William Kentridge’s Latest Musical Project Premieres

Winterreise; Franz Schubert / William Kentridge; Director and visual concept development: William Kentridge; Baritone: Matthias Goerne; Piano: Markus Hinterhäuser; Wiener Festwochen, Vienna; June 8, 2014. Photo credit: Lukas Beck

South African artist William Kentridge‘s multimedia collaboration with German singer Matthias Goerne, Winterreise, premiered to glowing reviews at this year’s Aix-en-Provence festival. According to a report in the New York Times, the project was one of the most anticipated of the festival and “opened to stormy applause,” there Friday.

The new project involves 24 stop-motion films made up of animated ink drawings and collages that “offer a visually mesmerizing and thought-provoking commentary on Schubert’s song cycle,” alongside a performance by Goerne, who was accompanied by Austrian pianist Markus Hinterhäuser. Even the paper that Kentridge draws on is noteworthy, and includes old maps, newspapers in Afrikaans and English, and the ledger of a mining company.

Many of the images Kentridge presented hark back to his childhood in Johannesburg, watching his father listen to a recording of “Winterreise” by German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the English pianist Gerald Moore. The one criticism that reviewer Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim had of the current project was the  fact that she felt the films tended to compete with the “superb” performance by Goerne for viewers’ attention.

“The resulting films have a raw honesty and sense of magic that I admired a great deal,” she writes. “But I found myself wishing that they had been grafted onto that Fischer-Dieskau recording—perhaps as part of a museum installation that I might revisit.” She also compares it to Kentridges’ earlier production of Shostakovich’s The Nose, calling it a “zany and brilliant project” that became one of the season highlights at the Metropolitan Opera in 2010.

Winterreise, or “White Light,” is coming to Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on November 11, as part of White Light Festival.

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