OPERA Based on Events in the Life of Alberto Giacometti:
Alberto Giacometti – a Swiss sculptor – Tenor
Diego Giacometti – his younger brother – Baritone
Annetta Giacometti – their mother – Mezzo-soprano
Peter van Meurs – an older Dutchman – Base
Policeman – Bass-baritone
Coachman – Alto
Giant Sheep – Contraltos
Time: Twentieth Century
Place: Switzerland and Italy
Scene I: Autumn 1904
The village of Stampa is in the Bregaglia Valley of southeast of Switzerland. Piz Duan Inn is located on one side of the street across from a rose-colored house that includes a hay barn along with a stable. Slowly the street fills with a flock of giant, milling sheep. A small boy, Diego Giacometti (age three) wanders from the rose-colored house to the road. Diego gets lost among the sheeps legs and is overcome with sobs. At a window Alberto, the brother, age four, has been watching. He’s beside his mother, Annetta Giacometti, who is laughing. Soon Alberto can’t see Diego any longer but can still hears the pitch of sobbing so he dashes outside and enters the wall of sheep (some with thick dreadlock-like fur). When he locates Diego, he lifts him from between the legs of a sheep. Having remained at the window of the Inn, their mother’s laughter roils on
Scene II: September 1921
High in the mountains of Madonna di Campiglio, a post coach travels along a narrow, twisting road toward the face of cliffs above precipitous gorges. Inside the coach, Alberto Giacometti, age nineteen, sits beside Peter van Meurs, a sixty-one-year-old Dutchman who has pouches under his eyes and stooped shoulders. The coach drives toward the entrance to the Grand Hotel des Alpes, a rambling structure built on the ruins of an ancient monastery and stops. There is a forest in back and a field beside the hotel.
In a narrow room Alberto is asleep in a narrow bed; so is van Meurs, in his own bed. Heavy rain is fall outside the window that opens onto a wooden balcony. At some point that night when Van Meurs begins to writhe from side to side, Alberto sits up, sits beside the sick man. He opens his book | Flaubert’s Bouvard et Pecuchet | begins to read from an introductory essay by Guy de Maupassant: “Those people who are altogether happy, strong and healthy…are they adequately prepared to understand, to penetrate, and to express this life we live, so tormented, so short? Are they made, the exuberant and outgoing, for the discovery of all those afflictions and all those sufferings which beset us, for the knowledge that death strikes without surcease, every day and everywhere, ferocious, blind, fatal?”
Van Meurs’ cheeks have sunk; he is barely breathing through his gaping mouth. Alberto takes paper and pencil and begins to draw the sick man on a great sheet of paper. Alberto draws the concave cheeks, the open mouth, the fleshy nose. Alberto looks up and realizes that van Meurs’ nose is growing longer and longer.
Finally, when Van Meurs closes his eyes and dies, the nose stops extending.
Alberto lights the lamp in order to make the room brighter and brighter until white light fills all the space.