Friday, 18 November 2011

Lera Auerbach's Gogol premieres at the Theater an der Wien

On Tuesday I went to the world premiere of Gogol, a new opera by Russian-born composer, writer, poet, visual artist and pianist Lera Auerbach, who in her spare time enjoys... (I kid). Here’s some of what I wrote for Bachtrack:
Before writing a note of Gogol, composer Lera Auerbach immersed herself in the writer’s complete works and over twenty books written about him. It would take similar efforts to begin to understand this opera: taking us inside the fevered mind of its title character, Gogol is less a biographical narrative set to music than a phantasmagorical psychological investigation. Given a virtuosic staging by director Christine Mielitz, it is also an overwhelming theatrical experience.
Click here to read the full review. There are just a few things to add.

Susanna Defraia up top

With reference to trapeze artist Susanna Defraia’s comment at the bottom: my apologies Susanna, you did a great job. You can check out her Youtube channel here.

In the oh-so-witty subtitles department:
Vienna is a pleasant city. Only the Germans there are boring. They don’t go to the opera much.
Gogol's final scene

Did you know that the Bey of Algiers has a wart on his nose?

(Gogol's nonsensical final words. Unless Auerbach intended to reference unlikely bedfellows Shostakovich and Rossini?).

Lastly, as I’ve received many hits from German-speaking readers who have been putting the blog through Google translate, here’s a round-up of the press I rate:

Ulrich Weinzierl from German daily Die Welt comments that Wirklich nachvollziehen können die thematische Ballung von Russland, Religion und Wahn wohl nur Eingeweihte, also Kenner und Betroffene.”

Florian Lienhart (Nikolka) & Ladislav Elgr (Bes)
Proving that Viennese critics are more down with pop culture than you'd think, Der Standard’s Ljubiša Tošić  accurately remarks that the costumes and hair owe something to the finnische Rockcombo Leningrad Cowboys mit ihren Gondelfrisuren und –schuhen”. 

And Wilhelm Sinkovicz of Die Presse writes this about the score: “Die Musik der russisch-amerikanischen Komponistin rechnet sich zur sogenannten Postmoderne. Der Anfang von „Gogol“ klingt denn auch, als hätte man Partituren von Rachmaninow und Schostakowitsch übereinandergekleistert. Danach wird es aber bald weniger vielschichtig. Orchester- und Gesangslinien reduzieren sich mehrheitlich auf langwieriges Psalmodieren in sechs- bis siebentönigen Skalen.” Whatever I may think of Sinkovicz, this isn’t too far off. However, a major Auerbach influence has gone unmentioned. I didn’t reference Schnittke in my review, but am surprised that nobody else did either.

Image credit: Werner Kmetitsch

1 comment:

  1. I'm not so sure that Shostakovich and Rossini are such unlikely bedfellows. When I first heard Lady Macbeth of Mtzensk, I was struck by the orchestral interludes and the police headquarters scene in which I heard a great deal of the intricacy, energy, rhythmic sparkle and wit of both Rossini and Offenbach.