Composer and keyboardist Helga Pogatschar offers here an ambitious work in collaboration with lyricist Károly Koller. Inanna, an hour-long opera for three singers, electronics, organ, cello, flute, and clarinet, is based on the 2,000-year-old Sumerian account Innana's Descent Into the Underworld, itself based on a myth at least four millenniums old. Koller worked from the Sumerian version to produce a German version of the tale of the Goddess Inanna's attempt to conquer the Underworld ruled by her sister Ereskigal (the lyrics are included in both languages in the booklet, with a detailed synopsis in English). Pogatschar took the ancient myth and turned it into a cutting-edge musical work that combines elements of contemporary opera (with extended vocal techniques), musique concrète, and free improvisation. One occasionally thinks of Milton Babbitt, Robert Ashley, and Kadash's Am Berg. Claudia Matussek, Bettina Koziol, and Merit Ostermann share vocal duties. In some sections, the characters' voices intertwine to form complex contrapuntal textures. Elsewhere, Pogatschar manipulates the vocals in real time. The cello, clarinet, and flute are used only to provide local colors; the main instrumentation relies on keyboards, pipe organ, and electronics, all dominated by the operatic voices. The work is split into 14 sections grouped under three chapters: "Descent" (Inanna's journey to the Underworld), "Death and Resurrection" (even defeated, a Goddess should not be left for dead), and "Ascent" (Inanna is granted permission to return to the world of the living, but she must send someone to take her place in the Underworld). "Descent" is full of inventive techniques triggered by the dark mood that predominates. Sadly, Pogatschar has weakly negotiated the drama in "Ascent" (the joy of coming back offset by the burden of the sacrifice) and the piece seems to drag on in the last 15 minutes. Nevertheless, it is an original attempt at resurrecting a forgotten myth.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture