In the house where her parents abused her and then slaughtered each other, Nadja is haunted by voices. She wants to get out. The estate agent brings customers eager to buy – to no avail. Nadja cannot free herself from the self-destructive need for her father’s love.
When Georg Friedrich Haas’s Bluthaus premiered this spring in Schwetzingen, it created great excitement. We already have operas about Jerry Springer, Anna Nicole and Angela Merkel – why not one about Natascha Kampusch? Now Bluthaus has come to the Theater Bonn, Schwetzingen’s co-production partner.
An idea that at first seems outrageous begins to make sense as Bluthaus unfolds. Händl Klaus’s libretto deals with the shattering events of Nadja’s past tangentially, through the narrative of a bustling day of real estate prattle. Potential buyers are cast as speaking roles. The only singers are Nadja, the estate agent, and the ghostly figures of her dead parents. Haas’s score, rich in microtones and eerie effects, adds to the sense of layered reality, of a present where the past causes erosion and slippage.
Bluthaus is arguably the most deft reflection on post-traumatic stress since Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. When Britten’s singers asked “How is it possible?” in 1946, they posed a deeper question about recent history. Natascha Kampusch and Elisabeth Fritzl’s narratives gave us a contemporary glimpse of the depths of our human capacity for evil, again leaving the question: How?
Bluthaus dares to examine the “how”, plunging deep into the realms of fear, ambiguity, abuse and complicity. Klaus’s text is richest for what is not said, and Haas’s dark, slithering score expresses a complexity of emotion well beyond the verbal. This is less a narrative of one freakish imprisonment, more a disturbing exploration of incest and its impact.
Klaus Weise’s production is clear and restrained, telling the story without adornment. Garrett Keast draws refined and concentrated playing from the SWR radio symphony orchestra and shapes Haas’s score with assured sensitivity. Sarah Wegener is superb as the brutalised Nadja, all ruined innocence and note-perfect clarity; Ruth Weber and Otto Katzameier create unearthly sounds as her ghostly parents; Daniel Gloger masters his character’s oily ambivalence with flair. The cast of 10 actors cross the boundaries between spoken and sung with impressive skill, their voices a minutely timed part of Haas’s lush web of sound.
Bluthaus deserves a life beyond Schwetzingen and Bonn.