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Blond Eckbert in Potsdam


Thirty years ago I wrote, for ENO, an opera based on Ludwig Tieck's short story Blond Eckbert (1797). It's a classic early Romantic text , but in recent years I've observed that even in Germany, younger people have never heard of it, let alone read its slimline thirty pages. Perhaps it isn't so classic these days, I began to think.


But its historical status leapt into the foreground when my opera version appeared this month, in a production by Kammerakademie Potsdam taking place in the Schlosstheater of the Neues Palais in Park Sanssouci, the massive royal "campus" built by Frederick the Great and his successors. In the later days of this dynasty, Friedrich Wilhelm IV brought our man himself, Ludwig Tieck, into this charming theatre (pictured) to restore a bit of artistic heft. One of his first productions (1843) was his own German translation of A Midsummer's Night's Dream for which he recruited Felix Mendelssohn to write the incidental music (Felix had already written the famous Overture when a lad of 16.)


I couldn't get over the symmetry of this event - my own English version of Tieck appearing in the very space where he had himself unveiled an English classic in a German guise. Joe Austin's production was ingenious, and,'pure' as a local opera goer described it to me. Conductor Justin Doyle had brought an early music sensibility to the task, basically creating his own reduced version out of what was originally a symphonic orchestration. To include the German-Englishness of everything, the piece formed part of a double bill with Acis and Galatea sung in German. I am so pleased that I chanced on Tieck's little story several decades ago, and grow ever more grateful for ENO's bold commissioning policy in the 1990s.


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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

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