Concerts at extraordinary places

Semper:Thursday

We turn some very unusual places in the opera house into performance venues. Whether the royal box in the auditorium, the understage area, a catwalk at a dizzying height above the stage, the scenery workshop or the main foyer – all these places will be filled with music and dance. We invite you to enjoy these souvenirs from the Semperoper every Thursday from 5 pm.

The series is being performed by members of the Staatskapelle, the State Opera Chorus, Semperoper Ballett as well as other Semperoper soloists. We hope you can join us!

»Solo White Swan« and »Interlude« (premiere)

Semper:Thursday with the Semperoper Ballett

Sangeun Lee »Solo White Swan« from Aaron S. Watkin’s »Swan Lake «, music by Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky
Houston Thomas »Interlude« from Nicholas Palmquist’s »A Collection of Short Stories«, music by Alexandra Stréliski

On this Semper:Thursday our focus will be on that place in the theatre that always draws the audience’s attention, and yet which for artists never stays the same but constantly changes its appearance: the stage.

More than any other narrative ballet, »Swan Lake« is firmly anchored in the repertoire of every ballet company in the world. For Semperoper Ballett, artistic director Aaron S. Watkin created in 2009 his own version of this ageless and world-famous classic full of elegance and poetry. Company principal Sangeun Lee will perform one of the most beautiful and technically demanding excerpts from this work, namely the White Swan’s solo from Act One.

In contrast, you can enjoy a new piece of contemporary dance, namely »A Collection of Short Stories« by the choreographer Nicholas Palmquist, who has created a series of brief yet intense narrative episodes to the music of the Canadian composer and pianist Alexandra Stréliski. Now we are presenting for the very first time an excerpt from this work, entitled »Interlude«, here danced by Houston Thomas.


»Wem sprudelt der Becher des Lebens so reich?«

Romantic choruses by Carl Maria von Weber and Gaetano Donizetti

»Huntsmen’s Chorus (Jägerchor)«
from Carl Maria von Weber’s romantic opera »Der Freischütz« 

Men of the Staatsopernchor Dresden (State Opera Chorus)
Conductor André Kellinghaus
Horns Erich Markwart, Miklós Takács, David Harloff, Marie-Luise Kahle (Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden)

»Bel conforto al mietitore« 
Opening chorus from Gaetano Donizetti’s »L’elisir d’amore / The Elixir of Love«

Women and men of the Staatsopernchor Dresden (State Opera Chorus)
Conductor André Kellinghaus
Piano Jonathan Becker

At first glance, the two pieces performed by the Staatsopernchor (State Opera Chorus) seem very different: The famous Huntsmen’s Chorus from Carl Maria von Weber’s romantic opera »Der Freischütz«, which will always be closely associated with Dresden and the Semperoper (and celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2021), and the opening chorus »Bel conforto al mietitore / What a comfort to the farmer under the hot sun« from Gaetano Donizetti’s »L’elisir d’amore / The Elixir of Love«. S

olely the dates of the premieres, namely the years 1821 and 1832 respectively, indicate that both works were influenced by the same European wave of Romantic sentiment. While Weber’s composition laid the groundwork for a German-language version of gothic-romantic opera, Donizetti offered his own rather cheerful and ironic take on the Romantic spirit with his melodramma giocoso. What these two masterpieces have in common is a desire to shift the action to a rural setting in order to explore the folksongs and customs, the traditions and desires of so-called simple people within musical drama and to present them on the operatic stage.

Jägerchor  

Auszug aus dem Libretto von Friedrich Kind zu »Der Freischütz« von Carl Maria von Weber:

Was gleicht wohl auf Erden dem Jägervergnügen,
Wem sprudelt der Becher des Lebens so reich?
Beim Klange der Hörner im Grünen zu liegen,
Den Hirsch zu verfolgen durch Dickicht und Teich
Ist fürstliche Freude, ist männlich Verlangen,
Erstarket die Glieder und würzet das Mahl.
Wenn Wälder und Felsen uns hallend umfangen,
Tönt freier und freud'ger der volle Pokal!
Jo ho! Tralalalala!

Diana ist kundig, die Nacht zu erhellen,
Wie labend am Tage ihr Dunkel uns kühlt.
Den blutigen Wolf und den Eber zu fällen,
Der gierig die grünenden Saaten durchwühlt,
Ist fürstliche Freude, ist männlich Verlangen,
Erstarket die Glieder und würzet das Mahl.
Wenn Wälder und Felsen uns hallend umfangen,
Tönt freier und freud'ger der volle Pokal!
Jo ho! Tralalalala!

Eröffnungschor  

Auszug aus dem Libretto von Felice Romani zu »L’elisir d’amore / Der Liebestrank« von Gaetano Donizetti:

Bel conforto al mietitore,
Quando il sol più ferve e bolle,
Sotto un faggio, appie' di un colle,
Riposarsi e respirar!
Del meriggio il vivo ardore
Tempran l'ombre e il rio corrente;
Ma d'amor la vampa ardente
Ombra o rio non può temprar.
Fortunato il mietitore,
Che da lui si può guardar!

Vor des Tages Hitz' und Schwüle
Schirmen uns der Buche Zweige;
Kurze Rast in frischer Kühle
Wird uns neue Kraft verleihn.
Wenn die Sonne Flammen sprühet,
Muss der kühle Quell uns laben,
Doch wenn Lieb' im Herzen glühet,
Flößt kein Trunk uns Labung ein.
Nur wer sich der Lieb' entziehet,
Kann beglückt und heiter sein.
Nur wer sich der Lieb' entziehet,
Kann beglückt und heiter sein!


»Herzgewächse« (Foliage of the Heart)

Semper:Thursday from the Malsaal (decoration workshop)

Arnold Schönberg »Herzgewächse« (Foliage of the Heart) for Coloratura Soprano, Celesta, Harmonium and Harp Op. 20 (1911)

Soloist Katerina von Bennigsen
Celesta Alexander Bülow
Harmonium Jobst Schneiderat
Harp Johanna Schellenberger

Claude Debussy »Trois chansons de Bilitis« (Three Songs of Bilitis) (1897/98)
1. La Flûte de Pan (Pan’s Flute)
2. La Chevelure (The Hair)
3. Le Tombeau des Naïades (The Tomb of the Naiads)

Soloist Christa Mayer
Harp Johanna Schellenberger

At this Semper:Thursday event, you can look forward to the tonally rich »Herzgewächse« from the pen of Arnold Schoenberg as well as the musical illustrations of Arcadian love poetry in Claude Debussy’s »Trois chansons de Bilitis«.

In 1911, Arnold Schoenberg set to music the poem »Herzgewächse«, which is the German translation of a work by the Belgian author Maurice Maeterlinck from his poetry cycle »Serres chaudes« (Hothouses) of 1889. The vague sensations and dark forebodings in the words of the symbolist poet inspired the composer, who at that time was strongly influenced by the imagery and vivid colouring of expressionist painting, to create a rich orchestral sound by means of a chamber ensemble made up of harp, harmonium and celesta. Even the demanding vocal part encompasses a huge tonal palette ranging over several octaves.

Claude Debussy, who at the close of the 19th century was already working on his opera »Pelléas et Mélisande«, was similarly captivated by Maeterlinck’s symbolist poetry. This influence can be easily discerned in his »Trois chansons de Bilitis« (written directly after the opera), a setting of three poems evoking an Arcadian paradise by his friend Pierre Louÿs. These poems were presented as the work of a 6th-century Greek shepherdess named Bilitis, whom Louÿs claimed to have discovered. In fact, he had written these masterpieces of erotic verse himself, artfully imitating the classical Greek style. In this fleeting, shimmering setting, Debussy captures the elation of a past night of passion, in which simultaneously tender and yet stark descriptions of the act of love are enmeshed with intertwining strands of hair before the cycle closes with a melancholy swan song to a lost paradise. 


»Senza Basso«

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Sonata for Solo Flute

Flute Rozália Szabó

The Staatskapelle’s principal flautist, Rozália Szabó, ventures into dizzying heights at this Semper:Thursday event when she performs Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s only sonata for solo flute »senza Basso« – i.e. without accompaniment – in one of the highest places of the Semperoper: from a catwalk in the fly tower. 

In C. P. E. Bach’s dazzling »Sonata per il Flauto traverso solo senza Basso«, the composer gives the favourite instrument of his employer, Frederick the Great, the opportunity to shine without any harmonic support. Composed in 1747, it was probably written for the leading flautist of the age, Johann Joachim Quantz, who had accepted a position as chamber musician to the Prussian king a few years earlier. Quantz had arrived there from another musical epicentre, namely Dresden, where the virtuoso had acquired his outstanding reputation as flautist to the Saxon Elector’s Royal Polish Chapel – today’s Staatskapelle.


»Zu singen« (»To Sing«)

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) Three Vocalises for Soprano and Clarinet (1958)
Wolfgang Rihm (*1952) »Zu singen« from »Mnemosyne« (first version) by Friedrich Hölderlin for Soprano and Clarinet (2006)

Soprano Nikola Hillebrand
Clarinet Robert Oberaigner

»But the flowers and also the water must sing, and feel whether there is still a God«, murmurs Friedrich Hölderlin in his hymn »Mnemosyne«, which Wolfgang Rihm set to music in 2006 under the title »Zu singen« (»To Sing«) for soprano and clarinet. Mnemosyne is the goddess of memory, and like a distant memory of what was once music, two voices reverberate here through the vastness of space. At this Semper:Thursday, soprano Nikola Hillebrand and clarinetist Robert Oberaigner will conduct a dialogue in which the human voice and the wind instrument at times merge through their similar tonal quality, then move apart to inhabit their own sonic spaces, before finally striving to find a common means of expression. Rihm’s mysterious Hölderlin setting is preceded by three wordless songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams. One of the composer’s last works, the Three Vocalises see soprano and clarinet join forces to create a wonderful siren song. And where can such a song unfold more beautifully than on the topmost seats of the Semperoper – on the fourth tier of the auditorium ...

Friedrich Hölderlin: »Mnemosyne« (first version)  

aber es haben
Zu singen

Blumen auch Wasser und fühlen,
Ob noch ist der Gott. Denn schön ist
Der Brauttag, bange sind wir aber
Der Ehre wegen. Denn furchtbar gehet
Es ungestalt, wenn Eines uns
Zu gierig genommen. Zweifellos
Ist aber der Höchste. Der kann täglich
Es ändern. Kaum bedarf er
Gesetz, wie nämlich es
Bei Menschen bleiben soll. Viel Männer möchten da
Sein, wahrer Sache. Nicht vermögen
Die Himmlischen alles. Nämlich es reichen
Die Sterblichen eh an den Abgrund. Also wendet es sich
Mit diesen. Lang ist
Die Zeit, es ereignet sich aber
Das Wahre.


Peter Eötvös: »Thunder« for solo timpani (1993)

Semper:Thursday from the trap room of the Semperoper

On this Semper:Thursday, Manuel Westermann, principal timpanist of the Dresden Staatskapelle, explores a part of the Semperoper that even orchestra musicians don’t often get to see: deep under the stage, the so-called trap room offers a novel perspective on the opera house, here helping to spotlight an instrument generally found in the background at concerts.

Violin, flute, cello – these and many other instruments enjoy a rich repertoire of solo works that explore the gamut of technical possibilities. Other instruments are almost exclusively experienced in orchestral settings. Here the prime example is doubtless the timpani. Yet the pedal timpani, which enables the performer to make dynamic changes in pitch, has much more to offer musically than many a classical orchestral work would suggest. The virtuosic capabilities of this instrument are ably demonstrated by the Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös (composer-in-residence to the Dresden Staatskapelle in the 2018/19 season) in his work »Thunder« for solo timpani from 1993.


»Bar Classics«

From Cole Porter to Paul Simon

Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice »On This Night of a Thousand Stars« 
Cole Porter »I’ve Got You Under My Skin« 
Hans Sotin »Strandperle« (Word premiere)
Paul Simon »Bridge over Troubled Water«

With Aaron Pegram (Tenor) and Alexandros Stavrakakis (Bass)
Piano Hans Sotin

At Semper:Thursday you can experience our singers in some rather unusual places in the Semperoper, for example in the curved first-floor foyer, where our audience members normally enjoy a promenade. This, however, is also the ideal location for the »bar classics« presented by tenor Aaron Pegram and bass Alexandros Stavrakakis together with pianist Hans Sotin. Enjoy some swinging sounds between the ornate pillars of the opera house ...

Nominated for an Oscar in 1937 as Best Song, Cole Porter’s »I’ve Got You Under My Skin« from the film »Born to Dance« later became immortalised in Frank Sinatra’s version from 1956. »On This Night of a Thousand Stars« comes from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical »Evita«. And Paul Simon’s »Bridge over Troubled Water« became a worldwide success as interpreted by his stage partner Art Garfunkel – and has been a great hymn of hope and consolation ever since. The programme will also feature a true world premiere: especially for Semper:Thursday, Hans Sotin, pianist and répétiteur of the Semperoper, has written a tongue-in-cheek yet wistful piece for piano, entitled »Strandperlen«, which he will perform for the first time.


»Holà! Ihr Streiter in Apoll«

La Roche’s monologue from »Capriccio« by Richard Strauss

When Richard Strauss was working on his final opera, »Capriccio«, his vision was to create a light and rococo summary of his work for the stage and to explore his thinking on the meaning of opera. The result was a piece that, while finally overcoming classical traditions with its parlando-like conversational tone, plays with numerous references to the world of theatre, opera and the idiosyncrasies of its various creators.

One of the protagonists is the successful theatre director La Roche. Invited to stage a theatrical spectacle for the birthday of the Countess Madeleine, he clashes with the members of the younger creative generation, here represented by the composer Flamand and the poet Olivier. In his speech »Holà! Ihr Streiter in Apoll«, La Roche develops his vision of a truthful dramatic form that is full of life and power – and at the same time tells us the inscription that will one day stand on his gravestone. And what did Richard Strauss want from his librettist? »Theatre of the mind, brain food, dry wit!«

Upcoming

»Onkel Fritz und die Maikäfer« (»Uncle Fritz and the Cockchafer«)

Semper:Thursday from the Palettenmagazin of the Saxon State Theatres

On this Semper:Thursday, the Semperoper Children’s Choir will discover an exciting new location, the Palettenmagazin, where the diverse props and set decorations are stored when not being used on stage. Carl Adolf Lorenzʼs Fünfter Streich, Op. 11, No. 1, »Uncle Fritz and the Cockchafer«, is brimming with operatic references. In his vocal collection »Max und Moritz« from 1883, Lorenz set three of the well-known pranks penned by Wilhelm Busch to music, quoting familiar opera melodies to provide a witty musical commentary on the verses.

The video is available from Thursday, 22 April 2021, 5 PM.