SOLARIS: Premiere in Augsburg

SOLARIS: Premiere in Augsburg

May 18 saw the German premiere of Dai Fujikura’s SOLARIS at the Theater Augsburg, to be established in the 2018-2019 season as the third Bavarian state theater. This multimedia production combines music, dance, live electronics and 3D videos in a spectacular journey out into the universe, a journey filled to the uttermost with human foible and folly. The work met with great acclaim on the part of the listening public and the press. We talked with Fujikura about his impression of the Augsburg version and the differences to the world premiere in Paris.

SOLARIS (2013-14)

Opera in 4 acts (based on Stanisław Lem’s novel SOLARIS
Libretto: Saburo Teshigawara 
S.T.2Bar.B. - Off stage Kelvin (Baritone) – – – perc – key – – Live-El
Duration: 90' 
WP: 05.03.2015, Paris

Solaris, Augsburg 2018

Press quotes

»Taken by surprise, the listening public at the premieres responded with thunderous applause upon its conclusion. The staging, which also encompassed a floating spaceship, was impressive. Lighting effects and wafting mist underscored the atmosphere of outer space.«
Augsburger Allgemeine, 19.05.2018

»With its musicality and staging melded into a unified whole, this evening at the interim Martinipark venue proved to be compact and full of fervor. Indeed, musically speaking, it was the most brilliant production since Augsburg’s great staging of Luigi Nono’s „Intolleranza.“ Listeners were once again actually able to hear truly new music, the music of a 41-year-old who knows what he is aiming for and how to achieve it – with a chamber orchestra 15 persons strong, electronically modulated, reawakening and refreshing both the ear and the soul.«
Augsburger Allgemeine, 21.05.2018

»Lighting designer Marco Vitale, set designer Robert Schweer and director Dirk Schmeding found starkly convincing pictures for the Augsburg Theater in this oft overdone popular science fiction story. (…) All of it was clearly rehearsed and reworked to impeccable excellence – a convincing achievement on the part of the Augsburg Theater.«
BR-Klassik, 22.05.2018

»The theatre succeeds in producing visual effects and atmospheres that one normally experiences only in the cinema. This alone would justify a visit… Jihyun Cecilia Lee and Wiard Witholt not only sing superbly; their acting is also brilliant… The small orchestra under Lancelot Fuhry plays with great intensity, incisiveness and security.«
a3kultur, 28.05.2018

»Only rarely does new music elicit such an enthusiastic audience reaction as the one that took this premiere by surprise.«
DAZ, 28.05.2018

Picture of Solaris taken by Jan Pieter Fuhr

Solaris, Augsburg 2018

Interview with the composer

How did you like the Augsburg version?

I absolutely loved the new production put on by Augsburg. I think my music is generally very direct (I am also a very direct sort of person), so when the stage direction—and by this, I mean the singers’ acting and how they sing when those characters are found in certain situations—completely related to the music, it worked very well, I felt. It has smoke everywhere, like a living organism, and a spaceship, incredibly clever in its design and use. I love that the singers are acting so actively in such a confined space as this spaceship they built.

Were your expectations satisfied?

(Fujikura laughs.) Director Dirk Schmeding was gently sending me WhatsApp and Facebook photos almost every day from the set and the rehearsals, so I did have some expectation—although I always told him, "Please do your thing." He is a person of such clear talent; I couldn’t believe how he was able to capture all the atmospheric, psychological drama, which is what SOLARIS is all about.

Were there notable changes in comparison to the world premiere?

In terms of the music, nothing has changed, not even a note. But the staging is 180 degrees different from the premiere. I must state at this point that I very much respected and loved the beauty of the staging at the premiere, directed by Teshigawara—someone I respect enormously as an artist—with its beautiful dancers; it was a joy for me to see them move every day. It is very nice for me, as a composer, to see that what I have composed can be staged in such a completely different way; this time, singers sing and act (like a normal opera, in a way), but with highly concentrated physical drama as well as psychological drama, all packed into 90 minutes’ time. That was magical. The evening I came back from Augsburg after seeing the premiere, I sat down and booked flights back to Augsburg to see the show again. That’s how much I loved it.

What was your impression of the orchestra and vocalists?

In terms of the vocalists, I am just enormously impressed at these very young singers. They have beautiful voices, obviously, but beyond that, their voices are also so dramatic, and they have such wonderful pitch control (I compose with pitches; pitches are very important to me)—and, to top it all off, they are incredible actors. I don’t know how they can sing so perfectly while acting so acrobatically! I was told that some of these singers haven’t sung much contemporary music before; but they sound like they have been singing this opera for years!

The orchestra is very good too. The premiere was performed by Ensemble Intercontemporain, a very specialized ensemble consisting of soloists. This time we have the Augsburg Philharmonic, which is an orchestra—again, the completely opposite kind of ensemble. They especially play the Tutti-sounding part so well, very juicy and together, a symphonic style of playing highly suitable for some of the scenes in this opera. Conductor Lancelot Fuhry is very communicative; we emailed each other quite frequently before the rehearsals started. During the rehearsals, I felt his attention to details, his musicallity and his responsiveness to the stage and singers skillfully retained the highly electrifying tension I would hope this opera has.

Photos: Jan-Pieter Fuhr