The soprano Judith Mok sang the première of Zey… in 1994 in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. She was friends with the famous Dutch writer Leon de Winter. Leon was starting production of the filming of one of his books, called Hoffmans Hunger. He was doing some casting work, and it was at that time that I met Elliot Gould, (who played in the movie) via Leon and Judith. This was also the start of my love for Jaguars, since Leon had picked me up at home in his 1980s XJ Jaguar (but this is besides the point).
Judith also wanted to do a screentest for the movie, since there was a small role for a singer in the screenplay. She asked me to write a short piece that she could sing for the screentest, using a text by Rainer Maria Rilke. I wrote the piece for her, but for one reason or another, the screentest never took place and she never got her role in the film.
[In a reaction to this blog, Judith wrote to me that she did get the role in the film after all.]
A few years later, a colleague of mine in Nürnberg, Holmer Becker, was organizing a festival around music composed on text by Rilke, and programmed my piece ‘Der Tod ist Gross’. It was a wonderful festival at a castle near Nürnberg, and the performance was wonderful. It was sung by a soprano from Nürnberg who was born in Pennsylvania, Rebecca Martin.
Rebecca is an extraordinary expressive singer. One of the things I like about her is that she initiates her own programs. In other words, she has a strong and good taste for music. What I also appreciated was the intelligent way she understands the text. Often you hear singers merely singing notes, but Rebecca brings the poetry to life.
The text of the poem by Rilke:
From R.M. Rilke
Der Tod ist gross
Wir sind die Seinen
Wenn wir uns mitten im Leben meinen,
Wagt er zu weinen
Mitten in uns.