Is Pierre Boulez ‘Waiting for Godot’?


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“Approach!” Vladimir commands in “Waiting for Godot.”

And so, Tuesday afternoon, as Pierre Boulez was waiting for the unveiling of Ernest Fleischmann Square in front of Walt Disney Concert Hall, I approached.

For some months a rumor has been floating around that Boulez, who celebrated his 86th birthday on Saturday in Los Angeles with a small gathering, would base his first opera on Beckett’s play. The opera is expected to premiere in 2015 at La Scala in Milan, where Daniel Barenboim, a close friend of the composer and apparently the source of the rumor, is principal conductor.


Is it true that you are writing “Waiting for Godot”?

I didn’t say that. Boulez laughs a Beckett laugh that could be read many ways.

No, but it seems Daniel Barenboim did.

He’s trying to kill me. Another Boulez Beckett laugh.

But it is true that you are taking conducting sabbaticals to have more time to compose, isn’t it?


Time to compose ‘Godot’?

It’s a very good play. You know, I was at the premiere in Paris [in 1953]. There was a riot in the theater.

Esa-Pekka Salonen was listening in and Boulez was happy when he could change the subject to French playwright Jean Genêt, whom the French composer knew well. Then L.A. Opera Music Director James Conlon, who is a current La Scala favorite, walked up and embraced Boulez.

‘No use struggling,’ Estragon says early on in Beckett’s play, and no use struggling with an answer from Boulez.

But he said enough for me to begin waiting for Boulez’s “Godot.”


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-- Mark Swed