Opera Magazine, 23.05.2009, Christopher Norton-Welsh

Vienna - Nachts Festival

Over the past ten years sirene Operntheater has devoted itself to giving the first performances of contemporary operas. This year they are putting on a festival of chamber operas in a former bread factory - in its day the largest in Europe. Nine works are being given, each twice on successive weekends, all taken from the book of short stories Nachts unter der steinernen Brücke (At night under the stone bridge) of old Prague revolving around Emperor Rudolf II and the famous “miracle rabbi” Löw by Leo Perutz, one of the most successful Austrian writers between the wars but who fell into oblivion in exile in Tel Aviv and never recovered before his death back in Austria in 1952. The works are not only linked by a common origin but,where possible, the same singers for the same characters.

The series began with a work by René Clemencic, one of the Viennese pioneers of early music with his Clemencic Consort, taking the title of the book and dealing with the evil that can come from an act, ostensibly good but which upsets God’s balance. His attractive music for four solo strings, four brass and percussion was dominated by the percussion and melodies or chordal progressions from the brass, the vocal style being declamatory. The orchestra was set at the back and Jakob Scheid merely added a few characteristic pieces - Löw’s desk, Rudolf’s throne and Meidl’s shop - moved around by two hard-working stagehands. Kristine Tornquist, who also wrote the libretto, provided a clear production and Markus Kuscher period costumes. The conductor, as for all but two of the works, which include one of his own, was François-Pierre Descamps and Dimitrij Soloviev, Armin Gramer, Rupert Bergmann, Romana Beutel, Johann Leutgeb and Petr Strnad were the competent singers.

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