Press Day 2
FESTival FINALE with grand opera and a world premiere
WERTHER aND DIE JUDITH VON SHIMODA
Bregenz, 10.8.23. Ten days before its 77th season ends, the Bregenz Festival has two exceptional music theatre events in store which promise a fabulous finale: on Monday the Opera Studio production of Werther opens at the Kornmarkttheater, while the world premiere the opera Die Judith von Shimoda takes place at the Workshop Theatre on Thursday.
In addition to that there are two matinee concerts, one with the Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestra on the Sunday the festival closes, and the other this coming Sunday with the wind band in Brass Appassionato. Madame Butterfly will tread the boards of the lake stage nine more times including this evening in Andreas Homoki’s highly acclaimed production, before the gigantic sheet of paper on the Lake Constance shore disappears for ever.
Opera Studio to stage a showpiece of Romantic opera
At the Kornmarkttheater, Jules Massenet’s opera Werther – based on Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther – is being staged by Jana Vetten. The director has said she intends to shift the focus onto the character of Charlotte and her family. “Werther ignores Charlotte’s needs, calls this ignorance love. I’m going to be taking a close interest in Charlotte’s pain, how she goes on living,” says the director. Vetten, a freelance director from Bamberg, has worked at Bregenz before, staging the world premiere of the play Lohn der Nacht (“wages of the night”) by Bernhard Studlar in a Bregenz Festival co-production with Theater Kosmos in 2021.
The music director for the Opera Studio production is Claire Levacher, who conducted the world premiere of the opera To the Lighthouse at the 2017 Bregenz Festival. She will be conducting the Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestra, joined by the children’s choir from the municipal music secondary school in Bregenz. The stage and costumes for Werther have been designed by Camilla Hägebarth.
Founded by Elisabeth Sobotka in 2015, the Opera Studio seeks to provide young singers with ideal conditions in which to develop professionally. This year’s seven participants attended a masterclass held by "Kammersängerin" Brigitte Fassbaender in the spring. Composer Jules Massenet created the opera Werther together with three librettists drawing on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. The grand Romantic opera, premiered in Vienna in 1892, is a virtuosic showpiece of the opera repertoire – a challenging work which the seven young singers of the eighth Opera Studio are now set to take on.
From geisha to activist: Die Judith von Shimoda
While it seems at first sight like a variation of the Madame Butterfly story, the opera is in fact based on a play by Bertolt Brecht published in 1940 about a geisha who serves the US consul in Japan. The Argentine-Spanish composer Fabián Panisello has adapted the stage play into a piece of music theatre in two parts, Die Judith von Shimoda (“The Judith of Shimoda”). The Bregenz Festival is giving the world premiere of the new piece – co-commissioned and co-produced by Neue Oper Wien – at the Workshop Theatre on 17 August.
Following Philipp M. Krenn’s withdrawal from the production about a month ago for personal reasons, Carmen C. Kruse has taken over at short notice. “On the one hand there are similarities with the story of Madame Butterfly; on the other, Die Judith von Shimoda is concerned more intensively with the repercussions that the patriarchy and gender violence have on society as a whole, and it approaches this theme with respect, seriousness and humour. And the ending is different, too,” says Kruse, a stage director and drama developer who grew up in Kärnten and Hamburg. She says the designer Susanne Brendel has created a “soul space” in which the music is augmented by videos.
The production centres on the figure of Okichi, who over the course of twenty years evolves from a geisha into an activist and an artist. “Okichi is a multilayered female character that holds fast to her values and continually finds strength in spite of the adversities of life. Women’s rights play a big role, inspired by female artists of the present like Pussy Riot,” Carmen C. Kruse explains.
The music director is Walter Kobéra, artistic director of Neue Oper Wien. The stage, costume and video designer is Susanne Brendel, while Norbert Chmel has designed the lighting. The orchestra is the amadeus ensemble-wien and the choir the Wiener Kammerchor.
Madame Butterfly: last few tickets remaining
The opera on the lake stage will have delighted audiences on 18 nights and played to a total of 125,000 people (including the dress rehearsal and Young People's Night) if this evening’s show isn’t cancelled due to bad weather. Following that, eight more performances of Madame Butterfly are scheduled. Tickets are available in a few categories.