Udo Zimmermann


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A lyrical hymn against Nazism, the masterly contemporary opera Weisse Rose (1986) by acclaimed German composer Udo Zimmermann, one of the most stunning works of the late 20th century, receives its Greek premiere by the Alternative Stage of the Greek National Opera. The emblematic work, that established itself at the world’s most prestigious theatres, enthralling audiences and critics, is conducted by Nicolas Vassiliou and directed by Themelis Glynatsis.

Inspired by the resistance of 24-year-old Hans and 21-year-old Sophie Scholl, two siblings from Munich, who were the founding members of the anti-Nazi student group “Die weisse Rose”, Zimmermann composed a music work full of emotional power, unfolding right before the Scholls' execution for high treason. Historical re-enactment gives its place to a heart-wrenching, personal exploration of moral integrity, death and political responsibility.

Deeply moving and absolutely topical, Weisse Rose is an ode to the power of human will against fascism, and to the “inner resistance, a resistance that praises love, life and justice”, as the director characteristically notes.

Weisse Rose was directed by Themelis Glynatsis, one of the most prolific and restless Greek directors of his generation, actively involved in opera and music theatre staging. His rich résumé includes important productions, such as Winter Journey, based on Franz Schubert’s Romantic song cycle Winterreise (2015), Händel’s baroque masterpiece Alcina (2016) and 57 // a passion play in collaboration with Giorgos Koumendakis (2016).

The direction is a combination of deep innerness and violent outbursts in an environment that transforms from a cell into a space of memory and a field of resistance. “At the heart of the performance lies the solitude of the two characters, which does not help the audience decide whether they really coexist in the same vast space, or whether they communicate in another, more mystical way. Solitude, which imposes a second reality between memory and religious vision, leads to the need for redemption, and at the same time, to political aggression”, notes the director Themelis Glynatsis.

Hans Scholl is performed by distinguished tenor Christos Kechris, who –after his performance as “Cricket” in Minas Borboudakis’ opera Z– was called once again to tackle a role of high vocal and acting demands.

In the role of Sophie Scholl, the talented soprano Aphrodite Patoulidou, who has been carving out a brilliant international career, with important distinctions and appearances at major European theatres.

Filmed at the GNO Alternative Stage at the SNFCC on 17 November 2018. Greek and English subtitles available.


At a glance – Synopsis

“We will not remain silent, we are your bad conscience, the White Rose will not leave you in peace…” These are the closing words of the fourth manifesto of the anti-Hitler student group named “The White Rose” (Die weisse Rose), formed at the University of Munich. This particular manifesto was the cause for the arrest of the group’s leaders, Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie. After a long interrogation by the Gestapo, the siblings were executed by guillotine on 22 February 1943.

This is the historical framework surrounding Udo Zimmermann’s opera Weisse Rose, whose first version was written in 1967. However, the composer reworked his material in 1986, when he was asked to revive it for the Hamburg State Opera. The composer discarded the original libretto penned by his brother, Ingo Zimmermann, and entrusted the libretto of the new version to Wolfgang Willaschek, presenting a totally new work in sixteen scenes. In the new version, the action is no longer linear, and the characters are limited to two, the Scholl siblings. This version had its premiere at the Hamburg State Opera on 27 February 1986 and is the one presented by the GNO Alternative Stage.

Weisse Rose doesn’t follow a linear narrative path; it focuses on the emotional charge of the two characters awaiting their execution. The two characters sometimes talk to themselves, other times they talk to each other, but the audience is never sure whether these dialogues are real or just figments of Hans and Sophie’s imagination. Under this light, the work is not clearly historical, but uses historical memory to treat subjects such as moral integrity, political complicity and religious faith.

The work’s basic material are the memories of its two characters, their feelings and thoughts about the crimes committed by the Nazis. The libretto is a mixture of poetic language and facts, masterly portraying both the special mental vibrations of Hans and Sophie, and the violence that drove them to oppose the Nazi regime.

Through a composition that balances between almost absolute silence and densely-written musical explosions, Zimmermann moulds a special musical work which simultaneously converses with Bach’s oratorios and the modernist tradition, explores Hans and Sophie’s anxiety but also their innate romanticism, and denounces political passivity, complicity, and the conscious silence of a whole people in the face of destruction.

Creative team – Cast

Music Udo Zimmermann
Libretto Wolfgang Willaschek

Nicolas Vassiliou 
Director Themelis Glynatsis 
Set & costume designer Alexia Theodoraki 
Lighting designer Stella Kaltsou 
Video Marios GambierakisChrysoula Korovesi

Hans Scholl Christos Kechris 
Sophie Scholl Aphrodite Patoulidou  
Andonis Gritsis (actor)
With the participation of Irini-Anastasia Vougiouka

Marilena Dori (flute)
Κostas Yiovanis (oboe) 
Grammenos Chalkias (clarinet)
Μanos Ventouras (horn)
Spiros Arkoudis (trumpet)
Spyros Vergis (trombone I)
Ilias Vortelinas (trombone II)
Babis Taliadouros (percussion)
Stefanos Nasos (piano)
Thodoris Matoulas (harp)
Dionisis Vervitsiotis (violin I)
Franc Sestani (violin II)
Eleftheria Togia (viola)
Alexandros Botinis (cello)
Yiorgos Arnis (contrabass)

Video recording, TV director, editing Xenofon Vardaros
Greek translation Karolina Taktikou
English translation Themelis Glynatsis

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