Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Requiescat in pace: Ulrike Hessler

Terrible news from Dresden where one of the most sensitive to creativity among the artistic directors of big opera houses today, Ulrike Hessler, died from cancer at the age of 57.

She's been working at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich for many years, where she could see the process in which a stale conservative theater transformed into one of the most artistically compelling places in the world.

She became the general director of the Semperoper in 2010, and introduced changes that started feeling like Dresden was about to host the new best Opera House in the world. She brought the new boost to creativity, openness to young and talented directors, refused to make Semperopera a stage to big stars while regularly taking calculated risks with something new, different, special... All that while delivering the highest musical and theatrical quality that no other opera house can match today (except perhaps Brussels, Madrid, Basle while run by Schwarz, and to a lesser extent Lyon and Berlin).

My modest experience with this great theater run by this mighty lady included: a perfectly cast (!) superbly performed Rusalka staged by Herheim, followed by the first opera staged in a big venue by the phenomenal Jan Philipp Gloger (unforgettable Alcina!), audaciously programmed Tannhäuser, staged by Peter Konwitschny for Good Friday 2011 (!), and finally a splendid production of La Clemenza di Tito (that I will try and blog about sometimes in the weeks to come) in which the delightfully talented Bettina Bruinier was given the opportunity to show that creativity can still be infiltrated in this operatic masterpiece by Mozart.

Just see the program of the Semperoper and you will soon understand why this opera house under Ulrike Hessler became so special.

It is a sad day for all of us who still believe that opera can be artistically worthy of attention and where the creativity can find its way despite the ultraconservative public that fear anything that even looks like a change.

She will be missed!