Zur Begegnung von Wort und Musik: Hiengs ‘Cortesova Vrnitev’ (‚Die Rückkehr des Cortez‘) als Hörspiel und Libretto


  • Gašper Troha


Cortesova vrnitev (The Return of Cortes, 1967) is a radio play by Andrej Hieng, a renowned Slovene dramatist from the 1960s and 1970s. It has had a wide resonance in the former Yugoslavia and has won several prizes. Seven years after its premiere on the Radio Slovenia the composer Pavel Šivic has rewritten it into an opera libretto. His opera is today considered to be one of the best operatic works in Slovenian music literature after World War II. Although musicological analyses of the opera detect several changes in the rewritten text, they all ascribe them to the fact that Šivic had to make it suitable for the stage. However, a comparative analysis shows that the nature of these changes is far more significant. Hieng’s original text represents a genre of existentialist drama that stems from an awareness of metaphysical nihilism; the opera libretto on the other hand repeatedly tries to restore the catholic religious system and thus in a formal sense goes back to the form of traditional drama. As the original text belongs to a different genre it seems to be failing again and again. The article further examines the reasons for this tendency in the opera libretto, and by using some of the theses by Theodor W. Adorno shows that it is actually a result of the basic features of the operatic genre. The conclusion that needs to be further verified is that modernistic dramatic texts of the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries that are based on an awareness of metaphysical nihilism cannot be convincingly rewritten as opera libretti. Is thus a modern opera somehow condemned to traditional texts with some elements of a fairy-tale and can experiment only in the field of musical narration?