Detlev Glanert: reviews of new opera The Wooden Ship(January 2011)
The premiere of Detlev Glanert's latest opera, The Wooden Ship, in Nuremburg in October introduced a disturbing new nautical drama.
“The first performance of Detlev Glanert’s The Wooden Ship was a triumph” wrote the Nürnberger Nachrichten of the latest stagework by this leading German opera composer. Based on the novel by Hans Henny Jahnn the drama is a distillation of the psychological essence of this disturbing tale, set aboard a ship with a mysterious cargo heading towards catastrophe. Following its premiere run in October further performances in Nuremburg are planned on 14 and 21 July.
The Wooden Ship (Das Holzschiff) was commissioned by the Staatstheater Nürnberg and the premiere in October featured staging and choreography by Johann Kresnik, reflecting the important element of dance within the drama. Conductor Guido Johannes Rumstadt led the compact cast of five singers, chorus and dancers.
The increasing ambiguity of identity and sexuality that overtakes the lead characters is mirrored by Glanert’s casting: the stowaway Gustav is a trouser role for mezzo, while his fiancée Ellena, who disappears into the bowels of the ship, is supplanted by the sailor Alfred, both sung by the same soprano.
“Glanert and his librettist skilfully compress Jahnn’s poetic-utopian vision... into 90 minutes of gripping music theatre… All the ingredients of a thrilling seafarer story are present, as it sails powerfully and sensually in the wake of nautical horror stories... an unstintingly acclaimed successful first performance at the Nuremberg Staatstheater.”
“An exciting operatic thriller... The destination of ship, cargo and crew is in truth completely unknown. After an hour-and-a-half the ship has sunk, the engagement between Gustav and Ellena is off, the bride has disappeared, and the bridegroom swims on a single plank with sailor Alfred Tutein towards the rosy dawn of a new future and liaison. By then, we have experienced a tale of mystery and deception, of sexual obsession and dissolution.”
“For Glanert’s one-acter, Christoph Klimke has condensed, transformed and lyricised the novel and created space for dance interludes: the experienced opera composer knows how to structure an evening full of contrast, yet unified. The musical protagonist is naturally the sea, unpredictably roaring, programmatically suggestive in the orchestral spray and tumult...”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"...the subject is really crying out to be set to music, Detlev Glanert, who with a dozen operas in his career no longer has to prove himself, has no trouble in painting the picture of a veritable seascape with illustrative opulence. Here, the orchestral waves roar, flutter-tongued storm winds take possession of all instrumental groups, personal motifs pervade the scenery, everything sounds scarily good..."
This season brings new productions of Glanert’s Joseph Süss in Krefeld and Mönchengladbach, the Biedermeier comedy Jest, Satire, Irony and Deeper Meaning in Pforzheim, and his opera for young people The Three Riddles in Koblenz. Orchestral highlights over the coming months include the UK premiere of Music for Violin and Orchestra conducted by David Robertson at the Barbican on 11 February, and performances of Four Preludes and Serious Songs conducted by Semyon Bychkov on 25 March in London and 1-3 April in Munich with baritones Johan Reuter and Dietrich Henschel.
> Further information on Work: Das Holzschiff
Photo: Staatstheater Nürnberg/Ludwig Olah
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