Park Avenue Armory presents the world premiere of “Doppelganger”, a reinterpretation of Franz Schubert’s rarely staged song cycle Schwanengesang (“Swan Song”). Director Claus Guth and renowned tenor Jonas Kaufmann, together with pianist Helmut Deutsch, aim to revolutionize this classic song cycle into a vibrant, multi-dimensional theatrical production.
Conceived specifically for the Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall and presented as part operatic performance, part installation art, “Doppelganger” disrupts conventional classical performance traditions. The monolithic Drill Hall serves as an integral part of the production, with the story unfolding within the space’s grandiosity, lending tangible resonance to the soldier protagonist’s emotional journey from war to contemplating the end of his life.
Guth and set designer Michael Levine have meticulously crafted the details of the stage set that transitions from a realistically portrayed field hospital to an abstract panorama of the soldier’s mental landscape. “The historical location played a crucial role,” said Guth, as they were inspired by the architecture of the Drill Hall, aiming to create a narrative that could “really have happened here”. Guth envisions the enormous space of the Drill Hall as a platform to convey effectively the theme of solitude in Schubert’s work.
Combining traditional Schubert compositions, soundscape designed by Mathis Nitschke, Urs Schönebaum’s light design, rocafilm’s video projections, and Michael Levine sets, “Doppelganger” creates an immersive world that encapsulates the end of a life. The title, chosen after the final song of Schubert’s cycle, represents the theme of coming to terms with one’s mortality, a motif deeply inscribed in the Romantic tradition.
“Doppelganger” represents an ambitious effort to contemporize Schubert’s song cycle, redefining classical pieces performed traditionally in proscenium venues. The creative collaboration between Guth, Kaufmann, Deutsch, and Nitschke under the auspices of the Armory, makes “a classic song cycle distinctly contemporary”, making the expansive 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall emanate an intimate atmosphere and creating an immersive musical experience that brings Schubert’s work to life for a new generation.