Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Distant Sounds’s operatic must-sees in the 2017/18 season

As a supplement to my listing of operatic repertoire for the 2017/18 season and with only a very few houses still to announce, here’s my personal list of highlights - very much a 'long list’ of all the productions I’d be prepared to travel and see (though obviously more than I’ll manage!).

And don't forget the full list of season premieres here.

Firstly, the rarities:

Korngold’s Das Wunder der Heliane in Gent/Antwerp (September) & Berlin DO (March)
Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten in St Gallen (September) & Berlin DO (January), plus revival in Munich (May)
Schoeck's Penthesilea in Bonn (October) 
Hindemith Mathis der Maler in Gelsenkirchen (October)
Schreker’s Der ferne Klang in Lübeck (October)
Prokofiev’s The Gambler in Vienna (October), Basel (May) & Gent/Antwerp (June)
Hubay’s Anna Karenina in Bern (November)
Zemlinsky’s Eine florentinische Tragödie in Amsterdam (November)
Weill’s Love Life in Freiburg (December)
Korngold’s Die tote Stadt in Dresden (December)
Zemlinsky’s Der Kreiderkreis in Lyon (January)
Von Einem’s Dantons Tod in Magdeburg (January)
Reznicek's Benzin in Bielefeld (January)
Martin’s Der Sturm in Saarbrücken (January)
Marschner’s Hans Heiling in Essen (February)
Meyerbeer’s Vasco da Gama in Frankfurt (February)
Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe-Bleue in Graz (March)
Rachmaninov’s Aleko & Francesca da Rimini in Kiel (March)
Shostakovich’s Cheryomushki in Braunschweig (May) & Gelsenkirchen (March)
Von Einem’s Der Besuch der alten Dame and Dantons Tod, both in Vienna (March)
Weinberger’s Schwanda the Bagpiper in Giessen (March)
Puccini’s Edgar in Regensburg (April)
Enescu’s Oedipe in Gera (April)
Hindemith triple bill in Budapest (May)
Hindemith's Neues vom Tage in Schwerin (May)
Weill’s Der Silbersee in Pforzheim (May)
Langgaard’s Antikrist in Mainz (June)
Tate’s The Lodger in Bremerhaven (June)
Waltershausen’s Oberst Chabert (1912) in Bonn (June)
Busoni's Doktor Faust in Osnabrück (June) 
Mascagni’s Isabeau in London OHP (summer)

Contemporary and premieres:

Henze’s Der junge Lord in Hannover (September)
Ligeti’s Le grand macabre in Luzern/Meiningen (September) & Flensburg (May)
Reimann’s L’invisable in Berlin DO (WP, October)
Saariaho’s Only the Sound Remains in Paris (January)
Eötvös’s Angels in America in Münster (February) & in Freiburg (March)
Henze’s Das Fluss der Medusa in Amsterdam (March)
Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten in Nürnberg (March), Köln (April) & Madrid (May)
Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence in London (WP, May) & Amsterdam (June)
Holliger’s Lunea in Zürich (WP, May)
Andriessen’s Waiting for Vermeer in Heidelberg (May)
Adams’s Nixon in China in Würzburg (May)
Ruzicka’s Benjamin in Hamburg (WP, June)

Notable new productions of more familiar repertoire:

Pelléas et Mélisande in Berlin (Komische Oper), dir. Barrie Kosky (September)
Die Frau ohne Schatten in Linz (September)
From the House of the Dead in Cardiff (October), Paris (November), London ROH (March), Frankfurt (April) & Munich (May)
Wozzeck in Düsseldorf, dir. Stefan Herheim (October)
Capriccio in Frankfurt, dir. Brigitte Fassbaender (January)
Jenufa in Kassel (February)
Boris Godunov in Paris, dir. Ivo van Hove (June)

The Wagnerian highlights:

Rienzi in Innsbruck (May)
Tannhäuser in Köln (September), Wiesbaden (November), Görlitz (March) & Leipzig (March)
Lohengrin in Brussels (April) & London ROH (June)
Ring cycles in Leipzig (January), Dresden (January), Munich (January), Karlsruhe (March) & Vienna (April)
New Rings beginning in Chemnitz (February/March) & Bielefeld (March) and continuing in Oldenburg (September) Kiel (March) & Düsseldorf (April)
Tristan und Isolde in Amsterdam (January) & Kassel (May)
Parsifal in Hamburg (September), Baden-Baden (March), Paris (April) & Munich (June), plus revivals in Mannheim, Stuttgart & Antwerp/Gent

And a few revivals of non-standard rep missed first time round:

Barber’s Vanessa in Frankfurt (September)
Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan in Dresden (November)
Strauss’s Die schweigsame Frau in Munich (November)
Strauss’s Daphne in Vienna SO (December)
Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar in Frankfurt (January)

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Das Lied der Nacht – Theater Osnabrück – 5 May 2017

Lianora - Lina Liu
The Princess-Abbess - Gritt Gnauck
Hämone - Susann Vent-Wunderlich
Tancred - Rhys Jenkins
Ciullo/The Nameless Singer - Ferdinand von Bothmer
The Chancellor - José Gallisa

Opera Chorus & Extra Chorus of Theater Osnabrück
Osnabruck Symphony Orchestra

Conductor - Andreas Hotz
Director - Mascha Porzgen
Designer - Frank Fellmann

Immediately after the 33-year-old Hans Gál made his breakthrough with his opera Die heilige Ente in Düsseldorf in 1923, he began work on a successor, creating a ‘dramatic ballad in three scenes’ to a text by the poet Karl Michael von Levetzow. Das Lied der Nacht was premiered in Breslau (now Polish Wrocław) in 1926 and was soon taken up by several further theatres, before the Nazis’ rise to power sent Gál into exile and his music into obscurity. The opera had lain unperformed for the best part of 90 years until is was dredged up from the archives to be revived this spring by the enterprising Theater Osnabrück in time to mark the 30th anniversary of the composer’s death. It is also being revived in a semi-staging at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, so one might claim that its time has come. It is certainly an interesting work, both musically and dramatically, and while it might not have emerged as a long-lost masterpiece to set alongside the works of Schreker and Zemlinsky from the same decade, there’s enough of substance to make one hope it doesn’t get forgotten again after this initial burst of exposure.

Musically, Das Lied impresses with its fluidity more than for striking originality – Gál obviously knew his Strauss and Mahler and steered their languages to his own uses without coming up with ideas that linger long in the mind. At its best, in the dark, gloomy harmonies of the scene with the Abbess for instance, it is powerful and full of resonance, but one longed for something more striking for the ‘Lied’ itself, the mysterious song sung by the ‘Nameless Singer’ that so enraptures the Crown Princess, Lianora – its most potent feature is its harp accompaniment. But there’s a rather impressive Act II prelude to compensate – a piece of textural ingenuity and harmonic rapture that would make an attractive concert item in itself – and throughout Gál is particularly adroit at letting his vocal lines cut through the often busy orchestral writing.

On the face of it, the story is simple: the orphaned Princess Lianora is refusing to name her husband so that Sicily may gain a king – she is more attracted to the Nameless Singer than to her bullish suitor, Tancred, and would much rather enter her aunt’s convent in any case. But this being the work of a post-Freudian Viennese, the opera is very much an exploration of the psychology of growing up, something drawn out in Mascha Pörzgen’s perceptive staging. With the death of her father, Lianora is catapulted into adulthood before she is ready, with the need to choose a husband to maintain the island’s political stability. She is also a woman in a world where men call the shots – as princess she has obligations that fall under the power of the aged Chancellor and Tancred’s macho strutting. What follows drifts into the world of dreams – is the seductiveness of the Nameless Singer a figment of her unconscious desire for escape? A way of subconsciously avoiding reality by projecting her fantasies on to her favourite gondolier, Ciullo, who turns out to be singer? We are left to ponder what’s real and what imagined – entrances and exits are often ambiguously made from within the scenery and in Act I the ‘Stony’ Abbess emerges as a giant figure from what one presumed to be the Princess’s wardrobe. Watery images abound, too, in keeping with the theme of the Singer’s lament, and add to the sense of subconscious being explored.

Gál’s score had sweep and pace in the hands of Osnabrück’s charismatic GMD Andreas Hotz, and while the orchestral playing had sheen and power, it would be good to hear what a really top-notch ensemble could make of this music. Lana Liu was highly effective as Lianora, with focused projection and a communicative way with the words; Susann Vent-Wunderlich as her maid/confidante Hämone was also impressive. Gritt Gnauck, a mezzo familiar from the Detmold ensemble, made an imposing Abbess, bringing a touch of the Klytemnestras to her vocal portrayal, and Ferdinand von Bothmer sung valiantly as the Nameless Singer and Ciullo, with just a hint of insecurity in his tenor at moments of heightened tension. Rhys Jenkins was a solid Tancred, José Gallisa a robust Chancellor and the chorus sang with particular focus and dramatic edge.

Link to promotional video: https://vimeo.com/215983662