Opera Scotland

Gurrelieder 1983Edinburgh International Festival

Read more about the opera Gurrelieder

The 1983 Festival, directed by John Drummond, was generally agreed to be a vintage one, with a Viennese theme. It had an effectively varied operatic programme. The Hamburg State Opera packed the Playhouse with a successful, modernistic take on The Magic Flute, while the more intimate King's Theatre was the venue for a double-bill of unknown Zemlinsky pieces. These were A Florentine Tragedy and The Birthday of the Infanta (The Dwarf) - both derived from Oscar Wilde stories. Opera Theatre of St Louis brought a new American piece, The Postman Always Rings Twice by Stephen Paulus, and an unknown British one, Fennimore and Gerda by Delius. Scottish Opera mounted Britten's Death in Venice, a decade after its premiere, with Thomas Mann's source novella linking it to the Viennese theme. The Usher Hall also contained two semi-operatic concerts, with Claudio Abbado on unfamiliar Wagnerian territory (Act 2 of Lohengrin), and Alexander Gibson and the local team tackling Schoenberg's huge Gurrelieder for the first time. Another Schoenberg rarity, the monodrama Erwartung, was also conducted by Abbado.

Schoenberg's Gurrelieder is composed for massive forces in a range of styles. Large parts are big-scale late-romantic. The final section, The Wild Hunt of the Summer Wind, shows the composer breaking out into the style with which he is more closely associated, with the development of Sprechgesang (speech-song) - here delivered to majesterial effect by the octogenarian Wagner bass Hans Hotter.

As for the rest, Gibson and his local orchestra and chorus tackled the work with great success, meeting all its challenges head-on. The two unfamiliar Americans as Tove and Waldemar had powerful yet lyrical voices to ride the tumult, while the rather better-known Philip Langridge and Ann Murray also made a strong impact. The effective bass Nikolaus Hillebrand was also making his only visit to the Festival.

Performance DatesGurrelieder 1983

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Usher Hall | Edinburgh

4 Sep, 20.00

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