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Judith Weir

Publisher: Chester Music

Blond Eckbert (pocket version) (2006)
Text Writer
the composer, after Ludwig Tieck
Chester Music Ltd
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub Category
Chamber Opera
Year Composed
1 Hour 0 Minutes
English, German
Soprano, Mezzo soprano, tenor, baritone

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Programme Note
Judith Weir Blond Eckbert (pocket version) (2006)

Eckbert and his wife Berthe live in seclusion in the Harz Moutains. One stormy night, Eckbert's friend Walther arrives and, to while away the time, Berthe tells him her life story. Walther mysteriously knows a great deal about Berthe' s early life and Eckbert's suspicions grow, eventually leading him to murder Walther during a hunting expediton. Consumed by terror and suspicion, Eckbert retreats into seclusion and revisits the fairy-tale scenes of Berthe's childhood, accompanied by a magical singing bird. He encounters the old woman who raised Berthe, and at last learns the terrible truth about Walther, Berthe, and himself.

© Judith Weir

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  • 21 MAY 2011
    Vlaamse Opera, Antwerp
    Musziektheater Transparent / Oxalys Ensemble
    Robin Engelen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    22 May - Rotterdamse Schouwberg, Rotterdam
    6,9 August - Bregenzer Festspiele, Theater am Kornmarkt, Bregenz
  • 08 FEB 2010
    Kiel, Germany
    Orchester Kiel
    Bettina Rohrbeck, conductor

    Other Dates:
    15 February - Kiel, Germany
  • 21 NOV 2009
    Pembroke College, UK
    Pembroke College
  • 16 NOV 2009
    Theater Kiel, Germany
    members of the Philharmonische Orchester Kiel
    Bettina Rohrbeck, conductor

    Other Dates:
    18,25 January 2010; 8,15 February 2010 - Theater Kiel, Germany
  • 16 NOV 2009
    Theater Kiel

    Other Dates:
    7 December; 18 January 2010 - Theater Kiel
  • 21 FEB 2008
    Vienna, Austria
    Vienna Chamber Opera
  • 02 NOV 2007
    Landestheatre, Innsbruck, Austria
    Landestheater Innsbruck

    Other Dates:
    4,10,23 November; 2,6 December - Landestheatre, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 24 OCT 2007
    Berliner Kammeroper, Berlin, Germany
    Berliner Kammeroper

    Other Dates:
    26-28,30 October - Berliner Kammeroper, Berlin, Germany
  • 14 JUN 2006
    Linbury at Royal Opera House
    The Opera Group
    Owen Gilhooly, baritone; Heather Shipp, mezzo-soprano; Claire Wild, soprano; Mark Wilde, tenor; Patrick Bailey, conductor

    Other Dates:
    15,17 June - Linbury at Royal Opera House
    18 June - Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
    30 June - Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
    2 July - Cheltenham Festival
    8 July - Oxford Playhouse
    29 July - Crescent Theatre, Birmingham
  • Mecklenburgische Staatstheater

Review of Operadagen (Opera Days) Rotterdam (…) Blond Eckbert by the British composer Judith Weir on Sunday showed how increasing madness can have a much more subtle and therefore more probing effect. The festival theme ‘lost paradise’ was clearly apparent in this dark fairy tale, in which a secluded life in and amongst nature is upset by frightening revelations. Atmospheric black and white images, shot live on stage, honoured Hitchock’s style. It formed a perfect complement to Weir’s sober lyricism, performed with growling suspense by the Oxalys Ensemble.
Floris Don, NRC Handelsblad ,23/05/2011
Weir has combined the two short acts into one, slightly trimmed the piece – it now runs for just over an hour – and rescored it for chamber orchestra. The clarity of her musical thought is enhanced, and so is its lyrical beauty, a lyricism (it must be stressed) without a whiff of retro-conservatism. Her voice is entirely her own, and it is one of the most original and attractive in today’s world. The clarity of the music and the near-impenetrability of the folk tale by Ludwig Tieck on which the opera is closely based together set up endless possibilities. The device of having a chirpy Bird narrate the action, and Weir’s skill at telling a story through music, suggest a certain cheerful innocence, but it is a teasing innocence. Weir can change the dramatic mood within a couple of bars, as at the moment when the musically ‘innocent’ strangers passing the homicidal Eckbert suddenly become terrifyingly threatening. Paranoia certainly plays a part in the scenario; so perhaps do crime and punishment – and much else. It is a work one wants to see and hear again and again, in the same way as one does Così fan tutte, for the sheer beauty of the music and the ever-changing variety of response to the deceptively simple action.
Rodney Milnes, Opera,01/08/2006
Judith Weir's music evokes this romantic angst and mystery with a tenderness and passion reminiscent of Janácek.
Peter Reed, The Sunday Telegraph,02/07/2006
With her three-out-of-three success rate, Judith Weir must be considered one of the most successful British opera composers since Britten. As she is a dedicated composer of chamber music and a self-confessed “miniaturist”, Weir’s “reduction” of the Blond Eckbert scoring brings an enhanced clarity to the textures and throws her hauntingly beautiful, songful wind-writing into sharper relief. This is one of the most ravishing operatic scores written in the past 15 years, inspired by the romanticism not only of Tieck, but also of Schumann and Brahms, although it sounds like neither and could only have been written in the latter half of the 20th century.
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times,25/06/2006
Weir creates a hauntingly beautiful sound-world and a restless, sinister atmosphere for this hour-long fantasy. Using 10 instrumentalists with the consummate skill for which she is justly celebrated, she paints an eerie musical canvas, finely calibrated as to colour, texture and rhythm.
Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph,23/06/2006
Judith Weir writes less-is-more opera. She is mistress of the momentary epic, of tragedy at a glance. Blond Eckbert, in its original staging (for ENO, 1994), ran for just over an hour. Here, in this new version for chamber ensemble, it is cut further back, with the confidence of a composer who knows how to turn sacrifice into gain. She makes of Ludwig Tieck's enigmatic nightmare (1812), about Blond Eckbert and his wife Berthe (Weir is responsible for the libretto too), a taut, piercingly beautiful piece. Director John Fulljames and designer Adam Wiltshire boldly convert fairytale to sinister sitcom: an Edward Hopper interior, without the sunshine. Eckbert and his wife must pay for Berthe's childhood crime: the theft of a magic bird. The bird itself is arrestingly sung by Claire Wild: part raven, part jetty cabaret act. Owen Gilhooly's Eckbert, Heather Shipp's Berthe and Mark Wilde's Walther - bumbling botanist and false friend - all sing splendidly too. But the greatest pleasure is Weir's hyper-sensitivity to narrative mood. When Berthe remembers her childhood, each note from the rippling harp seems to mark the passing of another blameless day. When she needs to be frightened, the orchestra - fastidiously conducted by Patrick Bailey - alerts us, pounding like a heart at bay.
Kate Kellaway, The Observer,18/06/2006
Judith Weir's Blond Eckbert has always been a model of operatic economy, condensing a dark fairy tale into an hour's worth of pithy music, scored for just four soloists. But now there's a new version that is still more pared down. Weir has reduced the scoring of the piece from full orchestral to chamber forces, and in a new production by John Fulljames for The Opera Group, the piece sparkles with a magical, luminous charm. The new orchestration makes Weir's music sound even more marvellously concise and communicative. With the simplest of means, like the florid melismas that define the vocal lines of Claire Wild's performance as the Bird, Weir creates a character at once mythical and human. It's a musical world that captures the ambiguous emotional story of Blond Eckbert, based on a fairytale by Ludwig Tieck. Eckbert and his wife Berthe are visited by Walther, who mysteriously knows the names of Berthe's childhood pet, a dog called Strohmian. Eckbert grows suspicious and shoots Walther, only to find out, through the visitation of an old woman, that Berthe was in fact his sister. He dies in insane agony. Weir's brilliance at musical narrative is enhanced in a miniature story-cycle in the first half, Really?, in which she wrings a world of imagery from the smallest of musical ideas, like a viola solo or a harp chord.
Tom Service, The Guardian,16/06/2006
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