Thursday, 1 October 2015

Independent Opera is back ! Biedermann and the Arsonists

The Independent Opera Company is back !  Once it was the adventurous, lively company that did great opera on a shoestring budget. Remember their Orlando, their The Sofa, and their Pelléas et Mélisande, all directed by Alessandro Talevi ?  Look up the label below for links. These were wonderfully imaginative stagings, full of energy and colour, making a virtue of tight budgets.   Look, too, at the singers who worked for them then. Independent Opera haven't really been away, since they've been quietly funding and training young talent.

To mark their 10th anniversary, Independent Opera is doing a full new staging, of Šimon Voseček's Biedermann and the Arsonists, first heard in the Neue Oper Wien in 2013, in a new translation by David Pountney.  The production runs 14. 17 and 19th November at the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler's Wells. Good singers including the incomparable Leigh Melrose.
"What would you do if a pair of suspicious-looking strangers enter your home uninvited and then ask for shelter? Would you throw them out? Call the police? Would you try to be diplomatic and avoid a physical confrontation? These are the challenges put before an audience in Biedermann and the Arsonists. The stable domestic world of the Biedermanns, a respectable, prosperous couple, is destroyed because of their inability to combat the serious threat posed to their home and local community. Blind fear, social embarrassment, middle-class guilt and moral paralysis all combine to drive Herr Biedermann and his wife towards compromising with and ultimately submitting to this new power that has infiltrated their home."  (more on Independent Opera's website)

"Though a composer fully-certified in the current pur et dur school of Viennese contemporary music, Voseček‘s opera is human and warm, lending new dimensions to Biedermann’s character throughout his journey from upstanding citizen to accessory to arson. Musically, a combination of empathy and urgency was created through Voseček‘s stunningly beautiful instrumentation choices: three clarinets (two doubling bass clarinet); three trombones, one tuba; two percussionists; one violin and three celli. Well performed by the Amadeus Ensemble-Wien, we heard warmth from keening, sliding trombones and open, dissonant intervals in the celli and low brass. The clarinets provided urgent material in their altissimo range, whining very, very quietly in quarter tones about the danger lurking in the living room. The chorus of three sang almost exclusively in tight chords, differentiating them from the rest of the vocal material, which alternated between angular and smooth lines as the text required.

This quote comes from a review of the Neu Oper Wien production HERE. Please take time to read the whole review, it's a model of intelligent music writing.

In London, we'll be getting a new staging, by Max Hoehn.  but below is a video clip of the Vienna production. Musically interesting, way in advance of most of what we're used to in the UK.  Will UK audiences dare rise to the challenge ? I hope so.

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