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Tagged with 'Barrie Kosky'

Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: The Bassarids

With almost every opera house and concert hall around the world closed, we focus this week on a recent production of Hans Werner Henze´s opera The Bassarids, currently available for free on the online platform OperaVision. Reviews of Barrie Kosky´s staging and Vladimir Jurowski´s musical direction were splendid so this is a fantastic opportunity to explore the depths of this opera, considered a pinnacle of not only Henze´s dramatic output but of the entire mid-century classicism in opera.

The libretto for The Bassarids, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based on Euripides’ Bacchae; it tells the story of Pentheus, the new ruler of Thebes, banning the cult of Dionysus before being unwittingly drawn into the revelry by Dionysus himself, disguised as a stranger. Pentheus is eventually killed by his own mother, who has mistaken him for a wild animal, before Dionysus reveals his true identity and demands adoration from the Thebans for his revenge against the tyrant. The one-act opera’s large instrumentation and sophisticated libretto make The Bassarids an ambitious project. With Dionysus and Pentheus embodying two extremes of human existence, there is great potential for reference to the present day.

Today I consider The Bassarids, which I now understand to a far greater degree and hold much dearer than when I was composing the work, to be my most important music theatre work. It is […] still relevant for us, but specifically addresses questions associated with the years around 1968: what is freedom and what is bondage? What is repression, what is revolt and what is revolution? This is all in fact demonstrated, insinuated and suggested by Euripides. The multiplicity and richness of relationships, the tangible sensual relationships between the ancient civilisation of this Archaic period and our time are captured in Auden’s text; Euripides is transposed into our time in a manner which could not have been better achieved with the best possible stage production of the original Greek play, as we are constantly reminded of our distance from a different, long-gone civilisation. – Hans Werner Henze

The video will be available to stream on demand until 13 April and a final performance of the Komische Oper Berlin production is scheduled for 26 June.

photo: © Komische Oper Berlin / Monika Rittershaus

Work of the Week – Georges Bizet: Carmen

The tragedy of Bizet’s Carmen has gripped audiences and inspired countless productions since its first performance in 1875. Today, the opera is one of the most well-known and frequently performed works in the genre. On 14 September, a new production by Barrie Kosky opens at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, conducted by Alexander Vedernikov. The new production will use material from Verlagsgruppe Hermann’s “Edition Meisterwerke”, which brings together all previously published versions of the work into a single critical edition allowing for direct comparison of the differences between individual publications.

The libretto to Bizet’s opera was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halvéy, based on the eponymous novel by Proser Mérimée. The immense success Carmen enjoys today contrasts the initial reaction it received from the audience at its premiere in Paris, who reacted negatively to the subject matter of the opera. Unfortunately, Bizet did not live to see the opera’s breakthrough production in Vienna later that year.

Georges Bizet – Carmen: Critical Edition of a Classic

Carmen is a woman who is totally aware of her womanhood. Even more: I’m convinced that Mérimée built with this character a type of woman in which the feminine is totally realized - this shows her individual value as a literary creation. In a modern way one could say that Carmen is the ideal type of an emancipated woman, which means she is free, safe and makes her own decisions. Teresa Berganza

Carmen will run in Copenhagen until mid-February, and another production will be presented later in the season in Mannheim, Meiningen and Chemnitz.

photo: Det Kongelige Teater