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Calixto Bieito levels Mahler for the composer’s one hundred and twenty fifth Vienna anniversary – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Austria Mahler, Von der Liebe Tod (From Love Loss of life): Soloists, Refrain and Orchestra of Vienna State Opera / Lorenzo Viotti (conductor). Livstreamed (directed by Dominik Kepczynski) from Vienna State Opera, 7.10.2022. (JPr)

Calixto Bieito’s Das klagende Lied

Mahler – Das klagende Lied and Kindertotenlieder

Director – Calixto Bieito
Set design – Rebecca Ringst
Costume design – Ingo Krügler
Lighting – Michael Bauer
Stage design assistant – Annett Starvation

Florian Boesch (baritone)
Vera-Lotte Boecker (soprano)
Monika Bohinec (mezzo-soprano)
Daniel Jenz (tenor)
Johannes Pietsch (boy soprano)
Jonathan Mertl (boy alto)

Gustav Mahler turned director of the Vienna Hofoper (now Staatsoper) in 1897 and having reinvigorated the opera home it ended ten years later in mutual recriminations, relatively like Philippe Jordan’s present deliberate departure from his put up as music director there on the finish of 2025. Mahler’s past love – I’ve at all times insisted – was opera and it was simply the shortage of time that prevented him composing one (or extra) … and naturally he didn’t dwell lengthy sufficient. Had his cantata Das klagende Lied truly gained the 1881 Beethoven prize for which it was entered who is aware of what route Mahler’s profession would have gone in? It’s operatic in character and has big instrumental and choral calls for; it additionally employs 4 grownup soloists with declamatory interventions however not typically a lot to sing, in addition to a boy soprano and boy alto. Mahler’s use of a excessive voiced boy to sing the phrases of the haunted flute was impressed.

The unique model of Mahler’s Das klagende Lied (as carried out right here) is in three actions and on this epic fairy story two brothers set out (Waldmärchen Forest Legend) seeking a purple flower that can permit one among them to marry a queen. The mild blond brother finds it, the evil brown one murders his brother in his sleep, steals the flower and the promised bride. Partially II (Der Spielmann) the minstrel of the title picks up one of many slain brother’s bones, makes a flute from it, which sings the story of how he was killed partially I – ’Tune of Lamentation’ of the title – and there’s a lot extra lamentation, sorrow and woe! Partially III (Hochzeitsstück / Wedding ceremony Piece) the minstrel rushes to the queen’s fort and on the finish because the remaining bridegroom-brother performs the fateful flute, the queen slumps to the ground and down come the fort partitions to finish with much more sorrow and extra woe.

Within the absence of no different Mahler stage work (though there’s at all times his completion of Weber’s opera Die drei Pintos which is rarely seen and heard) this was uninterruptedly paired with the composer’s later Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Loss of life of Kids) to mark the one hundred and twenty fifth Vienna anniversary. These had been later thought-about by the composer’s spouse, Alma, as tempting destiny, following the demise of Maria, one among their very own daughters. Friedrich Rückert’s unique poetry was written to mirror his personal emotions of loss after the demise of one among his sons, Ernst. The Kindertotenlieder (written between 1901 and 1904) had been first carried out in Vienna in January 1905, 5 years after Das klagende Lied was premiered there.

Spanish theatre director – and opera enfant horrible – Calixto Bieito returned to Vienna to stage these within the dystopian way forward for Rebecca Ringst’s stark white set (and matching costumes) which concentrates on the digital freeway with its preponderance of vibrant cables which dominate most of what we see. For me they appear partly just like the ribbons on a maypole or the plastic Scoubidou threads of blessed childhood reminiscence. The consequences of local weather change are in all probability prompt by the refrain bringing on potted crops originally that are initially suspended like a forest. The tenor (Daniel Jenz) brings a cooler field to the entrance of the stage which incorporates some soil to plant the red-flowered plant necessary to the story we watch unfold. Dust will probably be smeared about quite a bit, and the primary blood we see is when the princess appears pricked by the one of many flowers earlier than there’s much more when the susceptible boy (Jonathan Mertl as The Minstrel) loses his arm from which is hacked out the bone for the flute and close to the top when the princess cuts out her tongue presumably due to all of the tragedy her problem has wrought.

The slain brother (Johannes Pietsch) has pulled a sheet up over himself and this leads us into Kindertotenlieder the place he’s embraced by baritone Florian Boesch throughout ‘Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen’. The 5 songs are sung pretty straight and are all the higher for it. The one distraction is a few individuals in partywear who fringe the stage with fluorescent paint pots and long-handled brushes to daub the partitions with random symbols. Will probably be arduous not be develop into emotionally related with the songs however that’s extra as a result of Mahler than Bieito and due to the distinctive performances they get from Boesch (the daddy) and mezzo-soprano Monika Bohinec (the mom). Solely the hardests of hearts can’t be did not be moved by the ultimate music ‘In diesem Wetter’ as (a really emotional) Boesch regrets letting the kids exit in some appalling climate when he was fearful they might fall unwell. Holding palms with Bohinec tears nicely up as Boesch sings how ‘With no storm to frighten them, cradled in god’s hand, they’re resting as if at residence’ earlier than they slowly stroll off because the lights fade. Memorably fabulous singing.

Florian Boesch (baritone) and Monika Bohinec (mezzo-soprano) sing Kindertotenlieder

For me the ending absolved Bieito of all that went earlier than, about which I stay relatively ambivalent. It was great to listen to Mahler carried out by members of ‘his’ Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in ‘his’ opera home. In fact, I’ve to remind readers I used to be listening by way of loudspeakers however below Lorenzo Viotti (who was making his Staatsoper debut) there was all of the luminous virtuosity you’ll count on from the orchestra. Alongside along with his well-cast soloists and the impressively detailed singing from the refrain, Das klagende Lied was given a dramatic coherence that turned a lot greater than the sum of its splendid particular person elements. Boesch’s heat expressive baritone stood out, supported by Bohinec’s wealthy, contralto-like timbre and the piping tones of Jonathan Mertl (boy alto) and Johannes Pietsch (boy soprano) who confirmed precocious composure. Tenor Daniel Jenz and soprano Vera-Lotte Boecker had a lot much less to sing however revealed – as a result of nature of Bieito’s staging – that they too are wonderful singing-actors.

Jim Pritchard



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