Marilyn Forever 2020
February 8, 2020

Marilyn Forever Saarbrücken

I was invited to the German premiere of Marilyn Forever at the Saarland Opera. This is the sixth different production of the opera and contained many things that had not appeared in others – all entirely justified and successful. The Vienna production  in 2018, for example, had introduced the idea of a young child on stage, something that is not referred to in the score or libretto, but which gives added poignancy at key moments. Here there was a young child too, but also a teenage girl, neither of whom sang. It was part of the production’s overall psychologically dark interpretation where the small chorus (the “Tritones”) were often very sinister in their movement, appearance and acting, and the male protagonist (the “Men”) reinforced this – one of the company referred to it as a kind of danse macabre. The singing and the acting were of the highest order – and this is an opera where the acting demands are substantial – with the two soloists Marie Smolka (Marilyn) and Stefan Röttig (The Men) giving stunning performances . The instrumental ensemble was superb but, unlike other performances the onstage jazz trio was with the rest of the instrumental ensemble, at the back of the stage  behind a gauze curtain, though the jazz bass and tenor sax emerged onto the main stage at key moments. The tenor sax, who played some lovely jazz solos and obligatos, had changed the mouthpiece to get the right early 60s sound… 

The conductor was Stefan Neubert and the staging was by Barbara Schöne.

Gavin Bryars