Blühen / Blossoming
Vito Žuraj *1979
Opera in seven scenes
Text by Händl Klaus based on Thomas Mann's Die Betrogene (1953)
Commissioned by Oper Frankfurt
Performed in German & English with German surtitles
Introductions (in German) 30 minutes before performances begin and available on video here shortly before opening night
Aurelia, a woman in her early 50s, whose husband’s been dead for 10 years, lives with her children Anna and Edgar.
The relationship between mother and daughter is particularly complicated and fraught; their affections obscured by their constantly feeling mutually offended and misunderstandings. Anna shuns everything Aurelia adores – nature and what’s natural. And while the mother yearns for passionate love and struggles with the fact that her childbearing years are over, the daughter, miserable because of her clubfoot, has forsworn love and taken refuge in abstract art.
Edgar’s being taught English by the American student Ken, who’s almost the same age. Aurelia falls head over heels in love with the young man and Ken feels the same way. Completely engrossed in her passion Aurelia even feels physically rejuvenated when she starts to bleed, which Anna finds suspicious.
Just when she’s never felt happier Aurelia is told by Dr. Muthesius, a family friend, that she is terminally ill. Ken, Anna, Edgar and Dr. Muthesius are with Aurelia until she breathes her last.
A woman falls in love with a man young enough to be her son. She feels born again but just as her self-abandonment reaches its climax, is told that she's terminally ill.
In his novel Die Betrogene (1953) Thomas Mann depicted a paradoxical situation wrapped up in an alarming dialectic of life and death. Librettist Händl Klaus and composer Vito Žuraj call their opera in seven scenes Blossoming, intensifying the idea even further, 70 years later, focussing on the protagonist, who they call Aurelia.
Her relationship with her daughter Anna is even more ambivalent, with communication between the two women mirroring her own fears and insecurities. Concentrating on the storyline creates gaps in the libretto which are a real challenge for the composer, giving the characters their own musical expression and distinctive characters and making fate and time audible.
A chorus adds a special sound to Aurelia's journey, before finally dissolving into her "inner self". The opera traces a tonality that is already inherent in the original story, while searching in a subtle way for new, individual colours. Blühen is the second opera by the Slovenian composer Vito Žuraj, whose accolades include the Berlin Philharmonic’s Claudio Abbado Composition Prize. Ingenious conundrums, his works combine the aesthetic and technology of electronics with classical orchestration – in an individual musical language that is always sensory. He loves composing for the voice. His music has been heard in many leading concert venues and festivals performed by orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble intercontemporain and RIAS Chamber Chorus; he has enjoyed close ties to the Ensemble Modern for more than ten years.