Le Grand Macabre synopsis
Le Grand Macabre synopsis
Music by György Ligeti
Libretto by Michael Meschke and György Ligeti after Michel de Ghelderode’s play La balade du Grand Macabre
First performed: 1978
In Breughelland in some century or other
Piet the Pot watches Amanda and Amando look for a spot where they can make love in private. Suddenly Nekrotzar, the Grand Macabre, appears. Piet laughs with Nekrotzar, but the latter proclaims that he is Death and that that very night he will destroy the world with the help of a comet. Nekrotzar recruits Piet as his helper. Meanwhile, Amanda and Amando go and lie in an empty grave. Nekrotzar and Piet set off for the capital.
In the house of the court astrologer Astradamors
The sadistic Mescalina has her husband Astradamors under her thumb. Having tyrannized him, she makes him study the stars. Mescalina falls asleep and dreams that the goddess Venus sends her a more potent lover than her husband. Nekrotzar appears together with Venus. He responds to Mescalina’s appeal but kills her during violent sex. Mescalina does not survive it. Astradamors is happy to be rid of her. Nekrotzar proclaims the end of the world. Together with Piet and Astradamors, he leaves for Prince Go-Go’s palace.
Prince Go-Go’s court
Prince Go-Go is patronized by two ministers, the White Minister and the Black Minister. Gepopo, Chief of the Secret Police, comes to warn Go-Go that an angry mob is on its way to the palace. The ministers try to pacify the mob, but the people want to see the prince. Go-Go addresses the people and blames everything on his ministers. Meanwhile Astradamors has arrived at the palace; now rid of his wife, he expresses joy with Prince Go-Go. However, when a siren is heard, Go-Go takes fright.
Nekrotzar appears with Piet and proclaims the end of the world. The people are afraid. Piet and Astradamors get Nekrotzar drunk. Nekrotzar enumerates his wrong-doings. The comet is now alarmingly close. Nekrotzar announces that he will destroy the world, but falls asleep in a drunken stupor.
Piet and Astradamors believe themselves to be dead and imagine they are in heaven, while Go-Go fears he is the only survivor. Ruffiack, Schobiack and Schabernack appear, intent on killing Go-Go. Nekrotzar awakens from his drunken sleep and is very disappointed to find that he has not destroyed the world. Mescalina – who was only seemingly dead – suddenly appears and hurls herself angrily at Nekrotzar; Ruffiack and Schobiack only just manage to prevent her murdering him. Schabernack brings in the two ministers, who beg for mercy. The ministers and Mescalina blame each other, and a free-for-all breaks out. Piet and Astramadors still think they are in heaven, but when they get thirsty, they realize they are still alive. Nekrotzar now realizes that his plan has not worked and disappears. Amando and Amanda reappear. Finally everyone sings the moral of the story:
Fear not to die, good people all!
No one knows when his hour will fall!
And when it comes, then let it be . . .
Farewell till then, live merrily in cheerfulness!
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