Melusine (Reimann)

Last updated
Opera by Aribert Reimann
Aribert Reimann.jpg
The composer in 2010
Librettist Claus H. Henneberg
Based onMelusine
by Yvan Goll
29 April 1971 (29 April 1971)

Melusine is a 1971 German-language opera by Aribert Reimann, on a libretto by Claus H. Henneberg after Melusine, a 1920 play in four acts by Yvan Goll which transposes the legendary water-spirit to Goll's time. The opera was written for the Schwetzingen Festival, where it premiered in 1971. It was recorded in 2010.



Melusine, Aribert Reimann's second opera, was written on the seventh commission from the Süddeutscher Rundfunk for a new opera for the Schwetzingen Festival, following for example Hans Werner Henze's Elegie für junge Liebende (1961) and Fortner's In seinem Garten liebt Don Perlimplin Belisa (1962). [1] The libretto was written in German by Claus H. Henneberg, based on a 1920 play of the same name by Yvan Goll, [2] which was again based on Mélusine, a French-language libretto written by Goll for an earlier – possibly unperformed – opera by Marcel Mihalovici in 1920. [3]

The title refers to the legendary water-spirit. Derived from French legend and later a German folk book by Thüring von Ringoltingen, the topic is transposed to modern everyday life ("modernes Alltagsleben") in France before World War I. [1] [4] The main character is married to a real estate agent, but still a virgin, focused on the preservation of a local park (or forest) that she sees filled with nature spirits. She is unable to stop a castle being built on the land, a building in which she loses her virginity and dies. [2] [4]

Melusine premiered at the opening of the festival Schlosstheater Schwetzingen in 1971, conducted by Reinhard Peters, staged by Rudolf Sellner, with Catherine Gayer in the title role, and Martha Mödl as Pythia. [5] [1] The opera was recorded by Wergo in 2010, from a live performance at the Staatstheater Nürnberg. [2] [6] A 1974 handbook on opera production notes the features of aleatoric passages, dissonances and atonality. [4] A reviewer of The Guardian described the musical language as neo-expressionist, with writing for voices in declamatory style and with demanding coloraturas. [2] A reviewer of the premiere, writing for the weekly Die Zeit , found the vocal writing for the three main characters convincing, and compared the work's expressivity to Alban Berg's Lulu and its atmosphere to Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande , noting the similarities of the three female characters. [1]

In 2016, a production by the Berlin University of the Arts, where Reimann had been a professor of contemporary Lied, honoured the composer's 80th birthday. [7]


Role Voice type Premiere cast [5]
29 April 1971 [8]
Conductor: Reinhard Peters
Melusine coloratura soprano Catherine Gayer
Pythia contralto Martha Mödl
Madame Lapérouse mezzo-soprano Gitta Mikes
Oleander tenor Donald Grobe
Graf von Lusignan baritone Barry McDaniel
Surveyor bass-baritone Ivan Sardi
Mason bass Klaus Lang
Architecttenor Loren Driscoll
Ogerbass Josef Greindl

Related Research Articles

Yvan Goll French-German poet

Yvan Goll was a French-German poet who was bilingual and wrote in both French and German. He had close ties to both German expressionism and to French surrealism.

Harry Alfred Robert Kupfer was a German opera director and academic. A long-time director at the Komische Oper Berlin, he worked at major opera houses and at festivals internationally. Trained by Walter Felsenstein, he worked in the tradition of realistic directing. At the Bayreuth Festival, he staged Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer in 1978 and Der Ring des Nibelungen in 1988. At the Salzburg Festival, he directed the premiere of Penderecki's Die schwarze Maske in 1986 and Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss in 2014.

Aribert Reimann German composer, pianist and accompanist

Aribert Reimann is a German composer, pianist and accompanist, known especially for his literary operas. His version of Shakespeare's King Lear, the opera Lear, was written at the suggestion of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who sang the title role. His opera Medea after Grillparzer's play premiered in 2010 at the Vienna State Opera. He was a professor of contemporary song in Hamburg and Berlin. In 2011, he was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for his life's work.

Barry McDaniel was an American operatic baritone who spent his career almost exclusively in Germany, including 37 years at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. He appeared internationally at major opera houses and festivals, and created roles in several new operas, including Henze's Der junge Lord, Nabokov's Love's Labour's Lost, and Reimann's Melusine. He was also a celebrated concert singer and recitalist, focused on German Lied and French mélodie. He was the first singer of Wilhelm Killmayer's song cycle Tre Canti di Leopardi. He recorded both operatic and concert repertory.

Loren Driscoll American opera singer

Loren Driscoll was an American tenor who had an active international career from the 1950s through the mid-1980s. Driscoll was particularly noted for his performances in contemporary operas and sang in many world premieres.

Sarah Nemtsov is a German composer. Nemtsov was born in Oldenburg and now lives in Berlin. She started her music lessons and composing aged eight. She started playing the oboe aged 14. Her compositions are recognizable through their confrontation with literature and other art forms. More recently, her compositions are a combination of the styles of classical and music theater.

<i>Medea</i> (Reimann) German-language opera by Aribert Reimann

Medea is a German-language opera by Aribert Reimann after the play by Franz Grillparzer. It was premiered at the Vienna State Opera in February 2010. The German premiere was at the Oper Frankfurt in August 2010.

<i>Das Schloß</i> (opera) opera by Aribert Reimann

Das Schloß is a 1992 German-language opera by Aribert Reimann. He wrote his own libretto based on Kafka's novel and its dramatization by Max Brod. It premiered on 2 September 1992 at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, staged by Willy Decker and conducted by Michael Boder.

Claudia Barainsky is a German operatic soprano. She has performed internationally, and won awards for her roles in contemporary operas such as Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Die Soldaten and Aribert Reimann's Medea.

Paula Murrihy is an Irish operatic mezzo-soprano who has made an international career. A member of the Oper Frankfurt, she has appeared also in Europe and the US, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Santa Fe Opera

Reinhard Peters was a German operatic conductor, violinist and an academic teacher at the Folkwangschule Essen. He was the Generalmusikdirektor for the opera companies Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Theater Münster and Deutsche Oper Berlin. He premiered music in opera and concert, such as Giselher Klebe's Die tödlichen Wünsche, Aribert Reimann's Melusine, Nicolas Nabokov's Love's Labour's Lost, and Wilhelm Killmayer's song cycle Tre Canti di Leopardi.

Claus H. Henneberg was a German librettist and translator. He worked as dramaturge for the Cologne Opera and the Deutsche Oper Berlin. In the 1976/77 season, he was the Intendant of the Opernhaus Kiel.

Joan Carroll is an American operatic coloratura soprano who appeared in the title role of Alban Berg's Lulu at the work's US premiere at the Santa Fe Opera in 1963, and often in opera houses in Europe. She premiered vocal music by Aribert Reimann and Wilhelm Killmayer, among others.

Catherine Gayer is an American coloratura soprano, violinist, musicologist, and academic voice teacher. She made a career in Germany. A member of the Deutsche Oper Berlin for more than four decades, she is known for her performance in premieres of contemporary operas, such as Luigi Nono's Intolleranza 1960 at La Fenice in Venice, the title role in Aribert Reimann's Melusine at the Schwetzingen Festival, and Josef Tal's Die Versuchung at the Bavarian State Opera.

Rudolf Sellner, born Gustav Rudolf Sellner, was a German actor, dramaturge, stage director and intendant. He represented in the 1950s a radical Instrumentales Theater. After decades of acting and directing plays, he turned to staging operas, and was a long-time intendant of the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1961, when the Berlin Wall was built. He staged notable world premieres, including Ernst Barlach's play Der Graf von Ratzeburg in 1951, Ionesco's Mörder ohne Bezahlung in 1958, Giselher Klebe's Alkmene in 1961 for the opening of the Deutsche Oper, and Aribert Reimanns opera Melusine in 1971.

L’Invisible is a 2017 opera by Aribert Reimann. The French libretto by Reimann is a condensation of three short plays by Maurice Maeterlinck; L'Intruse, Intérieur and La Mort de Tintagiles, into a single act opera. The "invisible" in each part is death, first as a supernatural force, then as tragic news, then in the person of a murderous queen.

Renate Behle Austrian mezzo-soprano and soprano, and voice teacher

Renate Behle is an Austrian operatic mezzo-soprano and soprano who made an international career, based in Germany. She was professor of voice at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg from 2000 to 2010.

<i>Ein Traumspiel</i> opera

Ein Traumspiel is a German-language opera by Aribert Reimann after the 1901 play A Dream Play by August Strindberg. Carla Henius arranged the translation to German by Peter Weiss for a libretto. Reimann composed the opera in 1963 and 1964 on a commission from the Kiel theatre. It was premiered at the Opernhaus Kiel on 20 June 1965, staged by Joachim Klaiber and conducted by Michael Gielen. Gielen stepped in for the Generalmusikdirektor who was ill.

Hans Günter Nöcker was a German operatic bass-baritone who was based at the Bavarian State Opera for decades, performing in several world premieres including Aribert Reimann's Lear, and also had an international career.

Alfred Kirchner is a German actor, theatre director and theatre manager who is based in Berlin. He worked at theatres such as Theater Bremen, Schauspielhaus Bochum, the Burgtheater in Vienna and the Staatliche Schauspielbühnen Berlin, before turning to freelance work. He has staged productions in Europe and North America, including several world premieres of both drama and opera. He directed the premiere of Martin Walser's Ein Kinderspiel in Stuttgart in 1971, the U.S. premiere of Henze's We Come to the River at the Santa Fe Opera in 1984, and the premiere of Hans Zender's Stephen Climax at the Oper Frankfurt in 1986. In 1994, he staged Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Schwinger, Wolfram (7 May 1971). "Aribert Reimanns neue Oper in Schwetzingen uraufgeführt: Ein Stück Lulu in Melusine". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Clements, Andrew (19 August 2010). "Reimann: Melusine". The Guardian . Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  3. The Oxford Dictionary of Music 0199578540 2013
  4. 1 2 3 Eaton, Quaintance (1974). Melusine. Opera Production II: A Handbook. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN   9780816657544.
  5. 1 2 "Melusine 1971". Opera Scotland. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  6. OCLC   699835923
  7. Pachl, Peter P. (11 July 2016). "Das Geheimnis exponierter Töne – Aribert Reimanns "Melusine" an der Universität der Künste Berlin". neue musikzeitung (in German). Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  8. "Melusine". Schott Music. Mainz. Retrieved 12 July 2019.

Further reading