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Work of the Week – Ludger Vollmer: Buddenbrooks

One of the most famous German novels in the history of literature: Ludger Vollmer's Buddenbrooks brings Thomas Mann's social study to the opera stage for the first time, more than 120 years after the novel has been first published. On 4 May 2024, the Theater Kiel will present the world premiere of the new opera, directed by Daniel Karasek and conducted by Benjamin Reiners.

It was director Karasek's idea to turn the extensive novel into a work for musical theatre. Working with librettists Feridun Zaimoglu and Günter Senkel, composer Vollmer quickly realised that the material was still highly topical. They gave Vollmer their text on the condition that he use it as "modelling clay". Vollmer thus used the freedom of the Buddenbrooks libretto to sharpen his musical vision of the events. 

Buddenbrooks by Ludger Vollmer: A view of our present

The Buddenbrook family has been in the trading business for centuries. In the opera, however, they have long since switched from grain to weapons. While Thomas Buddenbrook enjoys success in the arms trade, Christian tries his hand as a bookseller. But the end of their time is approaching, watched with suspicion by the Hagenströms' comments and heralded by the extravagances of their art-loving offspring, Hanno.

The opera Buddenbrooks was not conceived as a museum for nineteenth-century German bourgeoisie; on the contrary, it was my objective to reveal what Th omas Mann has to say in his magnum opus to audiences of our time. However, I was nevertheless completely astounded at the similarities between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries with regard to each era’s overarching themes, visions and struggles. (Ludger Vollmer)

The opera Buddenbrooks will be performed in a total of seven performances at Kiel Theatre until 14 July 2024. 


Further Reading:

Ludger Vollmer: Composer Profile 

Buddenbrooks: Work Details and Online Score 

Website Theater Kiel 

photo: created with artificial intelligence / Adobe Firefly


Head of Promotion | Concert Opera Media Division

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