Today, the Opernhaus Zürich presents the world première of Heinz Holliger's new opera, Lunea, with a libretto by Händl Klaus inspired by poet Nikolaus Lenau's life. The opera is subtitled '23 pages from a life'.
It is the composer's sixth opera, almost 20 years after Schneewittchen (Zürich, October 1998).
A dramatist, political intellectual, guitarist and violinist, as well as the most successful lyricist of the Biedermeier period, Lenau was a highly talented polymath. He led a restless, intense life informed by his love for a succession of women before becoming mentally deranged in 1844, remaining in psychiatric care until his death in 1850. His most passionate and almost lifelong love affair was with Sophie von Löwenthal, the wife of his friend Max. With Sophie, Lenau maintained a dual correspondence that was split between “official” letters and unrestrainedly intimate messages. (reproduced from the Zurich Opera House website)The cast includes baritone Christian Gerhaher (Lenau), soprano Juliane Banse (Sophie von Löwenthal), baritone Ivan Ludlow (Anton Schurz), soprano Sarah Maria Sun (Marie Behrends / Karoline Unger) and mezzo Annette Schönmüller (Therese Schurz). Heinz Holliger himself conducts the Philharmonia Zürich and the Basler Madrigalisten. Andreas Homoki directs.
According to the full score available for perusal on the Schott Music website, the required orchestra is the following :
- 2 flutes (also 2 piccolo, 1 alto flute and 1 bass flute), 2 oboes (also 1 English horn), 2 clarinets in B (also 1 clarinet in A and 2 bass clarinets in B), 1 contrabass clarinet in B (also bass clarinet in B), 2 bassoons (also 1 contrabassoon) ;
- 2 horns in F, 2 trumpets in C, 2 trombones ;
- timpani, percussion (4 players), cymbal, harp, celesta, piano ;
- strings (18.104.22.168.2).
The performance should last 1 hour and 45 minutes and there is no interval.