Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Die Soldaten receives a run next summer at the Lincoln Festival in a version originating from last year's Ruhr Triennale production in Germany under Jürgen Flimm. To take place in the Seventh Regiment Armory in Manhattan, the July production will feature the Bochumer Symphoniker (with 110 instruments flanked by a giant percussion addition) led by Steven Sloane, and a cast of forty.
Also to be adapted from the German production is a track-mounted seating system that will shift listeners in and out of the stage area (at a speed reportedly slow enough to be imperceptible).
Previous stagings have varied in scope and faithfulness to Zimmermann's first version, which called for up to 12 acting areas each with its own instrumental ensemble. The Cologne Opera House commissioned the work in 1958 but deemed it impossible to carry out. Zimmermann finished in 1964 a simplified version, musically and dramatically reduced in scale; published in 1966, the score still calls for multiple acting levels and three projection screens. Following its premiere in Cologne, the work was widely regarded as the most important German opera since Berg’s Lulu.
Based on the 1775 play Jakob Lenz, Die Soldaten follows the descent of a shopkeeper's daughter into whoredom. The work was favored by Georg Buchner, author of Woyzeck, on which Berg based Wozzeck; the latter served in turn as a model for Zimmerman's Soldaten. As in Wozzeck, Soldaten's central character succumbs to societal malice; scenes in both are also written against such traditional musical forms as the chaconne, ricercar, toccata and nocturne.
Die Soldaten was given its U.S. premiere in Boston in a 1982 performance conducted and directed by Sarah Caldwell. The New York City Opera, conducted by Christopher Keene and produced by Rhoda Levine, gave its New York premiere in 1991.
Casting for the five Lincoln Center Festival performances will be announced later.