Opera by Christian Kolonovits

Libretto: Angelika Messner

Spanish translation: Adan Kovacsics

With: José Carreras, Sabina Puertolas, José Luis Sola, Carlo Colombara i. a.

Conductor: David Giménez

Director: Emilio Sagi

Debut: 26th of April 2014 at the Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao

Performing rights: Sotto Voce Edition

“It’s only one of many stories from the reservoir of fascist atrocities during the 20th century, although among the most infamous: During the Francoist dictatorship in Spain between 1939 and 1975, thousands of children were kidnapped and placed in convents or orphanages, to reeducate them in accordance with the regime. Their names were changed, their parents who had opposed Franco’s rule were branded and consequently eliminated as criminals, atheists, and even murderers. … After an 8 yearlong break, José Carreras, the son of supporters of the Catalan State as well as opponents of Franco, returned one last time to the world of opera in the production of the Austrian composer Christian Kolonovits, likely due to his connection with the material that is addressed in the story of the lost children. The libretto for “El Juez” was written by Angelika Messner. The story revolves around the judge Federico Ribas who is pressured by the chief of the secret police Morales to decree that the archives remain closed. Ribas himself is a lost child who was brought up in a convent. The songwriter Alberto García, through his songs and the search for his brother, sets a grassroots movement in motion opposing the silence of politicians and the church. Ribas signs the decree although he is torn. The situation develops into a confrontation with the protestors where, thanks to the journalist Paula, García and Ribas finally meet. The viewer is already aware that the two men are brothers since, as described in García’s rebellious song, their mother gifted Ribas a silk scarf before his abduction. As Ribas suddenly puts the pieces together a storm is brewing in front of the convent. The abbess, who was once labelled the black magpie for her role in the kidnappings, recognizes the danger her supposed Christian reeducation center is in. Meanwhile, Morales has abducted the judge’s young daughter and brought her to García’s childhood home in an attempt to manipulate and escalate the situation. But Alberto is no thief. He returns the child, gets shot by the secret service and finds out the identity of his long lost brother on his death bed… exciting, disturbing material … impactful scenes … “ (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

““Heart you can no longer rest, and god is watching”: Small children with large, fearful eyes sing this somber song alone and abandoned in a video projection at the debut performance of the opera “El Juez” at the concert hall in Erl. … The appealing and profound libretto comes from Angelika Messner and was translated into Spanish. … Standing ovation at the sold-out concert hall in Erl. “ (Kurier)

“The librettist Angelika Messner wisely connects history and personal fates.” (Deutschlandfunk)

“Roaring applause, bravos, standing ovations: The premiere of the opera “El Juez” by the Austrian composer Christian Kolonovits starring José Carreras in the titular role was celebrated in full force.” (Tiroler Tageszeitung)

Photos © Andreas Haunold