This was a very unique experience to be a part of. Unlike any opera I have ever performed in before, Les Bienveillantes shines a torch on humanity at it's utter worst. The story is centred around a highly disturbing Nazi Officer during the second world war. The music was based mostly on Bach chorals, but Hector spent time in Auschwitz while composing the piece and I feel that his music was strongly influenced by the time he spent there.
This production brought many challenges to us as performers. One of the main obstacles was the mud that was used to literally flood the stage. It made the floor quite slippery and so you had to be conscious of every move. It also meant that the technical team and costume department would spend hours after every performance cleaning it up again!
They also managed to have a flying grand piano in this production. At first I was terrified to walk underneath the piano - incase it fell. But we soon learned that it was very safely floating above our heads the whole time. It's amazing what our talented technical team can achieve.
A world premiere after Jonathan Littell's controversial novel The Kindly Ones (Les Bienveillantes) from 2006. The main character, SS officer Max Aue, is not only a witness but above all, also a participant in the horrors of war, but he is not burdened by it. After the creation of Infinite Now, about the First World War, Opera Vlaanderen assigned this challenging commission on the Second World War to librettist Händl Klaus and the Catalan composer Hèctor Parra. It will be directed by Calixto Bieito.
The characterisation of Maximilian Aue as a sensitive, culturally refined intellectual, but also as a psychologically traumatised, homosexual Nazi, creates an uncomfortably ambiguous situation. The adaptation of this novel as an opera is a true tour de force. With Les Bienveillantes, the composer Hèctor Parra has written his sixth major work for music theatre. He combines strong musical structures with a highly intuitive and direct dramatic tone.
For Les Bienveillantes, Opera Vlaanderen is putting together a cast of opera singers with a strong stage presence. The director and guiding spirit of Les Bienveillantes is Calixto Bieito, who has lost none of the radicalism that established him as the enfant terrible of the opera scene in his early years. The musical direction will be in the hands of Peter Rundel, a specialist in contemporary music who also previously directed Hèctor Parra's Wilde at the Schwetzinger Festspiele.
Length: 3 hours 30 minutes, incl. one intermission German with Dutch and English surtitles
Photos: Annemie Augustijns
Jennifer Coleman - is a classical / opera singer, and vocal coach, performing across the UK and internationally.