Today, the Theater an der Wien in Vienna presents the world première of Hamlet, an opera in 25 scenes composed by Anno Schreier, with a libretto in German by Thomas Jonigk, based on the play by William Shakespeare, Historia Danica by Saxo Grammaticus and Histoires Tragiques by François de Belleforest.
It is the composer's seventh work of musical theatre. He has already composed two operas : Kein Ort. Nirgends (2006), after Christa Wolf and Möder Kaspar Brand (2011) after Edgar Allan Poe.
Hamlet, the old king, is dead, presumed poisoned. His widow Gertrude now plans to marry his brother, Claudius. She seems to have an over-affectionate relationship with her son, Hamlet. Presumably for this reason, and on grounds of decency, the son disapproves of her mother's remarriage so soon after his father's death. The young Hamlet feels that everything is becoming too much for him: his feelings towards his mother, his father's death and the looming prospect of one day succeeding him as king which would mean having to accept him or the new king, his uncle Claudius, as a role model. What is more he is sure that it was Claudius who killed his father. How should he react in this situation ? Gertrude is soon pregnant and convinced that the child will be a boy. Hamlet feels surplus to requirements and starts to suffer fits of depression. Gertrude engages Ophelia, a high-class prostitute who also bestowed her "favours" on the late king, as a distraction for Hamlet. However, the nature of her profession is also causing Ophelia to feel depressed. She and Hamlet realise that they have an emotional bond and fall deeply in love with each other. Gertrude now persuades Claudius to murder Ophelia. Once she is dead, Gertrude sets Hamlet against Claudius so she will be rid of him as well, but her plans go awry when Claudius stabs Hamlet to death. Claudius publicly expresses his regret at the death of the crown prince before securing family ties with the pregnant Gertrude. (reproduced from the Theater an der Wien website)The required orchestra is the following :
- 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling English horn), 2 clarinets (2nd doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons (2nd doubling contrabassoon) ;
- 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones and 1 tuba ;
- percussions (2 players) ;
- harp, strings.
The cast includes baritone André Schuen (Hamlet), countertenor Jochen Kowalski (Dead Hamlet, former King, a spoken part), soprano Marlis Petersen (Gertrud, Queen) and baritone Bo Skovhus (Claudius) who recently performed the title role of Aribert Reimann's Lear in Paris. Michael Boder conducts the Symphony Orchestra of the Austrian Radio (ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien) and the Arnold Schoenberg Chor. Christof Loy directs.
The opera should last about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The first performance will be broadcast by Austrian Radio OE1 on Friday 16 September.