Baltasar & Blimunda IV, “In Lisbon…”

Presented as part of ARTSaha 2005

August 21, 2005, 7 PM

Artists’ Cooperative Gallery

Omaha, NE

Rudolf Kamper’s chamber music epic continued with a real-time illumination of his scoring of a scene from Jose Saramago’s novel wherein a cathedral is robbed. Julie Christensen painted a triptych while a mixed ensemble played and a storyteller roamed among the audience, relating snatches of the narrative.



Rudolf Kamper, Baltasar & Blimunda IV, “In Lisbon…”*

* world premiere



Julie Christensen, painter

Mark Barnette, tuba

Joe Drew, trumpet

John Ellison, accordion

Darci Gamerl, oboe

Marcia Kamper, flute

Rudolf Kamper, conductor/trumpet

John Klinghammer, bass clarinet

Sheila Rocha, dramatist

Tomm Roland, marimba


Program Notes


Baltasar and Blimunda IV, “…In Lisbon” was a collaboration between three artists from different backgrounds. Originally conceived from a narrative from Jose Saramago’s Baltasar and Blimunda a painter, dramatist, and composer each present their own interpretation.

A large triptych comprises the visual aspect. Painter Julie Christensen draws on details from the narrative as well as the mood of the music to create her canvas. The dramatist Sheila Rocha likewise has the opportunity to draw upon the narrative and music as well as the reactions and atmosphere provided by the audience as she shapes her enactment. The overall effect was a complete immersion in the expression of the original story.

Audience members will hear the music, converse with the story, and see the art – all of which is being created before their eyes. During the performance, the audience is surrounded by the music, they are a part of the telling, and they watch the painting unfold.

Rudolf Kamper’s Baltasar and Blimunda are a series of pieces begun during the composer’s stay in Mexico. All of the music in these pieces are expanded from a few short cells of music which were inspired by the characters and themes in Jose Saramago’s novel.

All of the Baltasar and Blimunda pieces are loosely connected by theme but each of the pieces do not necessarily join up to form a standard narrative. Each work is an episode which works autonomously or together as a whole. — Rudolf Kamper

Excerpts from conceptual discussion between Rudolf Kamper & Julie Christensen
“I was really struck by the reflections of the stained glass windows on the floor, and the monks. I am excited to add something like that to my music — to put more bright reflexive sounds dancing on top of the dark and heavy structures which I’ve already got started. Some brittle flute sounds noodling around those big chords should be perfect for this. Also it creates a kind of theme of heavy stone structures (like the church) against these things which aren’t really physical and which float around (the colored light) dancing around the physical and corporeal (the world of men). As I think about it some more this idea is again in the Halo on the saint’s statue. A halo isn’t really physical, it’s just an aura, yet here it is physical enough for the mad monk to “take away” in punishment. Again the difference between the heavy earthbound and ethereal. also mixing the two by making a halo physical and removable.”

Story Fragment
In Lisbon, it happened that some thief or thieves broke into the Convent of St Francis of Xabregas, through the skylight of a chapel adjacent to that of St Antony, and he or they made straight for the high alter and took the three altar lamps, and vanished by the same route in less time than it takes to recite the Nicene Creed.

As the friars began to file into the church, they found it plunged into darkness. The sacrilege was all too recent, for the chains from which the missing silver lamps had been hanging were still swaying gently, whispering in the language of copper “We’ve had a narrow escape! We’ve had a narrow escape!”

Some of the friars rushed out immediately into the nearby streets, divided up into several patrols, had they apprehended the thief, one cannot imagine what they might have done to him in their mercy, but they found no trace of him or of his accomplices, if there were any. Meantime, other friars, believing that the thief might have concealed himself in the church by some cunning ruse, searched the place thoroughly from choir to sacristy, everyone treading on sandaled feet in this frantic search, tripping over the hems of habits, raising the lids of chests, moving cupboards, and shaking out vestments.

An elderly friar known for his virtuous ways and staunch faith noticed that the altar of St Antony had not been violated by thieving hands, despite its array of solid silver, which was prized for its value and craftsmanship. Inflamed with holy zeal and indignation, the holy friar turned on St Antony and rebuked him, as if he were a servant caught neglecting his duties, “Some saint you are, to protect only your own silver while watching the rest get stolen, well in return you’ll be left without anything.” And, with these harsh words, the friar entered the chapel and began to strip it of all its contents, removing not only the silver but the alter cloths and other furnishings as well, and once the chapel was bare, he started stripping the statue of St Antony, who saw his removable halo vanish along the his cross and would soon have found himself without the Child Jesus in his arms if several friars had not come to the rescue, who feeling the punishment was excessive persuaded the enraged old man to leave at least the Child Jesus for the consolation of the disgraced saint.

The old friar considered their plea for a moment before replying, “Very well then, let the Child Jesus remain as his guarantor until the lamps are returned.”