Anderson's Thebans Triumphs in Bonn

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JULIAN ANDERSON
Thebans 
Reviews of German Premiere
(Theater Bonn, May 2015 cond. Johannes Pell dir. Pierre Audi)
 

After a critically acclaimed world premiere by English National Opera in Summer 2014, Julian Anderson’s first opera Thebans made a powerful impression on German audiences and critics earlier this May when it opened at the Theater Bonn. The performances feature Pierre Audi’s original production and Johannes Pell conducts a cast including Peter Hoare (who created the role of Creon for ENO). The production runs until 4 June.

 

‘Enthusiastically acclaimed by the audience… Anderson, one of today's leading English composers, maintains an enormous musical vocabulary... He is - as is shown increasingly through the course of the evening - a real sound alchemist... The opera’s appeal comes mainly through its psychological precision; the music does not solely represent the characters, but also traces the process by which Oedipus recognizes his guilt. Anderson makes use of all kinds of virtuoso orchestral colours, shoots woodwind sounds and chords as arrows, and allows chamber music dialogues within the orchestra pit, as well as dramatic escalations - particularly effective in the threatening march rhythms of Antigone’s Act.’
General-Anzeiger (Bernhard Hartmann), 5 May 2015
 
‘A real sound alchemist’
 
‘The Second Act is a sensation. Antigone concentrated into 25 minutes, with breathtaking sound fantasy making a stringently designed psychoportrait of an overburdened power politician. Creon, the negative protagonist of Thebans, is exposed mercilessly through a relentless stream of crotchets… An iridescent, highly theatrical score. It would be wonderful if this unusual piece – well and imaginatively made – found its way into the repertoire of opera houses.’
Die deutsche Bühne (Andreas Falentin), 3 May 2015
 
‘A sound researcher and orchestrator without equal in contemporary music’
 
Thebans was enthusiastically received in London. Now the co-production in Bonn receives great applause too. Anderson has chosen a powerful story - McGuinness has set it very concisely, in unadorned language. In the second part things increase to an extremely dramatic confrontation, in music dominated by strict rhythms, percussive elements and a martial tone. The third part leads into almost surreal worlds, offering truly magical sound theatre. The Forest of Colonus [Act III] allows Anderson to explore internal and external worlds simultaneously. Are we hearing hoarse bird cries, groaning trees or tortured souls? In the Third Act Anderson proves himself to be a sound researcher and orchestrator without equal in contemporary music. One thing is certain: everything in this resounding cosmos is manmade – its composer does not make use of electronic means. Anderson's opera could be among the few new works that make it into the repertoire. Not just because of its convincing artistic force but also because it is a piece one can afford to do without extravagance. It is extremely well-written music for a normal symphony orchestra… If opera houses are on the lookout for exciting new pieces, they should look no further than Anderson’s Thebans.’
Deutschlandradio (Ulrike Gondorf), 3 May 2015