Home Theatre Thought-provoking, involving staging of St Matthew Ardour in Berlin – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Thought-provoking, involving staging of St Matthew Ardour in Berlin – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Thought-provoking, involving staging of St Matthew Ardour in Berlin – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United KingdomUnited Kingdom Bach, St Matthew Ardour: Soloists, Youngsters’s and  Youth Choirs of the Deutsche Oper (director: Christian Lindhorst), Youth Choir of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Youngsters’s Choir of the Aalto-Theatre, Essen (director: Patrik Jaskolka), Refrain of the Deutsche Oper (director: Jeremy Bines), Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper / Alessandro De Marchi (conductor). Deutsche Oper Berlin, 29.3.2024. (MB)

Bach’s St Matthew Ardour at Deutsche Oper Berlin © Marcus Lieberenz

Director – Benedikt von Peter
Revival administrators – Eva-Maria Abelein, Matteo Marziano Graziano
Set designs – Natascha von Steiger
Costumes – Lene Schwind
Video – Bert Zander
Lighting – Roland Edrich
Dramaturgy – Dorothea Hartmann

Evangelist – Kieran Carrel
Jesus – Padraic Rowan
Bass – Joel Allison
Tenor, False Witness – Kangyoon Shine Lee
Petrus, Excessive Priest, Pontifex II – Youngkwang Oh
Pilatus, Judas, Pontifex I – Artur Garbas
Soprano, First Maid – Siobhan Stagg
Alto, False Witness, Second Maid – Annika Schlicht
Woman – Zoé Höchse
Good friend – Selina Nüsse

Had somebody informed me I must be attending performances of the 2 Bach Passions on consecutive evenings, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, in Leipzig and Berlin, my first response may need been of scepticism, adopted by reflection that this might not fail to be a Holy Week to recollect. And certainly, it has not failed, neither in that nor in every other respect. Nonetheless, had I then been informed that I ought to discover a staged efficiency in an opera home significantly extra involving, not solely thought-provoking, than a live performance within the Thomaskirche, my response may need turned to one thing a bit of stronger than scepticism. But so it got here to go. I had little thought what to anticipate, although recollections of Deborah Warner’s Messiah for the English Nationwide Opera (keep in mind them?) proceed to solid a baleful shadow. There may need been widespread floor, in that the Deutsche Oper’s manufacturing claimed to share a priority for ‘group’. But whereas, in London, that had been an unlucky buzzword, right here group involvement, not solely from 5 choirs, newbie {and professional}, but in addition from a Berlin (and past) public that appeared to transcend the standard, nonetheless broad opera viewers, in addition to each intelligently contemplating what group the work may assemble and questioning what that may imply in an more and more secular society.

Benedikt von Peter’s staging, a co-production with Theater Basel, was first seen in Berlin final 12 months. Right here, in one among its first revival performances, it attracted a big viewers each within the conventional auditorium and in further seating onstage. Or maybe that must be congregation, as we had been addressed within the titles; we got the music for 2 chorales to sing too: ‘Was mein Gott will,’ and ‘O Haupt von Blut und Wunden’. The manufacturing is in some ways, particularly throughout the first half, fairly easy. That works to its benefit as soon as important potentialities are voiced; they’re grounded in one thing that has arisen, it appears, fairly than having arisen from preliminary antagonism. Its spatial-conceptual framework would appear to have developed collaboratively from discussions between the director and conductor Alessandro De Marchi, probably dramaturge Dorothea Hartmann too. The 2 orchestras are on stage, both aspect of the house during which the manufacturing performs out. The conductor is on the entrance of the stalls, and the choirs are positioned across the auditorium within the form of the Cross, an association, we’re informed, modelled on an growth of the separation of forces between altar and ‘swallow’s nest’ gallery. It actually helps break boundaries between performers and viewers, rendering us all in some sense congregants — while sustaining the potential for totally different ranges of engagement in line with perception or inclination.

Bach’s St Matthew Ardour at Deutsche Oper Berlin © Marcus Lieberenz

Members of the Youngsters’s Choir of the Deutsche Oper carry the Cross onstage within the monumental opening refrain. I’ve heard it each extra and fewer monumental. This was not, thank God, a dogmatic efficiency, De Marchi exhibiting himself commendably pragmatic: all an excessive amount of a rarity, alas, in as we speak’s ‘authenticke’ world. If its tempo was quick, not less than to my ears, it was not absurdly so; nor was there whining rigidity. Klemperer’s strategy would, in spite of everything, not have suited the event and forces, nor probably the conductor’s inclination, any greater than one thing extra objectionable. As soon as previous a bit of discrepancy between orchestras – eminently forgivable within the circumstances – one felt drawn in to the best of all (music) dramas: visually, aurally, aesthetically, and sure observantly. Youngsters act out the Ardour, with overtones of Oberammergau, as it’s musically enacted by the adults, the Evangelist specifically assuming the position of their teacher. Thus, we see ‘disciples’ go away a bit of boy alone, tied and blindfolded — as certainly we hear that. However I’ve missed a stage: earlier than that first refrain, a bit of lady has learn to us from the Ebook of Isaiah. She seems to be merely studying a lesson, however turns into an more and more important voice, shouting to the deserting disciples, albeit to no avail. On the shut of the primary half, she frees Jesus: out of humanity, not essentially religion. Certainly, components of religion proceed to hassle her, unable to reconcile her ethics with the financial system of salvation. Having been freed, Jesus runs off to hitch the others, those that had captured him, fairly than be comforted by his liberator: a troublesome, hurtful act, wealthy in symbolism. In any case, he should; he has no alternative in any of this. She returns to the Bible, to learn, study, and suppose although not essentially in the way in which her instructors intend.

Within the second half, the lady (Zoé Höchse) returns, ever extra ‘troublesome’ to the forces of organised faith. She can’t settle for what is going on and is ultimately banished by the Evangelist. (There’s, I feel, greater than a splash of Greta Thunberg to her.) So too is her buddy, and so too are among the different youngsters, satisfied by the rebels’ arguments and understandably unwilling merely to do as they’re informed. Disturbingly, having remained separate following his trial, Christus briefly takes half in these expulsions too, however we are able to discover ample Scriptural warrant for that, ought to we want. In contrast, among the ‘remaining’ youngsters are elevated to sung in addition to visible participation: a few them extremely spectacular in addition to touching. As not solely tragedy turns into clear but in addition its more true theological, sacrificial that means – that of the Cross in whose kind the whole drama unfolds – the youngsters who can’t settle for it invade the stage with their very own, unresolved questions as placards. Epic theatre meets Christian ritual, and in the end it us for us to resolve (or not). Questioning a Bach Ardour could seem odd, certainly unwelcome, to many, and certainly it could be in a church. In an opera home, although, issues are totally different. It would effectively not have labored, however it did.

That was due in no small half, after all, to Da Marchi and his musical forces. The Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper performed with nice type and sensitivity: not making an attempt to be one thing they weren’t, however partaking in a recreation of Bach for as we speak, with out ever suggesting they may want to be enjoying Wagner. Certainly, of their obbligato roles, one sensed a second of musical liberation: how fantastic, it appeared, that for as soon as they might not solely play this repertoire however interact in music theatre of their very own. Likewise the massed choral forces, used sparingly collectively, however voicing drama and reflection from round us, evoking an excellent basilica as a lot as Stockhausen. All concerned of their path deserve credit score, pastorally in addition to musically, this mirroring work and manufacturing in follow. One can query among the musical decisions, however that may at all times be the case in such music; one can nonetheless study from the alternatives made. I won’t select to make use of lutes for the continuo, however I drastically appreciated their contribution.

Kieran Carrel proved a superb Evangelist. It’s at the very best of instances a substantial job, emotionally in addition to vocally; with further ‘dramatic’ duties, it grew to become all of the extra so. Carrel’s understanding and communication of that understanding appeared to realize depth from these challenges, totally partaking with circumstances and their conceptual framework. The identical could be mentioned of Padraic Rowan’s Christus, darkly lovely: unusually, correctly distant but additionally approachable. The opposite vocal soloists additionally all impressed. Battling a chilly, Joel Allison nonetheless provided transferring accounts of the bass arias; there have been only some events when one might inform. Tenor Kangyoon Shine Lee proved not less than his match within the tenor arias, finely sculpted line and tone on the service of the textual content. Siobhan Stagg, Annika Schlicht complemented one another effectively as soprano and mezzo-soprano, providing performances each thought of and, so it appeared, dramatically spontaneous. Youngkwang Oh and Artur Garbas impressed equally of their elements. There actually was no weak hyperlink, however fairly in a real sense a musical group that each constructed and was constructed by Bach’s nice Ardour and its explicit enactment.

Mark Berry



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