Werner Egk (1901 – 1983)

Report and Portrait
Text & Music by Werner Egk

Conductor: Hermes Helfricht | Director: Jakob Peters-Messer

Premiere 16.06.
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COLUMBUS – REPORT AND PORTRAIT is, otherwise as the title suggests, not an historical spectacle, but rather a dry historical documentary of decline. Werner Egk, who remained uncontested in Germany during the Nazi period, observes the character and career of the conqueror critically and proves to be a skeptical moralist.

»The character is not as important for him as the model: that progress becomes its opposite. He who rises will soon fall; the gold rush transforms paradise into hell, a hell full of corruption and crime. If this in 1933 describes the soon-to-be zeitgeist in Germany, then is Egk’s most successful radio composition also politically a surprisingly daring piece.« (Frank Kämpfer)

A piece that bridges different epochs fitting into the series FOKUS ’33, COLUMBUS – REPORT AND PORTRAIT is an especially ambivalent opera by a highly controversial composer: commissioned as a radio broadcast in 1931 by the Bavarian Radio GmbH, it was first aired in 1934 by the Munich Reich Broadcaster, then, in 1942, it was first staged in Frankfurt and then finally, in 1951 at the Städtischen Oper Berlin, it was revised into a »new version« – with this piece of all pieces the composer Werner Egk demonstrated his persistent adaptability over an extended period. What is striking is the composer’s use of a musical language that recalls the works of Kurt Weill and early Carl Orff from the 1920s – and which without complaint was accepted by Nazi censors. After 1945 this language, which to us from our contemporary point of view seems very traditional, was considered to be »new« and pointed to one possible path into the future.


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