OPERA / Renaissance man: Della Couling on a pair of Goldschmidt premieres

At 91, Berthold Goldschmidt's career seems to have gone into fast forward, with recordings, live performances and now, within days of one another, a splendid new production in Berlin of his first opera, Der gewaltige Hahnrei (premiered in Mannheim in 1932), and the first ever staging of his second opera, Beatrice Cenci (composed in 1951), in Magdeburg.

Goldschmidt fled Nazi Germany for England in 1935 but, like many other creative refugees, never really fitted into the artistic network of his second home. And it was only in 1987, when Simon Rattle disinterred his 1936 Ciaconna Sinfonica for the Berlin Festival, that his belated rediscovery here began.

In Der gewaltige Hahnrei (The Magnificent Cuckold), written when Goldschmidt was only 26, we see what we have lost from a composer who, had he not been so brutally uprooted from the normal processes of artistic development, would surely have written more operas.

Based on Fernand Crommelynck's surreal comedy Le Cocu Magnifique, about a young husband so obsessively jealous he forces his wife into infidelity in order to prove his suspicions, Goldschmidt's opera bears an uncanny likeness, in its exuberant vitality and prodigal invention, to the young Shostakovich's The Nose (Leningrad, 1930). The undoubted similarities are, Goldschmidt insists, fortuitous: he didn't hear Shostakovich's music until much later. His own explanation is as succinct as it is, in retrospect, tragic: 'We breathed the same musical Zeitgeist.'

At the Komische Oper, the director Harry Kupfer brings out both the wild comedy and the disturbing ambiguity - so typical of the age in which it was written - within this tale of manic obsession, manipulation and moral destruction. The stage is dominated by a huge, pink, wildly undulating path, on which the characters run, slide and teeter. Faces are white, clown- like, and there are clear references to silent film, Chaplin and a frenzied commedia dell' arte. The singers, as usual with Kupfer, respond magnificently to his demands: in particular, Gunter Neumann as the husband Bruno, and Yvonne Wiedstruck as Stella, his wife. Conducting, Yakov Kreizberg gave an acute and responsive reading of a remarkably versatile score that will surely now enter the repertoire. Kupfer's staging is not only the perfect showcase, but fresh proof that the Komische Oper is still the most exciting opera house in Europe.

Beatrice Cenci, composed in 1951 to a libretto (after Shelley) by Martin Esslin, finally made it to the stage, in Magdeburg, in a production timed (in accordance with the composer's wishes) to coincide with the Berlin Hahnrei. But here we are in a totally different country. Shelley's turgid verse-drama may have been ruthlessly pruned, but as theatre it remains a bit of a no- no, with little action to be teased out of its historical tale of incest, murder and execution. The orchestra gets the best parts, with lush string tutti and some wonderful writing for percussion.

Kupfer is an impossible act to follow, and Max Hoffmann, who directed Beatrice Cenci, limped so far behind he was out of sight. Five of the six main parts were sung by North American singers, perhaps because of Goldschmidt's insistence on having the work sung in English. Vocally they coped well, but dramatically they failed to come alive; modern dress didn't help. By contrast with Hahnrei, Goldschmidt seems here to drift rudderless, at times approaching some late 19th-century land, at others almost washing up on the shores of Britten. Hitler has a lot to answer for.

'Hahnrei': 7, 14 Oct, 13 Nov (booking 010 4930 220 2761)

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?