Systema Naturae

/ Systema Naturae

Chamber opera 1997

“Systema Naturae” is the story of the swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (1707-78), who spend most of his life trying to recreate the lost paradise of his childhood garden as a herbarium, a botanical garden, and in endless studies of the system of nature.
Maybe the major reason Linné never succeeded in regaining his childhood paradise, was that he became a slave of classification. Everything had to be sorted out and given a name in order for him to conceive of the world as a place of order.

FACTS

Libretto:
Danish

Composer:
Mogens Christensen

First performance:
Den Anden Opera, Copenhagen, November 1998

Duration:
Approx.2 hour

Singers:
Soprano, 2 tenors, baritone

Other performers
:
A male actor, a young boy

Orchestra:
2 Vi, Vlc, Violone, Fl, Cor Ingl, Cl, Tr, Trb, 2 Perc, Cemb + org

Recordings:
CD recorded by the Danish Broadcast Corporation and Paula Records 1998

SYNOPSIS

“Systema Naturae” is the story of the swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (1707-78), who spend most of his life trying to recreate the lost paradise of his childhood garden as a herbarium, a botanical garden, and in endless studies of the system of nature.
Maybe the major reason Linné never succeeded in regaining his childhood paradise, was that he became a slave of classification. Everything had to be sorted out and given a name in order for him to conceive of the world as a place of order.
Even his own life he subjected to this treatment through no less than 6 auto-biographies.
An other effect of Linnés craving for order was the neurotic obsession with the concept of nemesis, which haunted most of his adult life. For some reason he just couldn´t live with the idea that anything happened by coincidence. His whole world seemed to disintegrate if he wasn´t able to pinpoint the exact cause of everything that occurred. Any accident had to be the punishment for a sin, and any sin had to be punished through a nemesis somehow resembling the committed sin. To prove this theory Linné gathered all the strange fates he happened upon throughout the course of his life in a book called “Nemesis Divina”, which he gave as a present to his son.
The stunning irony of fate is that Carl von Linné, who gave name to 4400 animals and 7700 plants, at the end of his life was hit by an amnesia that robbed him of his own name – of any recollection of his own identity. With a unique symbolic logic life once again surpassed fiction by miles.
Was Linnés unstoppable naming of everything in nature a hubris against the God he clung to ?
And is his amnesia then the adequately fitting nemesis ?
Or is it that his sense of order was so strong that he had to insist on a meaningful closure to his own life – even if that cost him himself ?
Is the power of the mind so great that his craving for order could provoke an amnesia just to make the equation ?
In “Systema Naturae” we join Carl von Linné in the last hours of his life where he is trying to make sense of the entire scope of his life by sorting out and naming the major events of it.

Photos from Den Anden Opera, November 1998

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