Having previously staged both Owen Wingrave and Death in Venice under its intendant Bernd Loebe, Oper Frankfurt continued its exploration of the operas of Benjamin Britten in October with a rare performance of his first stage work Paul Bunyan.
Brigitte Fassbaender directed a new production which garnered adulation from the critics and featured a dazzling scenic concept by set designer Johannes Leiacker which ingeniously referenced American Pop Art. Britten created Bunyan with W. H. Auden in 1941 during his self-imposed American exile, and sought to capture the spirit of the booming, forward-looking country around them with a mixture of aff ection and irreverence. Auden’s lyrical, subtle satire interweaves with a score that sees the young Britten at his most playful and inventive: folk, blues and Broadway are incorporated into a musical language that remains distinctively his. Telling the story of Paul Bunyan, the mythic lumberjack who cleared America’s forests and made way for the industrial age, Britten’s charming opera is ultimately an ambivalent meditation on the soul of America. An apt time, then, for this unjustly neglected work to be revived!
‘A feisty piece, with care-free style. Sparkling, cheeky, as gripping as a musical… a joy. Great fun.’
Bild Frankfurt (Josef Becker), 11 October 2016
‘For all its simplicity, the music sounds surprisingly fresh, its rarely dissonant harmony surprisingly colourful… As an example of how European artists fled in 1940 before the catastrophe, seeking their salvation in the New World only to be frustrated, Bunyan still remains symptomatic, as well as aesthetically an attractive special case.’
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Gerhard R. Koch), 11 October 2016
‘Musically, many treasures await. Broken choruses, shrewd duets and a parodistic diversity of style.’ Frankfurter Neue Presse (Bettina Boyens), 11 October 2016
‘A most intelligent satirical evening of opera!’
Bachtrack (Miriam Zeh), 11 October 2016
‘A discovery – It’s time to do this work justice and to discover its special qualities… Britten’s music appears to be creeping in and out of the simple, tonal, folk-like style, but then evades with dark, mysterious insistence.’
Frankfurter Rundschau (Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich), 10 October 2016
‘A valuable musical discovery’ ‘A valuable musical discovery… Not an operetta in the classical sense, but rather a hybrid between contemporary opera and musical.’
Concerti (Kirsten Liese), 9 October 2016