Palais Garnier – from 20 May to 12 June 2016
“Where am I? Is it day? I don’t know what to say. Are these hands mine? How I long to know who I am!”
– Lear, Partie II, scène 6
Berlioz wrote nothing more than an overture to Shakespeare’s King Lear. Debussy went no further than the first two numbers of the incidental music he had agreed to write for André Antoine’s production of the play. Verdi, who procrastinated endlessly over this “vast and tortuous” tragedy that had haunted him since 1843, confessed towards the end of his life that the scene where Lear finds himself on the moor had terrified him. Hoping to do justice to the role “less out of theatrical ambition” than because he had long “believed that the various levels of the inner and outer drama could be adapted and effectively expressed in music”, the great German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau appealed to Benjamin Britten before turning to the German composer, Aribert Reimann.
At first hesitant, the latter finally set to work. After repeatedly reading the play, the work eventually took root and he stored away the music in “a sort of drawer somewhere in [his] head”.
A commission from the Munich Staatsoper in 1975 triggered the actual composition. “Rarely has anyone depicted so convincingly – except perhaps Alban Berg in Wozzeck – the fact that a man’s solitude is due to his own incapacity to see those around him”, wrote the first performer of this major 20th century opera composed at his initiative. This new production by Calixto Bieito marks the first revival of the work at the Paris Opera since its French premiere in 1982.
Opera in two parts (1978)
Music: Aribert Reimann
Libretto: Claus H. Henneberg
After William Shakespeare, King Lear
Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Director: Calixto Bieito
König Lear: Bo Skovhus
König von Frankreich: Gidon Saks
Herzog von Albany: Andreas Scheibner
Herzog von Cornwall: Michael Colvin
Graf von Kent: Kor-Jan Dusseljee
Graf von Gloster: Lauri Vasar
Edgar: Andrew Watts
Edmund: Andreas Conrad
Goneril: Ricarda Merbeth
Regan: Erika Sunnegardh
Cordelia: Annette Dasch
Narr: Ernst Alisch
Bedienter: Nicolas Marie
Ritter: Lucas Prisor
Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus
French and English surtitles
Broadcast on France Musique on 18 June.