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Elena Kats-Chernin: Snow White staged in Berlin

(January 2016)

New works by the versatile and cosmopolitan Elena-Kats Chernin have ranged from a children's opera in Berlin, via two ballets in the UK, to a 'soap opera' and a pair of wind concertos in Australia.

Few composers can outdo the sheer versatility of Elena Kats-Chernin. Recent premieres have encompassed a children’s opera offering a new take on Snow White in Berlin, a ‘soap opera’ for Australian TV, two new ballet scores in the UK and a flute concerto premiered in Darwin. Her energy is matched by her cosmopolitan outlook: born in Uzbekistan in 1957, she trained at the Gnesin Musical College in Moscow and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, studied with Lachenmann in Hanover, worked for 13 years in Germany’s theatre and dance worlds, and in 1994 returned to Sydney as her composing base.

Following her realisations of the three Monteverdi operas for the Komische Oper in Barrie Kosky’s stagings, Kats-Chernin returned to Berlin in November with a new children’s opera Snow White and the 77 Dwarves. Created with playwright Susanne Felicitas Wolf, this fast-paced new version of the Brothers Grimm classic was enthusiastically received by adults and children alike. Combining singers in the lead roles with the Komische Oper’s children’s chorus as the 77 dwarves, the production’s fantasy-filled imagery was mirrored in the pit as noted by the Berliner Morgenpost: "Kats-Chernin’s music sounds just as magical. The composer succeeds in creating an entertaining, enchanting mixture of classical, musicals and pop, animated cartoon music and hit numbers."

Shobana Jeyasingh’s new ballet Material Men, employing a commissioned score by Kats-Chernin for the Smith Quartet, is a dynamic duet between dancers performing in the Indian classical tradition and in hip-hop. Following its premiere at the Southbank Centre in September, where the music was described by The Guardian as "vibrant and seductive", the ballet toured England and Wales. The autumn also introduced Rambert’s The 3 Dancers with a Kats-Chernin score for seven instruments, choreographed by Didy Veldman, with 19 performances around the UK.

In Australia, Kats-Chernin was in the news with her ‘soap opera’ The Divorce, airing in four half-hour episodes on ABC TV. This new comedic opera with text by Joanna Murray-Smith was presented by Opera Australia specifically for TV with a cast mixing actors and singers. This season includes two concerto premieres for Kats-Chernin, with her flute concerto Night and Now performed in Darwin and Melbourne, and the saxophone concerto Macquarie's Castle scheduled for premiere at the Sydney Conservatorium in April.

Boosey & Hawkes is soon to release a new Kats-Chernin Piano Album, with a selection of her keyboard music, from waltzes to tangos and rags.


> Further information on Work: Schneewittchen und die 77 Zwerge

Photo: Komische Oper/Monika Rittershaus

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