Lear (opera)

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Opera by Aribert Reimann
Erwin Leder as the Fool and Bo Skovhus as Lear in a 2012 production at the Hamburg State Opera
LibrettistClaus H. Henneberg
Based onKing Lear
by William Shakespeare
9 July 1978 (1978-07-09)

Lear is an opera in two parts with music by the German composer Aribert Reimann, and a libretto by Claus H. Henneberg, based on Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear.

Background and performance history[edit]

Reimann wrote the title role specifically for the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who had suggested the subject to the composer as early as 1968. Reimann then received a commission from the Bavarian State Opera in 1975. The world premiere, in a production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle with Fischer-Dieskau in the title role, occurred at the National Theatre Munich on 9 July 1978, with Gerd Albrecht conducting.[1]

The production was revived in Munich in 1980.[2] The US premiere, in English translation, was presented by the San Francisco Opera in June 1981, with Thomas Stewart as Lear, under Gerd Albrecht.[3][4][5] The Paris premiere took place in November 1982, in a French translation by Antoinette Becker.[6] The UK premiere was presented by English National Opera in 1989;[1][7][8] the Swedish premiere took place at the Malmö Opera on 27 April 2013 with Fredrik Zetterström as Lear.


One notable departure from operatic convention was to make the part of Lear's Fool a speaking role, rather than a sung role. In addition, compared to the Shakespeare original, the parts of Kent and Edmund, for example, have been greatly reduced.[1]

Role[9] Voice type[9] Premiere cast 9 July 1978[10]
(Conductor: Gerd Albrecht)
Lear baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Fool spoken role Rolf Boysen [de]
Goneril, daughter of Lear dramatic soprano Helga Dernesch
Regan, daughter of Lear soprano Colette Lorand
Cordelia, daughter of Lear soprano Júlia Várady
Duke of Albany baritone Hans Wilbrink
Duke of Cornwall tenor Georg Paskuda [de]
King of France bass-baritone Karl Helm [de]
Duke of Gloucester bass-baritone Hans Günter Nöcker
Edgar, son of Gloucester tenor/countertenor David Knutson [de]
Edmund, illegitimate son of Gloucester tenor Werner Götz [de]
Earl of Kent tenor Richard Holm
Servant tenor Markus Goritzki
Knight spoken role Gerhard Auer
Chorus: servants, guards, soldiers, Lear's and Gloucester's retinue


The orchestral score requires:[9]



  1. ^ a b c Graeme, Roland (2001). "Lear. Aribert Reimann". The Opera Quarterly. 17 (1): 158–161. doi:10.1093/oq/17.1.158.
  2. ^ Marker, Frederick J., "Theatre in Review: Lear (Aribert Reimann)" (March 1981). Theatre Journal, 33 (1): pp. 112–114.
  3. ^ Rockwell, John (17 June 1981). "Lear by Aribert Reimann". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-06.
  4. ^ Walsh, Michael (29 June 1981). "Three Premieres, Three Hits". Time. Archived from the original on April 11, 2008. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  5. ^ Commanday, Robert (30 September 1979). "Reimann's King Lear – Hysterical Raw Emotion". San Francisco Examiner. p. 212. Retrieved 21 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com. continued on page 214
  6. ^ Lieblein, Leanore, "Theatre Review" (Périclès, Prince de Tyr / Lear) (May 1983). Theatre Journal, 35 (2): pp. 262–263.
  7. ^ Heyworth, Peter (29 January 1989). "A Lear and a grope". The Observer. London. p. 47. Retrieved 21 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ Canning, Hugh (24 January 1989). "Born of the thunder storm". The Guardian. London. p. 37. Retrieved 21 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ a b c "Aribert Reimann – Lear". Schott Music. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
  10. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Lear, 9 July 1978". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  11. ^ Griffiths, Paul, Review: "Reimann. Lear" (1980). The Musical Times, 121 (1644): p. 107.
  12. ^ "On-line catalogue entry Reimann – Lear – Albrecht". Deutsche Grammophon. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
  13. ^ "On-line catalogue entry Aribert Reimann – Lear". Oehms Classics. Retrieved 9 October 2010.

Further reading[edit]