Munich: Georg Friedrich Haas shows the operas “Bluthaus” and “Thomas” – culture


400 years after the opera pioneer Claudio Monteverdi, the idiosyncratic, great composer Georg Friedrich Haas and his librettist Händl Klaus proved that the description of how to preserve quinces is particularly suitable as an aria text. But everyday life on the opera stage is still unusual. As before, the genre prefers to go deeper into the psychological depths of an ego that has been damaged by the world and love. This is how Haas, born in 1953, began, making operas for Adolf Wölfli, Friedrich Höderlin, Franz Kafka and Jon Fosse. But then Haas came across the playwright Händl Klaus, and suddenly normal everyday life also found its way into his operas. The triad “Bluthaus”, “Thomas” and “Koma” tells about death, about the loss of close people. These operas zoom in on the greatest suffering, they combine chanting, comprehensibility and orchestral music that oscillates between booming and band esotericism. In addition, these two opera makers have a penchant for drasticism, colportage, and unsentimentality, which an audience cannot escape.

Like now in Munich. The new State Opera director Serge Dorny boldly programmed the three pieces over three evenings for his newly invented “Yes, May” festival as a co-production with other Munich houses. Corona, however, made it impossible to play “Coma”, which had to be played in the dark over long passages, and Teodor Currentzis’ MusicAeterna Orchestra could not travel from Petersburg. So what remains is the “blood house” that evokes an incest of children and a murder of the parents, as well as “Thomas”, a man’s farewell to his partner. This is accompanied by near-death vocal music by Monteverdi, excerpts from “Ballo” and the nymph’s lament. This is thematically and musically coherent, since Haas, like his predecessor, is concerned with declamation and comprehensibility when composing. Enthusiastic applause.

Finally, Vera-Lotte Boecker sings Monteverdi’s “Lament of the Nymph” as final despair, suicide seems inevitable

Bo Skovhus sings fascinatingly the aria from the quince mentioned at the beginning, the only major number in “Bluthaus”, which in Claus Guth’s production is a little too clearly and early on the subject of incest and thus robs the viewer of his productive doubts about the direction of the piece. So Skovhus not only sings fascinatingly the revenant murdered by his wife (or his daughter?), he also attacks the daughter, the incest becomes more than obvious in this unreal ghost scene. Does that make the long, comic scenes about the daughter’s sale of the remote house, where incest and parricide happened, seem a bit stale? Although a large contingent of actors from the co-producing Residenztheater does everything to camouflage, caricature and trivialize the pack of potential buyers.

Opera in Munich: Bo Skovhus in "blood house" as the revenant of the father who raped his daughter (Vera-Lotte Boecker) while he was alive.

Bo Skovhus in “Bluthaus” as the revenant of the father who raped his daughter (Vera-Lotte Boecker) while he was alive.

(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

Vera-Lotte Boecker as the violated daughter delivers a gripping, frightening psychogram of a woman who has grown up in horror, has often been violated and yet is not perverted. Boecker avoids grand gestures, instead she is filled with an injuring intensity that transforms even the most intricate vocal lines into an expression of terror and a will to live. This figure’s will to assert itself only slowly fades away. Finally, Boecker sings Monteverdi’s “Lament of the Nymph” as final despair, suicide seems inevitable.

In “Thomas” Holger Falk is the male counterpart of Boecker’s daughter. This Thomas finds it much harder to suffer and say goodbye than the woman, his powerful ego still standing in his way even when he witnesses the death of his loved one. Falks Thomas is full of juice, is a workaholic and ego shooter, he has never had to suffer and has no connection to any kind of transcendence. Like a defiant child, he rebels against the death of the lover he once patronized. Falk’s baritone is capable of whipping brutality, and this man’s airs and graces are just as familiar to this man as the permanent winner’s pose. How is one supposed to mourn?

“Thomas” seems more mature than “Bluthaus”, the transitions are more elegant, the interlacing of the levels is more sophisticated

In Katrin Connan’s Utopia, the director Anna-Sophia Mahler has had a fascinating giant monster put on the stage, which initially depicts the heart of the dying lover, which is still just twitching, and then the stony heart of the protagonist. The idiosyncratic ensemble of accordion, percussion and plucked instruments, in love with microtonals, crouches inside. Although doctors, nurses, corpse washers and a shrill erotic funeral director set out through banal everyday life for Thomas’ mourning, none of them can compete with Holger Falk’s elemental encapsulation of the self.

“Thomas” is compositionally and dramaturgically more mature than “Bluthaus”, the transitions are more elegant, the interlacing of the levels is more refined, drasticity and a tendency towards Grand Guignol are conveyed. In addition, the piece focuses on the protagonist, who is in constant use for an hour and a half. Which seems to really get the sensitive berserker Holger Falk going. His Thomas can’t come to terms with the death of his loved one, and in the pain he imagines his resurrection. This is one of the reasons why the attraction of “Thomas” is even greater than that of “Bluthaus”, which tries to be an ensemble hybrid between opera and drama.

The music of Georg Friedrich Haas can be addictive, it does it in Munich. “Coma” is postponed to 2024. How on earth are the people of Munich supposed to endure this rather haas-free drought?



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