Schubert takes Barrandov stage
A film sound stage will host an unusual evening of classical music
Posted: October 23, 2013
A cast of three men and a woman act out Franz Schubert's song cycle 'Winterreise.'
Song cycles are normally presented by a man in tuxedo or a woman in an evening gown standing next to piano. But some works offer the possibility to do a bit more. Franz Schubert's Winterreise (Winter Journey), written in 1927, uses 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller and has often been compared to a tragic opera of lost love, but it was not written to be staged as one. As part of the Strings of Autumn festival, Schubert's song cycle is being taken where it has never gone before.
Opera director Jiří Heřman, who led the opera division of the National Theater from 2007 to 2012, gained fame for his use of atypical spaces ranging from nightclubs to former churches. For Winterreise, he has chosen one of the large ateliers of Barrandov Studios, a giant filmmaking complex in the southern part of Prague. The vocal work will be divided among three male singers, with the addition of a female character as both an angel and temptress. The set is designed by Pavel Svoboda and costumes are by Lenka Polášková, both of whom have worked with Heřman on numerous projects.
"Since leaving the National Theater I have had more time to devote myself to my unrealized dreams," Heřman said in an interview provided by festival organizers. "Schubert's songs inspired me already when I was studying solo singing and later, when I became active as a stage director," he added.
The project has been a year in the making. "The idea of producing a theatrical presentation of Winter Journey crystallized last autumn: the management of the Strings of Autumn Festival agreed with my vision," he said, pointing out that he previously worked with the festival in 2006 on Benjamin Britten's Curlew River.
When: Oct. 23, 24 and 25 at 7:30
Where: Barrandov Studio atelier 4
Tickets: 550 Kč
Heřman staged another song cycle, Northern Nights, in 2000. "The main figure inWinter Journey is a rejected man, coming to terms with the end of his relationship with a beloved woman. As in Northern Nights, I'll develop the idea of a musical-theatrical image. Imagine that you read a poem and then based on that experience you paint a picture. In Winter Journey we enter the landscape of a rejected man's soul," he said.
He pointed out that there have been previous attempts at staging the cycle in German-speaking areas, but he has not seen any of them. "That is not for lack of interest, but whenever I stage a new work I concentrate only on that which speaks to me in the original form," he said. "It's the sense of my work to listen to music and word as though I were hearing them for the first time. I allow them to affect me by evoking new ideas and images."
Winterreise will be staged three times, Oct. 23-25 at 7:30 at Barrandov Studios. Special buses depart from Smíchovského nádraží at 6:15. The production will be sung in German with Czech subtitles. A preview can be seen here.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at