The summer of 2014 marks one hunder years since the beginning of the World War I. And here we have an interesting coincidence: the first opera premiere of the year 2014 presented by the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre shall be dealing with the subjects of war and yearning for love. On 20 and 21 February the main stage of the LNOBT shall welcome the premiere of Cornet, written by an internationally renowned Lithuanian composer Onutė Narbutaitė after Rainer Maria Rilke‘s poem The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke, a work that was extremely popular during the years of World War I.
Interestingly, various translations of the poem could be found in the backpacks of soldiers on both sides of the front lines. The poem itself was published in 1906 and was inspired by a brief inscription in the writer’s family chronicles about his supposed distant relative. In the poem he died prematurely during the war, after experiencing the first night of love.
Director Gintaras Varnas shall place the story of the opera in two contexts of history and time – beginning of the 20th century and the 17th century. Together with “charismatically melancholic” music by O. Narbutaitė (it was so described by famous American critic Richard Taruskin), impressive costumes by Juozas Statkevičius, a mesmerizing world depicting the aestheticism of secession and baroque. Set designs created by Medilė Šiaulytytė shall shun the trivial reality of everyday life by welcoming symbols and a subtle play of colours.
“This opera is not a direct re-singing of the text; it is rather an interpretation, or even an improvisation based on Rilke’s text. The basic story of this opera deals with war and love, to be precise – with yearning for love, as well as yearning in the broadest sense of the word. The story is also enriched by the dreams of the Cornet,” – said composer O. Narbutaitė.
The images of Cornet’s dreams were inspired by another source of literature – The Dreaming Youths, written and illustrated by Oskar Kokoshka in 1907. In the opera one shall also hear texts created by Georg Trakl (who served as a volunteer during the World War I), Charles Baudelaire, Oskaras Milašius, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Paul Celan and Jacques’o Prévert. According to O. Narbutaitė, the work functions as a mosaic, “cemented” by the poem of Rilke.
The concept for this new production was presented already in October of 2013, and currently Cornet is already being actively rehearsed in stage and musical rehearsals. The musical side of the new work is prepared by LNOBT’s music director, conductor Robertas Šervenikas, an expert of contemporary music.
The opera shall be performed by an array of both young and already experienced soloists: Tomas Pavilionis and Mindaugas Zimkus (Cornet), Eglė Šidlauskaitė and Jovita Vaškevičiūtė (the Countess), Gunta Gelgotė and Dovilė Kazonaitė (Dream Girl), Tadas Girininkas and Liudas Norvaišas (General), Eugenijus Chrebtovas and Jonas Sakalauskas (Rainer Maria Rilke), Julija Karaliūnaitė and Regina Šilinskaitė (Magdalene), Vilija Mikštaitė and Laura Zigmantaitė (Woman in a Red Dress), Rafailas Karpis and Mindaugas Jankauskas (Contemporary), Egidijus Dauskurdis and Raimundas Juzuitis (Publisher).