Broadway World, Aug. 29, 2023
By: A.A. Cristi
Jonas Kaufmann To Appear At Park Avenue Armory In September
Breaking the conventions of traditional classical performance, Doppelganger dissects and expands upon the song cycle, incorporating additional Schubert repertory.

This September, Park Avenue Armory presents the world premiere of Doppelganger, a bespoke Armory commission that reimagines Franz Schubert's rarely staged song cycle Schwanengesang (“Swan Song”) as a multi-dimensional theatrical performance directed by Claus Guth, one of opera's most adventurous directors, and performed by renowned tenor Jonas Kaufmann with pianist Helmut Deutsch.

Breaking the conventions of traditional classical performance, Doppelganger dissects and expands upon the song cycle, incorporating additional Schubert repertory, an evocative soundscape composed by Mathis Nitschke, and transformative light and video projections, creating a production that is part performance and part installation art. Brought to life by Guth and visionary set designer Michael Levine in the monumental Wade Thompson Drill Hall—which serves as a central element within the work—the production progresses from a devasting depiction of a soldier's experiences at war to a contemplative reflection on his life as he nears its end, traversing a myriad of emotions along the way, from despair and delusion to ecstasy and love.

“We assembled these once-in-a-generation talents to create a remarkable piece at the Armory that is stirring and grand in scale, and—as with many bespoke Armory commissions—unexpected in form,” said Pierre Audi, the Armory's Marina Kellen French Artistic Director. “Kaufmann's iconic voice in the transcendent Drill Hall paired with Guth's inventive staging brings Schubert's sublime repertoire to life in a way that's never been seen before.”

“In partnership with these operatic and stage visionaries, the Armory is originating a production that makes a classic song cycle distinctly contemporary. Audiences used to seeing classical pieces performed in traditional proscenium venues will be surprised and delighted to witness Doppelganger, which makes the 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall feel like an intimate experience,” said Rebecca Robertson, the Adam R. Flatto Founding President and Executive Producer of Park Avenue Armory.

Composed in 1828 in Franz Schubert's final days, Schwanengesang (Swan Song) is a heart-melting collection of songs that sits at the pinnacle of a vocalist's repertory. Named for the last song “Der Doppelgänger,” in which a soldier sees their doppelganger and comes to terms with the fact that they did not return from war, the Armory's production begins as a realistic portrayal of a soldier at war with the staging of an operational field hospital in the Drill Hall. As the production progresses, Doppelganger transforms into an abstract representation of the soldier's thoughts, feelings, and reflections on life at the end of his days.

Guth and Kaufmann, who are longtime collaborators, have taken an experimental approach to Schubert's original score, deconstructing the song cycle and interspersing additional Schubert compositions as well as Nitschke's soundscape of live and recorded elements that evoke the naturalistic imagery portrayed in the libretto. Projections by rocafilm and lighting by designer Urs Schönebaum lend additional dimension and texture to these sonic elements.


 back top