Theater premiere: “Lear” in Munich: A study of nature by the royal family

Inheritance wars are preferred in the best circles. Now the Bavarian State Opera has revived the violent masterpiece “Lear” by Aribert Reimann. In the title role: Christian Gerhaher.

Even the drama and opera aficionado cannot remember that: that he would have ever experienced Lear, King Lear from Shakespeare’s office, as a Beetle collector. But that’s it now here at the Bavarian State Opera in the first opera premiere in almost nine months in front of an audience in a chessboard seating arrangement.

One can hardly avoid the force of this double tragedy

Even more: Lear and his family of very mixed characters – this is clearly shown by the first and last scenes – is practically a scientific study object itself, a rare specimen from the upscale British insect kingdom, exhibited first of all for museum visitors in a showcase – along with other picturesque representatives of the Genus. The audience that has been proven, tested, has been vaccinated and has recovered is asked to study a hodgepodge in a cabinet full of abnormalities.

Shakespeare allowed them to collide, and Aribert Reimann gave them highly expressive singing over a catastrophically towering orchestra in “Lear” – in this literary opera, which represents one of the few post-war musical theater pieces that were internationally successful. Big and small houses from several countries have reenacted it since its premiere in 1978 between San Francisco and Tokyo; Its force as a double tragedy on the subjects of inheritance family war and lust for power can hardly be avoided.

“Lear” by Aribert Reimann: Between inheritance family war and lust for power

And this world success came from the same place in 1978, from the Bavarian State Opera, where 43 years later the work of the now 85-year-old composer was staged again. At the time, Jean-Pierre Ponelle placed Lear and his family ties in an illustrative, “natural” heathland, but Christoph Marthaler encounters him – as it was, is and remains – decidedly artificial. Lear: exhibited and exhibited in a natural history museum that has seen better days (stage: Anna Viebrock in well-rehearsed cooperation). As a collector and exotic, the king wants to bequeath his kingdom; but two of his daughters are concerned with much more: rule and power, preferably alone.

The end is known: one blinded man and more than a handful of dead. They can remain in place as exhibits – and will actually be shown again to a small group of interested visitors with an audio guide for the finale by a caretaker / museum guide. Then he turns off the light on the fuse box – and again, after a good 40 years, there is uncontested ovation for this musical earthquake, at the end of which Aribert Reimann noted in 1977: “I’m totally exhausted” – and after the second part: “ Couldn’t have endured it any longer. “

“Lear” in the State Opera: the distance to stage naturalism remains palpable at all times

The fact that Marthaler now staged this family tragedy as an entirely artificial alternative to directing the premiere also leads back to Shakespeare in a certain way. Reimann set an extract of the drama to music, practically the condensed, sober, brutal message in mostly hard cuts in quick succession. But through Marthaler’s well-known bizarre features, the grotesque, absurd, delusional Shakespeare’s are returned to the piece, so to speak, through the back door of the Natural History Museum. And there is also a stab of paralyzed nightmares. Here the caretaker in the smock, annoyed, puts the torn museum floor back in order; There the nasty daughters Goneril and Regan die and freeze while standing. They no longer need to be stuffed large for future presentation.

Marthaler’s staging is again a small treatise on behavior problems and oddball, unique and sad characters – just as it leaves the opera genre to a slightly dusty museum. The distance to the stage naturalism remains perceptible at all times – although this works better in the first part and towards the bad end than at the beginning of the second part, because the opening and spinning of transport boxes on rollers gives a little impression of scenic filling and embarrassment actions. All in all, however: a powerful alternative vision to the world premiere production.

“Lear” in Munich: Christian Gerhaher convinces with sound and intelligibility

In this Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sang and played the Lear. It was only he who was able to get Reimann to compose. Christian Gerhaher is now his legitimate successor for several reasons, whom Artistic Director Nikolaus Bachler first had to gently push in to take over the role. Also because the two-and-a-half-hour work basically expects vocal boundaries to be crossed. You can sing against an orchestra detonating under high pressure.

But just as Marthaler domesticated tragedy in a certain way, so now – if the memory of the premiere is not deceptive – Jukka-Pekka Saraste domesticated the grandiose, violent score. Back then: a hurricane that thundered over everything. Now: gradation, differentiation of the state orchestra. Gerhaher with his maximum of sound with a maximum of text intelligibility will have had an impact on this. The daughters Goneril (Angela Denoke), Cordelia (Hanna-Elisabeth Müller) and Regan (Ausrine Stundyte) also have a strong voice. Commanded disturbingly the fool of Graham Valentine.

Next performances: May 26th and 30th, June 3rd and 7th

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