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La Carta Imaginaria - Oscar Edelstein

Updated on March 18, 2016

Ciclo Iberoamericano de Ópera Contemporánea

"La Carta Imaginaria" (The Imaginary Letter) is an opera by Oscar Edelstein in the form of a musical poem about that which is written and that which is not - illusion, error and destiny.

It premiered in "Sala Williams", Centro Nacional de la Música (Calle México 564) Buenos Aires on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd June 2014 as part of "Ciclo Iberoamericano de Ópera Contemporánea" (Cycle of Iberianamerican Contemporary Opera) at the Centro Nacional de la Música (Buenos Aires), as a commission by the Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación.

The production was both conceived, written (libretto and score) and directed by Oscar Edelstein and designed specifically for the historic space of the Sala Williams which was once the main hall of the National Library of Argentina.

The performance was conducted by Edgardo Palotta who also acted as a character within the performance.

Acoustic Theatre - Theatre of Memory

With Acoustic Theatre, Edelstein is motivated by his investigations into what he calls “the theatre of memory” which is a study of the lines between memory, imagination, perception, creation, and composition.

For Edelstein Acoustic Theatre helps to build his knowledge and control of spatial qualities; the perception of the movement and location of sound, or for example the qualities of reverberation, diffraction and echoes. It is the strategy that he uses to think, notate and create his varied musical and cultural production. He uses it in order to bring into play the imaginary, literary, and philosophical configurations and generation of a sense of space.

Essentially, Acoustic Theatre traces the relation to music, theatre and performance, from the early acoustic experiments of the Venetian masters up to references of the to the 3D space of Karlheinz Stockhausen, passing through Mahler, Wagner, Debussy, Schónberg, Geörgy Ligetti and Luigi Nono.

Destiny and Repetition

In an interview with Diego Fischerman, music critic for Pagina 12, Edelstein explains the ideas behind "La Carta Imaginaria";

“La Carta Imaginaria works around the problem of destiny and repetition, planted as a game of violent children who are condemned to repeat the same history... It also deals with a reflexion on that which is written and not written, which relates to destiny and how it is translated to the score. [...] Not to disown the authorship, but a work of this kind is the result of quantities of stimulus and ideas that come up in the interpretation. And the interaction between many people that have distinctive styles, different strategies and professional fields: singers, instrumentalists, lighting designers, costume makers. The opera, as in the theatre, is a collective act. I’m interested in this conflict. The transference between the arts, unless you adhere to the conduct of very established genre, needs a certain freedom, a certain expansion, in which inevitable leads to some error of calculation, nevertheless, ends up being part of the truly creative.”

“To remember is to make yourself anew. To know is to become rigid. To create is to remember, without knowledge, something that never happened.”

— Oscar Edelstein
Oscar Edelstein in rehearsal
Oscar Edelstein in rehearsal

Oscar Edelstein

Argentinean composer, pianist, researcher and director (Born 1953 in La Paz, Entre Rios - Argentina)

Oscar Edelstein is an original contemporary composer from Argentina, well known for creativity and inventiveness, and frequently described as leading Latin America's avant-garde.

He is a pianist, conductor, and researcher whose compositions are both acoustic and electro-acoustic. Alongside orchestral and ensemble works, he has made over forty works for theatre and dance, and over fourteen operas including "Los Monstruito" that was commissioned in 2006 by the experimental wing of Buenos Aires' opera house, Teatro Colón.

Site-specific Staging

La Carta Imaginaria was staged in the Centro Nacional de la Música, which has four halls. Edelstein used the unusual hall of the Sala Williams - famous for being the former main reading room of the national library which was at one time under the direction of archetypal Argentinean author, Jorge Luis Borges.

The space has 540 m² and is square in formation. It's breath taking cupola of nearly 30 metres whilst creating an acoustic challenge, gave an added resonance to the themes of memory and destiny in the performance, and a visual perspective to the live performance which was impossible to capture in the video and photographic documentation.

The lighting design of Fernando Chacoma in one key moment drew attention to the splendid and gold adorned dome, giving the audience the sensation of being suddenly in a vast cathedral.

For Edelstein, the production was a return to this iconic space, as in 2006 he worked with multimedia artist Deborah Claire Procter to make the video for Rivers and Mirrors: Part I, working with leading dancer Sandra Grinberg of the Trisha Brown Dance Company. Thus part of the video material for La Carta Imaginaria was an echo of material already created in the Sala Williams for Rivers and Mirrors: Part I.

Another evocative aspect of the hall with it's empty book cases, are the wooden panels with gold lettered lists of names of famous authors and thinkers than run from Goethe to Locke, and Spinoza to Kant.



Traveller 2: NATALIA CAPPA

Traveller 1

Natalia Cappa is a soprano with training in contemporary music. She performed in Edelstein's multimedia opera "El Caballo Fantasma."

Traveller 2

Lucas Werenkraut is a tenor working in both contemporary and ancient music. He was the third lead in Edelstein's "Los Monstruito'", and the lead in "El Caballo Fantasma."

La Carta Imaginaria by Oscar Edelstein. Hermes - Deborah Claire Procter
La Carta Imaginaria by Oscar Edelstein. Hermes - Deborah Claire Procter


Deborah Claire Procter is a singer, performer and multimedia artist from Wales. She has worked on several projects with Oscar Edelstein including "El Caballo Fantasma" and "Rivers and Mirrors: Part I."

El Director

Edgardo Palotta is a director who has worked many times with Edelstein as a director (such as in Los Monstruito and one of the presentations of La Teoría Sagrada del Espacio Acústico) and as a musician. This is the first production where he also played a part as an actor


(in alphabetical order)

Bass Clarinet: LISANDRO ARPÍ
Acoustic Guitar: NICOLÁS PADÍN
Alto Saxophone: MARTÍN PROSCIA

Between Written and Un-written

To go along with the themes of the opera, Edelstein worked with traditionally scored music, open scores and graphic scores.

The ensemble trained together extensively with Oscar Edelstein and musical director Edgardo Palotta to achieve a balance between formal and informal lines.

Production Team

Scenography & Costume Design: JIMENA CHAMORRO



Psychic Assistant: EMANUEL BONNIER

Multi-media Team



Director of Photography: IRENE ROBERT & MAXI LICHY


Ciclo Iberoamericano de Ópera Contemporánea

Supported by Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación

Ministra de Cultura de la Nación: TERESA PARODI

General & Artistic Co-ordination : JUAN ORTIZ DE ZÁRATE
General Co-ordination of Ciclo Iberoamericano de Ópera Contemporánea: MARCELO FERNÁNDEZ

Co-ordination Centro Nacional de la Música: FELISA PAGANI

Other key operas by Oscar Edelstein

El Caballo Fantasma (2014)

Eterna Flotación - Los monstruito (2006)

Tiradentes: Dream of Heroes (2004)

El Hecho (1998)

Los Monstruito (2006)

Tiradentes (2004)

Tiradentes by Oscar Edelstein - site-specific durational opera
Tiradentes by Oscar Edelstein - site-specific durational opera
El Hecho by Oscar Edelstein
El Hecho by Oscar Edelstein

El Hecho (1998)

El Hecho by Oscar Edelstein
El Hecho by Oscar Edelstein

Other work by Oscar Edelstein

Electro-acoustic ensemble: ENS (Ensamble Nacional del Sur)

Famous Modern operas

Universal Edition programme notes explain "Morton Feldman wrote Rothko Chapel for soprano, alto, mixed choir and instruments for the meditation room of the Menil Foundation in Houston/Texas in 1971. The room contains 14 large paintings by the American artist Mark Rothko in red, black and purple tones, which vary according to the light and create an atmosphere of contemplation and tranquillity. "I wanted the music … to permeate the whole octagonalshaped room and not be heard from a certain distance” (Feldman)."

- One soloist, six parts, eight loudspeakers and a 24-year-old tape recording -

"No ordinary work." Tim Rutherford-Johnson (Guardian)

The composition premiered with violin and tapes on September 3rd 1988. A second performance followed in Milan on October 2nd 1988. However Nono wanted to make changes so rewrote the solo part and changed the title.

More information on this fascinating work

"Commissioned by the violinist Gidon Kremer its first performance was intended for September 1988. A full seven months beforehand, Kremer and Nono recorded the tracks that would make up the tape part of the work. Nono set to work compiling the tapes, but the violin part proved harder to write. Two days before the scheduled premiere Kremer had still not received any music. Nono eventually produced something at the 11th hour, but after the first performance he withdrew the score and tapes..."

— Tim Rutherford-Johnson (The Guardian)


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