STAGEJens Kilian
COSTUMESaskia Rettig
LIGHTOlaf Winter
CHOIRTilman Michael
EXTRASBühne Frankfurt
WITH:Tanja Baumgartner
Claudia Mahnke
Bryan Register
Judita Nagyova
Martin Mitterrutzner
Gordon Bintner
Opera Choir
Alfred Reiter
Michael Porter
Elizabeth Reiter
Barbara Zechmeister
Brandon Cedel
Thomas Faulkner
Daniel Miroslaw
Dietrich Volle
Alison King
Thesele Kemane
Martin Dvorak
Irene Bauer
Zusatzchor Frankfurt

“Basically unspectacular and without exaltation, director Eva-Maria Höckmayr tells an exciting, oppressive war story in the first two acts, centred around the dominant Cassandra figure of Tanja Ariane Baumgartner. (…) Also gripping is the cleverly and vocally hauntingly traced path of Didon (Claudia Mahnke) from the imperial grande dame to the highly dramatic abandoned woman exhausting all facets of passion, rage, grief and paralysis.”

Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, Opernwelt April 2017

“Tanja Ariane Baumgartner is a great singer-actress and a charismatically luminous, voluminous Cassandre. The glowing power, the desperate tenderness that she puts into her voice when it comes to saving her lover leads straight to one of the first Frankfurt opera star hours of the evening, during which one forgets to breathe for a short time. But even he, the brave Chorèbe (Gordon Bintner), does not believe her until it is too late.

In general: the women! Almost all of them are a good class ahead of the men in this production. That applies, except for the Baumgartners, especially to Claudia Mahnke, who leads the reign as Dido in the second part (“The Trojans in Carthage”): She goes through, as a queen of hearts, a grandiose development that leads from cold reasons of state to hot private affair to self-dissolution. (…) Eva-Maria Höckmayr and her set designer Jens Kilian courageously opted for tangible folklore. Shadows, light and video they use, with the help of Olaf Winter and Bert Zander, in a more refined way.”

Eleonore Büning, FAZ, 21.2.2017

“According to this interpretation, director Eva-Maria Höckmayr has accurately extracted the necessary elements from Berlioz’s libretto and composition. (…) And so although everything is executed with a mental bow to the original – perfectionist, classical, orderly – on this Sunday evening at the premiere of the opera, which is over four hours long, nothing deceives about what is being negotiated at its core. It centres, Berlioz could not have knitted it more classically, around the tragic love story that unfolds between the somewhat confused Aeneas and the love-thirsty Dido, and which must inevitably culminate in the departure of the one and the suicide of the other.”

Ekaterina Kel, Die deutsche Bühne, Februar 2017

“In doing so, Nelson ties the many wild details, the often spectacular mini-effects into one big line, spreads the action out in a powerful flow that never builds up. This is what director Eva-Maria Höckmayr takes up in her production, repeatedly using the revolving stage without it ever becoming obtrusive. (…) The central location of her reading is a kind of ballroom or knight’s hall, a column-lined state room – with precious wood walls in Troy, with airy white curtains in Carthage. Here Höckmayr explores the play and the characters, trying first and foremost to make Berlioz’s music and his unusual tableau dramaturgy audible and tangible. (…) But he invents a strong, symbolic imagery, including a huge horse, and above all conveys Berlioz’s crude play structure, for example the treatise of the Trojan War in two acts, as a joy over the arrival of the horse and as a moment of defeat in the battle that has been raging for a long time, both almost without external action. On the other hand, great passages succeed, such as the entire fourth act, in which Höckmayr traces the development of Dido and Énée from lovers to lovers as carefully as densely. Here every detail is spellbinding, one is torn from the dream almost as much as the lovers by Mercury’s cries of “Italie!”, belted out with wonderful elasticity by Thomas Faulkner. Höckmayr presents the mythical event as a kind of supra-temporal parable. The private constantly tips over into the political, the war into the family constellation. In addition, the changing locations on the revolving stage, the dancers and extras repeatedly build up a parallel world, a web of gods, the dead, fears and longings.”

Andreas Falentin, Concerti, 20.2.2017

“The first hour and a half is all about the big picture of the drama of war. On the stage, the depth, of which one is rarely as aware as in these “Les Troyens”, the pompous, closed interior of the royal palace contrasts with the wide or small squares of the people. There seems to be an infinite number of places, scenes change frantically, people everywhere, sometimes en masse, then isolated or in small groups. Fate, the revolving stages and above all, the music hurl the spectators mercilessly into a frenzy. And everywhere she is: Cassandre, who knows the future, Cassandre, to whom no one wants to listen. Tanja Ariane Baumgartner has probably found the role of her life in the role of the seer. (…) “Les Troyens” by Hector Berlioz demands the utmost from the musicians and the audience. One can despair and give up in the face of the megalomaniac undertaking, or give oneself up with skin and hair and experience an unforgettable rush of sound and images in which one remains captivated for a long time.”

Andrea Richter, Faust Kultur, Februar 2017

“The grandiose Tanja Ariane Baumgartner stares as Cassandra with wide-open eyes into the dark future. Murder and manslaughter are, in reference to the ancient tragedy, not shown on stage, but only sung about. (…) The wonderful singers Claudia Mahnke and Bryan Register struggle through a rollercoaster of emotions as the scrupulous Carthaginian queen Dido and the windy Trojan hero Aeneas: obey the dead husband or give in to love? (…) A conclusive final image in Eva Maria Höckmayr’s altogether respectable attempt to tame Berlioz’s operatic mammoth entirely without clumsy quotations of actualisation.”

Ursula Böhmer, SWR 2 Journal am Mittag, 20.2.17

“(…) The latest production at Oper Frankfurt proves that it can captivate audiences despite its length and two stories. Director Eva-Maria Höckmayr, whose “Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe” production at Oper Frankfurt is still well remembered, was engaged for the demanding task of a new production of “Les Troyens”. With a steady hand she leads through the plot, which constantly changes between dramatic action, reports and lyrical meditation, bringing the large choral masses quickly and sensibly onto the stage, using the large revolving stage. And yet creates chamber-musical intimacy and closeness. (…)”

Markus Gründig, Kulturfreak, Februar 2017

“In the first part of the “Trojans” the director has put Cassandra in the center. Her serious face appears on the curtain – alias singer Tanja Ariane Baumgartner. The way she sings and plays Kassandra is a stunner. Her voice is brilliant, from finely differentiated to desperately frantic, her playing is fascinating, her little performance with the war figure (choreographer and dancer Martin Dvorák). Her slender, authoritarian figure is convincing as Cassandra. (…) Eva-Maria Höckmayr – she staged “A Village Romeo and Juliet” in Frankfurt – is an experienced director who has won several awards. She is responsible for the staging of this “Trojan”. She demonstrates a psychologically sensitive leadership of the characters – especially of Cassandra, Dido and Aeneas. Skillfully she moves the chorus. Imaginative, how she lets ghost and war figures accompany Cassandra and Dido.”

Renate Feyerbacher, Feuilleton Frankfurt, 23.2.2017

“Eva-Maria Höckmayr (director) and John Nelson (musical director, in addition a proven Berlioz specialist), succeed with this production an all-round lush, in places grandiose epic, with strong musical and acting scenes, which certainly takes up cross-era problems such as flight, emigration, violence, but does not slide into a superficial update of a refugee drama. (…) With rapid changes of the scenes, a constantly moving revolving stage, bizarre costumes, world- and soul-opening video inserts and many skilful dance and ballet interludes, the four hours became an entertaining viewing experience. Here, the entire technical know-how of the opera stage was exploited in the best manner. An opera production that points to the future in this respect.”

www.hboscaiolo.blogspot.de, Februar 17

“There is a clever staging to be seen, which makes the bracket between the two parts and thus the nowadays largely common decision to present the whole in one evening understandable. If this bracket is already laid out in the score with the motifs of the Trojan march, it becomes plausible, as it seldom does, through the directorial concept. Eva Maria Höckmayr, nota bene a director as in 1983, focuses the action on the type of woman who sees, recognizes, wants to preserve and love. On the one hand, she is a seer, on the other hand, she directs the affairs of state. Thus they differ eminently and yet merge psychologically in the final failure. All being becomes man here. (…) From the very beginning Höckmayr avoids ingratiation with current conditions and debates by radically dissolving all natural settings.”

Ralf Siepmann, O-Ton, Februar 2017

“The first impression of Eva-Maria Höckmayr’s production at the Frankfurt Opera is that of a monumental projection of Cassandra’s face, marked by visionary worry, on a gauze curtain. The director works with such cross-fades again and again throughout the entire evening, (…). Image by image clearly worked through. A deeply impressive production.”

Allgemeine Zeitung Kassel, Stefan Michalzik, 22.2.2017

“Director Eva-Maria Höckmayr stages the inevitable fall of Troy at the end of the second act in a remarkably distanced manner, refusing obvious stage naturalism (such as the collective suicide of Cassandra together with the Trojan women in order not to fall into the hands of the Greek conquerors) and leaving the drama to the music alone. (…) With numerous scenic details, the director sets interesting accents for interpretation, for example with sculpture-like figures that creep into the scene like Pallas Athena in the first part.”

Christoph Wurzel, Bachtrack, März 2017

“Tanja Ariane Baumgarten is a tormented Cassandre who does not belong anywhere – neither in the Art Deco salon of the Trojan elite reminiscent of the 1920s – nor in the antiquated outside world of the people, who are initially still happy about the Trojan horse. She looks directly at the audience at the beginning – projected onto an intermediate curtain – and also later, not hiding her inner self, but also knowing that all lamentation will be in vain. She is the pivot of the first part, and Tanja Ariane Baumgarten plays and sings with great intensity. (…) in the second part, director Eva Maria Höckmayr develops a greater emotional density – which stands in beautiful “contrast” to the music, which does not initially attest to the emotionality ostensibly and only slowly, but then clearly unfolds. Especially in the intimate moments of Didon and Enée’s togetherness, she demonstrates a well-managed direction of the characters. Didon, torn apart by love, is vocally (with a beautiful high note ) and dramatically authenticated at all times and very impressively portrayed by Claudia Mahnke.”

Ljerka Oreskovic Herrmann, Ioco, 13.3.2017

“Strong images and characters, strong choruses and a lushly cast opera and museum orchestra in dazzling form. Hector Berlioz’s ‘Trojans’ also fulfilled the XXL norm in Frankfurt in terms of playing time. Eva-Maria Höckmayr has staged the opera five-act based on parts of Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’ as a tragedy of two power women and, with a few exceptions, keeps the tension going for over five hours. (…) Plenty of personnel on stage, then – and the fact that only the US tenor Register is a guest singer speaks for the quality of the Frankfurt ensemble, which received much applause at the premiere.”

Klaus Ackermann, Offenbach Post, 21.2.17

“Eva-Maria Höckmayr and her set designer Jens Kilian move the antique drama based on Virgil’s “Aeneas” to the time of the opera’s creation and thus to the beginning colonial epoch. Brown, imperialistic columns resembling elongated cannons impressively depict the familial power centres of Troy and Carthage in both parts. Moreover, Höckmayr subjects her male hero Énée to a critical view through the two main female characters, quite in the composer’s spirit. From Berlioz’s point of view, too, Énée is responsible both for the fall of Troy, because he does not trust Cassandra’s warnings, and for the fall of Carthage and its queen Didon. A Trojan fighting machine, he prefers to listen to the instructions of the dead ghost Hector rather than his lover, and leaves Carthage to rebuild Troy in Italy. No wonder that Saskia Rettig puts him and his Trojan comrades-in-arms into immature boy scout costumes with short trousers and gives them martial conqueror boots. Höckmayr’s conceit of exposing the supposed hero Énée as a blunt fellow rapist at a costume party after he helps Didon subdue African troops-“it is the god Mars who unites us”-also fits the well-considered vision.”

Bettina Boyens, Musik Heute, 20.2.17

“The two exceptional singers already authenticate the directorial approach by their presence. (…) Strong images are created in the antique scenery with imitation wood by Jens Kilian. The omnipresent mass choruses are repeatedly arranged by the director into effective tableaux vivant and dramatically illuminated by Olaf Winter.”

Michael Demel, Der Opernfreund, Februar 2017

“This production at the Frankfurt Opera is the most successful throw; extremely clever, continuously exciting, wonderful to look at, and no number, no scene is arbitrary, even every ballet number is linked to the plot and the theme of the whole! Even the uncut version, which is played here,seems perfect. (…) Höckmayr obviously knows the myth and the Aeneid very well and reinstates little striking elements and characters in their right with Berlioz. We also see in the Trojan royal family, all in black, Helena, who has – nothing to say about all that is going on. Incidentally, the family is also present during Cassandre’s vision of doom, her aria at the beginning of Act 1, and fulfilling Apollo’s curse, does not believe the somewhat embarrassingly annoying relative’s prophecies. Andromaque’s melodrama also largely belongs to Cassandre, who thereby foresees Astyanax’s sad fate, but again to the family’s annoyance. (…) During the brief orchestral postlude after the energetically sung hash chorus of the Carthaginians against the Trojans, the stage turns once more to the banqueting hall, where, abandoned and forgotten by all, the dead Didon lies, with her back to the audience, anti-heroic and in this all the more shocking, powerful last image of an exemplary interpretation of the work that is anything but unambiguous.”

Samuel Zinsli,Operalounge, März 2017

“The director, Eva Maria Höckmayr, knew how to make ideal use of the large revolving stage with its many different levels of action. The character direction, especially of the mass scenes and the “appearance” of the oversized “Trojan Horse” were particularly impressive, and Jens Kilian, responsible for the stage design, deserves praise. (…) The chorus, extra chorus and children’s chorus of the house played a very special role in the success of the evening. Acting and above all in the vocal realization of the very demanding choral scenes: simply terrific!

A brilliant, extremely successful production.”

Godenrath, www.svensopernparadies.wordpress.com, 29.3.2017