O Lungo (D)rom op.22 (2020-2021) Soprano, Baritone, Flute, Clarinet, Cimbalom, Piano, String Quartet, 67 min. (Texts drawn from Maya, Mãnuš, Schöpf, Iliaz, Makhotin, Stojka, Krasnići, Lagrene, Papusza, Loleshyte, Maximoff)
O Lungo (D)rom translates as “the long road” in Romanes. This large-scale work, scored for a soprano, baritone and chamber ensemble integrates texts from all around the world into an oratorio (or [R]omatorium as I prefer to call it) to create a Romlied, or Romani ‘song’, of the scattered Roma people. Ever since first travelling west from the northern Indian subcontinent at the beginning of the 2nd millennium, this Indo-Aryan ethnic group has suffered from continuous discrimination and persecution, punctuated by infernal periods of enslavement and genocide.
The Long Road is a road of longing, of yearning, a path that leads to and from remembrance; each step and footprint on this road is imbued with a profound sense of Fernweh, an ache for a remote and distant place: physically, emotionally, spiritually… But this road also travels/embraces hope and beauty through resilience and consolation. O Lungo (D)rom sets the words of thirteen different Romani poets and writers in ten languages and Romani dialects, organized/grouped in a tripartite narrative:
I. Ascent – II. Nadir – III. Vista
Each of the three different narrative perspectives presented in the libretto of the multinational Roma ethnic family is associated with specific ensemble groupings that produce timbral threads between diverse texts and languages. Along with a (Toten)tanz, Litany and echoes of Lili Marleen from Auschwitz, these “voices” combine to pave and express worlds of melancholy, grief, nostalgia, desire, remorse, mourning and exultation through rhapsodic, bittersweet, elegiac and introspective lyricism. O Lungo (D)rom bears witness to a collective ethnic identity through the prism of many Sinti and Roma voices as citizens of different European countries – selfhood in multiplicity. The work’s first words ring forth as a proud, encompassing and celebratory edifice to Sinti and Roma identity; they also encapsulate my own personal testimonial and confession:
Madre del alma Mother of my soul
Nací Gitano Romani I am
O Lungo (D)rom, commissioned by the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien and dedicated to Romani Rose, chairman of the Central Committee of German Sinti and Roma, received its world première on October 23, 2022, in the Konzerthaus Berlin for the 10th anniversary of the inauguration of the the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism in Berlin by soprano Johanna Zimmer, baritone Georg Gädker, cimbalist László Racz and the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien.
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