Image: David Webb as Severin in ETO’s The Silver Lake. ⓒ Richard Hubert Smith
English Touring Opera (ETO) returns to Buxton Opera House on October 11th and 12th to present new productions of a rare Kurt Weill opera, The Silver Lake – A Winter’s Tale (Der Silbersee), and the under-performed Mozart comedy, The Seraglio.
Both operas are singspiels (‘plays with music’), an accessible and popular operatic form that mixes spoken dialogue with music.
In 1781, Mozart arrived in Vienna and desperately needed to land a hit in the theatres, to both support himself and make his name in a new city. For this, he turned to the genre of the ‘singspiel’ (play with music) which had great popular appeal.
The Seraglio (1782) provided this much-needed success. Set in a splendid Turkish harem, it reflects the eighteenth-century Viennese audience’s fascination with all things eastern. It contains some of Mozart’s wittiest music, some of his most vocally challenging music, and some of his most lyrical.
Though written during a time when attitudes to the East and to Islam were strongly ambivalent, Mozart’s instinctive understanding of human nature elevates the story onto a higher plane; in his hands it becomes an exposition of the need for tolerance and understanding between different cultures.
ETO’s period production is directed by Stephen Medcalf and conducted by John Andrews. Principals include Lucy Hall, Nazan Fikret, John-Colyn Gyeantey, Richard Pinkstone, Matthew Stiff, and Alex Andreou. Design: Adam Wiltshire; lighting: David W Kidd.
The Silver Lake – A Winter’s Tale (Der SIlbersee)
Weill’s poetic and uplifting singspiel The Silver Lake (1933) is considered by many to be his masterpiece. It was written in early 1930s Germany, during a time of economic collapse and the rise of the far-right. Its radical messages and sharp satire of Germany’s political situation meant it was closed down and banned by the Nazis, and the composer and librettist were forced to flee Germany.
At its heart are three rich characters: the thief, the policeman, and the girl called Fennimore. Around them is a bizarre gallery of opportunists, thugs and aristocrats. Somehow the three lovable characters survive a “winter’s tale” that could not be more appropriate to modern Britain.
Conducted by Weill specialist James Holmes, and directed by ETO Artistic Director James Conway, this is the first professional UK performance of the The Silver Lake in 20 years.