GÜRZENICH ORCHESTER – ZIMMERMANN, DIE SOLDATEN
Bernd Alois Zimmermann
- Ensemble und Gäste der Oper Köln
- François-Xavier RothConductor
- Calixto Bieito Direction
A co-production of Cologne Opera and Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.
In »Die Soldaten«, Bernd-Alois Zimmermann processes his personal experiences during the Second World War and the threats posed to the world by a potential nuclear disaster. His dazzling sound language is clearly inspired by the lucid colours of impressionism, and he created a dystopia that remains timeless and consequential. Despite its vehemence, the opera is an intimate play between human beings, a parable about love and its dark sister, violence, and about the abysses of brutality and self-destruction.
François-Xavier Roth, the Gürzenich Orchestra and the Spanish star director Calixto Bieito – who has previously staged »Die Soldaten« – are now cooperating with the Cologne Opera to adapt Zimmermann’s »total theatre« for the concert hall. Roth wants to concentrate on the musical texture of this monumental score and present an exemplary interpretation together with the Gürzenich Orchestra. »After the much acclaimed production here at the opera house in Cologne, I had the urge to play the work in large concert halls, to bring the orchestra out of the pit and into the hall in order to offer the audience an altogether novel, unfiltered perspective on the work. This type of thrilling immediacy cannot be generated in a traditional opera house.« Calixto Bieito adds: »I wouldn’t want the result of my cooperation with François-Xavier Roth to be a run-of-the-mill production. So we’ve made more of an installation out of it. It’s set in an ordinary concert hall situation and shows how, over the course of the piece, the orchestra becomes a giant deadly machine able to devour people and regurgitate them as a changed persons. The music leads up to a Big Bang which comes at the end of the piece. And it’s one that will reverberate for a long time.«
Hence it is not surprising that Bernd-Alois Zimmermann’s opera »Die Soldaten« is part of a whole array of milestones that were premiered by the Gürzenich Orchestra. In 1960, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Generalmusikdirektor of Cologne at the time, claimed such a performance to be an »impossible task«, and Gürzenich-Kapellmeister Günter Wand also refused the score. Yet five years later, on February 15th, 1965, a fresh attempt resulted in the premiere by the Gürzenich Orchestra under Michael Gielen at the Cologne Opera. What evoked disturbed reactions and resistance back then can now be seen as a benchmark – and at the same time proves the capabilities and the innovative power of the Gürzenich Orchestra.