Within the classical custom, a track typically evokes intimacy and solitude: a poet baring vulnerability, a composer portray a miniature. That sense of seclusion extends to the efficiency as effectively: a singer and pianist alone onstage, a listener absorbing the work in an intimate recital corridor or immersed, alone, with headphones.
These conventions encompass the ultimate group of songs written by Schubert, referred to as “Schwanengesang” (Swan Track) and revealed after the composer’s dying in 1828 at age 31. However these expectations had been upended in “Doppelganger,” which had its world premiere Friday on the cavernous Park Avenue Armory Drill Corridor. The director Claus Guth, the star tenor Jonas Kaufmann, the pianist Helmut Deutsch and a raft of collaborators reworked “Schwanengesang” on the Saturday evening efficiency into a whole wartime narrative.
Kaufmann is a soldier who lies dying in a navy hospital. Removed from being alone with Deutsch onstage, he’s certainly one of almost two dozen injured and sick troopers being tended by a fleet of six nurses, the remainder of the solid is made up of dancers. Deutsch and the piano are useless middle amongst greater than 60 hospital beds that stretch throughout the corridor’s immense flooring. Kaufmann’s soldier spends the final hour of his life revisiting his recollections in a cascade of Schubert’s songs, stitched along with ominous new music by the German composer Mathis Nitschke.
Guth’s imaginative and highly effective staging for his New York debut recollects historical past. This drill corridor has served as a hospital and shelter; “Doppelganger,” which had initially been supposed for a fall 2020 premiere, additionally invokes the sphere hospitals rapidly erected firstly of the coronavirus pandemic.
Michael Levine’s ingenious and minimalistic set design is dominated by the blanched shades of hospital whites and khaki uniforms. Growls of Nitschke’s sound and intelligent lighting by Urs Schönebaum counsel thunderstorms and bombings.
Does the theatrical conceit serve Schubert’s songs? Within the arms of Kaufmann and Deutsch, who’ve lengthy labored collectively, sure — and it reignites the grasp’s music in a recent, clever setting with out sacrificing the duo’s artistry as classical performers.
At one level, the piano turns into a predominant character within the drama, as Kaufmann and the dancers collect to pay attention in respite to Deutsch carry out the second motion of Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B-flat Main, D. 960. It was a uncommon deal with to listen to Deutsch, who normally performs an accompanist, take literal middle stage.
In a concession to the Armory’s sheer expanse, Kaufmann’s voice was calmly amplified. This was sometimes distracting when he turned his head away from his microphone, and his usually crisp articulation was barely muddied. However Kaufmann’s candy tone transcended the boundaries of the know-how, significantly in Schubert’s craving track of want “Ständchen.”
Within the night’s climactic track, “Der Doppelgänger,” Kaufmann’s soldier encounters his ghostly twin in the meanwhile of dying. Though the viewers is aware of this was coming, having already seen the soldier being mortally wounded, the theatrical ingenuity and visceral pressure of “Doppelganger” was so sturdy that the viewers set free an audible gasp of shock. When was the final time you heard one thing like that in a classical live performance corridor?