Hèctor Parra, Un souffle en suspens

Hèctor Parra, Un souffle en suspens

The Risonanze Erranti ensemble, frequently talked about throughout the Germanic countries, led and directed by Peter Tilling, will present on 23 November at the Salzburg Mozarteum Hèctor Parra’s latest opus, Souffle en Suspens in the form of a vast monodramatic fresco for 15 instruments. Every premiere by the composer of the Bienveillantes, a work celebrated by the public and unanimous critical praise (which will be presented in Nuremberg at the end of the season), is naturally awaited with great eagerness !


Un souffle en suspens comes from a desire of Peter Tilling, the German conductor who premiered my opera Das geopferte Leben in 2014. However, it is also the result of my own discovery of Te craindre en ton absence by Marie NDiaye, a fantastic text written for the premiere of my eponymous monodrama at the Bouffes du Nord in 2014. It was a fluid and tragic text about a childless 50-year-old woman near the end of her life, who finds the will to live by accusing her mother of not having loved her.

From these two works arises Un souffle en suspens which is also a phrase taken from Te craindre en ton absence. It is ultimately the adaptation of this monodrama for ensemble. It is the acoustic and physiological fragility that interests me in this voiceless room, with, for example, whistled sounds by the flute, contrasted with crushes and other, more massive, sonorities. An instrumental ensemble also has its own dramaturgical identity and can be considered as a world in itself. It is all of the humanity that comes out as a result that I wish to portray to the listener.

In the work’s initial version, the ensemble was smaller because it was supported by electronics and the voice of Astrid Bas who played the role of the woman and recited Marie Ndiaye’s text in the simplest way, direct, sincere, and intimate; the voice was not projected. It was the ensemble that expressed the emotions of this woman in a lyrical, musical and acoustic fashion. For the upcoming premiere, there will be no voice, so when I found myself confronted with this text, I did not simply support musically the emotions of the character, but instead I composed with my own emotions felt when faced with the intimate life of this woman. What sometimes moves us to compose a music in contradiction with the dramaturgy of the character is when a dialogue is established between the composer and the characters; this is what, in my opinion, makes the wealth and depth of an operatic character.

The temporality of Un souffle en suspens could be summarised as cyclical, gradually shifting and therefore evolving to an ultimately linear progression that takes us from a very dark, cloudy, and strange beginning to a rather luminous ending but with a slightly sad colour created by the situation of the central character for whom the reality is essentially reduced to atoms. In short, this is a work full of dark lyricism.

Hèctor Parra (2019)