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Ágens & Company

Ágens is one of the most exciting and unique talents in Hungary’s contemporary theatre and music scene. She started dealing with art at the age of 27. Departing from the smallest independent theatres, by today, her performances have become real musical and theatrical curiosities. The Budapest Autumn Festival and Budapest Spring Festival host her works annually offering an opportunity to present her art to the wide public. Her performances are played in such noted places as TRAFO House of Contemporary Arts, MU Theatre, the Palace of Arts Budapest, Kunsthalle and A38.

 

’Ágens’s name is becoming more and more a notion, as her art, all of her premières, performances are memorable, stirring experiences.’                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Attila Deák in terasz.hu 2004.

‘... The contemporary dance opera, Tenebrae, created by Ágens, fascinated her audience this time as well, with her ‘arias’ inspired by the Baroque opera, and aiming at the transcendental.’                                                                                                                                                                                                      Tamás Jászay in Criticai lapok 2003/10-11.

 

‘Ágens, our bravest, unclassifiable singer...               Ágnes Veronika Tóth in Élet és Irodalom, 31/10/2003

 

’You just can’t get away from the effects created by Ágens and Iva Bittova. Their performances focus on music but other forms of art play a significant role, as well. Because of their common quest for perfection they can only work with excellent companions. Their ability for reflection and deep thoughts put them among the best representatives of our age, the only difference being that of them is coming from the past while the other is heading for the future.’               Zoltán Végső in Balkon 2002/10

 

‘Ágens’ is an expert in several singing techniques (opera, chanson, song, jazz, sprachgesang)...’

                                                                                                                                                                                               Gábor Papp in Ellenfény (contemporary theatre and dance-art), 2002/7.

 

Ágens’s fantastic voice, which played easily with octaves...’                                                                        Boglárka Farkas in Zsöllye, September 2000

 

’Ágens is a specially talented dramatic actress, who works not only with her voice, but also with a fantastic system of signs. With her refined mimics, gestures, she "makes" a theatre. She sings, sobs, howls rattling, before us, the sorrow of the happy female devouring life, grasping everything into herself, and then that of the "eternal woman" , more and more lonesome, exhausted, fighting death. Ágens is certainly not an easy bite for the critics.’                           Attila Deák in terasz.hu, October 2003.

                                                                                                                                      

Ágens writes and directs her performances. “What I do is take pieces of classical music and present them as contemporary works (Purcell, Corelli, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Mozart). Under the conditions of post-modern theatre the works are placed in a different context, based not on historical and chronological connections but on ideas (thought-score).”                                               Ágens

 

Her recent productions Tenebrae (2002), Meus (2003), Purcell picnolepsy (2004), Ulixes (2005) an interactive opera, aqua toffana (2006) a contemporary Mozart opera and her latest piece ’plastic-fantastic-bombastic’ (2006).

 

She has worked with Meredith Monk, various visual artists, contemporary and classical musicians in independent and mainstream theatres, has been the composer of a film shot in New York and Venice, and also participated as a singer and a composer in several Hungarian feature films, and in a number of Hungarian mainstream theatre pieces. She has published two CDs.

 

Ágens's short curriculum vitae

Ágens, one of the most promising emerging talents of today's contemporary theatre/music scene in Hungary, has, in fact, chosen an adventurous path to become an artist.

As a young girl, she studied the piano and singing — only to forget it all for the following 15 years. Finishing secondary school specialised in accountancy, she moves to the other end of the country to study Hungarian language and public education. A year later she is back to Budapest, enrols in a private drama school, works as a bookseller, finishes her studies as a teacher of the Hungarian language, and tries herself in different positions, from editing TV programmes, through being an assistant to a lawyer, the manager of an art gallery, the co-director of a management school, a sales director of periodicals, to working as a journalist.

At the age of 27 she quits her master studies at the Faculty of Film of the Academy of Drama and Film and starts singing. And she has been singing ever since.

Over the past 15 years, Ágens has been working with, and creating theatre pieces or actions with a wide range of actors, both professional and amateur, including dancers, poets, writers, visual artists, musicians as well as prostitutes and clochards. The number of productions she participated in throughout these years is well beyond thirty, also including partners like Meredith Monk. As a singer she has been the protagonist in a film shot in New York and Venice, while also participating as a singer and a composer in several Hungarian feature films, and in a number of Hungarian mainstream theatre pieces.

Her first major solo concert, MEUS, was presented in 2003 at the Budapest Autumn Festival and earned her considerable acclaim. It was soon followed, in 2004, by her first major independent production, Purcell Picnolepsy, a contemporary opera with two singers, two musicians and four dancers. In the same year, the performance was given the Award for the Best Independent Production of the season by the Municipality of Budapest. Her new production, Ulixes, will be an interactive opera, and is planned to be presented in 2005. In 2006, at the Budapest Spring Festival, she will present her monumental new work, a contemporary Mozart opera called aqua toffana.

The work of Ágens is described by many as a fusion of the ¶uvre of Meredith Monk, György Kurtág and the shamanistic singers of Siberia. So far, she has published two CDs.

'... Ágens is a specially talented dramatic actress, who works not only with her voice, but also with a fantastic system of signs. With her refined mimics, gestures, she "makes" a theatre. She sings, sobs, howls rattling, before us, the sorrow of the happy female devouring life, grasping everything into herself, and then that of the "eternal woman" , more and more lonesome, exhausted, fighting death.’

Attila Deák in terasz.hu, Oct 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘(…) Purcell Picnolepsy is a highly sensitive artistic reflection of new age tendencies. I believe it may be a true masterpiece of our age.

(…) The genre of Purcell Picnolepsy was defined by its author as a contemporary opera. Contemporary operas are verbal. Yet author Ágens has crossed the Rubicon: in the opera she wrote there is not a single well-articulated word, and no automated translation device would ever be able to identify a single intelligible word – in any language.

... The stage presence and the special singing technique of Ágens and Viktória Kiss results in an inspiring, overwhelming performance. The spectator is bedazzled: he both follows and participates in a dramatic plot, that doesn’t have a tangible existence, in the sense that it is totally lacking action of any description. The same is true for the ‘text’: the singing technique based on a total lack of articulate words seems nevertheless comprehensible, or, put it another way, its incomprehensibility is not remarkable, not disturbing.

(…) It is not by chance that Ágens ‘placed’ into Purcell’s music the ‘arias’ she wrote. The sound of Baroque music and its ideological whirling towards heaven creates a background that is adequate in every respect for the vocal sounds ‘rising to the spheres’ as composed by Ágens.’

Csaba Kutszegi: Missing Presence - Purcell Picnolepsy -

In: Színház, journal for drama critique and theory, May 2004

 

   ‘On Ship A 38, Ágens presented Meus, a piece in three movements, barely more than sixty minutes, accompanied by viola da gamba (Xénia Stollár), viola (Ádám Jávorka) and percussion (Lajos Panyik). In these sixty minutes, we find out what Ágens thinks about life, death, the world, and about us. First it seems as if she only played and constantly improvised with her voice. Later on, as she gets more involved in the dramatic voice play (sometimes she even glances into the notes), we find out that we are the participants of a performance composed with strict humbleness. At a point, the piece recalls memories of when I first saw-heard Iván Darvas in the Diary of a Madman, or Mari Törőcsik in Beckett's Happy Days. Because actually, Ágens is a specially talented dramatic actress, who works not only with her voice, but also with a fantastic system of signs. With her refined mimics, gestures, she "makes" a theatre. She sings, sobs, howls rattling, before us, the sorrow of the happy female devouring life, grasping everything into herself, and then that of the "eternal woman" , more and more lonesome, exhausted, fighting death.

Ágens is certainly not an easy bite for the critics. Still, fortunately, more and more theatre people recognise her elementary talent, and make use of this in theatre performances. (Imre Madách's The Tragedy of Man - in Nemzeti Színház, Arthur Miller's The Crucible - in Vígszínház). What Ágens knows about theatre, and how she communicates from the stage to her audience, may be compared best with Sándor Zsótér's theatre, way of expression. Every step she takes, every gesture she makes, is precisely, orderly elaborated - and her voice is a goldmine: wide-ranging, arousing, lewdly erotic.

Marvellous! Let's care for Ágens!’

Attila Deák: Ágens, the Miracle!

in terasz.hu, Okt. 2003.

    

‘And after literature has left the stage, (...) Ágens the singer’s voice, recalling the howling wind, the rolling ocean, the moaning of wounded sirens, filled the room.’

László Márton

The Bródy-Prize and its Award

terasz.hu 20/10/2003

 

’ … Do you remember the mutant blue operasinger from the movie titled Fifth Element.? Although we don’t live in space, Ágens is at least ten years ahead of her time with her solo chamber opera. An entirely new language and self-mythology creates a dark utopia, a vision of the future clearly and precisely drawn. Tenebrae is a series of gestures Krisztián Gergye’s  strange choreography is a mixture of Javanese dances and provocative dance-elements, while the singer’s continuously distorted voice elevates the audience to another sphere. The ethereal vibration, the metaphysical mood and the special intonation have a very special effect on the mind: you will be immersed in the mist of pessimism even weeks after the performance. This is a reaction to our age, a prophecy of destruction. Ágens crawls to the center of the stage like a worm and we can be nothing but scared of the future.

 You just can’t get away from the effects created by Ágens and Iva Bittova. Their performances focus on music but other forms of art play a significant role, as well. Because of their common quest for perfection they can only work with excellent companions. Their ability for reflection and deep thoughts put them among the best representatives of our age, the only difference being that of them is coming from the past while the other is heading for the future.’

Zoltán Végső: Iva Bittova and Ágens in TRAFÓ

Balkon 2002/10

‘With her unearthly and sometimes undefinable voice, Ágens interpreted, among others, Latin psalms, prayers...’

Kriszta Szepesi: Concealed Thoughts

uj.terasz.hu 20/12/2002

 

 

Ágens’s fantastic voice, which played easily with octaves...’

Boglárka Farkas: The Non-existent Man

Zsöllye, September 2000

 

Ágens and Krisztián Gergye

 

Ágens, the singer with a fantastic technique, serving the Kompmánia group with a powerful vocal dramaturgy...’

Márta Péter: Expiatory Embraces

Ellenfény, 2001/4

 

‘The operatic voice of "Ágens" as well as her gutturals and falsettos are extreme manifestations of a search for the ultimate limits of the female voice, aiming at the most perfect and complete discovery of the realm of the natural tones. In the same time they also are attempts to widen this region and settling down in its most remote, recently disclosed nooks . While being an instrument explored and utilized according to her special abilities, skills, and needs, for Ágens her voice also is a determinative, elementary part of the body. Similar musical phenomena, strange ladies excelling the conventional "cultural assortment" also are known. Diamande Galás of New York can howl, bellow, roar, and scream in a more or less resembling way. Meredith Monk also applies unusual voices as raw materials for constructing her surprising creatures.(...)

 

During her appearances her voice, the surroundings, the audience, and she herself, turns into an inseparable unity. As a strange rite or magic it annihilates any distinction and difference, leaving nothing more "alive" than the depths common in, and well known by each of us, the music existing only for itself: the most ancient, and most natural element of the World.’

Márta Nagy: ÁGENS "Balkon" Journal of Contemporary Art, 1996. 10-11. (German Issue)

 

 

‘Oratorio-like organ sequences sending into a trance, jazz-like time measuring, Strangers in the Night, then again trance, to which Ágens sings the cream. Her sounds, created sharply, then softly, dig into our brain. She presents the hit tune parodistically, it pains her to sing it on purpose harshly, her hearing and voice are much more used to distinct, clear sounds. Her aching sequences are accompanied by Ádám Jávorka on viola.’

Sarolta Szálka: Lesson for the Soul in Anatomy

Relax Magazin, 2000

 

 

‘This is the kind of music that easily makes the reviewer  shoot off the target as it is so unique and  devoid of  clichés that it is 1difficult to set it in a conceptual frame.

We may give it a try by enumerating  some congenial  peers from Meredith Monk to Maggie Nichols to Shelley Hirsch or Diamanda Galas but this would not take us closer to the point.

Ágens’ has been digging in her own musical mine for several years to create her own world and she is actually not a relative to the above-mentioned names.

Approaching from the aspect of form ( ie jamming styles from opera to blues) would also be futile .We may create new categories but the music itself would tear them apart for it has no antecedent or master and  there will be no followers or disciples of it. (...)

Strange, deep, intimate, rich, perplexing and beautiful music. ‘

György Czabán:

A diva’s personal mythology

(Ágens: Of Heaven and Earth) Magyar Narancs, 1999. May

 

 

 ‘Though it is contemporary music, or modern, or alternative, or underground  -  the terms are a bit blurred, - her music has much more to do with the primitive ritual songs of the shamans, prayers and funeral songs of the pagan world, than with Cage, Stockhausen, Varese or Reich. The titles of the songs also refer to the archaic content: Sin, Curse, Soul, Search etc.

      The sounds burst forth from the throat, the larynx, the stomach - from the whole body, the whole being. It is as if ‘Ágens’ aim were not only to toss songs into the air, but to use her voice to seize us, the audience, and transport us onto a higher (or at least a different) dimension. These are magical songs, invoking beings from the world beyond: malign and benevolent spirits, dead souls and living gods. These spirit beings and the impulses they represent have been the same since time immemorial - and thus the songs have an aura of man’s primal beginnings; there is something otherworldly about them; they are redolent of a world peopled with Jung’s archetypes. …This music breaks open the tomb of the spirit - but not in order to desecrate what lies within. Our consciousness forms a conceptual and rational shield from behind which to glimpse traces of original beauty, harmony and world order. The magic and mystery of Ágens’ music is not a conjuring of evil forces. Instead it is a sort of hark-back to a lost golden age, an age which may never have existed, but which we still somehow remember.’

János Háy: Ágens

Dél-Magyarország, 1998. 27th of June

 

 

Ágens: Korájtá

 

 

‘The first song  -  Manifestation  -  is a kind of self-reflection. She sings a duet with herself, which reminds us of the imitations of Meredith Monk... (...)

Ágens is a real stage character, she has a special, almost etherial radiation. Though alone on the stage she attracts attention, she lives, breathes together with the music, follows it with her movements and facial expression. It is a catharsis both for the artist and the audience.’

Zoltán Végső: The voice and and its personality, Élet és Irodalom, 1999. 23th April.

‘... Ágens-dressed up in a  dark green,floor-length crinoline gown and a feather tuft-is  an earthly and unearthly woman at the same time.Her voice embraces everything ,swoops and soars changing in every moment.She’s one of the few real instinctive artists  bearing a refined  technique to master all the tones of her voice in an absolutely superb, sensitive way.Not only her organs of speech do the singing but the whole person -everything sounds that’s body and soul.

  Whoopings,sighs,groanings, and screams are all mixed into her singing evoking a perplexed dreamworld as you may experience it right on  your arrival to  Szkéné Theater.The painful voice-clusters call birth and death to one’s mind. And the magic happens: three dancers covered in white textile are born to life .Bodies begin to pulsate , membranes are ruptured and following the soul the body is being born.A beautiful encounter :Ágens’ musical world-sometimes accompanied by instruments and special effects-and the Company KompMánia were made for each other.It’s a shocking and mysteriously fearsome world with desires,fears,distress, anger and frustration ,want and quest  inside .’

Beautiful Encounter

Boglárka Farkas: Ágens-Attila Csabai: Átjárók/Passages

Ellenfény (contemporary theatre and dance-art), 2000/ 3-4.

 

Ágens: Passangers

 

 

‘An album first released as a supplement of  Balkon, a monthly for contemporary arts has recently come out as a self-contained record that will probably draw the attention of  music freaks with a taste for the extraordinary.’

XX: Ágens: Of Heaven and Earth, Magazin Fókusz, June 1999.

                                   

Ágens. A name that has become a trademark, a genuine label on the contemporary music market  flooded with products with a short shelf-life.Even before the release of her first album she  had serious successes.’

kszonja: Reassessment   Ágens: Of Heaven and Earth ( Periferic Records 1999)

 

 

 

            ‘The only female actor and character in the play is Ágens, also acting as singer. Her song wells up from the spiritual depths of clear and profound love. This song is free of common words: it is rather a clustered crystal-chain of pure voices embracing and sheltering the dancers.’

Doda: Exposed Nakedness

 Origo, June 2000

Ágens-Móni Négyesi in Tenebrae

‘In the meantime Ágens, the talented singer appears on the stage, performing a pregnant women. At the time of the premiere she really was pregnant, she really represented a radiating, blossoming womanly character, the symbol of maternity and motherhood. On the top of the scenery, sitting in a wicker-chair, Ádám Jávorka, the virtuoso viola-player is sitting. Both of them also are the actors of the performance and play significant role in realizing it.

Csabai's choreography is built up of excellent musical materials selected with a firm hand and a whole string of "video clips" properly invented for the components of the music. In the "musical architecture" of the play pre-recorded movements are "mixed" with the brilliant live singing by Ágens who also gleams her qualities as an actor. By the peculiarly playful character of this music her own "personal musical world" gains new shades and colors: traces of a subtle sense of humor and self-irony can be disclosed in it. The characteristic features of the "traditional" "KOMPmÁNIA Style" as "dramatic and sublime attitude", and surrealism are enriched by the ironic elements filtering into it mainly from Ágens's sessions (e.g. her adaptation of the song "Strangers in the Night") in this vivisection-like performance. In this play the singer also becomes a witness of mysterious power. She simultaneously is a lady and a servant. Her enigmatic character is indispensable in the play as well as Annie Lennox's presence is essential in Derek Jarman's "Edward II": an absolutely necessary, emblematic component among the ingredients of a sensual story of men.

Tamás Halász: "Szakreál""Színház", Budapest, Vol. XXXIII No. 7, July 2000, pp. 39-41. (in Hungarian)