Arnold Schoenberg Chor:
Knights, ecclesiastics, sguires, retainers, country people, apparitions

Carolyn Sampson, soprano (Genoveva)
Marcel Beekman, tenor (Golo)
Johannes Weisser, baritone (Siegfried)
Marie Seidler, soprano (Margaret)
Felix Speer, baritone (Hidulphus)
Cornelius Uhle, bass-baritone (Drago)
Marcell Krokovay, bass, (Balthasar)
Zacharias Galaviz Guerra, baritone (Caspar)
Valentin Trandafir,  (Angelo)

Visual concept: Kristiina Helin, collaboration with
IC-98 Visa Suonpää, Patrik Södrerlund/Animations
Stage direction and Costumes: Kristiina Helin
Costume assistant, Jussi Pyykkönen

Schumann’s only opera is heard for the first time on 19th century period instruments. Visual dramatization by Kristiina Helin seeks to capture and enhance the spirit of Schumann’s vision of a truly epic opera actually impossible for traditional staging. Using sophisticated lights and video technology, in addition to carefully conducted slow-motion ‘moving portrait’ technique of the vocal forces, the performance creates an ineffable multi-arts experience hard to describe in traditional terminology. The mirror in which one beholds one’s own self, past and present, that is at the centre of Schumann’s unique concept, becomes an ageless moral force of terrifying transformative power.

Kristiina Helin took over the direction of the concert performance. And she did a really great job. While usually the choir stands at the back and the orchestra in front, and the soloists position themselves at the ramp in order to rise from their chairs when they enter, Helin really makes use of all the spatial conditions. Orchestra and chorus are placed next to each other, the singer-performers are provided with smaller accessories and are allowed to move scenically. Those who wish to criticise here may at least ask why the orchestra and chorus, although coming from different stage risers, do not appear in parallel, thus saving time in a three-hour performance. In addition, the choristers are provided with headdresses that one may assume are contemporary 8th century headdresses. “
Michael S. Zerban


“In addition, director Kristiina Helin staged the events discreetly: the orchestra and the choir sit opposite each other on stage, the women wear old-fashioned white bonnets and fantasy hats, the men wear white bibs reminiscent of clerical baffles. Genoveva is wearing a white dress, her opponent Margaretha is wearing a black one, and the rest of the male soloists are wearing plain black with shiny white gloves. The sparse scenic events take place on a narrow area in front of the choir and orchestra, the animation team IC-98 runs artfully conceived videos on a large projection screen, which can be associated with the plot: An elongated classical castle front with columns , on which the seasons and apparently centuries pass almost imperceptibly, which weathers, snows in and grows over. Then a rotating circle of greenery, then thorns, a desolate hill with leaning flagpoles, finally a wildly moving sea, as if you were at the "Flying Dutchman".
Regine Müller


“The performance is visually underpinned by an artist duo called IC-98. Like a copperplate engraving, their black-and-white animations show a market hall resting on Greek columns by a river that changes constantly over time. Meanwhile, the images do not push themselves into the foreground. The cross-fades are almost imperceptible and do not distract - one registers this with gratitude - from the music.”
Von Anke Demirsoy/Reheinische post

Opener of the Schumannfest Wallflower in a first-rate cast Düsseldorf - Right at the beginning, the Schumannfest presented a musical gem: the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra conducted by Aapo Häkkinen brought Robert Schumann's only opera, "Genoveva", to the Tonhalle.

Carolyn Sampson sings Genoveva, in the background the Arnold Schoenberg Choir.
Photo: Susanne Diesner/ TonhalleBy Anke DemirsoyInfidelity! This accusation sets many a drama in motion on the opera stage. Falsely accused, Verdi's Desdemona, Donizetti's Lucia, Bellini's sleepwalking Amina grow into figures of pain, martyrs of love. In contrast, their little sister, Robert Schumann's Genoveva, seems like a wallflower shunted off to the concert hall. At least she was allowed to open the Schumann Festival in the Tonhalle, which treated her to a semi-staged performance with a top cast.
The organisers have engaged competence from Finland to set Schumann's only opera in a festive light on Friday evening. Kristiina Helin is responsible for the direction. Under the direction of Aapo Häkkinen, who sees the late work as the crowning achievement of a composer's career, the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra plays instruments that were common in Schumann's time - including the ophicleide, which is similar to the tuba. From Austria comes the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, which has collected many great awards in its four decades of collaboration with Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
InfoA double literary operaThe legend The orally transmitted legend of Saint Genoveva was written down in the 14th century in the monastery of Maria Laach (Eifel). It inspired many artists, including Friedrich Hebbel, whose play served Schumann as a model, as did Ludwig Tieck's tragedy "Life and Death of Genoveva".The opera Although Schumann was obsessed with musical theatre and wanted to set many themes to music, "Genoveva" remained his only opera. The work was premiered in Leipzig in 1850, six years before the composer's death.Versions Since the end of the 19th century, it has been customary to perform the work in concert. Nevertheless, there have been repeated versions with a scene, including by Gustav Gründgens (1951 at the Maggio Musicale in Florence), Achim Freyer (2000 at the Wiener Festwochen) and Martin Kušej (2008 at the Zurich Opera House).
Information on the Schumannfest at www.tonhalle.de The performance is visually underpinned by an artist duo called IC-98. Like a copperplate engraving, their black-and-white animations show a market hall resting on Greek columns by a river that changes constantly over time. Meanwhile, the images do not push themselves into the foreground. The cross-fades are almost imperceptible and do not distract - one registers this with gratitude - from the music.The music itself is a resounding flow, actually a symphony with song, to quote Nikolaus Harnoncourt. If you are waiting for high notes, arias, duets or ensembles, you are in the wrong piece. On the stream of orchestral sounds, everything passes by at the same level: "Genoveva" knows no great scenes, has no dramatic plot, no psychological development. The title heroine becomes the victim of a clumsy intrigue, but what ensues seems as if told from the outside. Schumann's music runs alongside the action like an internal commentary. "Genoveva" often sounds more like Biedermeier than Vormärz.If you don't mind that, you can discover a lot this evening: For example, parallels to Beethoven's opera "Fidelio", also a solitaire and child of pain, with which "Genoveva" has in common the jubilant pathos and the final exaltation of husbandly love. Carl Maria von Weber's "Freischütz" and Richard Wagner's music dramas also resonate like a subtext in this score.It is treated as lovingly as one could wish for on this evening. The Helsinki Baroque Orchestra plays refreshingly lively, never lapsing into German heaviness, but allowing Schumann's music to shine transparently. Conductor Aapo Häkkinen, full of care at the podium, even tries to play with spatial sounds by having the trumpets stand up and blow their fanfares in different directions. The Arnold Schoenberg Choir also lives up to its reputation: it sings with plastic creative power, immensely differentiated and with a beautiful sound (conductor: Erwin Ortner).The ear is also spoiled by the excellent soloists. Carolyn Sampson's soprano makes a strong statement for the title role: with the colours of girlish purity, but also with jubilant, finally even heroic radiance. Marie Seidler counteracts passionately as the evil Nurse, letting dark undertones flow into her mezzo. Johannes Weisser as Count Palatine Siegfried is the sonorous epitome of righteousness and strength.For once, the villain in this opera is a tenor: Dutch singer Marcel Beekman shapes Golo into a relative of the errant Loge from Wagner's "Rheingold", at times almost exaggerating him in the direction of Mime. The latter, as we know, also has to deal with a Siegfried. But unlike "Genoveva", on which Schumann forced a happy ending, his story does not end well.

6. Juni 2023Semperoper Dresden

Dresden: „Genoveva“, Robert Schumann

03. — 09. Juni 2023


„Eine Fundgrube voll wunderschöner Musik“

Die werbenden Worte auf der Webseite der Düsseldorfer Tonhalle für das Eröffnungskonzert des diesjährigen Schumannfests bringen die Situation, oder vielleicht auch das Problem auf den Punkt: „Schumanns einzige Oper! Eine Fundgrube voll wunderschöner Musik. Seine „Genoveva“ ist in vielerlei Hinsicht ein Geniestreich. Hier hat die Musik mehr Bedeutung als die dramatische Handlung.“ Der letzte Satz ist entlarvend, denn er knüpft an das an, was der einst gefürchtete Wiener Kritikerpapst Eduard Hanslick 1877 wie folgt zu Protokoll gab: „Leider krankt die Musik an dem einen unheilbaren Uebel, undramatisch zu sein. Schumann's ganze Natur, auf ein tief innerliches Arbeiten und ein höchst subjectives, bis zur Grübelei verfeinertes Empfinden gestellt, war undramatisch, unfähig, sich an die Charaktere eines Dramas so zu entäußern, dass diese als lebendige, scharf ausgeprägte Personen vor uns stehen und gehen.“

Das Urteil des Undramatischen hält sich bis heute hartnäckig, ähnlich wie bei Schuberts Opernversuchen. Wenige szenische Aufführungen konnten Schumanns Projekt bis heute nicht ins Repertoire heben, es bleibt, wenn überhaupt bei konzertanten, oder wie hier in Düsseldorf, bei halbszenischen Wiederbelebungsversuchen.

Am Sujet kann’s nicht liegen, denn das bietet alles, was eine Oper braucht: Liebe, Eifersucht, Mord, Rache und ein dramatischer Handlungsrahmen. Ein gewisser Golo soll auf die schöne Titelheldin, Gattin seines Herrn, des Pfalzgrafen Siegfried, aufpassen, während dieser sich auf einen Kreuzzug begibt. Golo aber begehrt die schöne, leider arg naive Genoveva, und alsbald fällt sie einer raffiniert eingefädelten Intrige zum Opfer, die sie als treulose Ehebrecherin bezichtigt. Nach turbulenten Wendungen kommt erst letzter Minute die Wahrheit ans Licht und Genoveva ist gerettet.

Kompositorisch war Schumann im Revolutionsjahr 1848, als das Werk entstand, eigentlich auf der Höhe seiner Schaffenskraft, er komponierte ansonsten das „Album für die Jugend“, die „Waldszenen“, die vierhändigen „Bilder aus Osten“, sowie „Manfred“, den dritten Teil der „Szenen aus Goethes Faust“ und eben jene „Genoveva“.

In Düsseldorf erklingt Schumanns sprödes Bühnenwerk nun erstmals auf historischen Instrumenten: Das Helsinki Baroque Orchestra tut sich zusammen mit dem Arnold Schönberg Chor und einem famosen Solistenensemble um Carolyn Sampson und Marie Seidler. Außerdem hat Regisseurin Kristiina Helin das Geschehen dezent inszeniert: Auf der Bühne sitzen sich das Orchester und der Chor gegenüber, die Damen tragen altertümelnde weiße Häubchen und Fantasie-Hüte, die Herren weiße Lätzchen, die an klerikale Bäffchen erinnern. Genoveva trägt ein weißes Hängerchen, ihre Gegenspielerin Margaretha ein schwarzes, das restliche männliche Solistenpersonal schlichtes Schwarz mit signalhaft weiß leuchtenden Handschuhen. Das karge szenische Geschehen spielt sich auf einer schmalen Fläche vor Chor und Orchester ab, auf einer großen Projektionsfläche lässt das Animationsteam IC-98 kunstvoll ersonnene Videos ablaufen, die allenfalls assoziativ mit der Handlung in einen Zusammenhang zu bringen sind: Eine langgestreckte klassizistische Schlossfront mit Säulen, an der Jahreszeiten und offenbar Jahrhunderte fast unmerklich vorbeiziehen, die verwittert, einschneit und zuwächst. Dann ein sich drehender Kreis mal aus Grünzeug, dann aus Dornen, eine öde Anhöhe mit schiefen Fahnenmasten, schließlich ein wild bewegtes Meer, als wäre man beim „Fliegenden Holländer“.

Das Helsinki Baroque Orchestra spielt unter der federnden Leitung von Aapo Häkkinen wunderbar transparent, flexibel in den Tempi und inspiriert, insbesondere die Orchesterzwischenspiele lassen aufhorchen und haben ihre kostbaren Momente. Der Wiener Arnold Schönberg Chor liefert die gewohnte, herausragende Qualität, klar, tonschön, stilsicher. Carolyn Sampson singt die Titelpartie mit kristallinem Sopran und arbeitet sich tapfer durch die frömmelnd-naiven Passagen der Partie, Marcel Beekman gibt dem Bösewicht Golo sehr helle Tenorfarben, Johannes Weisser ist ein etwas zu brachialer Siegfried, Marie Seidler hat als intrigante Amme die interessanteste Partie, was sie mit flammendem Mezzo weidlich nutzt, die kleineren Rollen sind famos besetzt.

Aber ach, es hilft nichts: Allein vor dem bieder-peinlichen Libretto möchte man die Augen verdrehen, die Figuren bleiben Schablonen, singende Poesiealbum-Sprüche. Dennoch: großer Jubel am Ende in der leider schlecht verkauften Tonhalle.

Regine Müller

Fotos: Maarit Kytöharju

Kristiina Helin © 2019


Tel. +316-16896774
Skype: helin.kristiina