Driven by dark intrigues

Verdi’s powerful opera ‘Luisa Miller’ contains some of the composer’s most beautiful music.

Israeli Opera presents Luisa Miller 370 (photo credit: Bettina Stoess)
Israeli Opera presents Luisa Miller 370
(photo credit: Bettina Stoess)
Starting on January 3, the Israeli Opera presents Luisa Miller, one of Verdi’s most important operas.
This story of love and desire, passion and hate is based on Friedrich von Schiller’s gripping drama Kabale und Liebe. It features characters that are driven by dark intrigues, and they perform some of Verdi’s most beautiful music. There will be 13 performances until January 19.
Daniel Oren, an Israeli conductor with a successful international career, who knows how to thrill the audience with operatic passions, will lead the Israeli Opera cast, which includes local and international singers.
The production of Luisa Miller was originally created in 2000 for the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, by prominent German stage director Gotz Friedrich, who until his death in 2000, served for almost 20 years as the Deutsche Oper’s general director and had scores of opera productions on the world’s most prominent stages. At the Israeli Opera he directed Saint-Saens’s Samson et Dalila, Bach’s Mattheus Passion and Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.
The production of Luisa Miller has been revived by Gerlinde Pelkowski, who has been working as an assistant and revival director at the Deutsche Oper Berlin since 1981. In addition to her revival projects, she has quite a few directorial successes of her own.
“This is not a historical production – it doesn’t take place at the time it descries,” says Pelkowski in an interview on the eve of the Israeli premiere of Luisa Miller. “That said, this is not the kind of show where everything is turned inside out just for the sake of it: Gotz Friedrich could invent stories within stories, but he never did anything that went against the text or the music.”
She goes on to explain, “There is not a lot of stage decoration or costumes, which allows one to concentrate on the singers and on the emotions, on the story above all.”
Speaking about the late Friedrich, with whom she worked as an assistant for 20 years, Pelkowski stresses, “He was very honest about the story and could back every action on stage by a word or by the music of the piece. He brought more stories into a show. For example, in big operas every chorus member has a story of his own.”
What is important for Pelkowski herself as a revival director? “I worked mainly as Friedrich’s assistant. My job was to maintain his ideas when the opera was presented in different theaters. Granted, Friedrich had to make some changes himself, such as the size of the stage, etc., but he never changed his directorial concepts, even if people didn’t like it. So this is my job. I revived his earlier productions, and they are full of life and people love it because there are so many things to think about in his shows. My aim as a revival director is to explain to every new cast of singers what it was like in the original production and to put it all together.”
Being a director in her own right, Pelkowski admits, “Although the work of a revival director is often difficult, I still like it. And being the assistant to a good director is always a pleasure – you learn a lot. I started working with Friedrich in 1981, and I think that was the best way to get into my job.”
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