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Sven-Eric Bechtolf’s Cardillac in Vienna is influenced by German Expressionist cinema – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Austria Hindemith, Cardillac: Soloists, Refrain and Orchestra of Vienna State Opera / Cornelius Meister (conductor). Livestreamed (directed by Jasmina Eleta) from Vienna State Opera, 13.11.2022. (JPr)

Thomas Konieczny as Cardillac

Manufacturing – Sven-Eric Bechtolf
Stage designer – Rolf Glittenberg
Costume designer – Marianne Glittenberg
Lighting designer – Jürgen Hoffmann
Refrain director – Thomas Lang

Cardillac – Tomasz Konieczny
Cardillac’s daughter – Vera-Lotte Boecker
The Officer – Gerhard A. Siegel
The Gold Seller – Wolfgang Bankl
The Cavalier – Daniel Jenz
The Woman – Stephanie Houtzeel
Provost marshal – Evgeny Solodovnikov

I doubt Paul Hindemith’s 1926 Cardillac has ever been skilled very a lot within the UK and I can solely discover an aria was sung at a 1964 BBC Promenade and the New Opera Firm gave the primary staged performances in 1970 at Sadler’s Wells. In Vienna this was the fifteenth outing for Sven-Eric Bechtolf’s 2010 manufacturing and Cardillac was first placed on there in 1927 when one of many set designers was none aside from Alfred Curler, a previous collaborator there with Gustav Mahler. Cardillac is one thing of a psychological thriller with an antihero as its central character (suppose, Berg’s Wozzeck, Shostakovich’s Woman Macbeth of the Mtsensk, Britten’s Peter Grimes). Hindemith’s opera is predicated a personality in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Das Fräulein von Scuderi, the good goldsmith Cardillac. As within the novella he’s treasured in regards to the items he makes – largely gold chains it appears – and is reluctant to half with them and so reclaims them by murdering his excessive society shoppers in seventeenth-century Paris.

Bechtolf – together with designers Rolf Glittenberg (stage) and Marianne Glittenberg (costumes) – updates the story to the Nineteen Twenties and there’s the milieu of German expressionist cinema of the early a long time of the 20th century. Influences embrace I’d suppose, Robert Wiene’s The Cupboard of Dr Caligari, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. There are two-dimensional lopsided buildings, and the threatening crowd are all in black with whitened faces with the lads in high hats and the ladies with pilgrim-style bonnets. Three small homes additionally cross the stage. Singing ‘Assassin! Amongst us, with us!’ anybody who stands out from the group is at risk from their vengeance in search of.

The Provost seems and calms the group by saying the ‘Burning Chamber’ has been set as much as carry the assassin to justice and that is hauntingly prescient of what the Nazis will stand up to in coming a long time. He’s accompanied by two briefcase carrying dignitaries who may both be regarded as goose-stepping or from the Ministry of Foolish Walks. We quickly see how a lot Cardillac is revered earlier than we focus on two fan-bearing grotesque popinjays and watch the pursuit of the Woman (blonde and tiaraed) by the Cavalier together with his white trousers. She sings how ‘Paris is groaning beneath the surplus of crime’ but nonetheless calls for ‘probably the most lovely piece that Cardillac has ever made’ and the Cavalier is raring to get her the jewelry so he can rush to her mattress.

The Vienna Cardillac is carried out with out an interval so there’s now an interlude with the curtain down. It rises on a scene displaying some purple drapes opening within the centre with the Woman ready for the Cavalier on a black plinth singing of how she desires to be beneath him. Behind a display there’s the silhouette of the Cavalier tempting the Woman with the gold chain; they may swop with the Cavalier now onstage and we see the define of the Woman taking her robe off. She then joins him and after Hindemith’s obvious homage to ‘The Dance of the Seven Veils’ they begin to make love. The shadow of Cardillac looms giant and the Cavalier is stabbed extra within the pounding music we hear than on stage.

After a pause there’s extra violent music and Cardillac is at his work bench with a golden cupboard behind him as he sings how “What I create belongs to me’. He’s confronted by the Gold Seller who has his suspicions about Cardillac. Already there was a lot stylised motion in Bechtolf’s staging and his daughter in white along with her braided purple hair enters and accompanied by solo violin walks Coppélia-like as an automaton. The cupboard opens revealing a tumble of white chairs and a child doll (presumably Cardillac’s grandchild we hear about?) that she is going to solid apart. She loves the Officer and needs to flee with him however is reluctant to go away her father though she sings ‘Why do you caress your gold and never me?’ Then there’s an odd scene when the king (right here as a toddler) enters the workshop wanting one thing from Cardillac. He’s accompanied by his daughter (a younger pirouetting ballerina) and their vampire-like retainer (Murnau’s Nosferatu). They depart and the Officer returns and calls for ‘probably the most lovely factor you will have ever created’. The Officer throws cash at Cardillac and regardless of the risk he poses buys a gold chain (cue extra tumultuous music). Cardillac, in full Jack the Ripper guise, will follows him to get again what belongs to him.

With an enormous high hat outlined in lights in the back of the stage, Cardillac’s try and kill the officer fails and he’s denounced (‘Cardillac was the perpetrator!’) to the group by the Gold Service provider who was spying on him. In an try to save lots of him the Officer takes the blame whereas the group takes it out on the service provider for accusing Cardillac with everybody transferring in gradual movement. Cardillac’s daughter – after a lot shuffling and emoting – reveals she is aware of he’s responsible. The music ramps up much more while Cardillac refuses to call the killer and the group threaten his home. An unrepentant Cardillac lastly confesses to the murders and the mob – transferring robotically – kill him earlier than it’s proclaimed that ‘He was the sufferer of a holy delusion’. Now he’s lifeless Cardillac is proven as a statue on a plinth with gold hat, gold face and gold chain and honored (‘A hero has died!’) as if he has been sanctified throughout this ‘Evening of demise’.

Conclusion of Sven-Eric Bechtolf’s Cardillac at Vienna State Opera

Hindemith’s music is kind of accessible, if quite angular, schizophrenic, demonic, stuffed with nervous vitality and march-like by turns and sometimes at odds with the voice-shredding vocal strains. As heard by loudspeakers – and having nothing to match it with – the genial Cornelius Meister (who performed the brand new Bayreuth Ring this summer time) drew an engrossing account of the rating from his incomparable Vienna State Opera Orchestra and he was supported by the fully-committed, stentorian refrain. Bass-baritone Tomasz Konieczny sang Wotan at Bayreuth and together with his wealthy, assured and characterful tones introduced Cardillac to life as Hindemith’s murderous Hans Sachs, as a lot a grasp with leather-based as his character is with gold. Vera-Lotte Boecker was the clingy daughter torn between the love of her father and the Officer and had some good moments, particularly her duet with Cardillac close to the top of the opera. Tenor Gerhard A. Siegel because the Officer grew to become rising sorely examined by the tessitura of what he needed to sing, Wolfgang Bankl’s vignette because the nervy Mime-like Gold Seller appeared one other Hindemith homage to Wagner. Stephanie Houtzeel was mightily spectacular because the Woman awaiting her Cavalier and the character will get a few of the greatest music to sing. Because the Cavalier and Provost respectively, Daniel Jenz and Evgeny Solodovnikov gave stable performances.

Maybe Cardillac shouldn’t be an opera I’d rush to see and listen to once more however I discovered my consideration by no means wandered throughout Sven-Eric Bechtolf’s gripping manufacturing.

Jim Pritchard



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