Saturday, December 20, 2014

Björn Bürger to sing title role in Owen Wingrave

Björn Bürger
German barihunk Björn Bürger, who we introduced to readers in August when he was competing in the Mirjam Helin Competition, will be singing the title role in Britten's Owen Wingrave at the Frankfurt Opera from January 10-30. The role was previously sung at the opera by fellow barihunk Michael Nagy. He's currently wrapping up two more performances as Harlequin in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos with the company.

Bürger has been a member of the Frankfurt Opera Ensemble since 2013, where he's also sung Bengtson in Reimann's Die Gespenstersonate, Astolfo in Vivaldi's Orlando Furioso, Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Masetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni. He'll be adding Marcello in Puccini's La boheme to the list in February. In 2015, he will debut as Don Giovanni at the Norwegian Opera in Oslo.

Michael Nagy as Owen Wingrave in Frankfurt
In 2012, Bürger took First Prize at the Bundeswettbewerb Gesang 2012 (National Singing Competition) in Berlin and a year later the top prizes at the 'Emmerich-Smola Competition' and the Anneliese-Rothenberger Competition.

Owen Wingrave, which premiered in 1970, tells the story of a committed pacifist born into a renowned military family.  Despite strong disapproval over his beliefs and desperate to maintain the love of his would-be bride, Owen Wingrave is determined to prove his inner strength – even if it leads to his own demise.

Britten was a deeply committed pacifist, which traces back to his early life, particularly during his years at Gresham’s, his public school in Holt, Norfolk. He was know as a sensitive young boy who abhorred violence and bullying. World War I had cast a huge shadow over Britten’s generation and it was felt nowhere more keenly than at Gresham’s.  Britten was born a year before the onset of WWI  where the U.K. and its colonies saw 887,711 killed in action between 1914 and 1918. 100 boys from Gresham’s alone lost their lives.  His school formed one of the first branches of the League of Nations Union, which was designed to foster peace and prevent future conflict. The school also banned corporal punishment.

Britten's most famous pacifist composition is his War Requiem.

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