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27. May 2014

Punch and JudyHarrison Birtwistle

A Tragical Comedy or a Comical Tragedy

»A brutalised puppet theatre with surrealist elements« was what opera expert Ulrich Schreiber called Harrison Birtwistle's »Punch and Judy«. And he is not so far from the truth in that: On the one hand, the acting characters of Punch and Judy are the ...

»A brutalised puppet theatre with surrealist elements« was what opera expert Ulrich Schreiber called Harrison Birtwistle's »Punch and Judy«. And he is not so far from the truth in that: On the one hand, the acting characters of Punch and Judy are the German counterparts of Kasper and Hanswurst, on the other hand, bizarre, in part really »black« humour characterises the action on the scene.

The evening-length one-act play, paradoxically given the subtitle »A Tragic Comedy or a Comic Tragedy« by the composer, resulted in a veritable scandal on the occasion of its premiere at the Benjamin Britten Music Festival in Aldeburgh in 1968. The scandal was caused by the plot which is far from easy to digest - Punch turns out to be a serial killer - as well as the music which uses flashy colours and in part seems to be almost aggressive. »Punch and Judy« is a »theatre of cruelties« with many references to the history of music, either Italian opera series or Bach's Passions or Stravinsky's sharp-edged »Geschichte vom Soldaten« (»The Soldier's Tale«). And with all that, Birtwistle's music is highly inventive, funny, and perky and shows a sense of bizarreness and inscrutability - the work of a member of the »Wild youth« in British avant-garde.



    VORWORT
    Pre-performance lecture, 45 minutes prior to each performance (in German)