2018 is the centenary of the birth of composer Gottfried von Einem and celebratory performances include major new stagings of his operas in Austria and beyond.
The operas of Gottfried von Einem, whose centenary of birth is celebrated in 2018, take centre stage in Austria and Germany next year, including a collection of new productions. Einem's powerful setting of Georg Büchner's revolutionary drama Danton's Death* (Dantons Tod), is given a new staging at the Vienna State Opera opening on 24 March, conducted by Susanna Mälkki and directed by Josef Ernst Köpplinger, with Wolfgang Koch in the title role and Thomas Ebenstein as his rival and nemesis Robespierre. A further production runs at the Theater Magdeburg between January and April, staged by Karen Stone and conducted by the house's music director Kimbo Ishii.
Two new productions of Einem's The Visit of the Old Lady (Der Besuch der alten Dame) are staged by Keith Warner at the Theater an der Wien opening on 16 March under the baton of Michael Boder, and by Sebastian Welker at the Landesbühnen Sachsen in Radebeul with first night on 26 May. The cast in Vienna is led by Katarina Karneus in the central role of the monstrous Claire Zachanassian, who in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's drama returns after 45 years to the dilapidated town of Güllen seeking revenge. Luring the townsfolk with wealth beyond their wildest dreams, she persuades them to murder her former lover and mayoral candidate Alfred Ill. At its premiere in 1971 Claire and Alfred were created by Christa Ludwig and Eberhard Waechter and, thanks to its taut musical drama and fierce social commentary, the opera travelled widely including to Glyndebourne and New York, and has maintained its position in the German-speaking opera repertoire.
Einem's operatic adaptation of Franz Kafka's claustrophobic and surreal The Trial (Der Prozess), receives a prestigious concert performance on 14 August at the Salzburg Festival, which the composer did so much to rejuvenate after the Second World War. HK Gruber conducts the Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna and plans are underway for the opera to travel to Vienna next autumn. Tulifant, Einem's fairy tale opera 'not only for children' is staged by the Vienna Boys Choir's theatrical company, the MuTh, opening on 12 May.
In addition to its performances of The Trial, the RSO Vienna performs two major Einem works on the concert platform. The early Capriccio for orchestra was the score with which the young composer burst onto the musical scene in 1943, and the performance under HK Gruber on 12 January at the Konzerthaus helps to launch the centenary year. Einem's large-scale cantata An die Nachgeborenen (To Those Who Follow in Our Wake), settings texts ranging from Psalms and Sophocles to Hölderlin and Brecht, is performed by the RSO Vienna and the Wiener Singerein on 23 February at the Musikverein with vocal soloists Camilla Nylund and Michael Nagy. Other notable centenary concert performances include Susanna Mälkki conducting the Mozart-inspired concert opener Wandlungen with the Helsinki Philharmonic on 31 January and 1 February and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Philippe Jordan in the Tanz-Rondo, dating from 1959, at the Musikverein on 3 June.
Two major centenary record releases have been announced. Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in a new disc containing the Stundenlied (The Song of the Hours), Einem's choir and orchestra setting of texts from Brecht's Mother Courage, coupled with the Philadelphia Symphony. A historic recording of Einem's Schiller opera Kabale und Liege (Intrigue and Love) is to be released, drawing on the premiere production in 1976 conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi.
A pair of exhibitions are planned: one at the Vienna State Opera is linked with the production of Danton's Death, and another draws on the archive of the composer's estate, presented by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde between April and June. Joachim Reiber's new book Gottfried von Einem: Komponist der Stunde null, published by Verlag Kremayr and Scheriau last month, surveys the composer's life and works through a series of documents, many unknown until this date, taking us from his student years in the inter-war period, via his triumph with Danton's Death at the 1947 Salzburg Festival through to his late works.
*Danton's Death is published by Universal Edition
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Photo: Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde
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