How Munich reworks King Lear under Covid conditions

How Munich reworks King Lear under Covid conditions


norman lebrecht

May 20, 2021

The Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste is rehearsing Aribert Reimann’s opera of Shakespeare’s play at Bavarian State Opera.

He says: ‘Producing Lear in Covid times is a special challenge because of the distancing regulations. The size of the orchestra can’t be reduced because each string player has an individual part, so we couldn’t fit the whole orchestra in the pit. The brass and percussion players are in the Bruno Walter Hall, and the choir is yet in another rehearsal hall. There are assistant conductors for the brass and choir, and they can see me on their monitors. The sound is transmitted into the hall by speakers.

‘Reimann’s music belongs to the era of unrecognizable harmony. It is extremely difficult for the singers to find the right pitch, because hardly anything can be deduced from the orchestra. This music might possibly sound more ‘modern’ than the music of today. Nevertheless, the combination of the singing and the energy of the orchestra results in something quite unique. It’s no wonder Lear is regularly performed in opera houses.’



  • RW2013 says:

    The first singer of the title role was not terribly concerned about finding the “right pitch” in “unrecognisable harmony”.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Why not have all performers regularly tested, or have them vaccinated beforehand?

    And then:

    ‘Reimann’s music belongs to the era of unrecognizable harmony.’

    Viennese expressionism – à la Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, early 20th century, and sufficiently lugubrous to feel morally uplifted.

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    The title of the opera is “Lear”. It is NOT “King Lear.”