Konrad Junghänel conducted the Potsdam Winteroper in 2013, bringing to life a project he had been trying to get off the ground for 20 years. In the spotlight: a lesser performed oratorio of G.F. Händel, namely Jephtha. Instead of a static performance with orchestra, soloists, and choristers, the Potsdam Winteroper invited American director Lydia Steier to create the staging.
The result was spectacular. Set in the beautiful (but very cold) Friedenskirche, the staging made the use of the long wide space to install a long wooden table and decked it out with a row of around 20 students (singers from the Chor der Potsdamer Winteroper, including yours truly!) attending what appeared to be a slightly off-kilter science lesson. Christian Ballhaus conducted the lesson. What appeared at first to be just a bunch of teenagers decked out in Hogwarts style uniforms flirting and throwing spitballs got uncomfortable fairly quickly. Jephtha (the unlikely teacher’s aide) got sent away to lead the Israelites into victory and came back only to confront the pact he made with God on the field to sacrifice the first person he laid eyes on. Most unfortunate for his daughter Iphis.
Lothar Odinius was a compelling Jephtha. Being on stage and getting to close my eyes and listen to his “Waft her angels” every night was truly special. Maria Streijffert as Storge was a feisty and dynamic contralto who stole the show with her “Scenes of Horror”. Katja Stuber charmed us all as Iphis, with her beautiful precision and incredibly gorgeous vocal colour it was almost at times like her voice was coming straight from the orchestra. Magid El-Bushra was a joy to watch and hear. Being in the 20 voice choir for this production was a load of fun, and thanks to Lydia Steier for giving us the freedom to play and to create our own little stories and dramas.