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“Frustratingly episodic”

This new collaborative work from Katie Mitchell is hard to define. The title, ‘Magic Land’ in English, comes from the text of one of Schumann’s songs and it takes as its basis his song-cycle Dichterliebe (Poet’s Love).

This is performed by US soprano and community activist Julia Bullock with the distinguished French pianist Cédric Tiberghien as her accompanist, initially in a standard concert setting. But two things interrupt and complicate the recital. Actors intervene, and together with Bullock turn the cycle into a piece of theatre representing, in vignettes, the troubling trajectory of an opera singer who has been forced to leave Syria and who eventually settles in Cologne.

She dreams of singing Schumann’s piece while remembering the trauma of her background and her journey; some of the representational scenes – as one might well imagine – are painful to watch.

The Schumann songs are also interspersed with new ones by Belgian composer Bernard Foccroulle using texts by Martin Crimp in which the woman relates memories of her past. Foccroulle’s songs refer only obliquely to Schumann’s cycle – an archetypal piece of German Romanticism dealing with rejected love.

While individual sections make an impact – referring to family memories, the death of her husband, flight from danger, and even episodes of violence, rape and torture – the larger picture obstinately refuses to come into focus.

The musical standards are high. Foccroulle’s settings, though long, match Schumann’s in sensitivity, while Bullock gives her all at the centre of a work that speaks for countless people in Europe and beyond its borders whose voices go unheard.

Related to this Review

Lucia di LammermoorLucia di Lammermoor

Production Details
Production nameZauberland
VenueLinbury Theatre
StartsOctober 15, 2019
EndsOctober 18, 2019
Running time1hr 25mins
ComposerBernard Foccroulle, Robert Schumann
DirectorKatie Mitchell
Set designerChloe Lamford
Costume designerChloe Lamford
Lighting designerJames Farncombe
CastBen Clifford, David Rawlins, Julia Bullock, Natasha Kafka, Raphael Zari
Stage managerVeronique Kespi
ProducerBrussels, Cict – Theatre Des Bouffes Du Nord, De Munt, La Monnaie, Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts, Opera De Lille, Royal
VerdictKatie Mitchell’s frustratingly episodic new collaborative work based on Schumann’s song-cycle
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George Hall

George Hall

George Hall

George Hall

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