Dark Spring, a new opera by Professor Hans Thomalla based on Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, is now available for streaming on the Mannheim National Theatre website free of charge until Monday, December 7, 2020. The work premiered at Germany’s Mannheim National Theatre on September 11, 2020 and was conducted by Bienen School lecturer Alan Pierson.
“The production has been a wonderful experience, and I am incredibly grateful that a grant by the Fedora Platform makes it possible to share in digital form now,” said Thomalla.
The work dramatizes the impact of the oppressive culture of the 19th century on a group of young adults. Thomalla’s opera shifts the focus to the contemporary stigma around mental health issues and provides an ambio-techno soundtrack for the piece.
Deutsche Bühne praised the “compact, unerringly composed and masterfully staged evening.” In response to the pandemic, the Mannheim National Theatre sold 300 seats in a house of 1,200 to allow appropriate distancing between patrons. Additionally, creative “corona staging” allowed the singers and musicians to perform safely, maintaining six yards of space when singing and at least 1.5 yards at all times.
“Producing Dark Spring was absolutely amazing—the most gratifying artistic experiences I have had in a long, long time—in spite of all the difficulties the pandemic brought on,” said Thomalla. “The stage director did an amazing job of finding ways to make this happen, with lots of live video, prepared video, and careful choreography.” He added that because the opera is scored for only 10 instrumentalists, the musicians were able to be spaced out safely.
A review from Die Rheinpfalz states: “Thomalla's eloquent and meticulously refined musical language is aimed like a magnifying glass on the toil of growing up” and “Pierson at the podium is an excellent administrator of the score.”
Dark Spring was commissioned by the National Theater Mannheim and financed by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation. The work is Thomalla’s third opera. His first, Fremd, premiered in 2011 at the Stuttgart Opera; his second, Kaspar Hauser, premiered at the Theater Freiburg in 2016.