Personalities | Wolfgang Rihm | Modern Era | Opera

b. 1952, German

Initially a student of Stockhausen, Rihm, like several other German composers of the 1970s, moved away from the intellectual and structural forms of serialism in favour of a more expressive and flexible approach. Rihm was drawn to the work of Frenchman Antonin Artaud and his ‘Theatre of Cruelty’, which Artaud defines not as an artistic spectacle but as a communion of actors and spectators. Accordingly, Rihm has used orchestral texture, vocal shadings, range and dynamics to create a passionate and extremely accessible lyricism that distinguishes him from other modern opera composers.

Of his six highly imaginative and ambitious stage works – the 40-minute Faust und Yorick (1976); Jakob Lenz (1978); Die Hamletmaschine (‘The Hamlet Machine’, 1986), in which a cross-dressing Hamlet and Ophelia clash with Lenin, Marx and Chairman Mao; Oedipus (1987); Die Eroberung von Mexico (‘The Conquest of Mexico’, 1992); and Séraphin (1994) – both Eroberung and Séraphin stand as particular examples of Rihm attempting to illuminate the psychological, not through narrative or text, but by way of aural drama. Little known in Britain or America, he has had a significant impact on the European scene.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Personalities | Kaija Saariaho | Modern Era | Opera
Techniques | Serialism | Modern Era | Opera


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