Directed by Mark Down and Phelim McDermot
Presented by the Spoleto Fesitval
In collaboration with Blind Summit & Improbable
Hans Christian Andersen’s sobering tale depicts a poor girl on a snowy street, lighting matches for a few seconds of fleeting warmth in her final hour. In his opera, avant garde composer Helmut Lachenmann explores the girl’s last moments as she gazes into the dreams and memories conjured by the flames.
Co-Directors Phelim McDermott of award-winning improvised theater makers Improbable, and Mark Down of master-puppeteers Blind Summit Theatre cast extraordinary shadows to make a show that almost isn’t there, lit by the light of a match and performed at the speed of scissors. Elevated on a platform and encircling the audience, 106 members of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra perform this astonishingly evocative score, full of clicks, crackles, knocks, and hisses, under the baton of Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy.
Lachenmann departs from traditional performance techniques in order to create a frigid atmosphere—a nearly meteorological effect—both animating the match girl’s world and contemplating the coldness of a society that would let a child freeze.