Saturday, November 29, 2014

Georg Nigl stars in Stuttgart's hit opera "Jakob Lenz"

Georg Nigl as Jakob Lenz
One of the hits of Oper Stuttgart's season has been Wolfgang Rihm's one act chamber opera Jakob Lenz starring Georg Nigl. It has one more performance on December 12th, which is completely sold out. Lenz, who along with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, formed the “Sturm und Drang” (Storm and Stress) movement in German literature which made German authors the cultural leaders of Europe during the 18th century.

The opera is based on the novella "Lenz" by Georg Büchner which deals with an incident in the life of the German poet. The source of Büchner's material comes from the diaries of the social reformer and priest Johann Friedrich Oberlin, which detail the activities of his house guest, who was clearly suffering from mental illness at the time.  The suicidal poet stayed with Oberlin in a small village in the Vosges Mountains near the German-French border in the hope of recovering from his depression. 

Georg Nigl as Jakob Lenz
Büchner's opening pages describing the mountain landscape and hinting at Lenz's inner state with the single sentence "he did not feel at all tired, only it sometimes annoyed him that he could not walk on his hands instead of his feet" are reduced to a stage direction, but the rest of the libretto roughly follows Büchner's outline. A key element of the libretto deals with his trauma around the death of a small child whom was he was unable to resuscitate.

The opera was first performed at the Hamburg Staatsoper in 1979 with the late English baritone Richard Salter in the title role. It has subsequently been performed at the Wiener Festwochen with Georg Nigl, Teatro Comunale di Bolgna with Tomas Möwes and the English National Opera with Andrew Shore. 

Watch a preview with Georg Nigl from Stuttgart:

Watch the entire opera with Tomas Möwes from Bologna:

At the end of Lenz's life he lived with Goethe's brother-in-law, Johann Georg Schlosser, where he lived in poverty.  After years of increasingly poor physical health and debilitating mental problems, Lenz died on the streets of Moscow 1792.

Austrian baritone George Nigl began his singing career with the famed Vienna Boy's Choir. He went on to study as a baritone and an actor, performing with the Vienna Burgtheater. He has gone on to sing at many of the major opera houses in Europe, including La Scala in Milan, Staatsoper Unter den linden in Berlin, Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Bolshoi in Moscow, the Festival Aix-en-Provence, the Salzburg Festival and the Wiener Festwochen.

A number of contemporary composers have written works for him, including Pascal Dusapin, Wolfgang Rihm, Friedrich Cerha, Georg Friedrich Haas, Olga Neuwirth, Salvatore Sciarrino, Wolfgang Mitterer, and Peter Eötvös. 

Michael Scarcelle, Vittorio Prato and Ernesto Petti
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