Composer Hans Thomalla And Poet Joshua Clover to Release DARK SPRING

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

By: Sep. 23, 2021

On Friday, October 15, 2021, German-American composer Hans Thomalla and poet Joshua Clover will 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. 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."

About Hans Thomalla:

Hans Thomalla, is a German-American composer based in Chicago. He has written chamber music as well as orchestral works and a particular focus of his activity lies in composing for the stage. His opera Fremd was produced by the Stuttgart Opera in 2011 and his second opera Kaspar Hauser by the Freiburg Opera in 2016.

Thomalla is Professor of Music Composition at Northwestern University, where he founded and directs the Institute for New Music. He studied at the Frankfurt Musikhochschule and received his doctoral degree in composition from Stanford University, where he was a fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. From 1999-2002 he held the position of Assistant Dramaturge and Musical Advisor at the Stuttgart Opera. He has taught at June in Buffalo and the Freiburg Matrix Academy, and has served on the faculty of the Darmstadt Ferienkurse for several years.

Thomalla has been awarded numerous awards and fellowships, including the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis, the Composer Prize of the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung, the Christoph-Delz Prize, a Fromm Commission, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. During the academic year 2014/15 he was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and in 2020/21 he was a fellow at the Kaplan Humanities Institute at Northwestern University.

Hans Thomalla appears as a fictional character in Alexander Kluge's story collection Wer ein Wort des Trostes spricht, ist ein Verräter. 48 Geschichten für Fritz Bauer. Learn more at

About Joshua Clover:

Joshua Clover, born 1962 in California, received his BA in English literature from Boston University and his MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of three books of poems: Red Epic (2015), The Totality for Kids (2006), and Madonna anno domini (1997), which was chosen by Jorie Graham to receive the 1996 Walt Whitman Award. He is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the University of Iowa's James Michener/Paul Engle Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Clover is also a widely published critic and journalist; he's written for publications such as Film Quarterly, The Nation, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, and the Village Voice. His most recent book of cultural theory is Riot.Strike.Riot: the New Era of Uprisings (2016).

Clover is a professor of English literature and critical theory at the University of California, Davis.

Dark Spring Track List

CD 1:
Scene 1:
1. This dress is not too short (Wendla, Ilse) [00:55]
2. Song: Boys! Boys! (Wendla, Ilse) [01:40]
3. Melchior Gabor, he told me once he does not believe in anything. (Wendla, Ilse) [00:41]
4. Song: He told me once (Wendla) [04:02]

Scene 2:
5. I'd like to know why we really are on earth. (Melchior, Moritz) [01:30]
6. Song: I am telling you this place is a dark wood (Moritz) [04:30]
7. Song: Wendla, I keep thinking I can hold you in a name (Melchior) [03:41]

Scene 3:
8. Scene 3: It's me! (Wendla, Melchior) [01:50]
9. Song: Would you like to beat me? (Wendla, Melchior) [03:30]
10. Zwischenmusik 1 [02:16]
11. Song: One must, one must, one must love! (Ilse, Wendla) [03:02]
12. Song: I don't know, I don't care! (Moritz, Wendla, Ilse, Melchior) [01:33]

Scene 5:
13. I passed, I passed, I passed! (Moritz, Melchior, Wendla, Ilse) [03:12]
14. Song: I feel so strangely spiritualized (Moritz) [03:18]

Scene 6:
15. Here is where you've hidden yourself! (Wendla, Melchior) [01:00]
16. Song: Don't kiss me! (Wendla, Melchior) [05:05]
17. Zwischenmusik 2 [01:08]

CD 2:
Scene 8:
1. Scene 8: Don't you sleep? (Moritz, Melchior) [02:31]
2. Song: I have no desire (Moritz, Melchior) [04:32]

Scene 9:
3. Song: I do not know, indeed I do not know (Wendla) [06:16]
4. Zwischenmusik 3 [01:52]
5. Song: All day it looked like rain but did not rain (Moritz) [02:44]
6. Song: What are you hunting, what have you lost? (Ilse) [03:07]

Scene 10:
7. Why did you frighten me so? (Ilse, Moritz) [01:40]
8. Song: Do you remember how we used to play? (Ilse, Wendla, Melchior, Moritz) [03:41]
9. I must go. (Ilse, Moritz) [00:59]
10. Song: It's getting dark (Moritz) [06:03]
11. Zwischenmusik 4 [01:46]

Scene 11:
12. Song: Be cheerful, Wendla, be cheerful! (Wendla, Ilse, Melchior) [07:14]

Total Time: 85:35

Executive Producer OehmsClassics: Matthias Lutzweiler
Recording Engineers: Marc Weis, Thomas Schuler
Mix: Moritz Bergfeld
Editing and mastering: Aaron Holloway-Nahum
Publisher: Juliane Klein
Stage Photos: Hans Jörg Michel
Liner notes, synopsis, and English translations: Cordula Demattio
Editorial: Christian Dieck
Libretto: Hans Thomalla after Wedekind's play Spring Awakening; Song Lyrics by Joshua Clover
Recorded Live September and October 2020 at Opernhaus Nationaltheater Mannheim

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