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Music Text

Libretto by Werner Fritsch and Uta Ackermann; English translation by Lisa J. Coppack (G,E)


S,colS,M,T,highBar,Bar,speaking role; mixed chorus;
1(=picc).2.corA.0.bcl.1.dbn-0.2(=picctpt).2.1-timp.perc(3):I=5tom-t/SD/anvil/t.bells/vib/tgl/whip/wdbl; II=plate gong/tam-t)lg)/watergong/chin.cym/susp.cym/anvil/SD/vib/whip/tamb/crot/wdbl; III=BD/whip/glass chimes/SD/crot/gong in lo Eb/wood dr/hammer/wdbl-harp-pft-cel-hpd(ampl)-elec.org-strings(

Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes / Bote & Bock

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Bremer Theater, Bremen
Tilman Knabe, director
Conductor: Rainer Mühlbach
Company: Bremer Theater


DUKE Buffo bass
NAEMI, Joseph Süß´s daughter Mezzo soprano
MAGICIAN Heldenbaritone
MAGDALENE, Weißensee´s daughter Soprano
GRAZIELLA, the duke’s mistress Coloratura Soprano
EXECUTIONER Speaking role
Time and Place

1738, a dungeon


The opera is an attempt to do justice to the historical figure of Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, financial adviser at the court of Karl Alexander of Wuerttemberg, but without indulging in cheap idealization. For not only was injustice done to the real Oppenheimer in history but also afterwards, in literary treatments of this figure, particularly in the infamous film by Veit Harlan. Süß is surrounded by a vortex of power, financial dealings, religious rivalry, Jewish traditions and Jewish mysticism, and the opposing pulls of sexual pursuit and his fatherly love for his daughter Naemi. He is for a time the guarantor of the court’s splendour and a beneficiary of the Duke’s insatiability but becomes the victim of a coup d’Etat. His greatest opponent at court, the Municipal Councillor Weißensee, plots against Süß and blames him for the civic turmoil, there-by taking revenge for what he views as the double disgrace of his daughter Magdalena, who is not only the mistress of the Duke but also the beloved of Süß. At the same time Weißensee reveals to the Duke the whereabouts of Süß’s daughter Naemi resulting in her harassment and ultimately her death.When the coup d’Etat fails, the Duke dies of a stroke. Joseph Süß is made the scapegoat, thrown into prison, and sentenced to death by hanging. This is the point in his story when the opera begins. In his prison cell, the voices of the living and the dead assail Joseph Süß as in a nightmare. They condemn him, evoke recollections of his successes, or want to free him from his present plight. However, Joseph Süß rejects all possibilities of saving himself. Towards the end, his refusals turn into prayers, and the prayers turn into screams of fear of death: they are louder than the voice of his dead daughter calling him to her, but also louder than the drum that calls him to his execution.
Uta Ackermann/Werner Fritsch

Press Quotes

"The fate of Joseph Süss Oppenheimer provides history with an example of latent antisemitism in Europe – the Nazis misappropriated this story in a perfidious propaganda film. Glanert and his librettists consciously closed the circle, succeeding in balancing on the precarious tightrope walk between the stereotypical ‘coming to terms with history’ and allusions to the contemporary era. Take it for granted, at this near sell-out world premiere, that the pupil of Hans Werner Henze exercises his audience energetically with sudden harmonic changes and percussive insistence, punching holes in the historical patina with sharp-pointed sonorities, razor-sharp instrumentation and occasional electronic effects... Their breath taken away, the Bremen audience responded with sustained applause." (Gert Deppe, Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, 16 Oct 1999)

"[The opera] carries such contrasting elements that it makes Glanert’s musical score sound ever more gripping, more varied and more appealing. There are lyrical, transparent and chamber music-like passages alongside piercing, keenly sharpened sound masses; soft, melodic singing lines alongside angular interval leaps and sprechgesang of approximate contour; skilful and atmospheric ensembles are set against rhythmic murmurs and the collective outcry. But going beyond such stylistic qualities are Glanert’s witty play with form, quotation and collage, without which his characteristic individuality would be incomplete... The audience responded with unanimous cheering and bravos." (Gerhart Asche, Opernwelt, Dec 1999)

"This work by one of the most important of developing opera composers is audience-friendly and ideally suited to the theatre. The opera managers who were present will take this message back to their own houses." (Jörg Königsdorf, Der Tagesspiegel, 20 Oct 1999)


Dramatic, Poetic, Tragic

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