Performance artist: Abbie Conant
Table of Contents
1. Program Notes
For soprano (with optional instrument) and piano with text from Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days. (45 minutes) Premiere: Rome – Nuovo Forme Sonare, December 1984.
Dante is a key to Beckett. Winnie (with the text taken from Samuel Beckett's Happy Days) embodies the forceful image of Canto X in which those who rebel against God are punished. Here are two Epicurians, Farinata and Calvacante, who believe that the highest good is temporal happiness achieved through a virtuous life. They both stand in their graves, Farinata buried to the waist, merrily ignoring the desperate condition of Calvacante, who has only his head remaining above the surface. Winnies dilemma is similar and we admire her, just as Dante admired the self-sufficiency of Farinata, who maintains his dignity and expresses contempt for all this hell.
We also explore the deeply ironic humor of Becketts text. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung observed, Abbie Conant, otherwise solo trombonist of the Munich Philharmonic, embodies a wrecklessly funny Winnie. The way she rummages in her shopping bag, deciphers the print on her tooth brush, continually quotes the wonderful and immortal classics, and always two centimeters this side of hysteriathis one should really see and hear, and in English, one discovers the clown in Samuel Beckett.
Reason says put it down, Winnie, it is not helping you, put the thing down and get on with something else. I cannot. I cannot move. No, something must happen, in the world, take place, something change, I cannot, if I am to move again. Willie. Help. For pitys sake. No? You cant?
Beckett has said that silence flows between the words of his works like water into a sinking ship. In this silence one hears the music of a will to life. This will enables the residents of Dantes Inferno and the characters of Beckett to portray a stark contrast between the indignity of hell and dignity of humans under tortureeven if ironically.
To download the 60 page PDF score of Winnie click here. (4.5 megs) The score is on American legal size paper with a margin that can be trimmed. Europeans should use A3 paper and trim as needed. The score does not look good on screen, but prints beautifully.
3. YouTube Video
Abbie Conant, performance artist
Suzanne Bradbury, piano
William Osborne, director
Theater am Sozialamt Munich, Germany in May 1987.
To download the video of Winnie to disk click here. (Flash, 572 megs.)
4. Slide Show