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2020/04/13

Work of the Week – Krzysztof Penderecki: The Devils of Loudun

Composer Krzysztof Penderecki passed away recently at his home in Poland, aged 86. As a tribute to the legacy left by one of the world’s foremost composers, Hamburg State Opera have made their original production of Penderecki’s The Devils of Loudun available to stream on demand for free from 13 April. This world premiere production from 1969 is part of a series of videos from the era of the legendary intendant Rolf Liebermann that the theatre is offering during its present shutdown. It was directed by Konrad Swinarski with costume and stage design by Lidia and Jerzy Skarzynski, and conducted by Henryk Czyz.

The opera is set in the small French town of Loudun, a showplace for sensational occurrences in 1633-34 that were extensively documented and gained renown around Europe, regarded with a mix of fervent repulsion and voyeurism. Urbain Grandier, the village priest of Loudun, was accused in 1633 of having bewitched the nuns, above all Prioress Jeanne of the newly founded Ursuline-Cloister. Under torture he admitted to regretting his lapsed lifestyle and having had relationships with two women – one of whom expected a child from him – but refused steadfastly to confess to his “Devil’s Work” despite “proofs” of the same. In the summer of 1634 he was burned at the stake. For years afterwards the obsessions of the nuns occupied doctors and exorcists, the events ending only as Cardinal Richelieu withdrew his financial support of the cloister.

Krzysztof Penderecki: The Devils of Loudun – an opera about tolerance

The trial against Urban Grandier was included in François de Pitaval’s collection of famous criminal cases. This source, along with the autobiographical recollections of Prioress Jeanne from 1644, and two reports of the trial from 1634 and 1693, were used by Aldous Huxley in 1952 as the basis for his non-fiction novel, The Devils of Loudun. Eight years later John Whiting dramatised Huxley’s writings, and this was the starting point for Penderecki’s libretto (translated into German by Erich Fried). 

For Penderecki, The Devils of Loudun is a work about tolerance and intolerance. Grandier was the victim of political intrigue, where even Jeanne was not really his enemy, but a victim of religious-political fanatics; her erotic neuroses exaggerated by Richelieu’s handiwork into a necessary possession by the Devil. – Wolfram Schwinger 

This world premiere production will be available on Hamburg State Opera’s streaming service until 27 April.

2019/09/16

Work of the Week – Kurt Weill: The Seven Deadly Sins

Weill: The Seven Deadly Sins / Staatstheater Stuttgart

The Seven Deadly Sins (Die sieben Todsünden) is one of Kurt Weill’s best-known and most frequently performed works. On 21 September, a new orchestration of the ballet chanté for 15 players will receive its premiere at Beethovenfest Bonn with Ensemble Modern and soloist Sarah Maria Sun conducted by HK Gruber. The new version has been created by Gruber and Christian Muthspiel in collaboration with the Kurt Weill Foundation and Schott Music.

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2017/01/09

Work of the Week – Jörg Widmann: ARCHE

On 13 January 2017, Jörg Widmann’s new oratorio ARCHE will receive its premiere, marking the opening of the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg. Soprano Marlis Petersen and baritone Thomas E. Bauer will perform alongside the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano, with the combined choral forces of the Staatsopernchor, the choir of the AUDI Jugendakademie and the Hamburger Alsterspatzen.

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2016/07/11

Work of the Week – George Gershwin: Girl Crazy

On 16 July, the Festival Napa Valley presents Embraceable You and I Got Rhythm from George Gershwin’s musical Girl Crazy with Kathleen Battle, Joel Revzen conducting Festival Orchestra NAPA.

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