Ruders: Kafka’s Trial
LABELS: Da capo 8.226042-43
ALBUM TITLE: Ruders
WORKS: Kafka’s Trial
PERFORMER: Johnny van Hal, Gisela Stille, Marianne Rørholm, Gert Henning Jensen; Royal Danish Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Thomas Søndergård
CATALOGUE NO: 8.226042-43
Following the international success of their collaboration on The Handmaid’s Tale, the composer Poul Ruders and librettist Paul Bentley set to work on a second opera. The result, Kafka’s Trial, was premiered by the Royal Danish Opera in the new Copenhagen Opera House in March 2005. If anything, it is a finer work, for Trial features a richer and more nuanced score than the brass-heavy Tale. Ruders’s highly listenable music draws on diverse influences, evoking the sounds of Kafka’s composer-contemporaries while remaining refreshingly individual. This premiere recording, taken from a live production, features fine performances from the soprano Gisela Stille (Felice), alto Marianne Rørholm (Greta) and tenor Johnny van Hal under the strong leadership of the young Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård.
Bentley’s imaginative libretto takes episodes from the tortured triangular relationship between Franz Kafka, his fiancée Felice Bauer and her best friend Greta Bloch, and weaves them into the plot of Kafka’s great novel, The Trial. The resulting drama is the stuff of a depressive’s dreams, yet it is lightly handled, with an appropriate dash of the absurd. John Allison