Le vin herbé - Theater Basel - Schedule
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Premiere Schedule Ensemble


Premiere Schedule Ensemble


Premiere Schedule Ensemble

Le vin herbé

Der Zaubertrank. Weltliches Oratorium von Frank Martin

Profane Oratorio in Three Parts (18 Scenes) with Prologue and Epilogue by Frank Martin. Libretto after extracts from «Le roman de Tristan et Iseut» translated and reconstructed by Joseph Bédier. In French with German and English surtitles.

A forbidden love, a magic potion, a fateful sea voyage and ultimately a death caused by misunderstanding, accompanied by heroic suffering and mighty grief. The myth of Tristan and Isolde provides all the elements of a successful evening in the opera – delighting in the fortunate and sympathising with the unfortunate.

In this adaptation of the story by the western Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890 – 1974), however, everything is different. In addition to the unusual brevity of the score – barely eighty minutes – it has a notably unusual cast: one piano, seven strings and twelve vocal soloists who often operate in chorus. This is chamber music, not overpowering the listener with sound. Martin’s adaptation has little in common with Richard Wagner’s mystical musical transfiguration of the Liebestod.  For his propane oratorio he invents an enigmatic musical language that is equally inspired by Schönberg’s twelve tone music as it is by liturgical chants and the music of Claude Debussy. Martin’s work is not an opera in the conventional sense: the singers narrate and comment upon the story instead of enduring it. Partly through solos and partly through choral sections in several parts, «Le vin herbé» develops an irresistible fascination and a restrained magic.

Difficult to produce on account of its particular casting requirements, since it was premiered in concert form at the Tonhalle in Zurich in 1942, «Le vin herbé» has occupied a special place in the world of opera – the work is considered a rarely performed but much loved masterpiece. It will be sung in French and directed by Thom Luz. And as one famous Swiss-French artist, namely Jean-Luc Godard, once said: «A story always needs a beginning, a middle and an end – but not necessarily in that order». Resident director Thom Luz makes his opera debut with «Le vin herbé». Luz has won numerous awards for his highly individual musical theatre productions, including invitations to the Berlin Theatertreffen in 2015, 2017 and 2019. At Theater Basel he most recently directed «The Man in the Holocene», a co-production with the Deut­sches Theater Berlin, and «Radio Requiem».

Preisstufe 4 (von 30.– bis 60.–)