The poet Nikolaus Lenau is one of the most fascinating artistic personalities of the Romantic period. A dramatist, political intellectual, guitarist and violinist, as well as the most successful lyricist of the Biedermeier period, he was a highly talented polymath. Lenau led a restless, intense life informed by his love for a succession of women before becoming mentally deranged in 1844, remaining in psychiatric care until his death in 1850. His most passionate and almost lifelong love affair was with Sophie von Löwenthal, the wife of his friend Max. With Sophie, Lenau maintained a dual correspondence that was split between “official” letters and unrestrainedly intimate messages.
The Swiss musician Heinz Holliger, one of today’s most important composers, was so drawn to Nikolaus Lenau’s transgressive life, work, ideas and sensibility that he made the figure of the poet the subject of his song Lunea, which was premièred by Christian Gerhaher five years ago at Zurich Opera House. Lunea in turn became the nucleus of a new opera about Nikolaus Lenau, which will now be premièred at Zurich Opera House.
Lenau-Szenen in 23 Lebensblättern by Heinz Holliger (*1939)
Musical director: Heinz Holliger
Librettist: Händl Klaus
Producer: Andreas Homoki
Stage design: Frank Philipp Schlössmann
Costumes: Klaus Bruns
Musical assistance: Michael Richter
Lighting designer: Franck Evin
Choir director: Raphael Immoos
Dramaturgy: Claus Spahn
Lenau: Christian Gerhaher
Sophie von Löwenthal: Juliane Banse
Anton Schurz: Ivan Ludlow
Marie Behrends/Karoline Unger: Sarah Maria Sun
Therese Schurz: Annette Schönmüller
Statistenverein am Opernhaus Zürich
World Premiere: 4 March 2018
This creation commemorates World War I and takes as point of departure the play FRONT (2014) by Luk Perceval. The American-Israeli composer Chaya Czernowin saw the performance and connected the theatrical experience of FRONT with the novella Homecoming by the Chinese author Can Xue. The result of this union is music theatre about opening new perspectives in a harrowing situation.
In FRONT, we see the soldiers in the trenches, caught in an unending battle and constantly exposed to death. In Homecoming it is a woman who happens to find her way to a house on the edge of an abyss and gradually realises that it is impossible for her to escape. Two situations in which the moment becomes dilated to the point of infinity.
Premiere April 18th, 2017
Opera Ballet Vlaanderen
In the artificially cut-off world of a show conceived as a mixture of circus and television entertainment which thrills its audience with so-called freax, people whose bodies do not correspond to the norm, a tragic love story unfolds. The dwarf Franz loves the tall, beautiful Isabella. But she is in love with Hilbert, the moderator of the show. Hilbert, for his part, loves great success. This is guaranteed by the freax – dwarfs, Siamese twins and hermaphrodites – who, not least due to their success with the public, are cut off and humiliated by their “normal” colleagues.
In a mixture of moving drama and biting satire, Franz‘ blind love and longing to escape permanent discrimination and to be accepted and loved as a man becomes a parable about the power of looks and about the fine line between hope and self-deception, closeness and betrayal.
Composer: Moritz Eggert
Lyricists: Hannah Dübgen
Staged world premiere: January 21st, 2017, Theater Regensburg
‘What happened before we got involved in problematic things like civilization, religion and nationhood?’ Th is opera takes as its starting point Medúlla, a 2004 conceptual album by the famous singer and songwriter Björk, an album entirely devoted to every sound and noise that comes out of the human throat. It was created in response to racist and nationalist reactions to the 9/11 attacks. Th e title refers to the Latin word for marrow, and by extension to the essence of things, corresponding to the composer’s desire to explore the heart of music and through it the fundamental element that unites humanity, regardless of belief, race, nationality, or age.
Music by björk
vocal arrangements and new composition by anat spiegel
Lyrics by björk, e.e. cummings, jakobina siguaroardott ir, sjón
released 30 august 2004
premiere La Monnaie / de Munt, 4/2/2015
Louis Andriessen’s latest music-theatre work, a collaboration with film director Hal Hartley, is based principally on Dante’s Commedia. The non-linear narration unfolds in five stadia that also show the influence of Hieronymus Bosch. The simultaneous existence of heaven, purgatory and hell, parallels between various scenes and the use of film and stage effects all create the complexity that is necessary to do justice to Dante’s greatest creation. To this end, all events portrayed on the film screen and on stage, including dance, the spoken word and song, should be regarded as a reaction to Andriessens’ extremely varied music. At the end of the piece we are left alone in the silence of eternity with Beatrice and the perennial grumbler Cacciaguida.
When the composer Wolfgang Rihm was searching for new subject matter for musical theatre in the mid-1980s, he was no longer interested in setting a conventional libretto «of polished dialogues» and «subjectively involved plots». Instead, he dreamt of a stagecraft that extended beyond emotional dramas in the form of stories and was determined by image and reputation, ritual and the logic of dreams. Created by voices and instruments, sound itself is intended to become the protagonist of the theatre. Written in 1977, the East German dramatist Heiner Müller’s drama, Die Hamletmaschine, served as the driving force for a musical theatre that crosses boundaries. The fragmentary theatre text, which comprises a mere nine pages, yet is one of the most important written in the 20th century, is a grotesque rewrite of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and a deconstruction of the drama per se – a linguistically powerful and tempestuously apocalyptic vision of human futility in the face of the failed utopias of the modern age.
Using Heiner Müller’s text, Rihm has created a major work of musical theatre for singers and actors, choruses both live and recorded, a large orchestra, and percussionists positioned in the auditorium. Wolfgang Rihm’s Hamletmaschine is a forgotten masterpiece of the modern age and was last staged in 1990, four years after its première. In scenographic and musical terms, the composition is certainly comparable with the Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Soldaten, of which a spectacular production was staged at Zurich Opera House two years ago.
In a time characterised by fundamentalist attacks, religious wars, humanitarian tragedy, the loss of utopias and political uncertainty, Die Hamletmaschine becomes a matter of great topicality.
Taken from Opernhaus Zürich: