Haas: World Premiere of Liebesgesang

Haas: World Premiere of Liebesgesang

"Pure, naked, existential" (Die Deutsche Bühne)

The husband is seriously ill, but he’s hiding it. A fleeting moment grows into an intoxicating encounter in which a couple examines what their love was, and is. Both struggle for (and with) language until she eventually leaves. Without a doubt one of the best-renowned contemporary composers, Georg Friedrich Haas and librettist Händl Klaus have transferred this extreme, human situation to the cast in their operatic love song. A male and female singer can be seen and heard with nothing but their voices, with no orchestra. It is an attempt to create an intensely intimate experience by exploring the possibilities of musical theatre.

Liebesgesang is staged by the internationally acclaimed director and FAUST Award winner Tobias Kratzer – the designated artistic director of the Staatsoper Hamburg from 2025/2026. It was commissioned by Bühnen Bern. Pianist Claudio Chan – one of the leading young interpreters of contemporary classical music – is overseeing the musical direction. The leading roles are played by mezzo-soprano Claude Eichenberger (She), Bühnen Bern ensemble member since 2007, alongside baritone Robin Adams (He), one of the world's leading interpreters of new music.

Performances of Liebesgesang

Following the world premiere on 31 May 2024, Bühnen Bern presents Liebesgesang on three more nights in June before the work moves to the Tiroler Landestheater for the Austrian premiere in September.

Press quotes on Liebesgesang

"Seen this way, ‘Liebesgesang’ fulfills all criteria for the genre. And yet this work by Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas breaks all boundaries.[...] It is an intensive, immersive experience – indeed, a catharsis. A tragedy through which you must go. Uncomfortable to the point of being overwhelming, and highly recommended."
Der Bund, 03.06.2024

"Two singers, male and female, occupy the pit and perform the 90-minute evening in pairs. There is not a single moment of rest. This is how Haas presents his minimal definition of opera, carried by singing alone. After ‘Bluthaus’, ‘Thomas’, and ‘Koma’, duo Haas and Händl Klaus have again joined forces for a commission and created an opera that consists solely of a love duet – pure, naked, existential. [...] 'Liebesgesang' does not set the rapturous confirmation and affirmation of two lovers to music, but rather the shared endurance and resilience to adversary. And for this, they have found a common language. Eye contact is hardly needed, and the exact wording is almost secondary. Music is their medium of communication. Haas has composed a musical relationship of dependence – pitch plays no role. The parts can and indeed may be transposed for different kinds of vocals, but the interval between them should be exact, which is a challenge. Claude Eichenberger and Robin Adams approach each other in microtones (up to an eighth of a note), ground each other with sustained notes, perform glissandi together and do impressive and tireless justice to this demanding score. HE and SHE rely on their own communicative codes as a couple, which we cannot decipher as an audience, but nonetheless understand that this touchingly close, deeply intimate connection is sufficiently robust even when both are at their limit."
Die Deutsche Bühne, 01.06.2024

World premiere of Liebesgesang

"The interconnection of these two voices is, again and again, breathtaking. [...] Staged phenomenally by Tobias Kratzer and co-director Mathias Piro… everything about it. It gets under your skin. [...] This experiment was a success."
Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Fazit, 31.05.2024

"The demands on both singers are great. Not only must they be present for a hour and a half without breaks or accompaniments, but there are also the meticulous directions of the score – ranging from maximum freedom (in pitch, for example), and maximum precision (sixth and eighth notes, very exactly observed intervals between the voices, and certain bars set to the second). Yes, you certainly have to take responsibility for yourself when singing this – or, better described, when you shape it, if not live through it. Haas requires both beautiful cantilenas and harsh sprechgesang, maximum comprehensibility [...], as well as whispering and screaming. And all this, within the existential setting of a couple’s relationship."
Oper! Magazine, 03.06.2024

"A super intense chamber play that gets under the skin and into your kidneys."
Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Kultur heute, 02.06.2024

World premiere of Liebesgesang

"The score explicitly points out time and again that She and He should use free spaces as best they can, but do so in close collaboration with one another. After this premiere, the impression was made that this happened in the happiest possible way. The result is a piece of music theatre that hits you hard and doesn’t let go. The relinquishing of that pomp that makes opera what it is, and the focus on the vocal line, which the language of the libretto has become, lead in their purity to a concentration of perception that we very seldom see in this appellative artform. "
Mittwochs um zwölf – Classical music blog (Peter Hagmann), 05.06.2024

Score of Liebesgesang

Photos: Tanja Dorendorf