When I realized I had actually not been to an opera for nearly six months, I had a look to see if any last-minute tickets were available to opening night of the Salzburg Landestheater‘s new production of Paul Hindemith‘s Cardillac. Surprisingly, a selection of seats remained, so off I went.
From Hindemith’s neo-baroque period, this opera employed a somewhat fantastical musical language, pushing forward the drama through use of warped early music conventions – syncopated and made dissonant. The music matched the plot, based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann about jeweller who cannot be parted from his art, and who murders all who buy his pieces so he can claim his creations back. His undoing comes when he attempts to kill his daughter’s fiancé, a police officer who has been investigating the spree of murders. The police officer blames the gold dealer for trying to stab him, but coaxes a confession from the jeweller, who is then lynched by the crowd. But in the end Cardillac triumphs in death as his fame as an artist lives on.
The Mozarteum Orchestra, conducted by the young Brit Robin Davis, championed the cause from the pit, with playing both lush (considering the reduced-size Hindemith wrote for) and refined in its individual lines. Marian Pop (Cardillac), Anne-Fleur Werner (his daughter), and Kristofer Lundin (the officer) headed a very good cast, working their way expressively through the drama. There’s actually not much action in this plot, so the music and words must propel the work. In that, the Landestheater’s team succeeded.
In my last-minute decision-making process, however, I forgot to check on whom the Landestheater had hired to direct this work. Unfortunately, it was the despicable German poser Amélie Niermeyer. The plot is fantastical and could lend itself to a variety of interpretations, but her confused staging often bore little connection, and indeed detracted from the fantasy. Her Rigoletto with the Landestheater in 2014 included child pornography. Thankfully she did not repeat that travesty this evening, although she did give us incestuous necrophilia (at least this was only the singers acting out incestuous necrophilia – the last time was actual child pornography). Such is the current state of “art” in Germany.