F E A T U R E D R E V I E W S
The eternal Stranger, UK premiere
BBC Philharmonic, Wellber, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review
Brilliance and nuance alongside new visions of heroism and freedom
by Robert BealeTuesday,
08 March 2022
There was something extraordinarily powerful and moving about Saturday’s Beethoven commemoration concert by the BBC Philharmonic and its chief conductor, Omer Meir Wellber.
If that didn’t stir emotions enough, the UK premiere of The Eternal Stranger and the Beethoven pieces was certain to do so. Its conception was based on something recorded in one of Beethoven’s letters: he told his friend and publisher Tobias Haslinger that he’d had a dream in which he journeyed to the East – Syria, India, Arabia and Jerusalem – and in Jerusalem his friend himself appeared. Israeli author Joshua Sobol wrote a poem based on this, and in turn it inspired Milch-Sheriff to compose, using parts of the poem telling of someone, possibly a refugee, in an unknown, hostile environment, and remembering Beethoven’s own experience of being an odd one out, lonely and considered a “stranger”.
The new work has a narrator, in this case Eli Danker, who brought it to life by moving around the platform and finally leaving it for the stalls, at one point laying out what seemed a kind of prayer mat, and joining in with some drumming as well as reciting the almost rap-like rhythmic lines of the poem (in German) in measure with the music.
The musical writing is approachable, making references to Arabic and Jewish themes and to Beethoven, but in a way that’s quite unselfconscious and never over-clever: to an English-speaking audience the textual details of the poem may not all be obvious but the overall impression is clear enough, and for today its message is very much about the tragedy of war and the plight of the refugee.
"The eternal stranger"/Teatro Massimo, Palermo, 4-5 July 2020
The eternal stranger of (directed by) Wellber is enchanting.
A hymn to the human mercy on stage.
A stranger, the solitude, the isolation and around him a language that does not communicate, the sense of unsurpassed hostility in this Monodrama, acquire the vibrations, the impetus, the rhythmic mobility and the strong ignitions that Ella Milch-Sheriff pours out of her musical world, oriental , with a motion at times of a dramatic march and with strong expressive accents. Wellber, with the awareness of an already thoughtful familiarity, affects the dynamism with expressiveness in the arcs of which the bows and violins in the foreground outline weaves of significant changeability. And, almost without noticing , the passage reveals the Choir on the stage with the quartet of the soloists at the tables on the back of the Hall for the Beethovenian Mass.
The Banality of Love" – Opera by Ella Milch-Sheriff
Libretto: Savyon Liebrecht. Stage Director: Itay Tiran
World premiere: 27 January 2018, Regensburg, Germany
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 1 February, 2018, Achim Heidenreich
"The Banality of Love": Ella Milch-Sheriff has created with virtuosity, a merciless opera about the relationship between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger."
"With the world premiere of the opera "The Banality of Love" by the Israeli composer Ella Milch-Sheriff, the Regensburg Theater courageously presents an uplifting and disturbing journey, often ironic, about the rift in German-Jewish relations."
"It is a virtuoso operatic evening that raises questions that are not easy to answer."
Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 28 January, 2018, Eva-Elisabeth Fischer
"The Banality of Love", Ella Milch-Sheriff's superb opera about the relationship between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger is premiered in Regensburg with great success."
"A Herculean undertaking which wins a grandiose success: The opera, commissioned and premiered at the Regensburg Theater, staged by the Israeli Itay Tiran which is marked by periodic reminders and is full of expressionistic touches."
Opernwelt, 1 March 2018, MICHAEL STALLKNECHT
A world premiere of elemental power.
In a tight dramaturgy, "The Banality of Love" condenses events on two ever-interlinking time-planes.
Seldom have you seen theater images like that.
Such haunting theatricality is also expressed by the music.
Intensive cantilenas. Transparent orchestration.
DIE DEUTSCHE BÜHNE Michaele Schabel, 30. January, 2018
"The Regensburg premiere of Ella Milch-Sheriff's opera "The Banality of Love" is much more than a banal love story. It aims at the lower level of human existence with all its distortions, becomes a metaphor for a sociopolitical turn of events, and thanks to the great music, the rich libretto and the exciting staging, it is a very special operatic experience."
E V E N T S
for clarinet, violin, viola and violoncello
Intonations Festival, Berlin
"The eternal stranger"
for actor and orchestra
Eli Danker, actor
Omer Meir Wellber, conductor
April, 28, 29, 30
"The Banality of Love", opera by Ella Milch-Sheriff, Libretto: Savyon Liebrecht. Staging: Itay Tiran
Review, Norman Lebrecht, 25 February, 2018