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In memoriam Graham Vick

(1953 – 2021)

If there was one thing Graham Vick did not care about in the course of his long, happy career as an opera director, it was convention: All the expectations of what musical theatre should look like never played a role in his work, probably because Vick was always concerned with exposing the innermost feelings of the characters on stage - if it were necessary to find a common denominator of the numerous productions he has worked on in the course of more than forty years, it would surely be this unconditional, unsparing concentration on the human.

In 2011, Berlin opera audiences were able to experience just how much Graham Vick had refined his keen eye for the states of mind of the great opera characters in the course of his life when he returned to Bismarckstraße with his production of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. This had been preceded twenty years earlier by a production of Verdi's OTELLO on Bismarckstraße, created in 1991, at the time when the man born near Liverpool in 1953 was just one of the new names on the international opera scene. He had been director of Scottish Opera since 1984 and three years later, in 1987, he had founded an independent company, the Birmingham Opera Group Company, which became known as a musical theatre laboratory far beyond the borders of the United Kingdom.

The psychological pull of Vick's view of the great opera material only became apparent to the Berliners again with his TRISTAN: Wagner's love drama became the desperate attempt of an ageing couple to come to terms with their own past - a balancing act between harsh realism and disturbing dream images.

A collaboration that soon continued: In recent years, Vick was among the directors who were to shape the look of the Deutsche Oper: in 2016 with the premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas' MORGEN UND ABEND, a story about the lonely death of a Norwegian fisherman, then in 2017 with Britten's DEATH IN VENICE, again material that was to prove ideal for Vick's depth psychology: There was to be admired a mastery that both provided the grand framework of surreal imagery, but also responded to the music's sonic gestures with minimalist precision - and confidently dispensed with any mere illustration of Venetian lagoon atmosphere.

 

This celebrated performance was to be followed by a new production of Tchaikovsky's PIQUE DAME, scheduled for May 2020, but postponed due to the pandemic.

Graham Vick will no longer be able to direct the rehearsals: He died on 17 July at the age of only 67 as a result of a Covid 19 infection. The Deutsche Oper Berlin will honour his memory.

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