Eine Winterreise

Eine Winterreise is a show conceived and created by Christof Loy and presented and recorded at Theater Basel in 2022.  What it’s not is Schubert’s Winterreise. with or without staging.  Loy describes it as a “kaleidoscopic” look at Schubert’s life through his music.  So the show is a compendium of Schubert’s vocal and instrumental music with a bit of spoken text.  It runs about 100 minutes but only 24 or so are music from Winterreise, of which only six of the twenty-four songs are included.


The staging concept is that Anne Sofie von Otter is a putative “older” Schubert looking back on aspects of his life.  The younger Schubert is played by actor Nicolas Franciscus while dancers play the other parts. Kristian Alm is Schubert’s playboy friend Schober (he who wrote the words for Viola and An die Musik), Matilda Gustafsson is a courtesan (perhaps the one who gave Schubert syphilis) and Giulia Tornarolli is Viola.  Kristian Bezuidenhout is at the piano and Claudio Rado makes a couple of appearances on violin.


In many ways it’s well done.  Von Otter may have retired from opera but she’s still a very accomplished recitalist and sings the many songs in this piece beautifully.  Maybe she dramatises some of them more than she would in recital.  “Auf dem Flusse” is an example but I think it’s legit here even if I would tend to deprecate such an approach in a Liederabend.  Bezuidenhout is exceptionally good throughout.


It’s really the staging that doesn’t work for me.  It’s essentially a series of disjointed scenes with no clear narrative.  The four (mostly) silent characters are used in various ways including short stretches of dance (which I assume Loy choreographed himself).  They are competent and Franciscus reads some of Schubert’s writing very nicely.  But there’s a lot of seemingly pointless chasing around and a lot of just sitting around in chairs.  It ends cleverly with von Otter reading a fragment from the Epilogue to Die Schōne Müllerin and then turning the lights out.  But to be honest by that point I was rather bored and a bit irritated.


It’s not great as a film either.  Video director Friedrich Gatz has a hard time finding anything interesting to film plus it’s all rather dark. Video quality on Blu-ray is OK though as is the PCM stereo sound (no surround option).  The booklet has a track listing and a useful (essential really) conversation between Loy and his dramaturge about what it’s all about.  Subtitle options are English, French, German, Japanese and Korean.


Normally I’m supportive of trying to stage art song and I’ve seen successful stagings of Winterreise.  But then Winterreise has a clear narrative and musical coherence, both of which are somewhat lacking in Eine Winterreise.


Catalogue number: NBD0165V


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