Detlev Glanert has returned to his first opera, Leyla and Medjnun, bringing 30 years of operatic experience to create a new version for the Hannover Staatstheater.
The newly revised version of Detlev Glanert’s one-act chamber opera Leyla and Medjnun was unveiled to acclaim at the Staatstheater in Hannover in May. Originally commissioned by Hans Werner Henze for the first Munich Biennale in 1985, the revised version of the work now runs for 100 minutes. The refreshed score was echoed in the use of a young cast at Junge Oper Hannover, directed by Sebastian Welker and conducted by Siegmund Weinmeister.
Detlev Glanert explains how he returned to the score: "Every opera composer has a great and continuous affection for his very first project, because it gave you the chance to make true a long dreamed love affair. The composer still feels the magic of the first night – and so is it with me and my chamber opera Leyla and Medjnun.
"Like all "first operas" in a composer's life, Leyla and Medjnun was bursting out with musical ideas – and lacks the technique of an experienced composer. This is mostly about using the human singing voice, the proportions of dramaturgy, instrumentation and dynamics; the best school for all of this comes through experience of working with the stage and pit.
"So I took my old score from 1985, which was written in only six months, and corrected it like a teacher would do with a student: showing respect, love and sympathy, but being brutal and ruthless to change or to eliminate weak parts and eradicate mistakes.
"First of all I cut out 15 minutes of music, mostly from the transitions in the second half, because I remembered clearly a lessening of suspense at those places in 1985; some singing lines were changed to a more human use of the voice; some very theoretical ideas of using the woodwinds and the overall balance with the harp music were changed; the number of percussion instruments and their use were cut back to half. The overflow of "fff" and "ffff" dynamics were reduced as well as thousands of others. Hardly a single page is untouched, but I tried to preserve the sense, idea and atmosphere of the 1985 work."
"The libretto: a story as old as mankind. Leyla and Medjnun are inseparable. Only their families have anything against their liaison – then the clan becomes a hate-filled mob, and the lovers are violently separated… Glanert’s music is entirely at the service of the emotional structure of the story: from soaring intimacy to expressive ordeal, it portrays the age-old themes of Romeo and Juliet or Orpheus. Glanert’s crossover with the ancient Persian musical tradition is particularly exciting… he adds an oud, an oriental lute, which enters with constantly circling motifs, commenting on the events… There was long applause and many bravos…"
Neue Presse Hannover
Photo: Thomas M Jauk
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