The Arts

Spoleto Festival USA – Wolfgang Rihm's Proserpina

Spoleto Festival USA – Wolfgang Rihm's Proserpina featured image

Reviewed by Paula Citron

Spoleto Festival USA is presenting Proserpina by composer Wolfgang Rihm which had its premiere in Germany just last year. The text, based on a monodrama by Goethe, is a metaphor about the poet’s beloved sister and her loveless marriage. Proserpina presents the inner torments of Persephone, who was abducted to the Underworld by Hades.

In terms of music, Rihm is a son of Richard Strauss, and you can hear woodwind and brass echoes in his music which is rich in orchestral colour. He even quotes passages of Gluck and Mozart outright. The offstage female choir representing the Fates is gorgeously mysterious. The vocal lines are arioso, the music modernist.

Soprano Heather Buck gives a sensation performance of this tortuous score, conducted with dramatic flair by John Kennedy. The production has an intriguing modern day treatment by director Ken Rus Schmoll.

The problem is Goethe’s text. There is just not enough emotional excitement in the turgid poetry itself.


Spoleto Festival USA
Music by Wolfgang Rihm (based on a monodrama by Goethe)
Conducted by John Kennedy
Starring Heather Buck (with Jason Bruffy and members of the Westminster Choir)
Memminger Auditorium, May 30 to Jun. 9, 2010
Charleston, South Carolina

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