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Opera News vol 72, no. 1 / Juli 2007, Larry L. Lash

VIENNA — Falsch verbunden, Play it like Rosie, Mirabellenkompott oder Mostbirnenmus, Monduntergang, Fröhliche Wissenschaft, vom mond, & Tod auf dem Mond, sireneOperntheater, 3/26/07


Tired of Aida, La Bohème and Carmen, but not quite ready to commit to a full-length opera by Adès, Berg or Carter? Vienna's sireneOperntheater may have found a way to ease you into music written during the last century.
For the second time, the company has collaborated with the forces of Brigitte Fassbaender's Tiroler Landestheater, Innsbruck, on a sampler of seven Operellen (seen March 26). The concept, perhaps a tad foreboding on paper, worked brilliantly in 2004 and again this season.
Operas between ten and twenty minutes were commissioned from seven teams of composers and librettists. Five performers — soprano, mezzo, tenor, bass and actor — performed all roles.
Here's the catch: librettists are limited to a set of five characters. For Operellen 2, they are a postman, a cook, an astronaut, the man (or woman) in the moon and Galileo. Each performer may play as many as all five roles in the course of the seven operas. The styles of both music and texts run the gamut of the human imagination.
The haunting vocal lines for Klaus Lang's eerie, otherworldly vom mond are so complex when set against his austere, Ligeti-like orchestration that the cast found it impossible to memorize them. The solution was to place the four singers among the orchestra, leaving actress Eleonora Bürcher to perform a solo pantomime in which she metamorphosed from one character to another.
In Play it like Rosie, Hannes Raffaseder drew on pop references from David Bowie to Nina Hagen for the story of a love triangle among the cook, the postman and the first woman astronaut. Opening as the trio watches the first moon landing on TV in 1969, its three brief acts pick up the story at intervals of ten years.
Johanna Doderer's clever Falsch Verbunden takes place in an Internet chat room: "cook," "astronaut," "man in the moon" and "Galileo" are all chat-room pseudonyms. The harried postman is the computer server, who makes the false connections of the title, thereby exposing a number of infidelities.
The most astringent, atonal score cam from René Clemencic in Monduntergang, a surreal tale ending with the destruction of earth and the explosion of the moon.
Tod auf dem Mond, by Herwig Reiter, travels through some snazzy, pop-and-Bernstein-influenced burlesque (a plunger proves an effective way to stop a tenor from hogging a high note) as three earthlings find a moon creature and kill each other while disagreeing what to do with it. (Meanwhile, capable of uttering only consonants, the man in the moon wants some vowels in order to sing the torch song "So allein.")
The most ambitious and musically rewarding piece was Jury Everhartz's beautifully orchestrated Fröhliche Wissenschaft (Cheerful Science), strictly a numbers opera containing arias and ensembles that caress the voices.
Director Kristine Tornquist approached the marathon with wit and charm.
Jennifer Chamandy, Lysianne Tremblay, Alexander Mayr, Andreas Mattersberger and Bürcher, members of Fassbaender's Innsbruck ensemble, showed superhuman commitment and great talent in their smorgasbord of assignments, as did the Tiroler Ensemble für Neue Musik under Leif Klinkhardt. (Special kudos to percussionist Stephen Mader.)

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