Tuesday, 17 May 2011

ENO 2011 2012 season - daring! detailed summary

PREVIEW of Ca;luigula HERE.  REVIEW follows shortly. Has the ENO ditched gimmicks for really classy opera? The new 2011-2012 ENO seasons returns to the older tradition of genuinely challenging opera, presented without thrills. The two significant items are Detlev Glanert's Caligula and Wolfgang Rihm's Jakob Lenz. Glanert and Lenz are the most significant living composers in Germany. They're extremely well regarded. The dominance of English language media means that anglophones are insular. But Germany was, and is, where it's happening in music. So ENO, despite it's English language remit, is doing a huge public service by bringing Glanert and Rihm to London. These could be landmark productions.

Glanert and Rihm are huge names and always feature in new music events. (Rihm's more avant garde, Glanert more accessiible).  In fact, they're so significant that they've been featured at the Proms. Rihm was the subject of a BBC Total Immersion last year. (read HERE and HERE). Regular visitors to this site will know them well which is why I've written so much about them in the past (use search box and labels at right)

Detlev Glanert is one of the few students Hans Werner Henze ever took on, so that in itself is an indication of how interesting he is. Like Henze, he loves music that "acts", also a good sign. Caligula, one of Glanert's many operas, grew out of  Theatrum bestiarum, a commission from the BBC for a gala piece using the Royal Albert Hall 's massive organ.  Caligula was an eccentric psychopath, so becoming a Roman Emperor gave him free licence to run amok. The opera's about how he bullies those who stand up to him. It's vivid and quirky, imbued by Glanert's warped but pointed sense of satire. Caligula's mad, and a tyrant, and the opera isn't all laughs. It's been revived several times. I caught it in Frankfurt in 2009. Read about it in more detail HERE. The production then was stupid, but the opera is good and will support a much more incisive staging. ENO is using Benedict Andrews, who did Monteverdi's Ulysses as Reservoir Dogs. Thank goodness, because the last thing Caligula needs is a director who thinks it's trite comedy. If Andrews takes his cues from the music this time, he could do something great.

Rihm's Jakob Lenz is an early (1977) chamber opera. Rihm went on to write lots more music theatre and music that incorporates voice. It's just that his orchestral and chamber music is so astoundingly good that it eclipses all else. Jakob Lenz was an eccentric writer who became insane. The opera is based on a play about him by Georg Büchner who wrote Woyzeck, now known as Wozzeck. It's only one act, so I'm not sure how it's going to be presented. Indications are that it's being done as a stand alone at the small Hampstead Theatre. Below I've posted a clip of Rihm's Jakob Lenz as a taster.

The ENO has a wonderful John Adams/Philip Glass tradition, so the new production of Adams's Death Of Klinghoffer will be a must.  When it premiered it caused a furore, hitting headlines ordinary operas can't hope to achieve. The subject's still controversial, so maybe it's a blessing that it's on in February 2012, before the Olympics, when it might be a bit too close for comfort.

Wonderful, too, that ENO are doing even more thought provoking work about serious issues. Mieczysław Weinberg's The Passenger starts 19th September 2011. When it was at Bregenz last year, Opera Cake wrote about it so vividly that it felt like you were actually there in the audiernce with him. Read him HERE This is what music writing should be like! Maybe we're getting the same production, but in English. What a scoop!

Altogther 11 new productions, which is soome kind of record in these straitened times. They include classics like Billy Budd, Rameau's Castor and Pollux, The Marriage of Figaro and The Flying Dutchman.  Much has been made of "four living composers" in the media but it's misleading. Although it's unethical to judge someone you haven't heard, I don't think Damon Albarn is anything near Glanert, Rihm or Adams. Because Albarn, Wainwright and others are heard at the Linbury, there's clearly a niche market for rock and pop composers branching into opera. But that doesn't automatically translate into cutting edge "new music". Like or not like, we need to know the difference or end up looking stupid.
 Photo above : Mike Quinn


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