How I would explain the landscape opera to my grandfather
LISTEN HERE: AUDIO RECORDING OF THIS ESSAY, READ BY DAVID BARLOW
Text: Elske van Lonkhuyzen
‘We entered the forest, about forty of us. Or well, we were probably with fifty people. I say fifty, but it was probably a hundred people. With hundreds, maybe a thousand people, we entered the forest. Some people spoke, but softly. Under our feet the branches broke.’
‘Sometimes we heard music. It came from the left and blew onto the forest path. In a field that we saw through the branches, there were cows. Suddenly a woman’s voice. A soprano, grandpa, so pristine.’
‘In the forest?’
‘Yes, in the forest.
The line of trees stopped and we arrived at a field. There, in the distance in the grass was a pole with three speakers, where the woman’s voice came from. So lamentable and longing that we had to stop. Before us the field, behind us, water. Suddenly I was all alone. There was no wind.
First I saw only one woman. She was wearing a green fisherman’s suit and green rubber boots. Her neck and arms were bare. The music changed to organ music.’
‘What kind of organ?’
‘I don’t know. But I thought: I’m in Holland, with this polder and this organ.’
‘Another woman appeared, and after that another. While singing they came closer. They climbed up the small/low embankment where I was standing. Suddenly the other people were there again. The sun was low. More and more singing women in fisherman’s suits climbed up the embankment. Hundreds of women. Thousands of women.’
‘That’s not possible, is it?’
‘But it’s what happened.
While singing they led us around the water, down the embankment into a field. We had to follow them.’
‘How do you know about that?’
‘I’ve read a Greek myth.’
No-one spoke anymore. The women sang together, then took turns, like they were anwering each others questions. Sometimes it was as if their voices bounced off mountainsides. Suddenly I stood in the Alps again.
‘But you were in the polder?’
‘Yes, it was in the polder.’
‘When the women fell silent, our footsteps in the high grass could be heard. Soft like catfeet on carpet. It turned darker and darker. The moon was a half disc. The left side a sharp straight line, like a perfectly broken in half wafer.’
‘Why would you break a wafer in half?’
‘To share it.
When it was dark, the women climbed into a small boat by the waterside. They lit a small lamp and sailed away.’
‘A thousand women in one small boat?’
They sang while they sailed and just above the treeline, against the darkblue sky a group of geese flew by, neatly behind each other, like a dotted line.
There were more and more silences between the singing, that lasted longer and longer. Their singing like a flickering, fading candle.
Have you ever been in the mountains, grandpa?’
‘No, I only know the countryside.’
‘You would’ve liked it there.’
Essay from Elske van Lonkhuyzen after seeing Signaal bij Haanwijk by Strijbos & Van Rijswijk at Theaterfestival Boulevard 2019. Elske is 1 of the participants of the Dance&Dare SummerSchool, an international project for creative writers who dare to look for new words for dance and performance, by Domain for Art Criticism & DansBrabant. Read all the essays on the DansBrabantBlog.