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Anaïs Nin


“I await my father with deep joy and impatience. Tomorrow, tomorrow, begins another romance!” (Anaïs Nin)

Anaïs Nin is a monodrama, a musical stage play for one voice (Cristina Zavalloni), an ensemble of eight on-stage musicians, without conductor, and projected film fragments.

The voice, Anaïs Nin, sings of her love affair with her father, Joaquín Nin, whom she encounters again after 20 years’ absence, and of her lovers René Allendy, Antonin Artaud and Henry Miller. They are given expressive voice, both in the film clips and on tape, by the singer Hans Buhrs.

As the piece begins we see Anaïs Nin and Antonin Artaud taking a romantic walk. On the stage she sings of her ‘night of ecstasy’ with him. Anaïs Nin sings of her affair with her psychiatrist René Allendy, and of Artaud’s criticism of her behaviour. Artaud: “What have you done to Allendy? You have harmed him.”

Anaïs Nin then sings of her renewed encounter with her father (film clips). She isinterrupted by a furious Henry Miller, but continues the story of her relationship with Joaquín. After a dramatic climax, she fantasises in a letter to her father about a moment of great peace in which he is sitting on his bed. Later, in the room where Henry Miller is sleeping, Anaïs sings of her loneliness and her never-ending hunger.

As the piece ends, a 1930s’ gramophone recording of Joaquín Nin’s arrangement of a Basque Christmas carol is heard from the stage.

I knew about the father before I heard about the daughter because my father’s sheet music collection contained piano pieces and a volume of Spanish songs by the then famous pianist and composer Joaquín Nin. A few years later, during the sixties, an American diary author became famous, mainly because of her sexual frankness. After some research it emerged that she was the composer’s daughter. Much later still Irealised that she had had a love affair with her father.

After many years’ intensive collaboration with the Italian artist Cristina Zavalloni I realised that the role of Anaïs Nin would suit her very well. Meanwhile the volume of Anaïs’ diaries about her relationship with her father had been published unabridged in English under the title Incest.

A few years ago two of my best friends, Gerard Bouwhuis and Heleen Hulst, founded a new ensemble, Nieuw Amsterdams Peil (‘New Amsterdam Water Level’) with outstanding soloists who had decided to perform twentieth and twenty-first century music for small ensembles (up to 12 players) without a conductor. All this prepared the ground for me to compose Anaïs Nin. Reading the diaries from the years 1932 to 1934 I learned that this father was only one lover amongst several. This led to my decision to give three of them a stage role: the French film actor, poet and playwright Antonin Artaud; Henry Miller, the American alcoholic whom Anaïs Nin turned into a writer; and René Allendy. Under psycho-medical treatment himself, Artaud soon discovered Anaïs’ erotic hunger and advised her to consult his psychiatrist. Not long afterwards Allendy was added to Nin’s tally of lovers.

My choice of instruments was influenced by the era when the selected diary extracts were written, namely the early 1930s. This explains the use of saxophones, clarinets and percussion (drumset including a hi-hat and guiro). The music closely tracks the irony, despair and passion of this brilliant, many-sided woman.

from notes by Louis Andriessen © 2011
English: Richard Wigmore


Andriessen: Anaïs Nin & De Staat
SIGCD273Download only


No 1: Artaud
Track 1 on SIGCD273 [5'06] Download only
No 2: Allendy
Track 2 on SIGCD273 [5'34] Download only
No 3: I await my father
Track 3 on SIGCD273 [4'52] Download only
No 4: Father story
Track 4 on SIGCD273 [4'40] Download only
No 5: The seduction
Track 5 on SIGCD273 [7'01] Download only
No 6: Strange days
Track 6 on SIGCD273 [3'45] Download only
No 7: The seventh day
Track 7 on SIGCD273 [1'54] Download only
No 8: Henry was tired
Track 8 on SIGCD273 [4'05] Download only
No 9: Basque song

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