In the programme notes, the translation for the word Bruchlandung is “crash landing”. This is as good a description as any for the audience’s initial experience of this experimental and challenging work. The plot centres on the unnamed protagonist’s existence in some ill-defined post-apocalyptic land. There is one decision that the protagonist, voiced so committedly by Guillermo Anzorena, must make. But really, any plot or narrative through-line is secondary to the performances of the piece’s three musicians.

It is shocking, arduous and exhilarating

Divided into four movements or ‘scenes’, Bruchlandung opens with pianist Michael Kieran Harvey repeatedly striking the instrument’s soundboard as four video screens in the background relay images and phrases from the apocalyptic city the protagonist wanders through. Mr. Anzorena’s opening contribution consists of a single, drawn out wheeze (not entirely unlike that featured in Samuel Beckett’s Breathe) and is followed throughout by various and disconcerting whistles, clicks and atonal notes.

Judith Hamann’s cello is introduced at the beginning of the second scene and from there the instrument is stretched beyond what an audience would normally expect. At times it blends perfectly with Mr. Harvey’s syncopated piano and percussion; at others, it sounds like an electric guitar on overdrive and later provides one of the work’s most memorable moments as it accompanies Mr. Anzorena’s voice with a single protracted note.

The four video screens provide increasingly intense vignettes between scenes. However, they could be briefer or perhaps supplemented by accompaniment from one of the musicians. As it stands, they seem a bit disjointed. At times too, the lighting in the auditorium was a bit on the bright side, though thankfully not nearly enough to detract our attention from the performance.

Given the majority of the Fringe Festival’s positive and convivial tone, Bruchlandung stands out. It is shocking, arduous and exhilarating – the combination of which left audience members (and it’s a pity there were so few) in their seats well after the show’s end. 

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The Blurb

From Australian composer James Hullick, a post-apocalyptic chamber opera - a one-man song cycle of humanity's end. Out of grim and perilous darkness, a lone figure emerges: a survivor of some global collapse, tormented by a cruel final dilemma. Punctuated by a minimalist musical score of baritone voice, piano and cello, the tragedy of his tale gradually take ominous shape; this is the way the world ends - not with a blinding flash or rain of fire, but a slow fading of the light. Featuring acclaimed German baritone Guillermo Anzorena, Australia's Michael Kieran Harvey (piano) and Judith Hamann (cello).