David Lang premieres his choral work the public domain this Saturday, August 13 at 5 p.m. as part of the 50th Anniversary of Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival. Inspired by the theme of collective knowledge, the public domain is a work for 1,000 volunteer singers. Lang describes the public domain as "an experiment in how to build a better world." Conducted by Simon Halsey, Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra, the public domain is a free and open event, performed by the public, that will take place on Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza. Annie-B Parsons will choreograph.
Lang looks at darker material in his new one-act chamber opera, the loser, which will come to New York as the opening event of BAM’s 2016 Next Wave Festival, September 7 through September 11, 2016. For the loser, Lang adapted Thomas Bernhard’s novel The Loser (Der Untergeher) into a stage work for solo baritone, concert pianist, and chamber ensemble. Bernhard's novel tells the story of an angry, misanthropic man who struggles to come to terms with the limits of his own talents after an encounter with Glenn Gould.
Lang first read Bernhard's novel in 1998, when it was recommended to him by a friend. In Lang’s hands — Lang serves as librettist, composer, and director of the loser — Bernhard’s ranting narrator is a singer standing on an elevated, slender platform in the middle of a dark theater. The orchestra seating is removed and the audience, seated only in the mezzanine, sees the singer in a void with a lone piano hovering in the far distance, sounding a faint echo of the ideal music as embodied by Glenn Gould. (The chamber ensemble is unseen.) This unusual staging takes the singer and makes physical the “gulf that separates him from his world,” says Lang.