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27.05.2022 at 19h00 CET
Friday, May 27, 2022 - 19:00

Theater Bonn

Leonore 40/45

Franco-German love in war and post-war  

Operas | Liebermann

Albert and Yvette fall in love in Paris but at a bad time. It’s 1941. He is an occupying German soldier and clarinettist. She is a young French-Czech pianist. When the post-war authorities declare ‘No marriage between enemies!’ who can help the young lovers? Enter Emile: part Emcee, part guardian angel.


Leonore 40/45 is an opera written by Rolf Liebermann, Swiss composer and former artistic director of the Paris Opera. The style of the opera belongs to the 1950s, rooted in the 12-tone tradition of Schoenberg and Berg but lightened by lyric interludes and ‘semiseria’ sending up. The 1952 premiere in neutral Basel was a success but the subject matter proved too sensitive for audiences in Germany in the 1950s for whom reconciliation evoked collaboration. This October 2021 staging is part of Fokus ‘33, an ambitious programme by Theater Bonn to revive forgotten works from the first half of the 20th century. Liebermann was active in bringing opera nations together as the first President of FEDORA, the European Circle of Philanthropists of Opera and Ballet. He might have approved of OperaVision sharing this first staging of his opera for over 60 years with audiences online across the world.

Recorded in October 2021 at Theater Bonn. 


Sung in German and French. Subtitles are available in English and German.

Available from
27.05.2022 at 19h00 CET

Available until
27.11.2022 at 12h00 CET

YvetteBarbara Senator
Germaine, her mother / A white haired melomaneSusanne Blattert
AlbertSantiago Sánchez
Hermann, his fatherPavel Kudinov
LejeuneMartin Tzonev
Monsieur EmileJoachim Goltz
A young Massenet enthusiast / The PatronessKatrin Stösel
A SoldierChristian Specht
The first president of the CourtJeongmyeong Lee
The second president of the Court / An old melomane / An educated man etc. Michael Krinner
A Waiter / A Newsvendor / A JudgeTakahiro Namiki
First prisonerJusto Rodriguez
Second prisonerEnrico Döring
ChorusChor des Theater Bonn
OrchestraBeethoven Orchester Bonn

MusicRolf Liebermann
TextHeinrich Strobel
ConductorDaniel Johannes Mayr
DirectorJürgen R. Weber
Set DesignerHank Irwin Kittel
Lighting DesignerFriedel Grass
Video DirectorGretchen fan Weber
Chorus MasterMarco Medved
Chorus RepetitorIgor Horvat & Pauli Jämsä

Seriously satirical

Leonore 40/45 is a sharply profiled work, which stands out from the ‘norm’ by virtue of both its musical and its textual structure.   It enjoyed a successful Basel premiere in 1952 but subsequently provoked pro and con demonstrations during the 1950s. Bonn’s landmark rediscovery will soon be followed by its Austrian premiere in Linz and it will also be performed in Vienna as part of the Musikfest.

Leonore 40/45 is a witty, amusing and thought-provoking work. The librettist Heinrich Strobel, music writer, editor of the Melos magazine and musical director of the Südwestdeutscher Rundfunk, belongs just as much to the contemporary, progressive guard as his colleague (also musical director) from the Zurich station, the composer Rolf Liebermann. Both possess wit and sharpness, stage-savvy instinct and those attributes - say, jest, satire, irony and deeper meaning - that give this opera its impact.  

Seriousness and satire, hilarity and the grotesque are juxtaposed in harsh contrasts.  A German and French petty bourgeois milieu, on a stage divided in two as a prelude; a concert hall, as the platform of an anti-atonement demonstration; Paris, in the throes of invasion; the choral ensemble of German prisoners; the shop of a French instrument maker; the half-realistic, half-spooky tribunal (which could be by Wedekind): - all these images are enlivened with characters who have their sharp profiles. The old and everlasting story of two lovers separated by their nationalities is spread over the whole, while the connection between the scenes is placed in the magical hands, or in the head, of Monsieur Emile - a supernatural figure, half philosophical emcee, half disillusionist conjuror.

On one side, it is an opera seria, but without the pathos of classical times, which were filled with world-weariness or ideas of redemption. On the other side, it is an opera buffa, unmasking that descriptive phrase, and with a happy ending giving the theatre - partly in French, partly in German - what belongs to the theatre.  

Liebermann has written music to accompany this anti-chauvinist, partly amusing, partly stirring opera text, which travels its own way through its style, its adaptability and its intellectual, yet witty, content. Its ancestors are Weill and Brecht, Paul Dessau, even Ernst Krenek, but no direct analogies should be made, because Liebermann decidedly has his own musical style, which has nothing in common with eclecticism. Since a music conditioned by the concept of opera semiseria has to refrain from extraordinary difficulties, the composer mostly uses a relatively simple, unproblematic language...

Hans Erich Apostel
In: Österreichische Musikzeitschrift, Vienna, 1953.