Actually, the Antichrist is Here!!!
20 years ago (in the period I call “My Youth”) I worked part time as a
clerk at Tower Records. I fell in love with the music of Rued Lanngaard and
saw in the catalog an opera called “Antikrist.” I had to have it.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t ever obtain a copy, but the idea of it stuck in
my head forever.
I nearly “plotzed myself” (as Charlie would say) when I recently stumbled
across a DVD of Lanngaard’s “Antikrist.” I’ve watched it twice now and must
say, after my initial letdown of not seeing Satan himself wreaking hell on
earth, I'm growing to absolutely love the piece. (And with the recent boo-
wars here on Opera-L, Satan's work seems almost tame by comparison!)
The performance is from the Royal Danish Opera and it is a fascinatingly
odd production. An almost entirely bare stage (enormous) with occasional
props (tables, chairs, the organ, etc.) creates an air of vastness to the
proceedings – a wise choice by director, Staffan Holm. I must admit
initially the set reminded me of the vast Spanish Riding School and,
initially, I kept waiting for the arrival of the Lipizzaner Stallions to
give us a nice Grand Quadrille!
Rather than the evil, sadistic opus I was hoping for, Lanngaard’s opera is
almost more of an oratorio, a meditation if you will, contemplating the
Antichrist’s effect on modern society. The ideas embraced by Lanngaard may
have been a bit shocking when he penned his opera, but today, they wouldn’t
be out of place being discussed in Sunday School.
The cast is dressed mostly in solemn black, with a turn of the 19th century
feel, lending a church parable – “let’s put on a show” quality which feels
strangely right. With no recurring characters, those needing a typical
linear-style operatic tale might need to look elsewhere, but those wanting
to experience something new (circa 1920’s) will find plenty to fascinate
and running at a mere 96 minutes, it’s relatively painless.
Musically, Lanngaard’s glorious, sometimes bombastic score, owes an
enormous debt to Wagner and Strauss and fans of these composers, should
have no problem wrapping their ears around Lanngaard’s very tonal core. The
Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard along with the
cast of fine Danish singers all seem to be having a grand old time – and
who wouldn’t! Most of the names are unfamiliar, but many will recognize
Poul Elming (he of the Kupfer Berlin Parsifal fame), but almost all of the
singing is uniformly exquisite with biggish voices from attractive Danes in
some big BIG music.
The DVD also features a documentary which I’ve not yet watched, but which
sounds rather interesting.
I really recommend this!
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