Stephan Winkler’s »Der Universums-Stulp« (The Involution of the Universe) is a fulllength musical drama for nine singers, one actor and Ensemble Musikfabrik’s 17 instrumentalists. Its libretto is based on an eponymous novel by the German writer and graphic artist Eugen Egner, published in 1993.
The subtitle (“a musical picture story”) alludes to graphic novels. Although Egner’s book is not a graphic novel itself, several visual aspects of our musical picture story have obvious references to the world of comics, as, for instance, the division of the stage into two panels and the integration of animated video sequences. Apart from visually perceptible affinities to comics, there are a number of aspects of its dramatic composition and narrative style which distinguish »Der Universums-Stulp« from common operatic concepts. Instead of developing and illuminating the psychologies of a more or less tragic configuration of protagonists, the audience is drawn into a wild vortex of onrushing events — an increasingly adventurous and audacious sequence of startling twists which descend upon the spectator in a Kafkaesque manner, much as they do upon the protagonist himself, TRAUGOTT NEIMANN.
Another distinctive feature is the way in which the libretto is set to music. Notwithstanding the fact that the term „everyday speech“ would be utterly inadequate in the light of the bizarre events delineated in »Der Universums-Stulp«, the libretto remains comprised solely of direct, prosaic speech. First the libretto has been transformed into a basic acoustical form with proto-musical qualities. A number of voice recordings of the entire libretto were made, which became, in multiple ways, the substrucure for the actual compositional work. Although every vocal utterance is based on their meticulous transcription, these written representations of speech were converted for their performance on stage. In nuanced shadings each character employs a specific form of declamation and vocal manipulation.
The blurring of boundaries between natural and synthetic and the entanglements of perception that ensue, generate a range of issues with which the composer has been engaged for many years, and which seem remarkably apt for the subject of this work.