Mittwoch aus Licht

Mittwoch aus Licht
Karlheinz Stockhausen on Wednesday, 20 April 2005 in his garden in Kürten

Mittwoch aus Licht (Wednesday from Light) is an opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen in a greeting, four scenes, and a farewell. It was the sixth of seven to be composed for the opera cycle Licht: die sieben Tage der Woche (Light: The Seven Days of the Week). It was written between 1995 and 1997.



Mittwoch has not yet been given its staged premiere. The four component scenes were separately commissioned and premiered:

  • Welt-Parlament ("World Parliament") was commissioned by the South German Radio Stuttgart and was composed from 29 December 1994 to 5 March 1995. It received its premiere on 3 February 1996, at the Hegelsaal of the Liederhalle in Stuttgart, sung by the Choir of the South German Radio, conducted by Rupert Huber, with sound projection by Karlheinz Stockhausen (Stockhausen 1996a, I and VI).
  • Orchester-Finalisten ("Orchestra Finalists") was commissioned by Jan van Vlijmen, director of the Holland Festival, and was premiered on 14 June 1996, at the Carré Theatre, Amsterdam, by the Asko Ensemble.
  • Helikopter-Streichquartett was premiered by the Arditti Quartet and the Grasshoppers on 26 June 1995 in Amsterdam, as part of the Holland Festival.
  • Michaelion was composed in 1997 on a commission from Udo Zimmermann for the Musica Viva concert series of the Bavarian Radio, Munich. The score is dedicated to the Archangel Michael. It was premiered on 26 July 1998 in the Prinzregententheater, Munich (Musica Viva series) by the Choir of the South German Radio, conducted by Rupert Huber, with Kathinka Pasveer (flute), Michael Vetter (bass with short-wave receiver), Andreas Fischer (bass), Suzanne Stephens (basset horn), Marco Blaauw (trumpet), Andrew Digby (trombone), Antonio Pérez Abellán (synthesizer), and Natascha Nikeprelevic (camel assistant) (Stockhausen 2002, VII and XV).


Wednesday is the day of cooperation and reconciliation among Michael, Eve, and Lucifer. Wednesday's exoteric colour is bright yellow (Stockhausen 1989b, 200) and its esoteric colour is iridescence of all colours. The divine principles are intuition and harmony, the theme is love, friendship, and cosmic solidarity, the element is air, the associated senses are sight (especially the right eye) and pure reason. Its metal and planet are both Mercury (with the associated symbol Mercury symbol.svg), its precious stones are yellow zircon and topaz, the associated scents are mastic and frankincense, and its number is 8 (Stockhausen 2002, III and V). Mittwoch is in four scenes, preceded by a greeting and followed by a farewell.


The Wednesday Greeting consists of the electronic music from the fourth scene, Michaelion, and is played in the foyer amidst flues, winds, blowers, kites, balloons, and flying doves (Stockhausen 2002, III and V).

Scene 1: Welt-Parlament

Rupert Huber, conductor of the premiere of Welt-Parlament in 1997

The World Parliament convenes in a session above the clouds, and the subject for debate is love. As the parliamentarians arrive via transparent elevators at the top floor of the skyscraper or floating glass dome, helicopters and doves occasionally pas by in the blue sky beyond. The debate is carried on in unknown languages, with occasional lapses into intelligibility in the local language. When a janitor interrupts with the news that an illegally parked car is about to be towed away, the President realises it is his, and rushes out. A coloratura soprano is elected temporary President, and the debate is continued. After a final large vowel spiral, the parliamentarians synchronously declare the central theme of the opera: "World parliament Wednesday from Light, day of reconciliation, love". The session is adjourned, all rise and exit while singing further attributes of Wednesday ("day of spaces", "day of women's rights", "day of Mercury", "day of reconciliation", "day of flying", "day of new languages", etc.) on a G. Unsure where he should exit, the fattest bass stops, turns to the audience in embarrassment, and before leaving stutters, "Yeah, and now the next scene would follow".

Scene 2: Orchester-Finalisten

The Carré Theatre in Amsterdam, where Orchester-Finalisten was first performed

Eleven instrumentalists compete for posts in an orchestra, while floating high in the air. Telescopic observation reveals a variety of airborne scenes: a cathedral roof, aeroplanes flying over the sea, ships in a harbour, etc. After all auditions have been completed, a horn player unexpectedly enters the hall, playing a signal, after which all of the players fly upward in a tutti finale. The solos are accompanied by electronic and concrete music in octophonic spatial projection, and each is associated with a particular image:

  • Oboe above a cathedral
  • Violoncello over an airport by the sea
  • Clarinet above a harbour with passing aircraft
  • Bassoon over a train pulled by a steam locomotive
  • Violin above a bird reserve
  • Tuba amongst flocks of birds and swarms of bees
  • Flute above a kindergarten with small goats
  • Trombone above a swimming pool with elephants
  • Viola flying with wild geese over a railway station
  • Trumpet over a Marrakech market-place, with zebras, lions, wild geese, and horses
  • Contrabass above a sailing ship, with tree frogs and a rattletrap
  • Horn
  • Orchestral Tutti

Scene 3: Helikopter-Streichquartett

The Dutch Grasshoppers aerobatics team in 1984.

The four musicians of a string quartet are carried into the air in four helicopters, from where they play a synchronized, polyphonic composition while reacting to the sounds of the rotor blades. Their playing is also influenced by the movements chosen by the pilots. From time to time their playing comes together in the same rhythms and bowings, even though it is plain they are isolated and kilometers apart. Video cameras and microphones transmit their images (including views through the glass cockpits of the world below) and sounds to four towers of video monitors and loudspeakers in the auditorium on the ground.

Scene 4: Michaelion

The Michaelion is a galactic headquarters where a meeting of delegates from different stars has been called in order to elect a new President. He or she must be a "galaxy operator" who can translate universal messages no-one else can understand. The scene consists of three sub-scenes.


As the delegates arrive, the word goes round that the favourite candidate is named Lucicamel. In the auditorium, someone is listening to a short-wave radio, occasionally mimicking the sounds. After a while, he leaves.


Bactrian camel in the Cologne Zoo

Lucicamel, who is a Bactrian camel, arrives accompanied by a trombonist dressed in white, and is greeted by the delegates. In a series of events, he presents himself to the assembly.

  • "Kakabel". Lucicamel sings of Camael, the angel of the seven planets, and defecates seven differently coloured planet globes, "which emphasize MICHAEL'S light for the seven days of the week". Not all of the delegates are favourably impressed.
  • "Shoe-Shine Serenade". Two tenors polish Lucicamel's left fore hoof until it shines like gold, while two other tenors do the same with his left hind hoof.
  • "Pocket Trick". Lucicamel turns around and abruptly sticks one hoof into his pocket. Two tenor delegates entice him away with a large bottle of champagne and he nearly leaves, but is stopped and brought back by two altos.
  • "Camel Dance". A little tipsy, Lucicamel and his trombone assistant dance, while he sings the names of stars and sneers at "Sirius philistines who say that Lucicameltrombonut are not musical". The delegates chuckle and make ironic and humorous comments.
  • "Bullfight". Trombonut plays the part of a matador and Lucicamel plays the bull, while the delegates clap and cheer them on. Lucicamel wins, and sits down on the fallen trombonist while a podium is brought in and the women unzip the camel costume. From it emerges Luca, wearing a Zen monk's cape. He is brought a yellow robe, mask, and high, pointed hat. He is acclaimed as President and Operator, and takes his place on the podium.


A short-wave receiver

As Michael's Operator, Luca listens to broadcasts received on a short-wave radio in order to provide reports in response to problems successively posed by eleven delegates, who imitate him, poorly but humorously.

  • Thinki. An alto delegate's question (in German) is accompanied by a flautist in an ornate cadenza, and the Operator replies (in English), that "Leo lion galaxies ask Michael If God wants Michael, Eve, Lucifer to work together for cosmic solidarity".
  • Bassetsu Trio (Carousel). Trombonut and the flautist are now joined by a basset-horn player. Together they play and dance in a stylized, rotating choreography as the choir receives instruction from the Operator in various styles of singing and languages (Noh, Kabuki, American, Russian, Swedish, Italian, Kölsch, French, Zulu, Bavarian, Greek, Dutch, North German, and Chinese).
  • "Menschen, hört" ("Mankind, Hear")—Space-Sextet. The delegates are sent out to the distant corners of the universe. Six of them are each presented with one of the planet-globes to take along, and come out into the auditorium to sing a concluding sextet as they rotate clockwise around the audience. As they leave the hall, the Operator is alone on the stage and gradually fades from sight, still transforming short-wave sounds, until only the nocturnal firmament is left shining above.


The Wednesday Farewell is the electronic music from scene 2 which, like the electronic music for act 2 of Dienstag, is projected octophonically through speakers arranged at the corners of a cube surrounding the audience. Here, however, it is played "beyond mirrored visions", in the form of video projections of the eleven space-events of Orchester-Finalisten, in the foyer as the audience departs (Stockhausen 2002, III and V).


  • Helicopter String Quartet, a film by Frank Scheffer. Close-up: documentaireserie waarin Frank Scheffer zijn visie geeft op diverse 20e-eeuwse componisten. [S.l.]: AVRO. Televisie-opname, 1995.
    • German DVD release (German and English, DVD) Helicopter String Quartet. Frank Scheffer; Karlheinz Stockhausen. Kürten, Germany: Stockhausen-Verlag, 2006.
    • London Helicopter String Quartet. Frank Scheffer; Ton van der Lee; Karlheinz Stockhausen 2008, 1995. German Visual Material: Videorecording: DVD video 1 videodisc (77 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.
    • French DVD release. Helicopter String Quartet. Karlheinz Stockhausen; Frank Scheffer. 2008, 1995. Videorecording: DVD video 1 DVD-Video (113 Min. [error: 77 mins., like the others]) + 1 Begleitblatt. [Paris]: Idéale Audience International.
  • Stockhausen: Helikopter Streichquartett. Sound Director: André Richard. a co-production with Red Bull & Salzburg Festival. Bernhard Fleischer Moving Images, 2003.
  • Stockhausen, Michaelion, scene 4 from Mittwoch aus Licht. Colour film by Suzanne Stephens. 59 minutes. (Archive No. 109 / 1). Live recording of the world première on July 26, 1998 in Munich at the Prinzregenten Theatre with the Choir of the South German Radio (conductor: Rupert Huber), Michael Vetter (short-wave singer), Kathinka Pasveer (flute), Suzanne Stephens (basset-horn), Marco Blaauw (trumpet), and Andrew Digby (trombone). Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag, 1998.


  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Mittwochs-Gruß. Antonio Pérez Abellán (synthesizer). Karlheinz Stockhausen (realisation). Stockhausen Complete Edition, CD 66. Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag, 2003.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Welt-Parlament. Südfunk Chor Stuttgart, Rupert Huber (cond.); Karlheinz Stockhausen (sound projection). Stockhausen Complete Edition CD 51. Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag, 1996.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Orchester Finalisten. Asko Ensemble, Amsterdam; Karlheinz Stockhausen (sound projection). Stockhausen Complete Edition CD 49. Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag, 1997.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Helikopter-Streichquartett: Uraufführung 1995 + Studioproduktion 1996. Arditti String Quartet (Irvine Arditti, Graeme Jennings [world premiere] and David Alberman [studio recording of the revised score], violins; Garth Knox, viola; Rohan de Saram, cello); "The Grasshoppers" (helicopter acrobatic team); Karlheinz Stockhausen, musical direction, recording supervision, sound projection, mix-down, and moderation [of the world premiere]. Stockhausen Complete Edition, Compact Disc 53 A-B (2 CDs). Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag, 1999. Studio version also released on Montaigne Auvidis MO 782097 (CD).
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Helikopter-Streichquartett. Arditti String Quartet (Irvine Arditti & David Alberman, violins; Garth Knox, viola; Rohan de Saram, cello); "The Grasshoppers" (helicopter acrobatic team, recording from the third Amsterdam performance, mixed in). Arditti Quartet Edition 35. Montaigne Auvidis MO 782097 (single CD). Paris: Montaigne Auvidis, 1999.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Bassetsu-Trio and Mittwochs Abschied. Suzanne Stephens (bassetthorn); Marco Blaauw (trumpet); Andrew Digby (trombone). Stockhausen Complete Edition, CD 55. Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag, 2000.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Vibra-Elufa for vibraphone, Komet for a percussionist and electronic and concrete music; Nasenflugeltanz from Samstag aus Licht for a percussionist and synthesizer ; Klavierstück XVIII for synthesizer; Mittwoch Formel for 3 percussionists. Stockhausen Complete Edition CD 79. Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag, 2005.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Michaels-Ruf, Bassetsu for basset horn, Synthi-Fou, Quitt, Komet for a percussionist, Trumpetent. Markus Stockhausen, Andreas Adam, Marco Blaauw, Achim Gorsch (trumpets), Suzanne Stephens (clarinet and basset horn), Stuart Gerber (percussion), Antonio Pérez-Abellán (synthesizer), Kathinka Pasveer (alto flute) Stockhausen Complete Edition CD 82. Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag, 2007.
  • Tara Bouman, Klarinette, Bassetthorn: Contemporary. Includes Klarinette aus Orchesterfinalisten from Mittwoch aus Licht. (CD) DeutschlandRadio Aktivraum AR 50101. Cologne: Aktivraum Musik, 2003.


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