a soloist's dream to a sextet resurrection ritual to a symphonic carnival.

     The spacially-enhanced elements of the Thursday Farewell (trumpet quintet) are continued in Lucifer's Greeting, as the amassed low brass forces perform mostly Lucifer motifs in four groups situated around the performance hall. Act 1 proceeds with Lucifer relaxing into a dream, as if he had just returned from his challenge to Michael at the end of FESTIVAL (Thursday From Light's Act 3). The shocking strike which ends the opera proper has a similar effect to that of a film strip burning up at the climax of a movie (the concept of a "real life" element interrupting the LICHT saga also occurs in WELT-PARLAMENT). Lucifer's Farewell continues the theme of spacial musical forces, but includes actual performer movement around the audience, eventually leading the attendees outside the church venue for its inscrutable (but "smashing") finish. The table below lists the instrumental forces for each scene.

SATURDAY GREETING 26 Brass instruments and 2 Percussionists
LUCIFER'S DREAM Bass vocal soloist and piano (PIANO PIECE XIII)
Flute and 6 Percussionists
LUCIFER'S DANCE Bass vocal soloist, piccolo trumpet, piccolo flute, symphonic wind band
LUCIFER'S FAREWELL Men's chorus, organ, 7 trombones, bells, gong

     One enticing idea which occurs to me is that in KATHINKAS CHANT, the ending "Scream" can be interpreted as Lucifer going "into the Light" ("the Night of the transition to the LIGHT"). If the LICHT opera cycle is indeed cyclic (and Lucifer was Michael from a previous LICHT cycle), this option gives even Lucifer ("dark Michael") a chance at redemption. In any case, SAMSTAG aus LICHT is one of the most enjoyable of all seven LICHT operas, especially for those who appreciate their opera...macabre.

Released on Stockhausen Edition CD 34

The Evolution of Macro- and Micro-Time Relations in Stockhausen's Recent Music (Jerome Kohl)
Into the Middleground: Formula Syntax in Stockhausen's Licht (Jerome Kohl)
Time and Light (Jerome Kohl)
Stockhausen on Opera (Interview with Jerome Kohl)
Albrecht Moritz article on SAMSTAG AUS LICHT
SAMSTAG AUS LICHT Staging 2013 (photos)


World premiere of MICHAELs REISE UM DIE ERDE, Milan 1981
Thursday from Light (1977-1980)
for 3 solo voices, 8 solo instrumentalists (trumpet, bassett horn (alto clarinet), trombone, piano, clarinet, contrabass, saxophone duo), 3 solo dancers, choir, orchestra and tape.

Brief Synopsis:
     In DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT (Thursday From Light) Michael, the cosmic protagonist of LICHT, is portrayed as a human being, growing from a child to a man. He then undertakes a journey "around the Earth" until he encounters his celestial soul-mate, Eve. Eventually, he rejoins his compatriots in the stars, where he describes his experiences to the other heavenly beings, despite the heckling of LICHT's antagonist character, Lucifer.

     DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT is the first installment of Stockhausen's LICHT (Light) opera cycle. Begun in 1977, this production started with a modern trumpet concerto which ultimately became the corpus of DONNERSTAG's Act 2, MICHAELs REISE UM DIE ERDE (Michael's Journey Around The Earth). By this time, Stockhausen's son Markus was becoming quite proficient at trumpet, and Stockhausen's decision to write a work featuring this instrument might have been a response to this (see Markus' personal account here). 

     Continuing to work from his LICHT "super-formula" (a 3-tiered theme developed in 1977 while in Japan), Stockhausen used his own experiences as a war-time youth to inform the bulk of DONNERSTAG's 1st Act (MICHAELs JUGEND, Michael's Youth), which premiered in 1979. This was followed by the premiere of Act 3 (MICHAELs HEIMKEHR, Michael's Homecoming, 1980) which, of the three Acts, is probably the closest to being "operatic" in the traditional sense (featuring solo and choral vocal elements backed by orchestra). The entire opera was first staged in its complete form in 1981 at La Scala in Milan (including the instrumental Greeting and Farewell intro and closing sequences). Since then, DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT has been mounted at Covent Garden (England, 1985) and in Basel (Switzerland, 2016). 

     Being the first of the LICHT operas, its primary function is to introduce the protagonist Michael and his musical theme, the MICHAEL "formula". Despite the inclusion of many complex, often seemingly-inscrutable scenic elements, Thursday From Light probably has the most straightforward plot of all of the LICHT operas. It can essentially be summed up as "boy grows up against bleak odds, travels around the world, meets girl, victoriously returns home, spreads message of good will".
DONNERSTAGs GRUSS (Thursday Greeting, Michael's Greeting)
     This is the opening instrumental  "Greeting" for DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT. It is a brass-driven ensemble piece (with rhythmic piano and percussion accompaniment), meant to be played "in the foyer" of the opera venue, and acts as a kind of fanfare overture to the opera proper. Besides opening with a fanfare presentation of the signature Michael formula, this 3-part sequence anticipates some of the "world musics" later explored in Act 2.

Act 1: MICHAELs JUGEND (Michael's Youth)
     The first Act's Scene 1, KINDHEIT (Childhood), describes the youth of the main character Michael, as he is torn between the conflicting emotional and intellectual desires of his mother (Eve/EVA) and father (Lucifer/LUCIMON). This scene notably features many elements drawn from Stockhausen's own childhood in wartime Germany. For some, it's a little difficult to immediately "take" to this opening scene (especially without the libretto). The text-heavy drama is frankly disturbing, and the three vocal soloists are supported primarily by pianissimo tapes of muted brass drones and intermittent ambient choral textures (the orchestra only appears during Acts 2 and 3 of DONNERSTAG). A trombone, trumpet and bassett-horn do make brief conversational appearances, but for the most part this first half hour of DONNERSTAG may seem a bit stark. However, considering the subject matter (including nationalism, postpartum depression, infant mortality, etc), it nonetheless feels appropriate.

     Scene 2, MONDEVA (Moon-Eve), is generally lighter, and describes Michael's encounter with a musical "space-being" named MONDEVA (Moon-Eve, a costumed basset-horn player), and their attempts to communicate and learn from each other through the Michael and Eve melodies.  However, in bleak "parallel dramas", Michael's institutionalized mother is euthanized, and his father dies in battle.

     In Scene 3, EXAM, Michael reveals his past experiences to a panel of four judges (played in part by the Mother and Father actors from the previous Scenes) in order to "graduate to his next state". He does this by performing three "recitals", each showcasing a different aspect of his character (voice, trumpet, dance) and is accompanied throughout by a solo pianist (as is done in a typical conservatory recital/exam). In the 1st "exam", the Michael vocalist sings while taking on the role of his gentle mother. In the 2nd exam, a "Michael trumpeter" pantomimes the forbidding, reality-oriented life of his father. The final exam revisits elements from the 1st Scene from Michael's own point of view, experienced through voice, trumpet and piano (the dancer is actually the main focus of the exam, but is of course inaudible on CD).

Act 2: MICHAELs REISE UM DIE ERDE (Michael's Journey Around The Earth)
     After a brief entrance and a "farewell" to his previous life, Michael departs on a global odyssey. He pops in and out of different hatches on a giant globe of the Earth, in effect "traveling" through seven world music traditions and portraying Michael's experience as a being of the Earth as a whole. Near the 7th Station, Michael hears the basset-horn call of Eve, an incarnation of MONDEVA, whom he'd met in the 1st Act.  Michael leaves the globe to pursue Eve. A pair of mischievous wind players appear, but they are soon reprimanded by somber brass.  At the end, Michael  reappears with Eve and they play intertwining melodies as they "ascend" together. This highly entertaining instrumental Act involves a fair amount of choreography from the instrumentalists (Michael himself is practically airborne the entire time).

     From a musical standpoint, this Act states the Michael theme, atomizes it, and then re-imagines it in the context of several world music traditions - for example Balinese, Japanese temple music, American jazz, German post-war avant-garde, etc. Michael and Lucifer's themes tend to "do battle" in the first half of the Act, but the final section culminates in a playful dialogue between the Michael and Eve formulas.

Act 3: MICHAELs HEIMKEHR (Michael's Homecoming)
     In the 3rd Act, Michael has returned to a heavenly plane where he is welcomed by yet another incarnation of Eve. The first part of the Act, FESTIVAL, presents highly ritualized sequences involving lighted gifts, images and other heavenly phenomena. Musically, this sequence is dominated by declamatory figures from the Michael and Eve vocal soloists, backed by monolithic block harmonies and "noise" textures from the orchestra and choir.
     Eventually the festival is disrupted when a small globe-shaped gift opens to expel a devil-like incarnation of Lucifer, and the Michael-dancer is subsequently forced to battle with this nefarious intruder (aurally represented by the sounds of "tap-dancing"). After the "devil" has been defeated, yet another incarnation of Lucifer (as vocalist) appears at a balcony seat box to further taunt the assemblage.

     VISION follows, and here the three incarnations of Michael (tenor vocalist, trumpeter and dancer-mime) reflect on Lucifer's mythic origins in a musical-choreographic soliloquy. He then explains that he took on a human form in order to experienced the pain and joy of humanity. During this, seven visions ("shadowplays") are projected on a screen which act as flashback "time-windows" into his Earthly existence and subsequent return to the Heavens. Finally, he proclaims his love for Mankind, ending the opera proper.

DONNERSTAGs Farewell (Thursday Farewell)
     Following the opera conclusion, 5 trumpeters play the Michael theme from the rooftops surrounding the opera house entrance, as the audience departs the performance venue.

Thursday From Light
     Overall, this opera has a trajectory which begins on a relatively mundane and localized premise (family/education), moves to a global setting (a semi-symbolic journey around the Earth), and then ends in a "cosmic" homecoming, with a few somewhat "slapstick" moments thrown in to keep things from becoming too overly-pompous (Michael defeats the Lucifer dragon-devil with the help of the orchestra conductor's baton stick, for example).

     From a musical standpoint, Thursday From Light is a perfect launch point for the entire LICHT opera cycle because it is here that the musical themes of the three main characters (and their thematic formulas) are most clearly presented. All seven LICHT operas have statements and variations of the LICHT themes, but if a listener gets to know the LICHT formulas through DONNERSTAG, that familiarity makes the other operas of the cycle much more musically appealing and meaningful when eventually experienced. As Stockhausen has said at times, the melodies themselves are the characters, and the stage action is essentially a visual and physical manifestation of the musical elements.

     Of course, it's not really expected that a listener will know the Michael, Eve and Lucifer themes by heart after listening to DONNERSTAG aus LICHT just once - these are no Tchaikovsky numbers. However, this aspect is just one of the things which makes these operas so rewarding on repeat visits. For the most part, the bizarre staging of a live production is usually quite enough to occupy one's attention at the opera house on initial auditions. Even after spending years with this opera, I personally still find myself making new connections and finding hidden messages each time I experience it.

     The table below lists the featured soloists and/or instrumental forces for each opera scene.

THURSDAY GREETING 8-piece brass ensemble, piano, 3 percussionists
MICHAEL'S YOUTH: Tenor, Soprano and Bass vocal soloists, 
trumpet, bassett horn,  trombone, piano, dancer,
tapes (INVISIBLE CHOIRS and multi-tracked trumpet, bassett-horn  & trombone)
          CHILDHOOD (featuring Tenor, Soprano and Bass vocal soloists)
          MOON-EVE (feat. Tenor vocal soloist and bassett horn)
          EXAMINATION (feat. Tenor vocal soloist, trumpet and piano (PIANO PIECE XII))
          THE 7 STATIONS
          HALT (feat. trumpet & contrabass duo)
          MISSION (feat. trumpet & bassett horn duo)
          DERISION and CRUCIFIXION (feat. sopr. saxophone duo)
          ASCENSION (feat. trumpet & bassett horn duo)
MICHAEL'S HOME-COMING: Tenor, Soprano and Bass vocal soloists, bassett-horn, trumpet, 
trombone, choir, orchestra, tape (of choir)
          VISION (feat. Tenor vocal soloist, trumpet and dancer)

Analysis and Listening Guides
DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT: Basel 2016 (Review and Analysis)

DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT Sound samples, tracks listings and CD ordering