The European premiere of Andrew Schultz’s immersive, site-specific 60 minute work for two pianos, Dark Well, occurs at the Opera Schrattenbach 2023 Festival in Czechia on 30 November, 2023.

The work will be performed by Martin Smutný and Kateřina Ochmanová in the beautiful Baroque church, Corpus Christi Chapel Olomouc (see photo above by Jan Beránek).

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“The well bottom is like the bottom of the sea. They possess the light, while I am in the process of losing it.”

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

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The Dark Well of the title refers both to a physical place and a mental state. The work explores darkness and emotion, the margins of hearing, and the borderlands of perception and the unconscious. The physical place is a dry and disused well – mysterious, deep and forbidding from the surface. It is difficult to enter the well alone but impossible to leave without someone to assist. The well is without water but there are other things at the bottom nonetheless and we slowly become aware of them as we adjust to the absence of light: rocks and dirt, lost toys, discarded objects, weeds, insects and bones.

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“God! what darkness this! What terrifying silence!” Beethoven, Fidelio (Act II, Scene I).

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Dark Well is dedicated to the two Australian pianists, Sonya Lifschitz and Stephen Emmerson, who worked closely with Schultz on its development through an initial residency provided by the Australia Council and the Ukaria Arts Centre.  The composition of the work was originally sketched in 2019 at the Résidence Mont Blanc – a nineteenth century building in Chamonix in the French Alps with a forbidding but superbly dark and inspiring basement!  Video projections and lighting concepts for Dark Well were initially created in collaboration with artist, Alyssa Rothwell and video editor, Martin Fox over the 2019-22 period.

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“A barefoot child on the cool boards of a house

I left decades ago, I pause and hear

your footfall on the landing. Is that you

son? I dare not answer. If I went and stood

in the dark well looking up, would you be there?”

David Malouf, Elegy: The Absences.

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LINKS

To read more about Dark Well and the forthcoming European performance, including YouTube film clips, click here.

To read more about the Opera Schrattenbach 2023 Festival, click here –– and if you read Czech, click here for the Festival’s blog.

To read reviews of the performance, click here.


 

A trailer for the Australian production of Dark Well can be seen here on YouTube.

 

Rothwell and Schultz had previously worked on two animation film projects Joyride and Deep Blue and Dirty.