When opera meets young ears

When opera meets young ears

How long will tristan die??!" Eva, twelve years old and a sixth-grader at the eichendorff grammar school in bamberg, is a little surprised. "He was already dead!", she flutters. The schoolgirl doesn't know what to make of the sudden resurrection of the hero, who stabbed himself in the chest on the stage some time ago. Today, for the first time in her life, she is "at the opera" with her classmates from grades 6a and 6b.

Evening dress in the morning
The girls from bamberg have already dressed up for it in the early morning. Glitter and sparkle everywhere. Despite heat of well over 30 degrees, no hot pants alarm anywhere. Class director katrin langfeld is satisfied. ",what do i wear blob?' was really a rough topic in class the last few days", she reveals and smiles while her girls board the bus to bayreuth. Class meets wagner.
The extraordinary cultural program for schoolgirls is organized by "wohrl fur kids" supports. The foundation sponsored tickets and transportation. "We were very happy to accept the offer", according to langfeld. "On the one hand, it's a great experience for the schoolgirls, and on the other hand, it's a reward for the sixth graders who really put in the work for this year's performance of our school musical", she clarifies.
A reward that must first be perceived as such: "I don't really have much of an idea about operations", one of the students admits in advance without hesitation. "I know mozart, beethoven and bach and so on. I play the piano. But I haven't heard anything yet from richard wagner."
That will soon change. The program includes "tristan and isolde". Coarse material for young ears, who will be exposed to completely different sounds on the bus.
The opera will be performed at the bayreuth festival's studio stage IV. The young visitors are presented with a slimmed-down version of the love story. Director michael hoppner and marko zdralek (musical arrangement) have cut richard wagner's four-and-a-half-hour opus down to 90 minutes. 90 minutes in which the schoolchildren get closer to opera stars in a way that adults never do in the festspielhaus.
Too close perhaps? "He spat at me while I was singing!", is the comment of one of the schoolgirls after the performance. "And how they sweated! It was a bit disgusting!"
But that's the way it is – with a room temperature of 40 degrees and everybody sitting in one boat. And in the truest sense of the word: the studio stage is a ship. On the right and left the schoolchildren, in the middle the king's daughter isolde (irene theorin) and her servant brangane (simone schroder), tristan (hans-georg priese) and his henchman kurwenal (jukka rasilainen) as well as the sailor melot (stefan heibach) and king marke (martin snell). Only the conductor boris schafer and his orchestra disappear in the darkness of the studio auditorium.

Cell phones off, music on
The last cell phones are turned off, the sound of the sea is heard. When kurwenal lifts the anchor with the help of the schoolchildren, the musical journey begins. The journey of the beautiful irish princess isolde, who is supposed to marry the old king of cornwall, marke, and – thanks to a ruse of her servant – falls in love with tristan. Into the man to whom she has actually sworn revenge. In the man who once killed her fiance in a fight. The schoolchildren are told the ancient story of love, death, revenge and forgiveness.
"It was clear that this would end tragically", says one of the sixth-graders, after tristan has died after all. Her conclusion: "I liked it quite a bit. Especially the servant who mixed up the love potion with the death potion was good. Your voice and all. But when the singers sang, I didn't really understand the lyrics." Your girlfriend nods. "But in some places it was even really funny", she praises the built-in slapstick interludes, which at least in the children's version lend some humor to the gloomy wagner material.

At the end much applause
And so the students applaud enthusiastically at the end – even if not all of them are infected by the wagner virus. "It was perhaps a bit too long", says one or the other sixth-grader, while they were all allowed to reach into a basket at the exit. The contents: small ampoules filled with a love potion and a death potion of raspberry juice. And which bottle did the bamberg schoolgirls choose?? "For both of them of course. You never know", laughs Eva.

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