Henze

COMPOSERS: Henze
LABELS: EuroArts
ALBUM TITLE: Boulevard Solitude
PERFORMER: Laura Aikin, Pär Lindskig, Tom Fox, Hubert Delamboye, Pauls Putnin?, Marc Canturri; Gran Teatre del Liceu SO/Zoltán Peskó; dir. Nikolaus Pesko (Barcelona, 2007)
CATALOGUE NO: 2056358
Henze’s first opera, premiered in 1952, already has the wide-ranging melodic lines and rich harmonies, the rhythmic drive and jazz inflexions of his mature style. But the elements aren’t yet completely blended into an individual voice, so you can taste distinct flavours of Stravinsky, Hindemith, Weill and, above all, Berg, whose influence extends to the plot as well, a modern reworking of Manon Lescaut with strong echoes of Lulu in its amorality and casual criminality.

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The railway station where Manon and Armand first meet serves as a background to the tightly concentrated action of the seven continuous scenes. Lehnhoff characteristically moves the scenic components and uses lighting to create the different settings, but reverts to the railway station in the orchestral interludes. There he repeats, almost mechanically, the movements of the silent stage extras: passengers going nowhere.

Laura Aikin and Pär Lindskog play the ill-fated principals with complete confidence and accuracy: she’s purer and more rounded in tone than she was in Henze’s L’Upupa (reviewed March 2005), and he has a warm sound which never becomes unfocused. The smaller parts are also well filled, with Tom Fox suitably oily and unpleasant as Manon’s wastrel brother, and Zoltán Peskó keeps the whole thing on a tight musical rein. The camera-work sesitively mirrors Lehnhoff’s direction.

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Martin Cotton