Wednesday, December 5, 2007

OMG! OMG! Die Soldaten in New York!

I love post-Schoenberg serialist German-language operas. A lot. One of my "Opera's I'd like to attend a production of before I die" is definitely Bernd Alois Zimmerman's Die Soldaten. It's an amazing opera, very much of its time within the post-war avant-garde. Not only is it musically extremely complex, the staging is probably the most complex ever called for in an opera house: simultaneous scenes, sometimes three at time etc. Zimmerman finished the opera in 1958 but it wasn't premiered until 1965, after he had simplified it. Considering how mind-bogglingly complex it is now, I can't even imagine what the original conception was like.

I missed the New York City Opera production from 1991 (poverty), conducted by the late Christopher Keene, so the news announced today that the Lincoln Center Festival will be importing David Pountney's Ruhr Triennale production for a run of performances in July, 2008 has me very excited. This is great news: the production has gotten good reviews (a DVD of the production was recently released), it's a rarely performed opera and if it's done right, it will blow people's mind.

Ah, but who's going to show up for this? This opera, which I love dearly and have two recordings of*, is both musically and thematically brutal: the musical language is relentlessly dissonant, with extremely difficult vocal lines (I laugh when opera queens natter on about how difficult Norma is to sing) and nary A Tune to be found. Zimmerman, who committed suicide in 1970, five years after the first staging of Die Soldaten, paints an utterly bleak portrait of our world: if you want to walk out of a theater feeling good about life, this most assuredly is not a piece for you. I expect to see a lot of people fleeing after 20 minutes (it's about 100 minutes long).

I can't wait for this, though New York in July can be a muggy hell. Long live the post-war German avant-garde!

* Why hasn't the Wergo recording of the original production ever been released on CD? The Kontarsky recording is vastly inferior. I'll have to check out the DVD referenced above to see if the musical side is handled better than the Kontarsky recording (there's also a DVD of the Kontarsky performance, directed by Harry Kupfer). What happened to Harry Kupfer's international profile? He's fallen off the operatic map, but considering how much I hated his Parsifal at the Berlin Staatsoper a few years ago, maybe that's a good thing!


Will said...

Die Soldaten is one of the great ones. I'll have to get down to NYC for it--thanks very much for alerting me to the coming production

Otto van Karajanstein said...

That's great news! I may have to come down to New York to see this. I'll never forget hearing this work in university, only tio discover that it's virtually impossible to get a recording.

However, there's more good news - according to the Wergo site, their recording of Die Soldaten has just been released on CD.

Henry Holland said...

Woops, sorry for not replying sooner, I haven't gotten the hang of this blogging thing yet. :-)

Yes, good news about the performance in NYC AND the Wergo recording.

Here's something cool, from the Playbill Arts article:

Also to be adapted from the German production is a track-mounted seating system that will shift listeners in and out of the stage area (at a speed reportedly slow enough to be imperceptible)


Chalkenteros said...

Well, *I'll* show up! Thanks for the info on this -- it's gotten past my radar. Thanks also for your remarks over at my place.

I see from your profile that you are also a King Crimson fan -- weird coincidence.