Monday, June 25, 2018

Evgueniy Alexiev takes on Jakob Lenz in Bielefeld

Evgueniy Alexiev as Jakob Lenz in Bielefeld (Image_ Theater Bielefeld)

Evgueniy Alexiev is the latest baritone to take on the challenging title in Wolfgang Rihm's "Jakob Lenz." He's performing the piece at the Theater Bielefeld on July 3 and 7. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

The one act chamber opera Jakob Lenz is based on the novella "Lenz" by Georg Büchner which deals with an incident in the life of the German poet. 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. 
Evgueniy Alexiev as Jakob Lenz in Bielefeld
(Image_ Theater Bielefeld)

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.

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.

Evgueniy Alexiev as Jakob Lenz in Bielefeld
(© Bettina Stöß, Theater Bielefeld)
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 and at Oper Stuttgart with Georg Nigl, Teatro Comunale di Bolgna with Tomas Möwes and the English National Opera with Andrew Shore.

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.

French-Bulgarian baritone Evgueniy Alexiev studied at the Lycée Français and the Superior National Conservatory of Sofia. He was a finalist at the 1995 Luciano Pavarotti International Competition of Singing in Philadelphia and won first prize in the Alès Opera Competition. As part of the ensemble in Bielefeld, he has performed Don Giovanni, Escamillo, Rossini's Figaro, Marcello and Athanaël. He also performs regularly in France, including at the Opera of Strasbourg, Opera of Saint Etienne, Opera of Dijon and at the Opera of Montpellier

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