Plays, operas, ballets, theatrical performances ...

There are a number of stage works dealing with the characters of Robert and Clara Schumann, seeking an approach to the artistic work, or giving Schumann’s music an important role otherwise. Along with a note and an excerpt from the text of Ferruccio Busoni’s “Klassische Walpurgisnacht” [“Classical Walpurgis Night”], the following is a selection from the more recent past to this day ...

Ferruccio Busoni (Florence, 1866 - Berlin, 1924)
Scenes from the “Classical Walpurgis Night”


FRANZ LACHNER: “Na, Schumann, in Ihrer Jugend waren
Sie ein recht loser Knabe –.” [“Well, Schumann, you were
quite a loose boy in your young days -.”]
SCHUMANN: “Nicht wahr? Und dann wurde ich so eine Art
Klassiker.”[“Wasn’t I? And then I turned into some kind of classic.”]

(F. Busoni in his “Classical Walpurgis Night”)

Sadly, only draft notations in the process of formation of the unfinished opera “Dr Faust”, namely notations intended for the “Classical Walpurgis Night”, apparently never accomplished (also entered by Goethe in Faust II only),by Ferruccio Busoni have been preserved, one of the most distinguished Italian pianists, conductors, and composers, who was already successful at the age of eight as a child prodigy. The place of the scene is the so-called Limbus, describing a place in the afterworld where the souls of those humans go who, in life, “nichts Böses aber auch nichts Gutes verrichteten, die infolgedessen weder bestraft noch belohnt werden und die nun für alle Ewigkeit weder leiden noch genießen werden.” [“have done nothing bad but nothing good either and who therefore are neither punished nor rewarded, and who will now neither suffer nor be happy for all eternity.”].This is where, amongst others, Gade, Mendelssohn, and Lachner sit, whom Robert Schumann comes to see from heaven (!). They ask him at once about his protégé Brahms, whether he was in heaven as well, which is affirmed by Schumann: That Brahms and the Herzogenberg couple had been assigned to attend on him, with Clara keeping house. After some discussions who of the other composers was in heaven, in purgatory, or in hell, the inevitable question about Mozart is raised in the end, who enjoys a special position here as well. Although his place is, of course, in heaven, he is allowed go anywhere if he feels bored, even visit hell.

Elfriede Jelinek (born in 1946, Mürzzuschlag/Styria)
“Clara S.” A Musical Tragedy
Premiere 1982, Bonn

The Austrian Nobel laureate for Literature, ElfriedJelinek, turns Clara S. over to the infamous Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio. Without any money, her husband stranded in a home, she pretends she wants to write a symphony, but actually only wants to have some peace and quiet. Jelinek portrays Clara as a woman who puts her desires behind those of her husband, since he had toldher that only men were capable of creating original arts. The end is tragic, as Clara kills Robert when the latter pretends, in a fit of mental derangement, that he was the composer of the overture to Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie”, by which her vision of his genius collapses. After that, she sits down at the piano,overexcited, and plays compositions by Schumann for so long until dropping dead from the piano stool.
The criticism in “Theaterheute” [“Theatre Today”] (issue 11, November 1982) of the premiere on 24th September 1982 at the Stadtheater Bonn [Bonn Municipal Theatre], under the direction of Hans Hollmann, was absolutely devastating, both for the author and the director: “In Bonn erlebte man nicht nur ein schlechtes Stück in eine miserablen Inszenierung, man erlebte eine Katastrophe für die Autorin!” [“Bonn experienced not only a miserable staging of a bad play, but also a catastrophe for the author!”]

Schumann, Schubert und der Schnee 
[Schumann, Schubert, and the Snow]
Opera for Piano by Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert 

Premiere within the framework of the Ruhrtriennale [International Festival of the Arts of the Ruhr district] 2005: 7th October 2005, 19.30 hrs, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum [Bochum Century Hall]

Arrangement, direction and libretto: Hans Neuenfels
Piano, musical direction:  Daniel Eberle

Performers: Olaf Bar, Ludwig Blochberger, Daniel Eberle, Piero von Jaduczynski, Christian Kröhl, MirekMachnik, Xavier Moreno, Elisabeth Trissenaar

One of them, Franz Schubert, had just died when the systematic mass production of steel started in the Ruhr district. In his lieder, he, who spent his entire life in the metropolis of Vienna, had sung about the apparent idyll of nature and the loneliness of the hounded. The other one, Robert Schumann, discovered ten years after Schubert’s death the latter’s Great Symphony in C major [allegedly – the autograph was in fact in the possession of the Musikvereinin Wien [Viennese Music Association] already,and Schumann received a copy from Schubert’s brother], whilst at the same time the first German steam locomotive was built in the Ruhr district. The romantic movement against the background of the forming industrialised society is packed into an “Oper mit Klavier” [“opera with piano”] of the two geniuses and their environment, by Hans Neuenfels at the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and Franz Schubert (1797-1828) never met each other. Schumann, however, showed a passionate interest in the work of his Viennese colleague over his whole life. In Hans Neuenfels’ creation, Schumann, Schubert, and the Snow, both artists meet each other both personally and via their most important form of expression: the lied. They circle around, explore, and exchange each other: “Schumann wird durch Schubert beunruhigt. Gleichzeitig spornt Schubert ihn an. Dessen Fahrlässigkeit, seine Spontaneität, die an einen Arthur Rimbaud, einen Jimi Hendrix denken lassen, festigen Schumanns Druck zur Sesshaftigkeit bis zum Zerreißen. Man sieht seine Lähmungen, man hört seine Versuche, sich durch die Komposition wieder zusammenzusetzen, zusammen zu pressen, durch Musik, durch Töne. Erhört zum Beispiel ein Lied von Schubert, singt es nach und schreibt eines dagegen. Ein anderes Mal trällert Schubert eine Melodie leichthin daher, Schumann nimmt sie auf und verwandelt sie in ein eigenes Lied.”[“Schumann is troubled by Schubert. At the same time, he feels stimulated by Schubert. Schubert’s carelessness and spontaneity, reminding of an Arthur Rimbaud, a Jimi Hendrix, only tighten Schumann’s pressure for settledness to breaking point. You can see his paralyses and hear his attempts to compose and compress himself through compositions, through music, through tones. For instance, he listens to a Schubert lied, then imitates it, and writes his own one in response. Another time, Schubert airily hums a melody to himself, then Schumann picks it up and converts into a lied of his own (Hans Neuenfels in a letter to Jürgen Flimm.)

See also: [ TreasureTrove/Reviews ]

Werner Schroeter (7.4.1945 - 12.4.2010)

Die Schönheit der Schatten [The Beauty of the Shades]
Scenic and Musical Homage to Robert Schumann and Heinrich Heine
Premiere: 12th March 2006, 20.00 hrs, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf [Düsseldorf Exhibition Hall]

Werner Schroeter, a well-known film, play, and opera director, designed his collage of word, music and dance for installation at the Kunsthalle, as the centre point of the surrounding exhibition on the subject of Schumann and Heine. Schroeter and the musical director Roland Techet try to create an approach towards artists Heine and Schumann. In this, music assumes a dominant role. Schroeter “umkreistsieunablässig.Dabeigehter - wie die TAZ (Ausgabe: 15. März 2006) nach der Premiere anerkennend feststellt – mit tastender Zärtlichkeit vor, die dem Abend einen melancholischen Sog verleiht und ihn vor jener geschwätzigen Spekulation rettet, der derartige Versuche zumeist andernorts erliegen” [“circles around them unremittingly. In doing so, he proceeds – as stated in an appreciative manner by the TAZ [Berlin Daily Newspaper] (issue of 15th March 2006) after the premiere -, with tentative fondness that adds a certain melancholic maelstrom to the evening and saves it from that gossipy speculation to which similar attempts mostly succumb elsewhere”]. This is a reference to the Ruhrtriennale production of Schroter’s colleague Hans Neuenfels of autumn 2005, who had allegedly “auf hohem Niveau gelangweilt” [“bored at a high level”] with the performance of “Schumann, Schubert und der Schnee”. Indicentally, in other feuilletons Schroeter does not necessarily gain the same recognition as by the TAZ either, which boasted that he had understood how to “die geweckten Assoziationen nicht wuchern zu lassen, sondern in dichter Intensität zu bündeln.” [“not let the associations aroused proliferate but to bundle them into dense intensity.”]

Die Uraufführung durch die höchst renommierte Stuttgarter Compagnie im Staatstheater Stuttgart (Opernhaus) hatte ein starkes Medienecho, vgl. zusammenfassend:

Rolf Hoppe as Wieck in the new play “Vater Wiecks Liebe” [“Father Wieck’s Love”]

Premiere in Coswig, Villa Teresa: 26thJanuary 2007, 20.00 hrs.

Hoppe had already played Friedrich Wieck in Schamoni’s film “Frühlingssinfonie” [“Spring Symphony”], and now Rolf Hoppe acted the role of Clara Schumann’s father again.
The play “Vater Wiecks Liebe” came into being in the adaptation of director Helfried Schöbel, after the letters exchanged between Friedrich Wieck and Robert Schumann.

The two-person play – along with Rolf Hoppe, Claudia Pätzold embodies Wieck’s daughter Clara Schumann at the piano – is about a man who recognises with a clearsight all the dangers threatening the object of his love, who battles for his love by all available means and with all his vigour, and still loses. Wieck was against the marriage between his daughter and Robert Schumann. This finally leads to a breakdown of the relationship between her and her father who had also been (intermittently)Robert Schumann’s teacher. Wieck had not understood that love is a property which, if not shared with others, turns into its opposite.

The play also involves the room, the chamber music hall of Villa Teresa with the portraits of Bach, Liszt, Brahms, Beethoven, the Mozart bust, the view from the windows into the wintry park …”

Sven Holm: Schumanns Nacht [Schumann’s Night]
A Poetic Play

This six-personplay by Sven Holm, which was awarded the Nordic Dramatist Prize in 1994, was brought onto the stage by the EURO THEATER CENTRAL ( inits German premiere (translated by Bernd Kretschmer), whilst also serving as the opening event to the EndenicherHerbst [Endenich Autumn Cultural Festival] 2006: 29th October 2006, 20.00 hrs.

EURO THEATER CENTRAL in cooperation with the Danish Cultural Institute and the EndenicherHerbst [now called Bonner Schumannfest [Bonn Schumann Festival]]

Doris Lehner (Clara Schumann), Johannes K. Prill (Robert Schumann), Hermann Kurtenbach (Friedrich Wieck), Daniel Andone (Johannes Brahms), Philipp Schlomm (Joseph Joachim), and Julianna Viczian play under the stage direction of Istvan Szabo.

[Fig. 1]

Hermann Kurtenbach as FriedrichWieck

[Fig. 2]

Doris Lehner (Clara Schumann), Johannes K. Prill (Robert Schumann), and Daniel Andone (Johannes Brahms); behind them: JuliannaViczian as Fräulein von Reumont. (Photograph: Ulrich Dohle)

[Fig. 3]

Schumanns Nacht is a play about time. Not about historical time but time in its progress. About physical time.About withdrawing when the time has come. About being on the spot when it is time for it. About time as an inevitable journey from birth to death, the journey of each human, however big or small the luggage, however hopeless or hopeful the paths.

And it is a play about Robert Schumann. About the last three years of his life, that were affected by illness, about fear and anger – but also about love and, of course, music.

See also: [ TreasureTrove/Reviews ]

Sein Bildnis wunderselig
[His Blissful, Wonderful Image]

Stage play by Nina Omilian
Premiere on 12th September 2008 at the Gedächtniskirche [Memorial Church] in Leipzig-Schönefeld, the wedding church of Clara and Robert Schumann

Nina Omilian, Mezzo-soprano (Muse)
Nadine Schori, Actress and Dancer (Clara Schumann)
Marian Lux, Pianist, Composer, Arranger

Clara Schumann finds herself in a situation of internal and external departure. Her husband has been dead for more than a year, her move from Düsseldorf to Berlin is imminent. Her first sentence: “Nun fängt ein ganz neues Leben an” [“A wholly new life is now starting”] already combines hope with nostalgic feelings, a dream is to be turned into reality. Inside Clara, the preparations for the move set off an avalanche of feelings. She lives through the past anew, tries to bring into relation what has happened, and is always accompanied by Robert’s music. His lieder make strings inside her vibrate, trigger “die Erinnerung” [“the Reminiscence”] which makes an incarnate appearance through the Muse Calliope. Innately in charge of beautiful songs and heroic poetry, the Muse has, seemingly, been entrusted by her mother, the Reminiscence, to keep the memory of Robert Schumann in Clara’s heart alive. And this as dazzlingly as possible.

Regardless of realities, the Muse draws a transfigured picture, involving Robert’s Op. 42 “Frauenliebe und Leben” [“A Woman’s Love and Life”]. She tries to smuggle Robert’s portrait, which Clara would actually have liked to distance herself from, into Clara’s luggage for the move. But Clara is not in a disposition for half-truths. For her, it is time to sort things out, to jettison, to find her own image of Robert. And of herself as well.

Throughout all this time, the two figures are led by Robert Schumann’s music, in a way that sets the tone and quasi the atmosphere.

The scene music composed (“Sein Bildnis wunderselig”) or arranged by Marian Lux constantly follows Schumann’s spirit and acts as a dramaturgical element.

“A pearl of the small musical theatre … a petal of poetry … this extremely briefly set, wonderful, little play combining musical delicacies and inner dialogue … Nina Omilian conveys the pain, the determination, and the doubt in a most touching and persistent manner … a 70 minutes long, highly entertaining but also informative and inspiring three-women stage play …” (NordbayerischerKurier [North Bavarian daily paper]

“Der Unvollendenich oder Warten auf den Tunnel am Ende des Lichts” [“The Endenich Without End or Waiting for the Tunnel at the End of the Light”]   
Premiere: 8th January 2009, 20.00 hrs, Lampenlager [Lamp Hall], Theater Bonn [Bonn Municipal Theatre]

Dance theatre of the “bodytalk” group, by Yoshiko Waki and Rolf Baumgart, with live music

Why did the young Robert Schumann note down in his diary “Mir träumt, ich wär´ im Rhein ertrunken” [“I dreamt I drowned in the Rhine”]? What happens if arts and reality collide? Because, a few years later, Robert Schumann did indeed jump into the Rhine on a Rose Monday, and was rescued by carnival revellers.

The new dance theatre group “bodytalk” from Bonn turned this into “Der Unvollendenich”, and started with its premiere at the same time the trilogy “Bonnalitäten” [“Bonn-alities”].

Miranda Glikson (StadttheaterGießen [Gießen Municipal Theatre]), Katrin Schyns, Yoshiko Waki, Rouzbeh Asgarian, and Ziv Frenkel danced under the choreography of Yoshiko.

Premiere report:

“ROBERT S. oder 5 Verhinderungen, über Kunst nachzudenken”
[“ROBERT S. or Five Hindrances to Thinking About Arts”] 

New compositions by Karola Obermüller, Annette Schlünz, Peter Gilbert, Georg Katzer, and Sergej Newskiat the Theater Bonn [Bonn Municipal Theatre]

Premiere: 29thOctober 2011, 19.30 hrs, Alter Malersaal [Old Artists’ Hall], Theater Bonn

The realisation of the romantic thought in the arts, the utopia of the conveyance of the arts into life, the ideal of the romantic artist, and finally a artist himself – the composer Robert Schumann -, all these constitute the starting points of the musical theatre production ROBERT S.

Five composers from different generations – Karola Obermüller, Annette Schlünz, Peter Gilbert, Georg Katzer, and Sergej Newski-, took to an artistic process in which they established a relationship and a confrontation with Robert Schumann. This is how five episodic approaches towards a biography were created which looks historical to us, as it is virtually based on a past of more than two hundred years ago, but, from an existential angle, closely ties in with today’s examination by the creative artist of the societal, political and social structure surrounding him and is reflected in questions that are perhaps never solved:

What kind of hope still connects to the arts? What has happened today to the romantic ideal of the arts, given that artistic strategies have long since been utilised by the so-called “creative industries”? Where does the enchantment and overcoming of the world still take place? Where and how, and, well: can the artist still realise such ideal? This preoccupation and soul-searching is certainly apparent in the work of the director, Michael v. zur Mühlen, and the stage and costume designer, Christoph Ernst.

Following the kaleidoscopic structure of ROBERT S., they responded to the compositions created with a series of acting performances within an open installation-based room concept in which the public is not abandoned on the periphery in the passive role of observers. The theatre thus returns perhaps to its original function which is the opening of a public discussion room, and would in this sense also perfectly correspond to one of Robert Schumann’s central requests: “Betragt euch schön romantisch!” [“Make sure you behave the romantic way!”] 

With the participation of Hanna Dóra Sturludóttir, Roland Schneider, Nicholas Isherwood, Andrew Zimmerman, Julian Blaue, and also Karola Obermüller, Annette Schlünz, Peter Gilbert, Georg Katzer, and Sergej Newski

Beethoven Orchester Bonn [Bonn Beethoven Orchestra]

Musical direction: Wolfgang Lischke / Scenic design: Michael v. zur Mühlen / Stage and costumes: Christoph Ernst / Lights: Sirko Lamprecht / Production management and dramaturgy: Anja-Christin Winkler / Dramaturgy: Ulrike Schumann.

See also:

“Heimliches Flüstern” [“Secretive Whispering”]

Premiere: 4th December 2012, Opernloft [Opera stage for newcomers], Hamburg   

This play in the form of a staged lieder recital deals with the life and work of Clara Schumann.

Musical direction: Makiko Eguchi. Stage direction & décor: Inken Rahardt. Dramaturgy: Susann Oberacker.
Music by Clara and Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms
Singers: Maria Seleznyova, soprano, and Sofiya Palmar, mezzo-soprano.

Inken Rahardt, in charge of the décor also, “inszeniert Claras Gefühle zwischen den beidenMännern in einem Wald der Romantik. Es singen zwei Frauen als Spiegelbilder Claras. Die liebt sowohl den strengen Ehemann, der es nicht mag, wenn sie Konzerte gibt und der sein Genie über ihres stellt, als auch den jüngeren und begabten Hamburger Brahms, der sie rückhaltlos bewundert. Die bewegende, romantische Musik dieser drei Ausnahmekomponisten ist bereits ein Grund, ihre Werke an einem Abend auf die Bühne zu bringen. Ihre persönliche Verbindung zueinander gibt der Musik den Rahmen.” [“stages Clara’s feelings between the two men in a romantic forest. Two women sing as Clara’s mirror images. Clara loves both her austere husband who does not like when she gives concerts and who puts his own genius above hers, and the younger and gifted Brahms from Hamburg who admires her wholeheartedly. The moving romantic music of these three exceptional composers is already a reason for bringing their works to the stage in one evening. The personal relationship between the three provides the framework for the music.”

Review of the premiere: (with pictures of the performance and an NDR [North German Broadcasting] review)

(I.B., translated by Thomas Henninger)

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