Towers and pigeons

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Expedition into the late Baroque: The Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg polishes up the forgotten jewel “Gli Orazi e i Curiazi” again.

To arms, there is war! The bayonets are drawn, flags fly on two rust-brown towers: Red and blue, the colours of the clinched cities of Rome and Alba Longa, who want to fight out their feud once and for all with bloodshed. But what if the sister of one leader loves his adversary and vice versa?

The first opera premiere of the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg in this year’s open-air festival summer focuses on the great emotions: love, hatred, pride and exuberant patriotism. With “Gli Orazi e i Curiazi” by Domenico Cimarosa, the new artistic director, Georg Quander, has undertaken an expedition into opera history. The new performance of the piece, premiered in Venice in 1796, resembles a musical excavation. The work had almost fallen into oblivion – since the late eighties there has been no evidence of significant performances. And even before that, the piece, which was very successful in its time, was known above all to music historians. It is considered to be the most important tragic work of the composer otherwise known for his comic operas – and Napoleon’s favourite opera.

For the Festival of Young Opera Singers, the libretto was now salvaged and dedusted on behalf of the Kammeroper by Roland Steinfeld, as it is called “text-critically” – i.e. with a pointed trowel and brush, as it were. In the original, the drama takes place in the legendary Roman royal period, the early epoch of Roman antiquity. In Quander’s new edition, however, time and space have become variable dimensions. The main features of the drama were transferred to its time of origin and thus to the heyday of Rheinsberg Castle: Baroque robes and wigs fit perfectly into the backdrop of the Friderician rococo. Later, images of the First World War were also projected onto the walls of the Kavalierhaus. They are intended to show that war has always been the greatest vice of mankind, and that it is the metaphor that works.

For the first time, the play will take place in the forecourt of the Kavaliershaus.

The actual events remain unimpressed by this timeless approach. After all, the drama of the two lovers from hostile families, the tension between sky-high cheering zeal and heartache saddening to death is a universal motif. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet theme runs through the history of music theatre.

On the occasion of the premiere, the forecourt of the Kavaliershaus, the home of the Rheinsberg Academy of Music, will make its debut as a venue. It is now the fourth venue on Lake Grienerick, alongside the Heckentheater, Schlosstheater and Schlosshof. A staggered stage was erected especially for this purpose, which brings the spectators to eye level with the performers through the slightly ascending square. The eight soloists are supported by the Apollo Choir of the Berlin State Opera, which also plays along. The picturesque castle rises in the background, on which the sun shines a few rays of light on Friday evening.

During the break between the second and third acts, the spectators stroll between the busts of the palace garden in mild temperatures. The elaborate restoration of the palace ensemble also took place twenty years ago.

Pride of the Baroque, Lightness of Romanticism

For the Kammerakademie Potsdam, which accompanies the Cimarosas tragedy musically, the opera is above all a balancing act because it comes from an era of upheaval. While the great masters of the symphony revolutionized European music in Vienna, the opera composers found it much more difficult to free “their” genre from the static of the Baroque and to open it up to the ideas of Romanticism.

Under the direction of Markellos Chryssicos, the orchestra succeeds in serving both moods: the supporting pride of the Baroque and the enlightened lightness of Romanticism. The nuanced accompaniment thus leaves enough musical space for the soloists. The forecourt does not function as an amplifier. They dominate the terrain solely through their impressive vocal power. Sometimes they sing from afar, from the stage balustrade behind the orchestra, sometimes high up on the towers about five meters high. They determine the stage design, which consists of painted Roman ruins and an altar shell built up in the middle. The Brazilian tenor Wagner N. S. Moreira even steps out of the rows of spectators in the meantime: with a flowing, purple coat and shining armour, he proclaims the victory over the arch-enemy to the Roman people as Marco Orazio with a swollen chest.

An angel of peace with rising doves

But the show steals the lovers from him: Soprano Samuel Mariño from Venezuela plays the game between patriotism and unconditional

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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