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Technology, Liveness, and Presence in Straub-Huillet’s Film of Schoenberg’s Von heute auf morgen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalOPERA QUARTERLY
Volume34
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2019

King's Authors

Abstract

This essay examines Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s “live opera film” Von heute auf morgen, an adaptation of Schoenberg’s 1928-29 twelve-tone opera of the same name (op. 32). Shot in Frankfurt in 1996 with Michael Gielen conducting the Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt, the film premiered in Paris on 12 February 1997. In a process Patrick Primavesi has described as “a revolution in the history of opera films,” image and sound were recorded simultaneously, creating a new encounter between cinema and liveness a decade before the first cinecast opera. Situated unambiguously within the Brechtian tradition of political modernist filmmaking, Straub-Huillet’s Von heute auf morgen eschews what Martin Barker has termed the “technical transparency” of livecasting. It not only challenges the notion that liveness in film is impossible to conceive, but also counters Peggy Phelan’s famous assertion that when “performance attempts to enter the economy of reproduction it betrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology”. Schoenberg’s opera is examined in the context of the composer’s fascination with technologies of reproduction including film, radio and the gramophone, and Straub-Huillet’s screen adaptation is shown to confirm Theodor W. Adorno’s suggestion that “corporeal intimacy” is one of the benefits of technological mediation.

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