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More opera performances in Hannover
While looking through my stacks of old opera programs, I found three earlier ones from the State Opera in Hannover.
Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) is based on a novel by the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). It is the story of a young woman, Lucy Ashton, who is forced by her family to marry a man she detests. She is driven to insanity and stabs her husband on their wedding night. The opera is especially famous for its "mad scene" which goes on for about twenty minutes (after the stabbing) with mainly just the soprano and a haunting flute or glass armonica accompaniment. I have seen this opera numerous times in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin and Darmstadt, but the most unusual staging was the one in Hannover in 2001. In this staging, Lucia does not die at the end, but is secretly committed to an insane asylum by her family. An actress plays Lucia as an old woman. She is on the stage throughout the opera, re-living her memories of her traumatic experiences when she was younger.
This unusual staging of Lucia di Lammermoor was inspired by the fate of the very talented French sculptress Camille Claudel (1864–1943), whose family committed her to an insane asylum for the last thirty years of her life.
Second photo: The Bartered Bride, by Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884). This was a conventional, light-hearted production – nothing unusual, but fun.
Third photo: The first opera I saw in Hannover was Rigoletto, by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). I don’t remember much about the production, which was in 1993, but looking at the cast list I see that the role of Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter, was sung by Kirsten Blanck, whom I had never heard of at the time. (I later met her when she sang the Queen of the Night in Frankfurt, in Mozart’s Magic Flute.)
Next review: Ernst-August-Platz
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The Opera House
From the outside, the Hannover Opera House still (or again) looks much the same as it did when it first opened as the Royal Court Theatre (Königliches Hoftheater) on September 1, 1852.
In July 1943 the inside of the theater was destroyed fire bombs in one of the many bombing attacks of the Second World War, but the outer walls remained standing. The theater was re-built starting in 1947 and re-opened on November 30, 1950, with a performance of Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss.
To save time and money, only the most rudimentary stage machinery was installed in 1950, consisting mainly of cranks and pulleys that were turned by hand. The first hydraulic stage machinery was not installed until 1960-63.
At the same time, the backstage areas were enlarged and rearranged, following plans that had existed since 1927 but had never been implemented.
In the 1980s the auditorium, where we spectators sit, was re-designed and re-built, not only for optical reasons but also to improve the acoustics. Then in the 1990s the thirty- to forty-year old stage machinery had to be replaced because it no longer conformed to modern safety standards. This also meant strengthening the foundations under the stage area, which was done during the summer break in 1996.
The summer break in 1997 had to be lengthened to permit installation of completely new machinery above the stage, and the same happened in 1998 to allow replacement of everything below the stage.
Fifth photo: The Royal Court Theatre as it looked in the year 1852.
Next review: Statues on the Opera House
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Statues on the opera house
On top of the entrance hall, which originally was open on both sides so the rich people could be driven up to the front door in their horse-drawn carriages, there are several statues of famous composers and authors. These statues look very much like the ones that were there when the building was first opened in 1852, but no one could tell me if the current statues are the originals or replicas.
The first statue (at least the first one I took a picture of) shows the composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), who was born in Bonn on the Rhine River. Beethoven’s birth house in Bonn now houses a museum about his life and times, along with a highly unusual room called the Stage for Music Visualization. Here you are given 3D glasses (which you can wear over your regular glasses, if any) and can listen to excerpts of Beethoven' music which take on what they call "an optical acoustical shape" in the form of abstract figures which move to the music. Beethoven is best known for his nine symphonies and other orchestral works, but he also wrote one opera, Fidelio, which I have described on my Edinburgh page.
Second photo: This is a not-very-flattering statue of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). So far I have seen fourteen of Mozart’s twenty-one operas and have written about them on my Augsburg, Aachen, Milan, Pforzheim and Prague pages, among other places.
Third photo: This is a statue of the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), whose birth house in Frankfurt am Main is now a museum devoted to his life and works. There have been at least four operas based on Goethe’s works – probably more, but four that I have seen in the last few years.
Fourth photo: The statue of the German author Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) looks typically square-jawed and determined – not that Schiller really looked like that, but in the nineteenth century he was something of a German national hero, so sculptors used to rearrange his physiognomy to fit the legend. There is a much better but still highly idealized statue of Schiller at the Wiesbaden State Theater, where I have seen two of the many operas based on Schiller’s plays. In Frankfurt am Main there is another Schiller statue which is now surrounded by 20th and 21st century skyscrapers. Nine of the tips in the Frankfurt Skyline Countdown on my Land Hessen page feature Schiller scornfully ignoring the modern buildings all around him.
Fifth photo: Statues of the English playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and the German author Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781). One of Shakespeare's biggest fans in the 19th century was the great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), who based three of his operas on Shakespeare plays, namely Macbeth, Otello and Falstaff.
Next review: La Traviata
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La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi
My immediate reason for going to Hannover in October 2011 was to see Benedikt von Peter’s highly unusual staging of the opera La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).
As I have pointed out on my Braunschweig page, La traviata is now one of the world's most popular operas, but when it first came out in 1853 it shocked opera goers (and the original cast of singers!) because of its highly controversial contemporary topic. It wasn't about Greek gods or Roman emperors, as everyone expected, but about a French courtesan (sort of an up-market prostitute) who had really lived and in fact had just died six years earlier of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-three.
I have seen La traviata many times in numerous different stagings. My favorite is still the classic Axel Corti staging at the Frankfurt Opera, in which Violetta dies not in her bed but on the floor of the second class waiting room in the railroad station in Orléans while she is trying to flee from the Nazis.
In the Hannover staging by Benedikt von Peter, the orchestra is up on the stage and the action takes place on a roof covering the orchestra pit. Only one character is ever visible, namely Violetta Valéry herself, played and sung by the American soprano Nicole Chevalier. All the others sing from the first balcony of the auditorium.
In the first scene Violetta has invited lots of people to her party, but no one turns up. Alfredo’s fervent declaration of love, sung from the darkness, is evidently just in her imagination.
This works because Nicole Chevalier is a brilliant singer and actress who succeeds in filling the stage for two and a half hours (without an intermission) with her portrayal of a lonely and desperate woman.
The only scenes which for me didn’t work so well were the ones where Violetta is not even present, like the confrontation between Alfredo and his father, who were both singing in the darkness from different sides of the auditorium.
When she dies at the end she is still alone. She is convinced that Alfredo is by her side, but that is also just her imagination.
The applause at the end of the performance was long and enthusiastic.
If you wish, you can click here to see the trailer for this production, with explanations in German by the stage director Benedikt von Peter.
Next review: More opera performances in Hannover
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Hannover Opera House
Built in 1852, the opera used to be a theater for the king. In 1943, the opera burned down - fortunately it got rebuilt in 1948. Maybe you've got the chance to hear some German yodeling in the opera, too?! ;-))
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The State Opera and the State Theatre occupy leading places in international rankings; the Theatre was ranked third behind Zurich and Berlin amongst the German language theatres of Europe. Opera productions in Hannover cause a furore far beyond the boundaries of the city, dividing their highly outspoken audiences into committed disciples and opponents, and keeping Hannover in the headlines of the arts pages of national newspapers.
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The Hannover Opera
The opera house was built in 1845-52 based on a plan drawn by Laves. Originally it served as the royal theatre, as the king considered the theatre in the Leineschloß too small. The new opera house is a classical style building with two large wings and a balcony with statues of famous poets and composers. The balcony used to be open so that visitors could drive straight to the entrance in their carriages. Nowadays they can use the stairs to the underground car park. Hannover's opera house was badly damaged in the Second World War an rebuilt in 1948. In 1985 the acoustics were improved and between 1996 and 1998 the stage equipment was restored.
The Opera House
The "Oper" was build by Laves a prominent architect of this region......The house itself is a beautiful spot in the modern city center.....
These days the opera shows very modern works and so it´s in the critics by many opera lovers.....
The opera house was built in 1845-52 based on a plan drawn by Laves. Originally it served as the royal theatre, as the king considered the theatre in the Leineschloß too small. The new opera house is a classical style building with two large wings and a balcony with statues of famous poets and composers. The balcony used to be open so that visitors could drive straight to the entrance in their carriages. Nowadays they can use the stairs to the underground car park. Hannover's opera house was badly damaged in the Second World War and rebuilt in 1948. In 1985 the acoustics were improved and between 1996 and 1998 the stage equipment was restored.
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