Glass’ s Fall of the House of Usher in Munich

Philip Glass, The Fall of the House of Usher: Soloists, Orchestra of the Gärtnerplatz State Theater, Lukas Beikircher (conductor). Gärtnerplatz Theater. 19. 7.2011 (JMI)

Production Staatstheater am Gärtnerpltaz

Direction: Carlos Wagner
Sets: Rifail Ajdarpasic
Costumes: Ariane Isabell Unfried
Lighting: Rolf Essers


William: Gregor Dalal

Roderick Usher: Harrie Van der Plas
Madeline Usher: Ella Tyran
A doctor: Hans Kittelmann
A servant: Sebastian Campione

American composer Philip Glass is probably the main representative in opera of what has been called minimalist music and along with those by John Adams, his works are well known at many important opera houses. Suffice it to remember that his opera Satyagraha was performed at New York Metropolitan during last season and will be revived again next season. The Fall of the House of Usher was premiered in 1988 in Cambridge (Massachusetts) and it is not among the composer’s most popular works, despite being based on the famous story of the same title by Edgar Allan Poe. Philip Glass’s music is interesting and fiiting for Poe’s atmosphere of mystery and the result seemed to me far better than I expected, considering that I would not take his music with me to a desert island. The opera was offered here in a German translation.

The production by Venezuelan director Carlos Wagner is very appropriate to the plot, creating an excellent atmosphere of mystery from the outset. The stage shows the Usher mansion portrayed as a whale skeleton with a staircase, in which all the action takes place. The stage direction by Carlos Wagner is good and draws in the attention of the audience at every moment.

Lukas Beikircher offered a well conceived reading from the pit, revealing a perfect knowledge of Glass’s music and getting a good performance from the orchestra.

The opera offers three main characters, the Usher twins – Roderick and Madeline – and William, their childhood friend, who presents the story. After he receives a letter asking him to visit the twins, William becomes a witness to what the tale of possession and an death that happens in the haunted ghost house. Baritone Gregor Dalal was a well – cast William, Roderick Usher was tenor Harrie van der Plas, who gave a good interpretation also, while soprano Ella Tyran was Madeline Usher, the main focus of attention for the audience. She only vocalizes through the opera, but she was impressive doing it.

The theater was around 60 % of capacity and the final reception was very enthusiastic.

José M. Irurzun