From Rolsanind Plowright, OBE:
I learned with sadness of the death of one of the most avant-garde directors, the great Hans Neuenfels.
Slipped Disc mentioned its controversial and enlightening production of Aida in which I had the pleasure of singing the title role for four seasons and in over 50 performances. I liked it. It was not just the insight he brought to characters and story, but the way he challenged every conceivable idea that opera and even theater in general took for granted. Frankfurt paved the way for the advancement of modernism in opera and his Aida paved the way in Frankfurt.
That’s not to say Aida hasn’t met her detractors. He did, both inside and outside the house. I remember one evening during the Judgment scene. Amneris, dressed in a long silk nightgown, standing in a mud pit, wearing misted glasses and surrounded by three cardinals in their red robes, all scourging her with whips. A member of the public shouted: “It’s a shame for the Catholic Church” bringing the answer: “If you don’t like it, you can leave”, followed by several other participants of the public who have a very loud argument .
On the opening days for reservations for each season, queues for tickets circled the building and within an hour the “Ausverkauft” lights came on for every part of the Städtische Bühne. Neuenfels challenged his singers and audiences by creating art at its most intense.
I’ve always believed that the work of art, of any art, is to take people on a journey away from themselves and into another world and bring them back safely at the end . The greater the experience of this journey, the greater the art. Hans Neuenfels gave us all massive journeys throughout his extraordinary life and for my part I mourn his passing as a great loss to the world of theater and opera while considering myself so lucky to have been at the center for a few short years. RIP dear Hans.