Rare Performance of Peter Ronnefeld’s Nachtausgabe

GermanyGermany Ronnefeld: Nachtausgabe, Orchestra Giuseppe Sinopoli Akademie, Ekkehard Klemm (conductor), Semperoper II, Dresden, 4.10.2014 (JMI)

Nachtausgabe Photo © Matthias Creutziger
Photo © Matthias Creutziger

Emma Becker: Evan Hugues
Anna Pachulke: Christiane Hossfeld
Renée Pachulke: Jennifer Riedel
Ping Schma Fu: Patrick Vogel
Lothar Witzlaff: Julian Arsenault
Mario Caraccini: Christopher Tiesi
Editor: Tom Martinsen
Commissar: Sebastian Wartig
Policeman: Karl-Heinz Koch

New production
Direction: Manfred Weiss
Sets: Arne Walther
Costumes: Nina Reichmann
Lighting: Steffen Adermann

Peter Ronnefeld was a precocious German conductor and composer whose achievements were cut short by his early death at the age of 30. Born in Dresden in 1935 to a musical family (his father played violin in the Dresden Staatskapelle), he soon showed his talent by writing a “Little Suite for Orchestra” at the age of 14. By the time he was 20, he was a professor at the Mozarteum Salzburg, and later in Vienna was an assistant to Herbert von Karajan. He became principal guest conductor at Bonn and then General Music Director at Kiel when he was 28. It was in this city that he died in 1965. His son, Matthias, was also a composer, and he died at the age of 27; both are buried in the Grinzing cemetery in Vienna.

Ronnefeld composed two operas that are now almost completely forgotten. The first one, Nachtausgabe, was composed in 1955-56 for his students at the Mozarteum; the more important opera, Die Ameise (The Ant), was composed between 1959 and 1961, and premiered posthumously in Kiel under the direction of Gerd Albrecht.

NachtausgabeNight Edition in a literal translation–is a satire of the tabloids (there was noTV), which Ronnefeld dubbed an opera piccola in 5 scenes. It tells the story of some young bohemians who decide to fake the kidnapping of the daughter of their landlady’s peculiar friend. In this way they hope to fill the pages of the tabloid where they work, and it all ends up in a happy and amusing way.

This is a humorous opera with a reduced orchestra, and percussion plays an important role. There are no tunes that people can hum, but the score contains perfectly cantabile selections for all the soloists. It is not an opera to showcase vocal qualities since, as we shouldn’t forget, it was written for young students in Salzburg.

The Semperoper 2 is a small theater that can accommodate about 200 people. The imaginative production by Manfred Weiss uses the reduced space very well, with two small rooms on the right and the left, occupied by the landlady and the bohemians respectively, and separated by a hallway opening to the street. The costumes respond to the time of composition and are well suited and unpretentious.

The music was played by young students from the Giuseppe Sinopoli Akademie, and they were quite good. The reduced orchestra was placed in a kind of small pit at the back of the stage. Conductor Ekkehard Klemm was ultimately responsible for the fact that the opera worked so well.

The soloists did just fine, although the voices are not the most important part of this opera. Baritone Evan Hughes was very funny and perfect in the character of Emma Becker, the owner of the house. Soprano Christiane Hossfeld as her friend Anna Pachulke was also amusing in her stage exaggerations. The object of the fake kidnapping was Renée, her daughter, played by Jennifer Riedel, a coloratura soprano who was an excellent actress as well as a good singer. The Bohemians were all correct: tenor Patrick Vogel (Ping Schma Fu), baritone Julian Arsenault (Lothar), and tenor Christopher Tiesi (the eccentric Italian Mario Caraccini). Tom Martinsen as Editor of the newspaper gave an excellent performance, as did Sebastian Wartig as the Commissar.

The Semperoper 2 was sold out. The audience had a very good time and warmly applauded the artists, including the creative team. I was sorry that Minna Ronnefeld, the composer’s widow, did not come on stage, although I read that she was supposed to attend the performance.

José Mª Irurzun

Leave a Comment