Schahrazade by Bernhard Sekles in Halle

It is gratifying that a number of German opera houses are keen to explore the works of Jewish composers that were banned by the Nazis. Schreker and Korngold being two prominent examples. I confess that the name of Bernhard Sekles was unknown to me. His opera Schahrazade was first performed under Furtwängler in 1917 and successfully given across Germany in the 1920s. In truth it is not a great work, with a particularly weak second act. The tonally-based music is most interesting when it incorporates oriental themes and timbres. The libretto by Gerdt von Bassewitz, while departing from the familiar Arabian Nights story to engage with Freudian ideas of woman and sex, is mainly conventional. Perhaps the piece would have made a greater impact if the production by Axel Köhler at the Halle Opera had been less traditional and more imaginative. In his introductory talk, the theatre Dramaturge justified this approach on the ground that the work was totally unknown. Maybe, but it did not need to be so dull. Among the soloists, Gerd Vogel stood out for the strength of his threatening portrayal of the Calif.