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John Cage «Europeras 1 & 2»
John Cage, «Europeras 1 & 2», 1987
Photograph: Johan Elbers | © John Cage
An extract from the Frankfurt Opera programme booklet: In 'Europeras 1 & 2', as in proper operas the stage and orchestra are separated from one another. 'Everything is separated – so that the scene is not one in which the various theatrical elements support one another, but each is in its own state of activity. The lighting is independent of the action, the costumes independent of the songs . . . It is an experiment that one could not have forseen until it happens.' (John Cage)

 John Cage
«Europeras 1 & 2»

An extensive montage across the breadth of European culture produces a postmodern opera in the age of sampling. Most of the elements (101 different orchestra scores plus independent texts, plots, and stage sets) are chosen through randomizing processes from large archives or encyclopedias and combined using a computer program. The illumination is also controlled by a randomizing program that distributes light and shadow with no regard for what is happening on the stage. Only the arias of the two operas are chosen by the singers themselves and integrated into the sequence on the basis of their length. Cage explained: «The opera is not conducted, but held together by many video monitors; from the beginning of the opera on, a digital clock is depicted on the monitors; beginning at zero minutes and zero seconds, it tells the time until the end of each opera.»