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Composer Hans Thomalla and Poet Joshua Clover Release DARK SPRING, A Song-Opera

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The opera takes place over 11 scenes and was recorded over five live performances at the Nationaltheater-Orchester Mannheim.

Composer Hans Thomalla and Poet Joshua Clover Release DARK SPRING, A Song-Opera

German-American composer Hans Thomalla and poet Joshua Clover today release a recording of their 90-minute song-opera Dark Spring on OehmsClassics. Dark Spring saw its live, in-person world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in fall 2020 in an unprecedented pandemic collaboration described as "a remarkable musical panorama" by Mannheimer Morgen and selected by Opernwelt as one of four outstanding new operas of the season.

The opera takes place over 11 scenes and was recorded over five live performances at the Nationaltheater-Orchester Mannheim, with conductor Alan Pierson leading mezzo-soprano Shachar Lavi as Wendla, contralto Anna Hybiner as Ilse, tenor Christopher Diffey as Melchior, and countertenor Magid El-Bushra as Moritz. Barbora Horáková Joly served as the production's director.

Of the tremendous efforts leading up to the premiere, Thomalla says, "It was an incredible experience to put together this production in the brief window during which performances were possible in Germany last summer - with an international cast of singers and a conductor, who was only able to come to Europe with the greatest efforts in a time of closed borders, quarantines, and lockdowns (It took three attempts before Alan Pierson was allowed to board at La Guardia). After months that everyone had spent more or less alone during lockdown, we all were so enthusiastic about the chance to create art collaboratively again. Seeing Dark Spring come to life during these times was really magical, and it makes me incredibly happy that this wonderful production comes out as an album now!"

Dark Spring combines American popular song tradition with the musical and theatrical avant-garde to form Thomalla's eclectic take on contemporary opera. The work centers on four young people under extreme pressure to achieve success, which strains against their internal powerlessness and eventually erupts into violence. The opera focuses on their attempt to understand feelings of meaninglessness and alienation. The Darmstädter Echo praised the production's combination of "stunning sonorous beauty with differentiation of each character."

Thomalla explains, "The four protagonists of Dark Spring attempt to come to terms with their quite intense and complex feelings by channeling them into the medium of song. They try to articulate them in a formalized way, relying on rhyme, meter, stanza, and refrain. Under the surface of the objectified schemata of song an almost raw and undomesticated soundworld simmers, though, that breaks through at crucial points-a sound-world of noise, screams, and silence."

Conductor Alan Pierson says, "Dark Spring is filled with extended instrumental techniques that reflect Hans's love of sound-oriented European composers, but what Dark Spring makes clear is the breadth of styles and traditions that Hans loves, and the range of musical languages that he enthusiastically speaks. This is a fresh and unique kind of song opera, with each character's journey expressed through their own sequence of songs. Just as these multifaceted emotional forces are constantly present for the characters, so these different musical voices are constantly present in Hans's opera. And their ever-changing intermingling creates the uniquely powerful and emotive expressive world of Dark Spring."


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