Loreta Narvilaitė: “With the sounds we created, we drew a map of the opera of stories”

Klaipėda and its sounds are one of the most important sources of inspiration for Loreta Narvilaitė, who composed the music for the first act of the story opera “Klaipėda”. From the sounds of the seaside, the sound of the wind, and the experiences of the people who live here, the composer draws new ideas for her work every day. She is influenced by the life of the city, and she changes the city with her work. The constant ambition of the hard-working composer is to try to be ahead of time, to create more than is possible at the time.

On August 4th at 9.30 pm, the International Klaipėda Festival and its stage, the old eling, will present the story opera “Klaipėda”, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Klaipėda’s annexation to Lithuania, commissioned by the Klaipėda State Musical Theatre and written by as many as four composers from the region – L. Narvilaitė, Vladimiras Konstantinovas, Kristijonas Lučinskas and Donatas Bielkauskas. The libretto for this three-part opera was written by Arvydas Juozaitis. The artistic concept of the opera is based on the three fundamental concepts that define the history of the Klaipėda region – man, faith and language. Looking forward to the premiere!

You have been entrusted with a special mission – to write the music for the first act of the story opera Klaipėda. Did you find any accents in the libretto that were suggested to you?

As a composer from Klaipėda, my participation in this project is a really special mission. I am glad that I was invited to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the historic annexation of Klaipėda to Lithuania with sounds. Creating the opera gave me the opportunity to get to know the history, personalities and cultural traditions of a land that is very close to my heart even more deeply. In the libretto of the opera, the author Arvydas Juozaitis gave many hints about all this, which helped in the choice of the musical material. In other words, he laid down the paths along which we, all composers, walked in our own sounds, drawing a map of the main road of the opera of stories.

An extract from Act 1 has already been performed in concerts. What are your first impressions? Maybe you wanted to add or change something? Does the audience’s reaction matter?

It was very interesting to hear a live performance of a fragment of an opera being written. LRT filmed the 100th anniversary concert at the Klaipėda Drama Theatre and placed it in the media library, so I can listen to it again and again and analyse how everything sounds, whether the chosen artistic means worked. It was also interesting to hear the reaction of the audience. Many people have mentioned that my style of work is changing. I don’t feel any significant changes in it myself. When writing the piece, I was mostly focused on the fact that it would have to be performed in an open space, in the Klaipėda eling. Colleagues will probably agree that this has created additional challenges for authors, not only for performers and organisers.

What is the most important thing in your writing? Which historical figures will we see? What kind of musical whirl will you put the characters in?

In the first act of the opera, you’ll meet seven of the opera’s truly large cast of characters. Among them, I would mention historical personalities – this Martynas Jankus, a printer, Vilius Gaigalaitis, a Lithuanian priest, Jonas Budrys, a former book bearer from Lithuania, and Ieva Simonaitytė, a writer. At the end of the action, the objective is stated The merger of Lithuania Minor with Lithuania Major. It is expressed in the obituaries of M. Jankus, V. Gaigalaicis and J. Budrys, who is later appointed commander of the uprising: “Little Lithuania is ours!”. All this takes place on St. Christmas Eve, in a village in Lithuania Minor. Everybody is looking forward to the festival, so the music is mostly light, minor, hopeful, which I like. Dramatic events will come later, in actions written by colleagues.

The musical material was written by several different composers from Klaipėda, so each part of the piece has its own musical language and will be performed by a different line-up of performers. Was there any cooperation between you? What will be the connecting parts of the work?

The four of us wrote to a libretto by one author. Together with the opera’s designer, conductor Tomas Ambrozaitis, we agreed on the characters’ voice characteristics, i.e. y. which voice will sing the part of this or that character in all the acts of the opera. It brought us together. The musical material was chosen independently by each author. The style of the work as a whole is likely to be quite varied, as we are authors of different creative styles.

As a composer living in Klaipėda, how is the city’s historical past important to you?

The city’s historical past is really important. Almost all of us, or our older relatives, are newcomers here. My grandparents (on my mother’s side) came to Klaipėda around 1946, fleeing deportation. So it is very interesting for me to get to know the city that existed before, at the beginning of the 20th century, where famous Lithuanian cultural personalities lived and were active. The year 1923 was indeed a very significant year for Klaipėda Region. Then Stasys Šimkus founded the Klaipėda Conservatoire, which also celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. I am interested in the whole culture of the Klaipėda region, and especially in the longing for the folk songs of Lithuania Minor, which is very distinctive and infinite like the sea…

In an interview, you mentioned that you are inspired by the ever-changing city?

Klaipėda and the sea are constant, recurring themes in my work. It probably couldn’t be otherwise. Whichever city I go to, I immediately compare it to my hometown. Even though I see its shortcomings and imperfections, Klaipėda is still my city. Like the sand of the Lithuanian seaside, I find it the whitest and most beautiful, despite the fact that the water is much warmer in the southern seas.

Living in Klaipėda, where everything flows more calmly than in big cities, in my opinion gives more advantages to a creator. Because true creativity is born in solitude, in a long time with only your thoughts and your pencil. Of course, in the case of this work, also with a story opera libretto, in order to make its meaningful words resonate with valuable, artistically impactful sounds.

Interviewed by Žaneta Skersytė