Yesterday I mentioned Leslie Megahey’s Ligeti film, All Clouds Are Clocks, an hour-long documentary based around an interview with György Ligeti filmed in 1976. A unique feature of that film was that Megahey returned to film Ligeti in the same room in 1991 where they discussed the composer’s work during the intervening period. Of these, Le Grand Macabre, written in the late 1970s, was the most ambitious piece.
Bartók and Ligeti share some attributes: both were Hungarian, and both were forced to flee their native country. Both composers also wrote only one opera apiece. Le Grand Macabre is Ligeti’s opus, an absurdist drama based on Michel de Ghelderode‘s 1934 play, La Balade du grand macabre. In the film Ligeti explains that he didn’t want to repeat the mid-century concept of the anti-opera but was also dissatisfied with the traditional variety, hence Le Grand Macabre‘s description as an “anti-anti-opera”, a work that combines the tradition and its reaction.