Posts Tagged ‘Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz’

Ministry Split, Minister Fired

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Ludwig Spaenle, Bavaria’s former Kultusminister

Published: March 21, 2018

MUNICH — Bavaria’s Culture Ministry, responsible for Bayerische Staatsoper and Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz, among many other entities, underwent a sudden double shake-up this morning with the firing of its cheerful chief, Ludwig Spaenle, and an organizational severing into two parts.

Bernd Sibler, 47, is the new Kultusminister. The former Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Bildung und Kultus, Wissenschaft und Kunst (Bavarian State Ministry of Education and Culture, Science and Art) is now two ministries, divided at that comma for the third time in its history. In a more subtle change, the word Bildung (learning) has been replaced with the sterner term Unterricht (instruction).

The shake-up came at the behest of Bavaria’s forceful new Minister-Präsident, Markus Söder, 51, who replaced Horst Seehofer when the latter joined Angela Merkel’s cabinet in Berlin last week as Federal Minister of the Interior. (The two are pictured.) Merkel and Seehofer, who differ on the sore topic of immigration, belong to the CDU party and its Bavarian ally, the CSU, respectively. Söder and Sibler are CSU members.

It is unclear what moves Söder, through Sibler, will make on Bavaria’s lavish arts budgets. He has been Seehofer’s Finanzminister these last seven years, and known as a fiscal hawk not much connected to the classical music scene.

Bavarian King Ludwig I established the Culture Ministry in 1847, soon broadening it to embrace “all aspects of upbringing, instruction, morals, spiritual and artistic learning, and the institutions for them.” It became a state body in 1918, when the monarchy fell; a purveyor of Nazi ideology in schools and universities, art and culture, in 1933; and a champion of freedom, rule of law, and democracy after the Second World War.

Minister-Präsident Franz Josef Strauß in 1986 was the first to divide the ministry, on the pattern now mimicked by Söder. It was reunited in 1990, divided again eight years later, and reunited in 2013. Its spiritual mandate never disappeared: Kultus means worship, or adoration, as well as culture.

Photo © Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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Gärtnerplatztheater Reopens

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Die lustige Witwe at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich in October 2017

Published: November 4, 2017

MUNICH — With a shrill, pretty Hanna, a shriller, pretty Valencienne, a Camille of uneven tone, but a tight, fluent chorus and much charming orchestral work, Die lustige Witwe ended six years of darkness at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz Oct. 19. This city’s second opera company, of the same name, had been homeless all that time while painfully slow laborers spiffed up the 1,000-seat venue’s front-of-house and essentially rebuilt its backstage.

Both of the bosses were on duty for the return: Anthony Bramall, the company’s new Chefdirigent, buoyant of rhythm and propulsive in Lehár’s 1905 score; and Josef Köpplinger, the Staatstheater’s Intendant, who took it upon himself to stage Victor Léon and Leo Stein’s bubbly book within a tragic frame, adding a dark-angel mime (Adam Cooper) to lace the action and sustain his “concept” as if unaware that living without anxiety had been the authors’ message.

Pontevedro’s assets had been secure from the start in Danilo’s love for Hanna, but the alliance of Bramall and Köpplinger going forward could prove far from secure. For Gärtnerplatz remains all about the “show,” not so much the singing, just as before the years of closure. The embassy, the garden, the animated pavilion, the “Maxim’s” theme-party in Hanna’s ballroom looked terrific, while only Daniel Prohaska’s nuanced Danilo, of the principals, sounded worthy.

Photo © Marie-Laure Briane

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Bramall to Gärtnerplatz

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Anthony Bramall in rehearsal at Oper Leipzig

Published: December 6, 2016

MUNICH — London-born conductor Anthony Bramall, 59, has been appointed Chefdirigent of the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz here, effective next season. He succeeds Marco Comin.

Bramall studied singing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and conducting with Vilém Tauský. He has already led several productions with the Munich company, lauding the way its orchestra combines “brilliant sound body with impressive flexibility.”

The choice was announced today by Josef Köpplinger, the company’s Intendant, following advocacy by the musicians themselves. Bramall presently serves as deputy general music director at Oper Leipzig, where he is pictured.

Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz, devoted to opera, operetta, musicals, and occasional orchestral concerts, remains itinerant while its modest and elegant home undergoes a multi-season and seemingly interminable backstage retrofit.

Photo © Andreas Birkigt

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Season of Concessions

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Josef Köpplinger, Marco Comin, Brigitte Fassbaender

Published: October 11, 2012

MUNICH — Arts groups here present a restrained 2012–13 season facing pros and cons not always aligned with those in America. Funding, for instance, holds steady: city and state (Bavaria) play their part, as do local corporations Siemens, BMW, Audi, Allianz and Linde. Excellent pools of musicians, instrumental and vocal, fill the rosters of the choir, chamber orchestra, two opera companies, and five symphony orchestras discussed below. Audiences are large and regular; not incidentally, tickets for most events are affordably priced and come with free access to the train and bus network, covering residents in a 25-mile radius. The cons are few, but they matter. Creative torpor impedes the main orchestras, a reflection in part of more than one sadly filled music directorship. The Regietheater problem rages in Germany, defiling the worthiest efforts in opera. Atrocious acoustics plague Munich’s main concert hall, and one vintage venue is shut for now for a retrofit. All that said, the groups enter the new season with active agendas.

The 201-year-old Bavarian State Orchestra ventures six programs at its home, the National Theater. Mostly led by outgoing Generalmusikdirektor Kent Nagano, these Akademie concerts extend a tradition begun when the ensemble was new; their past features names like Strauss, Walter, Knappertsbusch, Krauss, Fricsay, Sawallisch and Kleiber. Under-rehearsal can hamper results, however, a consequence of the musicians’ hectic theater schedule; that the GMD does not always supply the last ounce of insight or much rhythmic thrust only accentuates the negative. Despite and still, one upcoming program has allure (April 8 and 9): the eloquent young Czech conductor Tomáš Hanus tackles Mahler’s kaleidoscopic Seventh Symphony.

Clarinetist Jörg Widmann’s seven-scene opera Babylon is a fall commission of Bavarian State Opera, Germany’s largest and busiest opera company. Nagano conducts as part of his last season, and Carlus Padrissa, who last year introduced a circus-tent Turandot, has been entrusted with the stage action (premiere Oct. 27). Several of the season’s productions will be streamed at no charge, starting with the Widmann on Nov. 3. Hanus follows his persuasive (and filmed) Rusalka of two years ago with a revival of Jenůfa (from March 6) as well as a Richard Jones production of Hänsel und Gretel (March 24). Constantinos Carydis, among the company’s other worthy conductors — and indeed winner of its first Carlos Kleiber Prize — is absent from the 2012–13 slate, effecting a sabbatical.

The smaller but versatile Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz company enters a second season as refugee while its genial home undergoes construction work. Not all the substitute venues are ideal, but at the Cuvilliés Theater a Don Pasquale (premiere Oct. 25) should bring smiles: Franz Hawlata sings the title role, retired mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender (pictured with Intendant Josef Köpplinger and conductor Marco Comin) serves as régisseuse. This company labors under a mixed mandate, complementing Bavarian State Opera with Baroque and rare operas but also catering to a broad audience with operettas and musicals, at times amplified. Its orchestra copes gamely with the assortment, its singers less well.

Alexander Liebreich’s ongoing leadership of the MKO, a.k.a. Münchener Kammerorchester, has been yielding tidy ensemble and a crisp image for the group. Subscription concerts at MKO’s base, the Bayreuth-Festspielhaus-like Prinz-Regenten-Theater, habitually pair old and brand new, as on Oct. 18: Salvatore Sciarrino’s L’ideale lucente e le pagine rubate (2012) and Beethoven’s music for Egmont. Or Dec. 13: Ligeti’s Violin Concerto (old) and a Helena Winkelman piece jointly commissioned with Musica femina München.

Guest conductors, in contrast, are what enliven the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Ranked highly for its expertise, and drilled weekly for clean-as-a-whistle broadcasts, the BRSO perseveres under monochrome directorship. Antonini, Rattle, Haitink, Muti, Harding, Gilbert, Robertson, Salonen, Chailly and Metzmacher are names implying color in upcoming programs. The season splits as usual between the modest shoebox Herkulessaal, part of Munich’s Residenz arts complex, and the city-operated, fan-cum-vineyard Gasteig hall, where only the intra-ensemble sound travels properly.

The adventurous Münchner Rundfunk-Orchester, a second BR (Bavarian Broadcasting) ensemble, devotes much of 2012–13 to oddball concert opera — Franz Lachner’s Catharina Cornaro? — when its exploratory funds would go further in orchestral music and better balance the BRSO. Welcome projects include a German-language take (May 3) on Hindemith’s FDR oratorio When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom’d, which may find its way to disc alongside this orchestra’s award-winning 2005 recording of Des Simplicius Simplicissimus Jugend by Hartmann (who wove the Whitman elegy into his own First Symphony). Playing standards have been high under Künstlerischer Leiter Ulf Schirmer. He stepped into the shoes of the late Marcello Viotti in 2006 and has more recently also assumed musical and managerial duties at Oper Leipzig.

Still under broadcasting auspices, the BR Chor supports both of the above orchestras. Alert, flexible singing places this group among Germany’s best large choirs, with perhaps only Leipzig’s MDR Chor ahead in precision. Certainly it draws the better Munich choristers, those disinclined to strip down to their underwear and strike mindless poses, as repeatedly required of their colleagues in local opera companies. Dutchman Peter Dijkstra is the affable artistic leader. BR Chor concerts this season, in the group’s own series, include Mozart’s C-Minor Mass (Nov. 24) and a well-cast Matthäus-Passion (Feb. 16), at the Prinz-Regenten-Theater and Herkulessaal respectively.

The Munich Philharmonic seemed to want to dive off a cliff three years ago when its management publicly bickered with its greatly-in-demand Generalmusikdirektor Christian Thielemann, effectively losing him, and just eight months later chose Lorin Maazel as his successor. (One tabloid reported Thielemann’s salary to be €800,000.) Those twin decisions are now home to roost, as the 82-year-old American unfurls his inaugural season. Maazel’s work ethic can only be admired, but he appeared artistically drained in interregnum Gasteig programs ten months ago — in music in which he long ago excelled, such as Debussy’s La Mer. This orchestra will gain the most if Munich ever does build a proper concert hall, as recently championed by Bavarian Minister for Science, Research and Art, Wolfgang Heubisch. As a city-run ensemble, it is today confined almost entirely to the problematic Gasteig.

Less glamorous, though certainly busy, the Münchner Symphoniker offers concert series at the acoustically preferable Prinz-Regenten-Theater and Herkulessaal. Georg Schmöhe is Chefdirigent and pianist Philippe Entremont serves as Ehrendirigent. In 2011 this orchestra undertook a long U.S. tour devoted to movie music. This season at home it offers an all-Beethoven program (Jan. 27 and 28) and a mostly Haydn evening (March 20) as part of a generally conservative lineup.

Photo © Christian Zach

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