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We Come to the River
Aaron Pegram: Feldwebel
Although greatly admired, most opera houses have been wary of staging this work by Hans Werner Henze. A quick glance at the cast of characters tells your why: the composer has written more than one hundred roles into his seventh opera, which is performed on no fewer than three visual levels. An opera? We come to the River is constructed like a mosaic from eleven narratives for music, and can be seen as the final expression of the composer’s social criticism: terror and violence permeate a grotesque story revolving around an unscrupulous general. When he learns that he will go blind, the general finally recognises the horrors of war and the brutality of his regime. However, this realization leads him first to the madhouse, and then ensures his own murder. And at the river, where the story reaches its conclusion, life and death part company.