First Latvian opera to be reborn in Latvian-German cooperation

2020 marks 100 years from the premiere of the first Latvian opera “Baņuta”. The opera will be revived in a new setting, organizers said July 20.

The new setting will be composed by the music theater collective “Hauen und Stechen” (Germany), in collaboration with actors of the Latvian theater troupe “Kvadrifrons”, music playwright Evarts Melnalksnis, composer Jēkabs Nīmanis and soloists Laura Grecka, Armands Siliņš, Sniedze Kaņepe. Currently, Latvian and German creative groups have met in the rehearsal process on Tallinnas Street.

Due to extreme circumstances, the video version of the setting will be developed first, while next year a show with the presence of spectators is also planned. Alfreds Kalnins's opera “Baņuta” was originally created in the turn of an era: the libretto was written shortly before 1905, music – during the World War I, the premiere took place in the newly born state of Latvia on May 29 1920.

Celebrating the hundred years of the country and the hundred years of this important opera, the collaborating parties will create a new interpretation of the dramatic message of the opera. The setting will be modern, revealing both the current political spotlight of Latvia and opening new viewing horizons.

In the  opera, the young partisan Baņuta is rescued by a stranger, Daumants. But visions of death and magical signs show that cruel fate cannot be avoided. Instead of happy family life, Baņuta enters the networks of revenge, political intrigue and forbidden passion. The powerful independent Baņuta, who is so eager for love, is stamped by the experience of alienation and rejection.

The modern setting of the first Latvian opera will intersect the evidence of the mythical past with human experience in the 20th century wars, whose struggles did not end even after returning from the front line, especially if they were women.

“When I first heard an opera message with the powerful image of Baņuta in the center, it inspired me very much. In this setting, Banuta will be exempted from a predetermined tragedy, giving her maturity and performative self-determination. We want to create a visual intensity that emphasizes the speed and cruelty of opera events while playing with grotesque and humorous elements,” said "Hauen und  Stechen" director Franziska Kronfoth.

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