Andrew Ager’s Führerbunker is a short chamber opera depicting the events leading up to Hitler’s suicide in April 1945. It’s a tautly constructed work in which many short scenes are woven into a seamless and compelling whole. It flies by and its 45 minute length seems even shorter. The score is spare, even brutal, as befits the subject matter. The composer told me he had initially envisioned something Wagnerian but feared that that must descend into pastiche. He made the right decision. So, the piano line is minimalist with elements of serialism and very little support for the singers. It’s a style that has perhaps been largely discarded (in north America at least) but here it was startlingly effective. Perhaps the crappy Tranzac Club piano contributed to the effect!
Michael Albano’s staging is essentially literal but well worked out and very slick. I think the sense of pace and tension it engenders is crucial to the atmosphere that makes the piece work. Performances are strong across the board led by an extraordinary portrayal of Hitler by tenor Jonathan MacArthur. Apart from singing a difficult score very well he had the mannerisms down pat. It was quite eerie. Strong performances too from David Roth and Stephanie Kallay as the Goebbels and Kelsey Taylor as the naive secretary Traudl Junge, who, of course, was one of the principal sources for life in the bunker. But really, MacArthur aside, it’s a bit unfair to single out anyone from a fine cast. This is difficult music and it was very well presented by an essentially all student ensemble. The composer himself was at the piano.
Führerbunker is presented by the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy and is playing in the back room at the Tranzac Club (so at least you can take a drink to your seat). There is one further performance tonight at 7.30pm. It’s a small space and I don’t know if tickets are still available but this one is well worth seeing if you can.