aria, Bachfest Leipzig, Bad Lauchstädt, Cleofide, Dresden, European Route of Historic Theaters, Goethe-Theater, Hasse, Leipzig, opera, performance practice, Perspectiv, recitative, scenery, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
This summer’s Bachfest Leipzig will include a production of Johann Adolph Hasse’s Cleofide, which is thought to have been seen by Johann Sebastian Bach and his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, at its 1731 premiere in Dresden. Both performances of the opera, on 13 and 14 June 2012, will take place in the Goethe-Theater located in Bad Lauchstädt, a small resort town located about 50km west of Leipzig. While this Festival production will retain most of the Italian-language arias and ensembles, the recitatives will be replaced with a German-speaking narrator charged with telling the two and one half hour story of an Indian Queen caught between the attentions of Alexander the Great and the affections of her long-time lover.
Although Cleofide is generally considered to be Hasse’s greatest operatic success, it is possible that as many Festival patrons will be traveling to Bad Lauchstädt for the scenic novelty of the production as for the aural experience. Originally built in 1802, the relatively dimly-lit stage of the Goethe-Theater is outfitted with the types of scene-change mechanisms that represented the state-of-the-art in the eighteenth century. Through the use of a system of interconnected windlasses, pulleys and ropes, a receding series of painted linen flats and borders, depicting the interior of a sumptuous palace, can be instantaneously exchanged for other perspectives, such as a wind-swept snow field or a moon-lit forest. Many twenty-first century audience members find such special effects, which were widespread in the Baroque era, to be as astonishing as some of those experienced in modern films.
Because of the special attention paid to historical theatrical performance practices at the Goethe-Theater, Perspectiv – Association of Historic Theaters in Europe, which is dedicated to the conservation and restoration of historic theaters, has included the Goethe-Theater on its European Route of Historic Theaters.