Highlight of this year’s Biennale, however, was ›Wasser‹ by Arnulf Herrmann.

Marco Frei, Die Welt

Herrmann’s music is capable of a great deal. The tiniest gestures follow on from one another using variations and drawing enormous energy out of their very essence.

Reinhard Brembeck, Süddeutsche Zeitung

Stage designer Adriane Westerbarkey succeeds in creating a convincing metaphor: A panorama window reaching almost to the floor in the initial scene gives rise to the hope of looking out on something like a garden.

Benedigt Stegemann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

This intense chamber play lasts just one hour - but nevertheless carries us off into another world.

Martin Grunenberg, Frankfurter Neue Presse

Arnulf Herrmann has written a breathtaking piece of music for this one hour psycho trip. Florentine Klepper turned this complex artwork into a convincing piece of music theatre.

Jörn Florian Fuchs, Deutschlandfunk

This world’s intense magnetism towards perception evolves from a breathless accuracy of the combined parts, and it quickly becomes clear why and how this thoroughly ambiguous piece was the highlight among the works that were world premiered at the Munich Music Theatre Biennale four weeks ago. [...]

Hans-Jürgen Linke, Frankfurter Rundschau

So it is not only the constellation of musical direction, stage direction and stage design - usual practice in operas - that shapes the scene, it is a complex archipelago of manifold elements that creates a unique world of its own on the stage.

Hans-Jürgen Linke, Frankfurter Rundschau

Wasser

Arnulf Herrmanns Musiktheaterwerk auf ein Libretto von Nico Bleutge

›Wasser‹ (Water) is the title of the first musical theatre work by the Berlin-based composer Arnulf Herrmann, setting a libretto by Nico Bleutge. It was directed by Florentine Klepper.

The work tells a story which oscillates fluidly between experience and dream: A man awakes disoriented in his hotel room. In the lobby he walks into a soirée of some sort. He feels he ought to know the people there, but memory fails him. Everything seems strangely askew and out of place, even the music. It comes from a record that is not centred, and therefore emits peculiarly distorted correlations. He believes that he has seen the woman he asks to dance before, but he doesn’t recognize her. Is his dead lover appearing to him? They meet several times, but the closeness they try to achieve fails. It transforms into growing distance that in the end cannot be breached. Everything that seems within grasp flows out of shape, and the entire scenario disappears.

Arnulf Herrmann has not set a rigid libretto to music; his sound world and Nico Bleutge’s poetry – which has parallels to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice – come into being in a process of mutual stimulation. The composer gave each scene its own sound world, its own text-music relationship, own structure and form. Three scenes appear more than once but are different, distorted, in a state of suspense between identity and difference. Some scenes follow, musically, the principle of rotation, as if searching for memories. Others develop in a definite direction. In the end connections and identity dissolve. The metaphor for all this is water, an element that hides much, leaves much to be guessed at but gives nothing away.