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nicoline timmer


I like beginnings, the moment when movements are on the verge of becoming dance, sentences are about to be sung, questions are asked without having solidified yet into philosophy. The moment when a language, a genre, a symbol emerges for the first time.

Searching for a structure to capture these beginnings I started to work on an opera, within which my works can take place; the opera is called ‘Once upon a particular occasion’. I’m not necessarily working in the genre of opera, I am more fascinated by the structure of opera, how it holds together (however uneasily) text and sound and movement and image. Everything is so extreme. ‘Imagine a friend imparting a secret on another friend, singing!’

I am using several elements of the structure of opera as poetic building blocks, to explore the process of creating a world, able to generate its own coherence. An enchanted universe that allows for a little horse to function as the chorus, and for special effects to be made out of glass.

‘The whole business is in so many ways fundamentally unrealistic,’ someone wrote about opera, ‘and can’t be presented as a sensible model for leading one’s life or understanding human behaviour.’ To marvellous, extraordinary, full of impossible dilemmas. Plus: Where does the music come from? For me this makes opera all the more suited for the task. Creating sensible models, however awkwardly. Allowing for a sense of wonder with which to approach even the smallest gesture.

Preface to the book Once upon a particular occasion