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Stephen Eddins, February 2010

Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s harrowing 1936 opera on the devastation of the Thirty Years’ War, Simplicius Simplicissimus, has long been recognized as a major work, probably the most important military-themed German opera between Wozzeck and Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten, but it is rarely performed outside of Germany, so it is good to have a performance available on video…the 2005 production from Staatsoper Stuttgart has some musical virtues, particularly the beautifully sung and characterized protagonist of Claudia Mahnke…The singing is often very fine, particularly Michael Ebbecke as the Mercenary, Heinz Göhrig as the Governor, and Mark Munkittrick as the Captain. Mahnke delivers a star performance, giving the production at least one element of coherence. Kwamé Ryan leads the Staatsorchester and Staatsopernchor Stuttgart in the composer’s first version of the opera, which uses a much smaller orchestra than his 1956 revision, but he also happily includes the musically substantial and deeply effective Interlude that the composer added to the score in 1939.

James H. North
Fanfare, March 2008

The music is acute German expressionism, more advanced than Hindemith’s, and more awkward. As befits its subject matter, it has little beauty but much power. This production is of the chamber-orchestra original… Rather than following a cohesive plot, we are given a series of Brechtian snapshots; there are even touches of Weill’s Mahagonny in the music. A small yet excellent orchestra carries most of the musical interest, so that the performers on stage can stress the dramatic. While there is both speech and song, the latter is simple and direct, often not far above recitative. The characters generally express themselves in brief phrases that offer little chance for lyricism. Nevertheless, the whole hangs together well, making as strong a musical impression as it does dramatic. Mahnke’s portrayal of Simplicius is extremely moving, from his first terrified reactions to strangers, through his gradual education, to his final prophesying. The other characters are well managed, but the production is needlessly mystifying and occasionally silly, perhaps in a misguided search for depth. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

Guy Rickards
Gramophone, January 2008

Claudia Mahnke is superb in the title-role, bearing comparison with Helen Donath, …Frank van Aken is the pick of the rest as the Hermit, but Michael Ebbecke is suitably menacing as the Landsknecht and Mark Munkittrick seedy as the misogynist Captain.

The Stuttgart State Opera Chorus and Orchestra support brilliantly throughout, Kwamé Ryan melding the complex musical tapestry into a compelling whole. © 2008 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

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