Yawar Fiesta

Werner Lambersy, Annette Vande Gorne

Yawar Fiesta has been performed in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Birmingham, Bogotá, Brussels, Cagliari, Castelo Branco, Cologne, Corfu, Denton, Dieulefit, Karlsruhe, Leicester, Lisbon, Manchester, Marseille, Montpellier, Montréal, Paris, Saint-Denis, Santiago, São Paulo, Thessaloniki, Troy, Vienna, Weimar and Wrocław…

To Francis Dhomont

Can space written and performed be a factor of expressiveness and dramatization?

Music? Opera? Although this project does not feature a single singer on stage (a stage that will be human and silent), most of its audio materials derive from the voice; the studio records the singers (as in cinema) and transforms their voices.

This is not an electroacoustic piece (with its usual research work into sonic materials and abstract composing); it is the dramatization of a text through, among other means, spatial placement and moving spatial motifs. “Technological” music reconnects with the lyrical tradition of the opera.


The libretto is based on Blood Day, yawar fiesta in Quechua, celebrated each year in villages of the Peruvian Andes that were founded by the Spanish. On that day, a corrida is held where, for the final fight, a condor captured by Amerindians in the mountains is pitted against a bull raised by the villagers. The text symbolically draws ties between this match and other battles, like the spiritual battle between being and having, the social battle between poverty and wealth, and the political battle between the ruling and the ruled. Rites and the arts are the only things that can bring people together.

Organization and Sonicography

The libretto was written in the late 1990s by Werner Lambersy, one of the major French-speaking poets (his works have been translated in over 30 languages). It takes the incantatory and ritualistic form of an ancient Greek tragedy, and does so to picture the duels that live inside us, opposite concepts of society and life, symbolized by a fight between a condor and a bull. Duels between poverty and the power of money, or between the attraction of desire and brutal force, for example.

  • The Amerindian chief, with his reassuring bass tone and calm recitation, embodies spiritual wisdom whose eternal strength always gets the upper hand, in time, on material, political and economical contingencies.
  • The lamento of the Amerindian women’s choir — Lamento (Chœur des femmes I) — sticks close to the singing intonations of the voice, its vibrato, its colours, to express the universal lament of helpless mothers against injustice.
  • Act II — Taureau (Le défi) — takes us to the heart of Western society, panem et circences (“bread and circuses” or “bread and games”), brash and merciless, through the declamatory and incisive voice of the tenor.
  • In the bourgeois women’s choir — Combattimento (Chœur des femmes II) —, dramatic singing and lyricism gradually impose themselves like some undeniable truth. This yields a hybrid form of writing that pairs spaces, energies, morphologies, and harmonic colours.
  • The final monologue (Monologue final) is organized into two contradicting inner voices that inhabit us: the voice of power always ready to crush and possess, and the voice of lightness and spirituality.

The poetic and timeless qualities of this libretto opens the way to symbolic, archetypal writing, both for the text and its translation into music. This approach makes the deeper meaning of the text clearer for the listener without stopping at the literal meaning of the anecdote. The characters are symbolically split into two peoples with opposite notions of the human being and society. They express what is important and, like in any poetical text, meaning seeps in from beyond the words — not an individual meaning but a collective one, strengthened by the presence of the choir that translates the deeper nature of Man in the vast, quasi-sacred fashion of ancient Greek drama.

One of the goals of this manifestation, beside the artistic aspect of the work, is to demonstrate that space is a musical parameter, like pitch, duration, dynamics, and timbre, and it should be used in composition. Strong relationships between space, character and action will allow us to develop the listener’s spatiotemporal perception.


Yawar Fiesta is an opera designed to be staged on video. The work consists of an audio projection of the spatialized acousmatic composition on an array of loudspeakers paired with a visual projection of three-dimensional images (synthesized or treated) for virtual reality helmet.

Therefore, the stage is silent and there are no singers on it. The singers recorded vocal improvisations in the studio according to the composer’s directions. The whole libretto is heard through loudspeakers, and these loudspeakers are seen as sources, characters, and space-supports.

The sound space is created by a minimum of 7 loudspeakers set around the audience. Each spatial shot, each movement is symbolically assigned to a character, an action or an affect that marks the “inner location” from which they are speaking according to the text.

[English translation: François Couture, xi-16]

Yawar Fiesta was realized between 2006 and ’12 at the Métamorphoses d’Orphée studio of Musiques & Recherches in Ohain (Belgium), and premiered on October 28, 2012 as part of the 19th festival L’Espace du son at Théâtre Marni in Brussels (Belgium). The work was realized with support from the Service de la musique classique et contemporaine du Service de la Création artistique de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Thanks to: Musiques & Recherches. Recorded voices: Lorenzo Carola, tenor (Taureau (Le défi)); Paul Alexandre Dubois, baritone (Condor (La veillée)), Taureau (Le défi)); Madiha Figuigui, mezzo-soprano (Combattimento (Chœur des femmes II)); Nicolas Ischerwood, bass (Condor (La veillée)); Charles Kleinberg, narrator (Monologue final); Werner Lambersy, narrator (Taureau (Le défi), Monologue final); Annette Vande Gorne, contralto (Combattimento (Chœur des femmes II)); Françoise Vanhecke, soprano (Lamento (Chœur des femmes I), Combattimento (Chœur des femmes II)).


  • October 28, 2012, L’Espace du son 2012: Yawar Fiesta, Théâtre Marni, Brussels (Belgium)


Yawar Fiesta (2006-12), 87:28
electroacoustic opera
7.1-channel fixed medium




Date Work Program
August 1, 2017 Annette Vande Gorne / Werner Lambersy, Yawar Fiesta (2006-12), 87:28 [Excerpt] Late Junction with Fiona Talkington and Emil Schult / BBC Radio 3 (UK)
April 8, 2020 Annette Vande Gorne / Werner Lambersy, Yawar Fiesta (2006-12), 87:28 Radio Horizon 93.9 FM (South Africa)