Saturday, 14 November 2015

Fishers of men (ROH/Morgen)

Georg Friedrich Haas, Morgen und Abend (Michael Boder, cond. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House)
The stage at the Royal Opera looked like the White Company and Farrow and Ball had taken on the job of decorating. But in Vick's hands this was a powerful storyscape to match the soundscape Haas generated with (probably quite a lot of musicians making only) a very small amount of noise at times.
 Add to this Gisueepe Di Iorio's lighting, which was powerful and moving, and '59 Productions' projection of the text - simply in Times New Roman. Whitish objects revolve around the stage, and gain coherence and the elements of the novella. Not the least of which was a death-bed and a the boat. For these were Fishers of men. God featured more prominently in the novella:
...he can hear a little of what his God wants to tell him when a musician plays well, yes then He is there, because good musicians turn away from the world of course, but Satan doesn't like that, that's why he arranges so much commotion and deviltry when a truly good musician is playing and that's horrible... 
Musically, it was by turns astonishing and moving; at others puzzling. The first half hour was filled with Olai (Kalus Maria Brandauer) speaking on stage, with amplification. This was a peculiar element and detracted: could they really find no actor who was unable to do this without? the came Sarah Wegender as Midwife, announcing the birth of Johannes, in what was undoubtedly the finest, most lyrical moment. The realization of his death by Johannes Sr sent a real shiver down the spine too. The singing was generally good, but often formed part of the sound scape.

A new, full-scale opera is a big deal, and accordingly there is loads of super information about it on the ROH site - a veritable slew of videos to watch and interviews to enjoy: click here to see them all.

Fosse's novella has been ably translated by Damion Searls (published only last month). It is a beautiful  text, and worth reading. It is almost a stream of consciousness, beautiful, lucid; a realising of death and a meditation on what it might be like if life meant something. Vick's achievement was to take the almost-plotless story and construct a narrative within it - Johannes' journey to the other side. Some how the lucidity of the text - its quiet luminance is transferred exquisitely. The audience clearly had mixed views: some cheered, a few even stood to ovate, whilst others sat in silence. At the birth of a new opera, many were unsure; a bit like Johannes perhaps?
The loudest ovation was reserved for Haas.
Overall: moving, meditative, but why was it amplified at the start?
Cast and credits:
Music: Georg Friedrich Haas
Libretto: Jon Fosse
Director: Graham Vick
Designer: Richard Hudson
Lighting designer: Giuseppe Di Iorio
Projections: 59 Productions
Translation: Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel and Damion Searls
Performed by: The Royal Opera
Conductor: Michael Boder
Olai: Klaus Maria Brandauer
Johannes: Christoph Pohl
Signe / Midwife: Sarah Wegener
Peter: Will Hartmann
Erna: Helena Rasker
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Concert Master: Sergey Levitin

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