Medea, Opera by A. Reimann
Inspired by Franz Grillparzer’s early nineteenth-century play of the same name, Medea is Aribert Reimann’s eighth opera and perhaps the most visceral of all his compositions. The story, which comes from Greek myth, focuses on the bloody aftermath of Medea and Jason’s pursuit of the Golden Fleece as they seek refuge in Corinth. When Medea’s treachery is exposed, it provokes a reaction from Reimann’s antiheroine so extreme that it engulfs her children as well as her enemies.
In an interview he gave after being awarded the 2011 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, Aribert Reimann recalled his parents taking him to see Paul Hindemith’s opera, Mathis der Maler. Just twelve years old, he was unable to distinguish between its scenes of villages set aflame during the German Peasants' Revolt of 1525 with what he had seen as a child just a few years earlier in wartime Berlin.
The music and drama in Medea are clearly shaped by Reimann’s way of experiencing the world. He is a composer who feels, with all his being, the music build inside him the moment he claps eyes on his chosen text; literature, even the most ancient of tales, becomes as real as the landscape that surrounds him.
A commission from the Vienna State Opera, where it was first performed on 28 February 2010, and chosen as the Best World Premiere of the Year by the critics of the German-language magazine Opernwelt, the tragedy of Medea is brilliantly interpreted by Reimann, with every note the orchestra plays subtly underpinning the vocal lines of the opera’s singers; its lack of bombast making its depiction of the fate that befalls its characters all the more powerful.
Now Medea, a work that confirms opera’s place as a vibrant, living art form in the twenty-first century, returns to the place of its first triumph, the Wiener Staatsoper.