Henze’s Civil War Opera Marks Unorthodox Opening for Semperoper
Enlarge image Henze’s civil war Opera transforms the Semperoper's Stage. (© picture alliance / dpa) After more than ten years, Hans Werner Henze’s stirring civil war opera Wir erreichen den Fluss / We come to the River returns to the German stage. The Dresden Semperoper’s young director Elisabeth Stöppler has taken on this unwieldy challenge. “I saw the 2001 performance at the Hamburg State Opera, and that got me thinking about Henze,” Stöppler told the news agency dapd in Dresden. She described the staging of the Dresden show to be a bit wilder – the entire Semperoper company is to be involved, including three orchestras and more than 50 soloists.
With great anticipation Stöppler awaits the premiere on Thursday , which the 86-year-old composer, who now lives in Italy, is planning on attending. “I am quite excited to find out what he thinks of this highly political work 46 years after its debut performance,” said the 35-year-old Stöppler. She noted that just staging a political piece from the 1970s is very difficult to pull off. “It's hard to make something like that for a modern audience, which would say, ‘we already know everything; that is too much agitprop.’” However, she felt that Henze’s piece raises quite universal questions of war, guilt and responsibility, remarking “[as] Henze says: The story line could happen at any time and any place.”
Enlarge image Henze’s opera raises quite universal questions of war, guilt and responsibility. (© picture alliance / dpa) The text is nevertheless deeply influenced by the political actions of the 1970’s such as the deposing of Salvador Allende in Chile, as well as by the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and by Henze’s own experience from the Second World War. “This subject and the amazingly large complexity it takes to stage the piece are probably both reasons why such an extraordinary work as this is so rarely performed,” said Stöppler.
The Semperoper season premiere is to be dedicated to former director Ulrike Hessler, who died of cancer in July. She had done much to ensure the composer Henze would be the focal point of the opening of the 2012/2013 program, noted Stöppler, adding that Hessler had always felt connected to Henze.
Enlarge image A view of the restored Semperoper and the Theaterplatz in Dresden. (© picture alliance / ZB) As the summer break comes to a close, the considerable restoration work to Dresden’s Semperoper finishes just on time. The façade of the Theater Square entryway now sparkles and shimmers, declared the public enterprise Saxon Property and Construction Management (SIB) on Monday. According to the company, the gilding was severely damaged. With brushes and cleaning sponges, the restorers also reworked the inside of the opera house, including murals and architectural elements.
The Semperoper is the Saxony State Opera house in Dresden and one of the most well known buildings in Saxony’s state capital. It was first established by architect Gottfried Semper (1803-1879) as a royal court theater, which opened in 1841. It was destroyed completely in a fire in 1869. Under the leadership of his son Manfred, a second house was completed by 1878, which was subsequently severely damaged in air raids on Dresden in 1945. Starting in 1977, the opera was rebuilt and re-opened by 1985.