What is this anguish that each of us carries inside? That’s the central question of Thomas Larcher’s chamber opera Das Jagdgewehr that premiered at the Bregenz Festival in 2018. It’s based on a 1949 novel by Yasushi Inoue about a hunter, the three women in his life and the poet to whom he sends the women’s letters. It’s a stark, intense tale of love, death, secrecy, loss and betrayal told in a prologue and eleven scenes over about an hour and a quarter.
André Tchaikowsky’s The Merchant of Venice was written in the years leading up to his premature death in 1982 but, despite interest from ENO in the 1980s, it did not get a full performance until David Pountney decided to stage it at the the 2013 Bregenz Festival with Keith Warner directing. It’s hard to explain the neglect though Pountney ascribes it some degree as the fate of the emigré (the composer being a Polish Jew domiciled in the UK). The Merchant of Venice is a really solid piece. It’s got all the elements; a strong story, a really interesting but not overly intimidating score and really good writing for voice (it really is singable). It’s the right length at around two and a half hours and it doesn’t call for unreasonable orchestral or vocal forces. John O’Brien’s libretto even manages to overcome some of the objections to staging Shakespeare’s play. While one might consider the Shakespeare piece to be antisemitic, O’Brien’s libretto is much more clearly about anti-semitism. There’s also a clear homoerotic element in the Antonio – Bassanio relationship and perhaps too in Portia – Nerissa.