In an evocative new staging, the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, “the world’s opera capital” (The New York Times) presents a production of the opera Thomas as part of its 2022 its ”Ja Mai” festival during its 2021-22 season. This significant work is by the Austrian, Georg Friedrich Haas, who is regularly described as the world’s most important living composer. Existential questions are confronted in Thomas and the spiritual and physical aspects of mortality are explored in an uncompromising look at death. American countertenor Randall Scotting will make his much-anticipated debut with the company performing the major role of Michael, the head nurse who comforts Thomas and attends to the body of his deceased lover. According to the opera’s composer, “Michael is like an archangel – he stands knowing and lovingly between the worlds of the dead and living.”
In-demand countertenor Scotting, who is on the artist rosters at the Metropolitan Opera and Royal Opera House, recently won praise for his lead performance in Seattle Opera’s Flight, with Opera News noting that his “cool, lovely countertenor was perfect” and Musical America calling his performance “marvelous, his plangent, rich-toned instrument possessing just the right tone of otherworldliness.” Scotting regularly performs major works by noteworthy modern composers – including Olga Neuwirth, Péter Eötvös, Maxwell Davies, Xenakis, Ligeti, and Schoenberg – receiving high praise for his interpretations
“The opportunity to perform such an important modern work with the most prestigious opera company in Europe – if not the world – can only be described as a dream,” says Scotting. “I am excited to be part of the fresh direction the Bayerische Staatsoper is taking, and I love being in Germany – often I feel that I must have lived there in a past life! Coming to Munich to rehearse and perform this modern masterpiece will certainly be a highlight.” (Scotting is also a proficient German speaker, having studied the language at university.)
While the Thomas performances will be Scotting’s first with a major opera house in Germany, he has previously performed throughout the country, including in the Göttingen Handel Festival, with the opera company in Neustrelitz, concerts in Berlin and Neubrandenburg, and at the Internationales DonauFest in Ulm, where his performance was lauded for its “brilliance and lightness” in the Südwest Press.
The singers in Thomas will be accompanied by an unusual orchestral ensemble, including zithers, accordion, percussion, and other plucked instruments, all tuned in microtones and performing with several extended techniques. Haas’ experiments with rhythm and sound use instruments and the human voice in new and unexpected ways to communicate greater human truths. He has said, “I think music gives us an opportunity to speak extremely honestly without putting things into words. With music, it is possible to share the spiritual fundament of deep and existential experiences.” (Culture.pl)
The production of Thomas, which has four performances from May 23-29, 2022, is one of three works by Haas to be presented as part of the Bayerische Staatsoper’s “Ja, Mai” (Yes, May) festival focused on contemporary music. The opera is conducted by Alexandre Bloch, who is Music Director of the Orchestra National de Lille and Principal Guest Conductor of the Dusseldorf Symphony and directed by Anna-Sophie Mahler, who is known for her wide-ranging work with opera companies throughout Germany.