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Interview with Stefan Herheim
Watch the interview (in german) here

My name is Stefan Herheim and here I am at Rosenthaler Platz. I’m an opera director and am thrilled to be attempting an experiment at the Komische Oper Berlin, Offenbach’s opéra bouffe »Barbe-bleue« or »Blaubart« as we say in German. In Germany the work is largely associated with Walter Felsenstein, who spearheaded a revival of the piece with his legendary staging at the Komische Oper Berlin. That was in 1963 and the production had hundreds of performances and then went on tour around the globe. Felsenstein had translated the “Knight Bluebeard” play, the title being identical to that of the fairy tale, which was well-known at the time but then slipped from public view - although it was even better known back then in France, or at least was more popular there than it was in Germany.
If you narrow it down to the essentials, the operetta is all about cheating death. The play is filled with death and mayhem, yet in the end the deaths turn out to have been a deception: no one has really been murdered and no one found it within themselves to carry out the instructions of the powerful. All the people who were thought to have vanished rise up out of their graves and turn out to be very much alive and plunge with a vengeance into Offenbach’s fantastic spectacle. Naturally they do this partly in order to lead us a dance. For me this euphoric mystery, which actually marks the beginning and end of any operatic thought process – the idea of overcoming death -, is absolutely key to Offenbach’s works as well and is a source of fascination to me in connection with the question: to what extent can we say that opera is dead? Or, put another way: to what extent can we say that this form of operetta is an aged, long outdated form of the death cult that we continue to cultivate in a culturally creative society that has become decidedly strange and anachronistic? Or is it not much more the case that we rise from the ashes after death and really do reinvent ourselves with a clear-eyed view of our own past – also in the sense of: where are we heading now? The premiere of »Bluebeard« is on 17th March 2018.

(The interview took place on 15th March 2017)

(c) Wolfgang Silveri