Febel's Benjamin Button and Lang's Dora premiered

Febel's Benjamin Button and Lang's Dora premiered

"Celebrated like a rock concert"—BR on Dora

Which stories make it to the opera stage, and why they evoke a response with contemporary audiences depends as much on the intuition of theatre directors as on that of the composers themselves. Only the premiere, on which all those people and trades involved work intensively, shows whether they were right.

With a kind of modern Faust story, and their literary and musically complex and condensed Dora, composer Bernhard Lang and author Frank Witzel enthralled the audience at the Staatsoper Stuttgart to a storm of applause. At the Landestheater Linz, Reinhard Febel (music and text) impressed the audience with his opera Benjamin Button, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s humorous and impressive reflection on the phenomena of time, identity, age, youth, becoming, and passing away.

Bernhard Lang: Dora

About Dora

Dora is in her mid-twenties and stuck in the sheltered surroundings of her family. Though she still has her whole life ahead of her, she suspects that the future has only the same old worn and well-known ideas to offer than before. Dora, the 21st century’s new heroine of opera, meets her present with total rejection and finds herself in aimless search for something different. Bernhard Lang's rhythm-driven music becomes Dora’s accomplice. In his opera about a longing for something radically new, Lang and librettist Frank Witzel playfully mix varying sounds from different musical epochs whilst laying tracks to centuries old characters, myths and stories. In her relentless search for direction however, Dora resorts to a time-honoured trick by calling upon the devil himself.

Dora on TV

From 12 May, a 45 minute TV documentary on Dora will be available on SWR.

Press quotes on Dora

"Celebrated like a rock concert. [...] Lang, Witzel, Stöppler, Hakenbeck, and their collaborators, in fact manage a dazzling masterpiece of post and pop-modern music theatre, which – especially on a musical and textual level – works with a cornucopia of references and connotations. One can analyse them, but isn’t obliged to do so. This is an evening as much for the show fans and quote hunters as for those looking for a little recreation, or for professors. Hats off!"
BR-Klassik 04.03.2024

"The applause in Stuttgart was unequivocal. One can only hope that other theatres will take on the Dora challenge and treat their public to this high-calibre delight."
Die Deutsche Bühne 04.03.2024

World premiere of Dora

"That this clever text, with its myriad allusions to the cultural history of mankind does not freeze into a treatise onstage is testament to Bernhard Lang’s musical setting. Philosophically trained himself, the Austrian composer takes up many of Witzel’s associations in order to react to them in his own way through musical quotation. [...] The musical realisation, with Elena Schwarz at the podium, was a convincing one. Lang’s rapid sextuplet loops were in just as safe hands with her as the piece’s delicate passages, acapella choirs, or the protagonists’ sparsely accompanied solos."
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 5.3.2024

"Dora is permeated by a web of quotations – Elektra, Schöne Müllerin, Gounod’s Faust – which are bluntly and cleverly incorporated, sweet moments in a well-structured, but unconstrained and unconventional musical firework display. The familiar tonality of these references does not clash with the new, striking, and occasionally raucous music. Nothing is played against one another, but is rather combined in such a way that this world of sound becomes more colourful. Much more colourful."
Frankfurter Rundschau, 05.03.2024

"Not only is Lang one of the most productive living composers, but one of the most imaginative. He constantly creates his own sound. In the case of Dora, it is enriched by two buzzing synthesisers, and tirelessly driven by rhythmic patterns that sometimes reach casually toward Jazz, but can likewise be very rigid."
Süddeutsche Zeitung, 05.03.2024

Score of Dora

Reinhard Febel: Benjamin Button

About Benjamin Button

In 1860, Benjamin Button saw the light of day in Baltimore not as a sweet little boy, but as a bearded old man. His fate is predetermined: He goes through life backwards and gets younger every day. When he finally meets Hildegarde, who is almost thirty years younger, at the age of fifty, everything is at stake for him, as he has so far been ostracised by society due to his special circumstances and has never been loved. His love for Hildegarde cannot last, for while she ages inexorably, Benjamin grows younger and younger until he finally becomes a baby in his own son's house.

It was the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald who reported this incident in a whimsical and original short story from 1922. In 2008 it was successfully filmed with Brad Pitt in the leading role. Now Reinhard Febel, who worked for many years as a composition professor at the Salzburg Mozarteum, has adapted this humorous and impressive reflection on the phenomena of time, identity, age, youth, becoming and passing for the opera stage.

Go to presenter page

World premiere of Benjamin Button

Press quotes on Benjamin Button

"Benjamin Button has become a highly artistic, polystylistic work. As his own librettist, Febel expands the time frame of the original work, with Benjamin Button’s fate spanning epochs from the American Civil War to the outbreak of the Korean War. It is a panorama of almost 100 years, which is reflected in the music. The brusque, but also lyrical and supple musical language makes reference to late Romanticism as well as jazz or Schönberg. The relentless clock of life ticks from the Bruckner Orchester Linz, conductured virtuously by Ingmar Beck in the form of a giant ratchet, which is wound up and accelerates: “Memento mori."
ORPHEUS, 4/2024

"Reinhard Febel, who taught as professor of composition at the Salzburg Mozarteum, knows his craft musically. His score is colourful, richly orchestrated, and supports both the soloists and choirs."
APA, 07.04.2024

World premiere of Benjamin Button

"Definitely a moving evening, for which the music deserves a great deal of credit, with an undogmatic compositional style that is not afraid of late Romanticism, with often humorous allusions from Wagner's Valkyries to jazz, as well as twelve-tone music from the 1920s. It is a feast for the ears – at least for those minds who are not (overly?) conservative."
Online Merker, 07.04.2024

"Reinhard Febel has created a clever, sometimes witty, but often melancholic libretto, with four cuddly toys that work as a kind of framework, bringing Benjamin into the world and bidding him farewell at the end. It often sounds fast, and Febel plays with sound colours and idioms of the respective period virtuously – we are talking here about a considerable span of time, from 1860 to the end of the Second World War. It’s jazzy, groovy, and then with rhythmically intricate passages, close to minimal music. But banality or kitsch never comes into it. When the wild, meandering texture becomes permeable, Febel switches to a chamber instrumentation with airy accents from the leading piano. But soon, we again find ourselves swept up within a storm of sophisticated percussion and brass attacks. Reinhard Febel, Hermann Schneider and the great Linz ensemble show what can be created here and now: lively, entertaining, touching, intelligent music theatre!"
BR Klassik, 07.04.2024

"This large-scale, colourful, easy-to-listen-to, and atmospheric music from Febel, who makes use of all styles and quotations possible – from jazz to minimal, and who does not shy away from late-Romanticism, is performed in a very differentiated and concentrated way by the Bruckner Orchester under the precise direction of Ingmar Beck. Respective leaps in time are announced by the jagged sounds of a giant ratchet. Much applause, including for the composer, who was present."
Kurier, 10.04.2024

Score of Benjamin Button

Photos: Reinhard Winkler (Febel), Martin Sigmund (Lang)