John Cage


mode 38

Cage: Europeras 3 and 4



mode 38/39 John CAGE, Vol.10: Europeras 3 & 4 – The Long Beach Opera.
First recording. A deluxe 2-CD set with 80-page book.

Out of stock

Cage: Europeras 3 And 4

Cage’s EUROPERAS 3 & 4 (1990) receive their first recording from 1993 performances by the Long Beach Opera (California). This authoritative productionwas directed by Andrew Culver, who worked with Cage for eleven years and assisted the composer with the preparation of these works.

EUROPERAS 3 & 4 are Cage’s “middle operas”, flanked by the large-scale orchestral EUROPERAS 1 & 2 written for the Frankfurt Opera and theminiature tourable EUROPERA 5 written especially for pianist¬† Yvar Mikhashoff.

EUROPERA 3 is a dense, tumultuous work and a true celebration of opera. It is scored for six singers singing their favorite arias, six record-players playingclassic 78-rpm opera recordings, 2 pianos playing excerpts from opera transcriptions, and the occasional intrusion of the Truckera tape (a collage of over 100superimposed operas that virtually obliterates the live action) — a multi-layered and multi-textured 70 minute collage of sound, sometimes almost transparent,sometimes almost opaque, but always joyous.

EUROPERA 4 is just the opposite: scored for two sopranos (again singing their favorite arias), a 78-rpm victrola, one piano (also playing operatranscriptions) and this time a distant Truckera. EUROPERA 4 is a sublimely intimate experience of opera — spare, whole and at rest.

Cage insisted that these two EUROPERAS must be performed together and never separately — two contradictory presentations of the same historycoexisting in a single performance. And, a unique listening experience.

This deluxe 2-CD set comes with an 80-page book containing notes by Cage scholar James Pritchett and dozens of photos from the production.

“Europeras 3 & 4: Bliss!” — Allan Rich, L.A. Weekly


Ghosts of Operas Past: John Cage’s Europeras

While so many contemporary composers express the weight of opera’s history and baggage, John Cage revered both in his offerings to the genre. By allowing singers to choose their favorite arias, sung a cappella or against unrelated coincidental accompaniment, he presented them unfettered, juxtaposed, out of sequence, out of time and space, as individual gems to be rethought. Like ghosts of operas past, fragments of classic 78rpm recordings emanate from vintage Victrola along with the Truckeras collage tapes of superimposed operas played as if overheard from the radios of passing vehicles, offering filmy glimpses of bygone performances set against living voices performing their showy war horses. The clarity, sparseness, and lucidity of the more easily tourable chamber work Europeras 5 (mode 36), scored for two singers with piano transcriptions played with Lisztian grandiosity and panache by the late Yvar Mikhashoff, makes it for me the most successful of the mode recorded series.
— Joan La Barbara, Schwann Opus, Summer 1995

“John Cage’s Europeras are the operatic equivalent of channeling…the resulting juxtapositions are as surprising as they are delightful.”
—T.J. Medrek, Jr., TAB

“***** Performance. **** Sound.

The Europeras 3 & 4 are chamber works, premiered in 1990, and are here documented from a beautiful performancegive in Southern California last year. The result is not an opera but the world of opera, all at once. Singers choosearias found in the public domain (Gluck to Puccini); two pianists provide snippets of Liszt piano transcriptions; and six’composers’ operate period Victrolas, on which they play 78-rpm recordinhs, creating a background of scratchiness ascomforting as the whoosh of a waterfall. Chance operations control everything–resulting, maybe, in a counterpoint ofPuccini and Wagner (surprisngly effective) or, maybe, silence. The familiar, here,becomes very new indeed.”
—Mark Swed, BBC Music

Also Available:

EUROPERA 5 performed by Martha Herr (soprano), Gary Burgess (tenor), Yvar Mikhashoff (piano), Jan Williams (victrola) and Don Metz (Truckera). Composer supervised recording of the world premiere.  (mode 36)

John Cage on Mode:
John Cage Profile/Discography

Andrew Culver Profile