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Premiere of Marius Felix Lange’s “Krieg. Stell Dir vor, er wäre hier”

The chamber opera “Krieg. Stell Dir vor, er wäre hier” (War. Imagine, it was here)  which had its original premiere in April 2018 at the Staatstheater Stuttgart is to have the premiere of its new production by Hans-Walter Richter on 8th October 2021 in the Stadttheater, Gießen.

For Lange, composing music on the subject of war is a special challenge in many respects. “On the one hand,” says the composer, “the subject of this opera for everyone aged 14 and over - war, flight and expulsion - is probably the topic most discussed in public over recent years. The attitude towards and the handling of the refugee crisis decide elections, put acquaintances, relationships and friendships to the test and every individual is confronted daily with the task of constantly questioning anew his or her thinking and actions in relation to it. In its overall context, it is perhaps the most pressing problem of our time.”

This questioning of one’s own person and personal attitudes takes place not least in the text of the same name by Janne Teller upon which this work is based. “The reader, is consistently addressed in direct speech,” says Marius Felix Lange, “and invited to a thought experiment in which the circumstances are reversed. There is war in Germany and Europe, the Arab countries offer protection and peace: ‘If there was war here. Where would you go?’”"

The theme and the subject require a specific form of approach. Lange incorporates both the art song (with a string quartet as partner and a counterpart of the singing voices), melodrama and operatic scenes and drama. He speaks of an adequate musical form that expands the boundaries of a pure opera.

“Nora Gomringer’s ‘poem islands' play a special role here, in which what is narrated in the Teller text is mirrored in a poetic, dramatic, humorous or associative way. In these poems, the singing voices unfold, while the Teller text is spoken by an actor throughout. To be able to give music to these texts by Nora Gomringer, which spring from the moment, an extensive and sprawling journey through Gomringer’s fascinating linguistic cosmos was part of the (pleasurable) preparation of the project.”

We spoke to director Hans-Walter Richter in the run-up to the premiere:

What role does the contrast between German ways of life and the very different Arab culture in the Egyptian refugee camp play in your production?

Richter: I see the play as a thought experiment, an invitation to the audience to put themselves in the shoes of others, in this case refugees. What would happen if the war were here with us and we had to leave our country as refugees? This question makes it our task as the team of this production to trace, explore and uncover layers. What does an encounter of such different cultures mean? Where is recognition, hope, possibility? Where do we encounter missed opportunities? When do pride and egoism become the fuel of interpersonal relationships? All these questions are deeply human. In our production we don't want to try to illustrate war, but rather to work out what war triggers in us, what personal strengths and weaknesses it reveals. “War” tells a story of constant transition, of the constant search for identity. This is what we want to focus on in our rehearsal work.

Marius Felix Lange’s opera deals with a serious subject, but the experienced composer does not omit humour. To what extent does this help the director to deal with this difficult subject?

Richter: The rich variety of the composition proves to be very helpful for me in the preparation. The juxtaposition of dark, relentless passages and lighter passages stimulates the imagination immensely. On the one hand, humour makes the heavy subject more accessible to us, as it also triggers feelings of longing and hope. On the other hand, it sharpens our awareness of the seriousness of the story in the clash with destructive moments.

Premiere. Marius Felix Lange
“Krieg. Stell Dir vor, er wäre hier” (War. Imagine, it was here)
Stadttheater Gießen
Further dates: 09.10., 22.10. and 23.10., further dates are in the planning stage

Musical direction: Herbert Gietzen
Production: Hans-Walter Richter
Stage and costumes: Bernhard Niechotz
Dramaturgy: Samuel Christian Zinsli
Soprano: Naroa Intxausti
Baritone: Viktor Rud
Narrator: Sebastian Songin
String quartet:
Delia Ramos Rodríguez (violin 1), Mishi Stern / Veronika Paleeva (violin 2), Nefeli Galani (viola), Nathan Watts (cello)

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