Der Meister und Margarita - Hamburgische Staatsoper

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Höllersopus, originally commissioned by the Hamburg opera in 1984, has finally made to town, 24 years after its world premiere in Paris in 1989. An unexpected change of directors at the Hamburg theater shortly after the assignment, opened the chance for its first production in Paris, directed by Hans Neuenfels and under the baton of Lothar Zagrosek who also conducted the second production in 1991 at the Cologne opera house, directed by Friedrich Meyer-Oertel. The only performances of this highly demanding stage work so far. Can we Qualify Höller’s work as an opera? The composition combines high literature in opera, serial and electronic music, sound experiments of the 80’s, experimental stylistic combinations from medieval to contemporary musical elements and citations (among others from Mussorgsky, Berlioz, and The Rolling Stones), trying to align these with the over- boarding world of Bulgakov’s fantastic and satirical orbit, so harshly embedded in the reality of the every-day Soviet union of the Stalin era. Can the highly structured and arranged juxtaposition of all these components really offer the (theatrical and musical) basis for a new view on-level with the literary fundament? Or is this elaborate workmanship partly proof of it’s composer’s dissatisfaction of his ever limited tools, as Höller himself as a self-critic artist once stated ? Or exemplifies the score a time document of certain new (theoretical and - here - practical) musical developments in the last decades, clearly putting theoretical approach and structure above the sensuality of music? May well happen – not so in the company of artists on stage and in Hamburg' pit ! The imaginative - and at the same time down to earth (meaning without video effects) - approach of the production’s director Jochen Biganzoli, the masterful playing of the Hamburg Philarmoniker under Marcus Bosch, and the throughout brilliant musical and theatrical performance of all singers guaranteed an exciting evening, certainly provoking the curiosity to read Bulgakow’s novel again (just being published in a new German translation by Alexander Nitzberg).

It’s almost unfair to name individual singers of the overall outstanding ensemble with, among others, Cristina Damian’s Margarita, Dietrich Henschel’s moving double characterization as Der Meister/Jeschua and Derek Welton’s Voland (with a strong appearance as seemingly or really) friendly-relaxed "black magician". Der Meister und Margarita with this group of gifted artists clearly made a great opera performance and a somewhat hopeful start into Hamburg’s new opera season – well in contrast to previous’ years bitter experiences.

Achim Dombrowski - Hamburg

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