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Julie Comparini

Contralto. Early and new music.

Interdisciplinary theater projects.

Cover art: ©Simon Brown
Cover art: ©Simon Brown

After being delayed twice due to pandemic conditions, the song cycle Watershed, composed in 2020 by Ailís Ní Ríain for myself and pianist Yonit Kosovske, could finally be recorded in August 2021 at Pine Valley Studio in Killaloe, Ireland and is now available for purchase or digital download.

The recording includes the 25-minute song cycle as well as readings by poet Jessica Brown from her book And Say, from which the Watershed texts were chosen. The poems reflect upon the Irish lake Lough Derg near Limerick, and other natural landscapes in Ireland. The locations themselves can also be heard on the CD in the form of field recordings by Ròisín Berg, Leo Wolstenholme, Wolodymyr Smishkewych and Ilani Smishkewych Kosovske.

The premiere performance of Watershed will take place in Limerick, Ireland on March 1st, 2022.

Foto: ©Felix Patzelt
Foto: ©Felix Patzelt

Cases are going down, vaccinations are progressing and concerts are slowly becoming possible again, starting with open-air performances. Concert-goers in Bremen can enjoy Romantic music in a romantic setting with a "Notturno" in the beautiful Bremer Bürgerpark, featuring music by Brahms and Herzogenberg for solo quartet and choir as well as a wild ride through more than one hundred years of songs for and about work and workers: "Locomotive Breath" presented by the Arbeitnehmerkammer Bremen. Click on the links or visit the calendar page for more details -- and hope for good weather!

The pandemic continues to rage around us and unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to live with it for a while longer. As a result, very few concerts can be scheduled, and those that have been planned have had to be postponed again - for example, the premiere of Watershed, which will now take place in March 2022.

In the hope that continued vaccination efforts and the rise of rapid testing will make cultural events possible again in some form, a few concerts are being planned for summer 2021, at least. Hang in there and we'll hopefully see each other (with masks and social distancing) then!

WAVE~LINKS is a new series of online videos exploring connections between music and artisanry, produced by Yonit Kosovske as part of the launch of H.I.P.S.T.E.R. (Historically Informed Performance Series, Teaching, Education and Research), a new organisation co-directed by Vlad Smishkewych and herself.

Many professional musicians perform or engage with other artistic genres, and these "outside" interests offer a lot of insight into the relationship between music and other art forms and the richness of creative process. WAVE~LINKS features creative artists around the globe sharing their insights into links between music and poetry, painting, pottery, photography, dance, knitting, weaving, fermentation, wood working, and more, and serves as a platform to discuss the shared spaces between music and these other fields.

Julie Comparini's contribution to WAVE~LINKS was included in the November 7th, 2020 H.I.P.S.T.E.R. online launch and is now viewable on Youtube. For links to the rest of the launch videos as well as forthcoming WAVE~LINKS contributions, visit H.I.P.S.T.E.R.'s web site, Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Click here to see the video: Knitting is H.I.P.

Yonit Kosovske, with whom I performed the contemporary song cycles Poems of Love and the Rain and Games, has recently received an Irish Arts Council Music Commissions Award for composer Ailís Ní Ríain to write Watershed, a new song-cycle for Yonit and myself on poetry from the book And Say by Jessica Brown.

Ailís Ní Ríain is an award-winning Irish contemporary classical composer and published playwright whose works incorporate a wide spectrum of performing, visual and literary arts. The poems from And Say reflect upon the Irish lake Lough Derg near Limerick City, and other natural bodies of water throughout Ireland.

The world premiere of Watershed will take place in Limerick, Ireland in March 2021, with a recording and further performances planned in 2021 and 2022.

Although most concert activity remains on hold during the pandemic, some performances have become possible under strict safety regulations and new projects are being planned for 2021 which will hopefully be able to take place under more or less normal conditions.

The faster and more effectively we get the pandemic under control and the better we all follow the guidelines for reducing transmission (keep distance, wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid unnecessary contact), the sooner we'll be able to resume performances, so stay healthy, stay sensible, and stay optimistic! It will get better someday.

As it said in the Bach cantata:

Now I weep, for the tumult of the world delights in my sorrow;
Soon the time shall come when my heart will rejoice...
How I will rejoice, how I will be restored,
when all fleeting sorrows have passed!
I will shine like the stars and glow like the sun,
and no sorrow, weeping or clamour
shall thwart my divine and blessed joy.

(BWV 146)

In order to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, concerts and theatrical performances of all kinds have been cancelled in most European countries until September 2020.

We understand that it has to be done, since large gatherings in enclosed spaces and choral singing are, unfortunately, extremely effective ways to spread the virus. At the same time, this is a terrible situation for us freelancers, who have extremely limited financial and legal resources to balance out the income we will lose.

Thank you to all the concert organisers, governmental agencies and other organisations who have promised and delivered financial help via cancellation fees, grant funds and the possibility to teach remotely.

We hope that at least some of the concerts will take place at a later date, when the situation has improved. Until then, stay healthy and let's hope we all get better soon.

Photo: ©Felix Patzelt
Photo: ©Felix Patzelt

And hast thou seen the castle,
The castle by the sea?
The golden clouds float o'er it
In bright-hued majesty...

There really is a castle by the sea - or at least, by the waterside - in the little town of Poppenbüttel near Hamburg: Burg Henneberg. Built by two local members of the Henneberg family in 1887 as a small-scale replica of a medieval fort, this "world's smallest castle" is now partially open to the public and presents a wide variety of concerts and cultural events.

In order to suit the size and atmosphere of the castle's concert hall (the former throne room), Julie Comparini adapted the program Meeresleuchten to be performed by one soprano, one alto and piano. Like Meeresleuchten, Das Schloss am Meere explores the magical worlds and fantastic creatures of the deep sea, as expressed in the music of the Romantic era. Lush and poetical at the beginning, the mythical fantasies gradually evolve into ominous and realistic images of the sea's hidden perils.

Admission is with ticket reservation only. You can reserve tickets here.

Anna Terterjan, soprano
Julie Comparini, alto
Suwon Kim, piano

Sunday, March 29th, 4:00 pm
Alsterschlößchen Burg Henneberg, Marienhof 8, 22399 Hamburg (Poppenbüttel)

Photo: Library of Congress Archives
Photo: Library of Congress Archives

Good things come in threes -- or more!

Some of the most successful projects of the last few years are returning to the stage in the spring of 2020, starting with repeat performances of Thomas Larcher's opera Das Jagdgewehr. Two years after its world premiere at the Bregenzer Festspielen, it is now being produced by the Dutch National Opera at the Opera Forward Festival in Amsterdam on March 17th and 19th. The Meeresleuchten will bring Romantic visions of sirens and otherworldly underwater realms to the seafarers of Bremen-Vegesack on April 5th, and the ever-successful Brechtliederabend Denn für dieses Leben ist der Mensch nicht gut genug is traveling to Worpswede on April 25th, with further performances planned in and around Bremen in autumn and winter.

For details and tickets to all performances, click on the links above or check the calendar page.

Die Schwärmerei für die Natur kommt von der Unbewohnbarkeit der Städte.
(Bertolt Brecht)

Foto © Cosima Hanebeck
Foto © Cosima Hanebeck

Bremen's popular Brecht-Revue Denn für dieses leben ist der Mensch nicht gut genug returns with four performances in the 2019 season. Under the direction of Peter Schenk, Julie Comparini, Evelyn Gramel, Manja Stephan and the Bremer Kaffeehaus-Orchester perform arrangements of songs by Paul Dessau, Hanns Eisler und Kurt Weill along with new musical and theatrical settings of selected texts by Bertolt Brecht.

The season starts with a performance at "die theo" in Bremerhaven on June 6. Details (in German) are here. Further performances follow on August 31 and November 2 and 23. More information and ticket reservations are available on the website of the Bremer Arbeitnehmerkammer in the weeks before each performance. Ticket reservations are recommended!

"Bert-Brecht-Chansons at their best." (Nordseezeitung, 8.5.2017)

"Soprano Manja Stephan, American expat Julie Comparini and jazz-savvy Evelyn Gramel were impressive in their acting talents and the strength and clarity of their singing." (Weser-Kurier, 20.2.2018)

Photo: Gloria
Photo: Gloria

Who hasn't dreamed of someday being a star? Celebrity life promises success, riches, and the adulation of millions -- but it comes at a price. The fourth Musikfilmfestival Bremen will explore the dark underbelly of fame from February 7th to 13th, 2019 in ten biographical, documentary, feature, silent and experimental films.

The title of Saturday's "surprise" film has to be kept secret for now, unlike the lives of its protagonists, who succumb to the pressures of fame (Feb. 9th.) An 11-year-old singer wonders if her new friends are really interested in her, or just latching onto her new-found status (Bente's Voice, Feb. 7th), while an elderly playboy realizes that his reputation has made aging gracefully impossible (Casanova Variations, Feb. 9th). Gloria shows what happens when systematic abuse in the music industry is taken for granted (Feb. 8th). The musicians in The Great Hip Hop Hoax (Feb. 8th) and Korla (Feb.7th) find themselves forced to make radical changes in their public identities, with very different outcomes, while Mathangi/Maya/M.I.A. (Feb. 9th) risks her success in order to stay true to her message. German singer-songwriter Gundermann was also an idealist, but one who ended up working for the wrong side (Feb. 10th, with screenwriter Laila Stieler). All of these themes come together in the special screening of the original 1925 silent film The Phantom of the Opera in St. Stephani, accompanied live by church organist Tim Günther. In the end, like the children in Russlands Wunderkinder (Feb. 7th and 8th), we may find ourselves asking: Was it worth the price of fame?

All films will be screened in City46 (Birkenstraße 1, 28195 Bremen) except The Phantom of the Opera in the Kulturkirche St. Stephani.
More information and the complete program available at the Musikfilmfestival Website.

Photo © Felix Patzelt
Photo © Felix Patzelt

Bertolt Brecht was one of the most influential German poets and playwrights of the 20th century. Collaborative projects with musicians and composers were an integral part of his work. Many of Brecht's texts question the role of the individual in society. What is a person worth? From what source do people draw their sense of self-worth? What happens in a society where people's worth goes unrecognized? "Auf ein Wort" features song settings by Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau on these and related themes.

Julie Comparini, voice
Alexander Seemann, piano and accordeon
Felix Patzelt, guitar

Friday, November 23, 2018, 20:00
etage° Bremen
Herdentorsteinweg 37
28195 Bremen

Admission: 14 € / 8 € pre-sale, 18 € / 12 € at the door
Tickets available from Nordwest Ticket and Eventim.
More information

Photo: Cosima Hanebeck

The postwar years were a period of economic and social mobility. Radio and television broadcasts brought music from around the world into German homes and new technologies made it possible to travel around the world in style. And so the German "Nachkriegsschlager" -- and the German tourist -- were born.

Bremerhaven became not only a port of exit for transatlantic passage, but a tourist destination -- which it still aims to be today.

Fernweh Bremerhaven explores Bremerhaven's past and present role as a tourist destination in interviews, discussions, and a musical journey through the "wonder years."

Forum der Arbeitnehmerkammer
Barkhausenstraße 16, 27568 Bremerhaven

Michael Frost, Superintendant of Education and Culture, Bremerhaven
Dr. Marion Salot, Economic Policy Consultant, Arbeitnehmerkammer

Julie Comparini, voice
Eva Huck, cello
Susanne Peuker, guitar
Matthias Entrup, percussion

Dr. Dominik Santner, Arbeitnehmerkammer

Free admission
More information

Photo: Gabi Bartels

In the garden of the imperial court in China, a nightingale sings and enchants all who hear. One day, a toy nightingale comes to the court as a gift, and the real bird is chased away. But when Death comes to fetch the empress, only the real nightingale is able to oust him.

Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Nightingale inspired this "opera in a nutshell" for children and their families. Using music by Georg Philipp Telemann and a newly-commissioned libretto, Ensemble Sospiri Ardenti revives the baroque tradition of the pasticcio opera for modern audiences.

The Nightingale will be making its debut at the Leipziger Bachfest in June 2018 with three performances (in German) presented by "bach für uns" and the Leipziger Schulkonzerte.

Photo: Gabi Bartels
Photo: Gabi Bartels

Friday, June 15th, 9:00 und 11:00
for schoolchildren and Bachfest visitors
Saturday, June 16th, 11:00
for everyone age 8 and up
Musikschule Leipzig
Petersstraße 43, 04109 Leipzig
Tickets: €11,00 adults, €4,50 children (-12)

Ensemble Sospiri Ardenti
Ellen Delahanty, soprano
Julie Comparini, alto
Geert van Gele, recorder and harpsichord
Jurgen Debruyn, lute instruments

More Information and Tickets

By Eileen Jahn

Die Leuchte Asiens

The 1925 silent film The Light of Asia (Prem Sanyas or Die Leuchte Asiens) was the highlight of the 2017 Musikfilmfestival in Bremen. India's first international coproduction as well as the first ever German-Indian co-production, the film offers a unique look into the long-vanished world of India in the 1920s. For the 2017 festival, the Musikfilmfestival Bremen commissioned a new soundtrack by celebrated world musician Willy Schwarz and composer Riccardo Castagnola that combines classical Indian music with contemporary electronics and creates a musical bridge between history and cultures.

Photo: Willy Schwarz
Photo: Willy Schwarz

The project has now found its way "home": on January 18, 2018, the film was presented with the new soundtrack and live music by Willy Schwarz at the Goethe Institute in Chennai (Madras) in India to an audience that included professional musicians, film critics and Dr Helmut Schipper, director of the Goethe Institute in Chennai. Further performances in India are in planning. We at the Musikfilmfestival are thrilled that this project is traveling around the world. The next chance to see the film will be at the international Berlinale film festival. Willy Schwarz and Julie Comparini will be present for the screening on February 17th.

Musikfilmfestival Bremen
Berlinale Screenings

Multimedia concert
A Fotokunst Bremen production
Sunday, October 1st, 2017, 7:00 pm
Kultursaal der Arbeitnehmerkamer, Bürgerstraße 1, 28195 Bremen

Photo: Library of Congress
Photo: Library of Congress

Long unconquered by humankind, the sea is the birthplace of a rich multitude of myths and legends. Its more sinister side inspired many Romantic-era poets and artists, both serving as a metaphor for unpredictable and often brutal emotional states and being a source of very real danger. Sailors, fishermen, adventurers and travellers alike often perished in its depths, as the vast number of shipwrecks still rotting on the ocean floor can attest to. There live, according to ancient legends, the fantastic creatures of the deep: nymphs, mermaids, sea monsters, or kings and queens of sunken continents in their glass-walled underwater palaces. These eerie and mythical worlds illustrate, in abstract form, our primal fear of the sea.

At the beginning lush and poetical, the musical works in this programme gradually evolve into ominous fantasies and realistic images of the sea's hidden perils.

Andrea Lauren Brown, Manja Stephan, Anna Terterjan, soprano
Nina Böhlke, Julie Comparini, Kerstin Stöcker, contralto
Barbara Kler, piano
Musical Direction: Julie Comparini
Visuals: Peter Schenk

Reservations: 0421-3 63 01-970 / anmeldung@arbeitnehmerkammer.de
More information

Website renovations have been finished! Here it is with a new look, new photos, and new features (projects and video). Have a look around and if anything doesn’t work, please feel free to send an email to Julie Comparini. Thanks!

Foto © Felix Patzelt
Foto © Felix Patzelt

N.B. If you're using an antiquated browser (i.e. Internet Explorer 8, 9, or earlier), some site features will work sub-optimally or not at all. If that is the case, we highly recommend switching to a modern browser -- not only to use this site, but in the interest of your own Internet safety in general. If you're using a recent version of Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Internet Explorer and are experiencing problems with this site, we would love to hear about it so that we can correct the problem. Thank you!

The "Stadtteil-Oper" Menuchims Reise

Osterholz-Tenever may not be Bremen's most glamorous neighborhood, but it is home to an extraordinary opera project that brings the students of the Gesamtschule-Ost together with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, the women of the Mütterzentrum, refugees living in temporary housing, faculty of the Gesamtschule-Ost, students and professors of the Hochschule für Künste and international soloists.

This year's Stadteil-Oper focuses on the USA and Eastern Europe. It is the story (adapted from Joseph Roth's novel Hiob) of the Singers, a Jewish family in a schtetl in what is now Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Faced with poverty, oppression and conflict, they emigrate to America, but must leave their youngest son behind. As the Second World War begins, their daughter Miriam embarks on a dangerous journey to bring Menuchim to New York and reunite the family.

With music by Gustav Mahler, Sergej Prokoview, George Gershwin, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Erich Zeisl and other Eastern European composers who found a new life in America.

Stage Direction: Alexander Radulescu
Musical Direction: Barbara Rucha
Vocal Coach: Inka Neus
Costumes and Makeup: Christin Bokelmann
Stage Design: Sven Rose, Miriam Walter, Benedikt Jährling, Laura Baumann
Libretto: Lena Becker

With: Rafael Bruck (Mendel Singer), Julie Comparini (Deborah Singer), Pia Bohnert (Miriam Singer), Sheldon Baxter (Mac)
and soloists, choir und orchestra from the Gesamtschule Bremen-Ost

More information (in German) at the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie web site
or the Stadtteil-Oper Blog.