Ultima 2022 Opening Concert

The Norwegian Soloists' Choir perform Iannis Xenakis' monumental Oresteia with Oslo Sinfonietta, soloists and a children’s choir.

A musical tragedy for our troubled present

In Xenakis’s massive masterpiece, the ultimate Greek tragedy becomes a monumental explosion of sonic power.

The Oresteia of Iannis Xenakis was one of the Greek composer’s most ambitious attempts to evoke the primal sound world of ancient Greek drama. Featuring a huge force of a choir, children’s choir and percussion-heavy ensemble, the Oresteia needs to be heard live to experience its full, devastating effect.

Soloists include Seth Carico, the German vocalist reprising the role of Kassandra from a performance in Berlin; contemporary specialist bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood, and Norwegian percussion maestro Håkon Mørch Stene. Boya Bøckman has created a dynamic visual element with video and lighting projections.

Ultima’s 2022 opening concert offers a chance to hear this rarely performed cantata. Based on Aeschylus’s Oresteia trilogy from around 458 BC, the tragedy details the return of Agamemnon from the Trojan War, his betrayal and murder by wife Clytemnestra, and their son Orestes’s attempts to take revenge by killing his mother. Violence, betrayal, torment and despair are reflected in Xenakis’s massive, atonal music, clashing strangeness of the percussion, ritualistic chanting chorus and vocal solos that soar to dizzying extremes.

Oresteia is Xenakis at his most primal and inventive, with music that overwhelms you with an almost physical effect.


Oslo Sinfonietta

Oslo Sinfonietta, Norway’s oldest running contemporary ensemble, was established by the Norwegian composer Asbjørn Schaathun in 1986. The ensemble is under the leadership of Christian Eggen, who is artistic director and chief conductor. Oslo Sinfonietta comprises leading freelance musicians and members from some of Norway’s most prominent orchestras, including The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Norwegian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and The Norwegian Radio Orchestra. This ensures that the ensemble has the quality and flexibility that modern repertoire demands.

The Norwegian Soloists' Choir

The Norwegian Soloists' Choir is an innovative young ensemble, steeped in a rich history. As one of Europe's leading chamber choirs, they perform spectacular concerts in Norway and abroad, in concert halls and churches, in caravans and in abandoned factory venues. The Norwegian Soloists' Choir consists of 26 hand-picked, professional singers who have a tremendous ability to blend their voices, resulting in a highly distinctive choral expression. Along with its celebrated artistic leader Grete Pedersen, the choir achieves ambitious artistic goals through constant development.

The Norwegian Soloists' Choir Academy

The Norwegian Soloists' Choir Academy will be formed of the future’s ensemble singers. After auditioning, the singers aged between 18-26 has been chosen as participants in this talent programme giving them unique educational opportunities together with professional musicians. The Norwegian Soloists' Choir Academy is a multi-year initiative made possible by Talent Norge and Sparebankstiftelsen DNB.

Seth Carico, solo vocalist

Hailed by Opera News as “powerful in both voice and bearing” and particularly noted for his commanding stage presence and expressive vocalism, bass-baritone Seth Carico is distinguishing himself internationally as an accomplished young American singer. Opera Today praised “the dynamic presence of Carico, whose ringing baritone gave much pleasure.” He effortlessly capitalizes on his dramatic training, bringing a unique sensitivity to operatic characters at disparate ends of the theatrical spectrum.

Nicholas Isherwood, solo vocalist

Nicholas Isherwood has sung in the world's leading festivals and opera houses, working with conductors such as Joel Cohen, William Christie, Peter Eötvös and Arturo Tamayo. Isherwood has worked closely with composers such as Sylvano Bussotti, Elliott Carter, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Olivier Messiaen, and Iannis Xenakis. Isherwood collaborated with Karlheinz Stockhausen for 23 years, singing numerous world premieres. He has made over 65 compact discs and has appeared in three films for television. He is currently professor of singing and chamber music at the conservatory in Montbéliard.

Håkon Stene, solo percission

Håkon Stene is a Norwegian percussionist performing, recording and producing in a variety of contexts internationally. He has a PhD in artistic research from the Norwegian Academy of Music, and is a professor of percussion studies at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany.

Christian Eggen, conductor

Christian Eggen made his international breakthrough as a conductor during the World Music Days in 1990 and he rapidly became one of the Nordic countries most prominent conductors, especially favoured for his performances of contemporary music. In 1993 he became artistic director of Oslo Sinfonietta, and since 1988 he has been conductor of the Cikada ensemble. Eggen has worked closely with a great number of composers, among them Cage, Xenakis, Dillon, Lachenmann, Lutoslawski, Kurtág, Barrett, Tan Dun, Saariaho and Lindberg. His own output includes music for film and theatre, chamber music, orchestral works, and electroacoustic compositions and installations. He was principle featured performer at the Bergen International Festival in 1999, he was awarded the Norwegian Music Critics Prize. Eggen has also received the Spellemann prize, the Lindeman prize and the Oslo Bys Kunstnerpris in recognition of his contribution to music in the city of Oslo.

Boya Bøckman, video and sound design

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