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The revival of Beat Furrer’s Violetter Schnee in Berlin once more makes a profound impression – Seen and Heard Worldwide




GermanyGermany Furrer, Violetter Schnee: Soloists, Vocalconsort Berlin, Staatskapelle Berlin / Matthias Pintscher (conductor). Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, 10.5.2024. (MB)

Beat Furrer’s Violetter Schnee © Monika Rittershaus

Director – Claus Guth
Revival administrators – Caroline Staunton, Tabatha McFadyen
Set designs – Étienne Pluss
Costumes – Ursula Kudrna
Video – Arian Andiel
Lighting – Olaf Freese

Silvia – Anna Prohaska
Natascha – Clara Nadeshdin
Jan – Gyula Orendt
Peter – Jaka Mihelač
Jacques – Otto Katzameier
Tanja – Martina Gedeck

Beat Furrer’s Violetter Schnee was one of many final operas I noticed, early in 2020 (overview click on right here), earlier than the coronavirus pandemic closed theatres and halls, a lot else apart from, internationally. It fascinated me then and has finished once more, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden having taken the amply vindicated choice to revive its 2019 premiere manufacturing, not for the primary however the second time. Broadly, my response proved considerably totally different – commonplace for re-encountering a piece – in that it appeared significantly clearer what was occurring dramatically, which actually contains the musical contribution to that drama, though, most likely not unrelated, I felt myself much less mesmerised and but extra horrified by its course and end result.

Timing has probably performed its half too. It’s actually not the case that in January 2020 all was properly with the world, generically or for an Englishman in non permanent exile from Brexit-Insel, awaiting the top of 1 explicit side of that world. Nevertheless, the pandemic, adopted by additional world artifical catastrophes in Ukraine, Sudan, Palestine, and elsewhere, and humankind’s equally incomprehensible and inexorable willpower to destroy what’s left of the planet it calls dwelling have taken their toll for all, even for these of us much less straight within the (typically literal) firing line than others. For that is an apocalyptic, even a post-apocalyptic work – that elision could also be vital, not solely to the work however to our current situation – by which the horror of what now we have finished to our world stares us within the face. Händl Klaus’s libretto, after Vladimir Sorokin, and Furrer’s rating alike fuse, in order that one can hardly inform what got here first, with Claus Guth’s manufacturing and naturally performances onstage and from the pit to current what, by most readings, would appear a hopeless episode by which local weather change has finished what we as a species have willed it to do.

The ‘violet snow’ of the title is essential: is that this world – are we – on the best way to a frozen future, a brand new Ice Age echoing the world of the drama’s lynchpin, Breughel’s Hunters within the Snow? Or will it proceed to heat, because the characters communicate and sing of surprisingly heat snow, albeit whereas all of them the whereas wrap up for winter, would possibly recommend. Is the ultimate coming of a violet solar – we see that, for ourselves, in contrast to the ‘violet snow’, which seems to be like another, main us to ask whether or not it is likely to be a mirage – the top, or a second probability, an entry to the brand new world with which Technology-soothsayers would seduce us? Paired characters react in another way, but maybe to no avail, their ensembles in the end suggesting frenetic futility, and appear at one level to settle, maybe not unreasonably but chillingly, on nihilistic partying, earlier than transferring on to confront as soon as once more the chilly, darkish world past their flat. In a way, it has all been foretold within the opening scene however one, the primary with out phrases or characters, by which Tania, a spoken position performed unforgettably by Martina Gedeck, sees Breughel’s portray at a museum, turns into transfixed and in the end collapses, solely to get up (I believe) within the dwelling of the others.

Furrer’s orchestral writing appears each to drive long-term change in one thing akin to Klangfarbenmelodie that usually, tellingly, suggests digital sounds with out together with them, and in addition to intensify passages and moments of explicit drama. Vocal writing, although probably enormously advanced and troublesome, is as it’s for a motive: that is no simple state of affairs, nor ought to any of us faux it’s. One thing, we really feel all through, has already occurred, in addition to is about to occur. It’s most likely too late, however what if it’s not? I recalled a really totally different work, with goings-on each very totally different but in a way not so totally different as they first could have appeared: Thomas Adès’s Buñuel-derived The Exterminating Angel. Not the least suggestion I gleaned right here was that I ought to give that opera, which I admit to having been nonplussed by after I first noticed it, like many different issues one other probability.

We absolutely owe one another that, as we dance on the sting – or past it – of the volcano, simply as we owe because of an excellent workforce of musical collaborators led by Matthias Pintscher, all directing their contributions to a typical purpose. Their voices, particular person and in ensemble, finally joined by the wonderful Vocalconsort Berlin, had one thing to inform us, however would we, might we, pay attention? Their lack of ability to listen to – how, in any case, can one hear snow – warned us, as did the mildness of the night as we spilled out as soon as extra onto Unter den Linden, a really totally different expertise from the January efficiency I attended and probably the January of the earlier yr. Would we merely dissolve right into a world that has already been broken, as voices did time and time into the orchestra, and/or would we emerge as soon as once more from it? Can we defy the brutal, shocking, but mandatory cease with which the opera got here to a halt?

Mark Berry