Tales from the Vienna Woods, the new opera by HK Gruber, enjoyed a triumphant premiere at the Bregenz Festival in July, and travels on to the Theater an der Wien in March.
HK Gruber’s new opera, Tales from the Vienna Woods, based on Horváth’s bitter-sweet play set in the social turmoil of the late-1920s, was unveiled at the Bregenz Festival in July to acclaim from press and audiences alike. Blending echoes of Berg and Weill with Gruber’s unique sense of irony, the opera was lauded as a summatory work in the composer’s output. The production by Michael Sturminger, who is also the librettist, travels on to the Theater an der Wien in March and plans are underway for its German premiere in a new production at the Komische Oper in 2016.
Gruber conducted an impressive cast, including Ilse Eerens in the central role of the young girl Marianne, attempting to escape the oppressive social conventions and deprivation after the collapse of the Habsburg Empire; Angelika Kirchschlager as the seductive tobacconist Valerie; and a cameo from Anja Silja as the murderous grandmother of Marianne’s feckless lover. The Bregenz premiere was the final highlight of David Pountney’s tenure as Artistic Director of the festival, which also featured a staging of Gruber’s pigtale Gloria by Mahogany Opera Group and a selection of the composer's orchestral works.
"A magnificent new opera is born... While Horváth’s language may look harsh on the printed page, Gruber and Sturminger have found the absurd humor in his words..."
"The piece goes straight to the heart… superb craftsmanship.... Out of the ‘Beautiful Blue Danube’ Gruber fashions a dance on the edge of the abyss, full of lust and greed, with the help of an out-of-tune tinkly piano and exquisitely stretched out string figurations… Gruber loves his Marianne. He writes ariosi for her and music of the deepest despair…"
"A superb cast gave meticulous polish to Gruber’s vocal lines, which closely followed the rhythms of Horváth’s words, sat well, and hovered between tonality and fragmentation…"
"HK Gruber’s score displays his immense skills, with an enormous breadth of tonal colours and instrumental effects, and at the same time a transparency and airiness so the voices are never obscured… The skilful, extremely melodious, tonal mixture of elements from Bernstein, Weill, Eisler and Schreker, the night club scene with a jazz combo, and the aria Your tiny hand is frozen from Puccini’s La Bohème sung live through a gramophone funnel, lend Gruber’s new work the aura of a Zeitoper."
"Gruber could not resist weaving deconstructed snatches of the famous Strauss waltz into his fascinating, often beguiling orchestral fabric... this new, very well made opera deserves to travel as much as Horváth's play."
> Read Interview with Gruber about the opera
> Further information on Work: Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald
Photo: HK Gruber's Tales from the Vienna Woods (BregenzerFestspiele/KarlForster)
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