Composition and interpretation can be two sides of the same coin. During 1990 and 1991 Hans Werner Henze created his own version of Giovanni Paisiello’s opera Il re Teodoro in Venezia (1784) and in doing so filled the roles of both interpreter and composer. The adaptation was an opportunity for Henze to demonstrate his adoration for Paisiello’s music and to offer his own personal perspective on the work. On 24 June 2015, Henze’s version of the opera will be performed in a new production directed by Lenka Horinková at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava.
Il re Teodoro in Venezia is a ‘heroic-comic drama’ that tells the story of Theodor Neuhoff, a Westphalian baron and adventurer. During a short stint as king of Corsica he loses all his money and is forced to flee from his creditors to Venice where he hides in a tavern and falls in love with the innkeeper’s daughter. Chaos follows with a series of comical misunderstandings that prevent the ex-king from admitting to his bankruptcy and the fact that he lost his throne. Theodor is ultimately incarcerated in his debtor’s prison in London where he defiantly proclaims: “The world is like a wheel: eventually those at the bottom will return to the top”.
In his interpretation, Henze wanted to give audiences to the opportunity re-experience the opera. His modifications include new dissonances, added bel canto quotations and rhythmic variations. He also re-orchestrated the work to consist of twelve winds, string sextet, mandolin, guitar, piano and percussion.
Ancient forms seem to me like classical ideals of beauty: unattainable but still visible from a distance. The path to these is the most difficult and the most impossible. For me, it is the only folly worth living for. – Hanz Werner Henze
Following the opening night on 24 June, further performances will take place on 28 June, 24 September, 8 October, 12 November and 17 February 2016.
photo: Slovak National Theatre