Friday, 20 November 2009

Henze launches Barbican new operas season

PLEASE NOTE there are 15 Posts on Henze on this site and more coming, including reviews of Phaedra, both in Berlin and in the Barbican. Please use search facility at right Hans Werner Henze's Phaedra at last comes to London in January, keynote of special immersion weekend in Henze's wonderful, far-ranging music. Devotees booked their tickets a year ago, but you can still get them now from the Barbican. Henze is the greatest living German composer, by miles. He's not given nearly enough recognition in the English-speaking world because in 1968 he put his principle before profit. He supported the revolutionary ideals of the time, went to Cuba and protested against the Vietnam war. End of lucrative deals: DG had just issued a mega retrospective of his symphonies, so they lost out badly. But they stood by him and are now reissuing the recordings to new audiences who now realize that maybe Henze had a point.

Henze is an institution. If anything in old age and infirmity he's even more creative. Phaedra is a crucial point in his life and music. It's a passionate statement about love, and the power of love to triumph over all obstacles, including death. Personally it had huge emotional resonance for Henze because his lover of 40 years died suddenly while it was being written. This lover had just nursed Henze himself through a traumatic near death illness which left him incapacitated for months. So there's no separating the personal from the musical in this powerful work. When the work premiered in Berlin in 2007 one writer sneered that it wasn't funny enough and that Henze shouldn't end his career like that. Another moaned it was in German! Well, Henze didn't end his career and has gone on to write yet another opera, to be premiered in Rome in May 2010.

Henze's previous opera L'Upupa was cheerful and whimsical but the composer has written so much else. Indeed, his work is notable for its extreme range. Phaedra is a very tightly crafted, intense chamber opera, austere and yet other-worldly. In London, we'll be getting Ensemble Modern, who've made it a key part of their repertoire, and John Mark Ainsley.

Read more about it HERE on What's on Stage. Simon Thomas has interviewed Angela Dixon about the Barbican's special season of new European operas. The special season will include Peter Eötvös's Angels in America and Michael van der Aa's After Life. Read about them in the link.

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