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Cows, opera misha

Cows is not an ordinary opera, although the subject doesn’t seem very striking on the face of it: cows in the pasture, a farmer and his wife. But coming from the mind of professional confusion monger Misha Mengelberg such a thoroughly Dutch setting irrevocably acquires a surrealist touch. Truly extraordinary though is the genesis of the piece: Cows came very close to not existing at all. At the request of ICP manager Susanna von Canon, author and director Cherry Duyns and composer Guus Janssen have saved a unique, only half-finished chapter in Dutch musical history from oblivion.

Mengelberg, who turns eighty this year, is suffering from dementia and by now doesn’t compose anymore. Whether he never completed the work out of purely practical considerations will probably always remain a mystery. The fact is that out of Mengelberg’s lyrics and music, thanks to the efforts of Duyns, Janssen and the ICP Orchestra, a new genre has been created: the opera misha.

Cherry Duyns has compressed the multitude of ideas and fragments from the cow libretto into a comic as well as melancholy story. Browsing through Mengelberg’s rich musical oeuvre, Guus Janssen then found the notes to carry those lyrics. Thus, Cows became a unique collage from the legacy of an artist: the great opera that Misha Mengelberg never wrote.

Music and lyrics: Misha Mengelberg
Direction, scenery and assembly of the libretto: Cherry Duyns
Assembly of the composition: Guus Janssen
Movement consultant: Beppie Blankert
Costumes: Carin Eilers
Hair and make-up: Nienke Algra
Graphics: Han Bennink
Projection: Willem van den Berg
Light: Casper Leemhuis
Sound: Clare Gallagher

Co-production Stichting Enveloppe and Holland Festival
Premiere June 9 2015, Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, Rabozaal. 8 pm.
Second performance: June 10 2015, Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, Rabozaal. 8 pm.
Introduction June 9 and 10, 7.15 pm., by Koen Schouten.
On June 10 following the performance: Meet the Artist with Cherry Duyns and Guus Janssen.