Weisse Rose, Die (‘The White Rose’)
- Detlef Gojowy
(‘The White Rose’)
Opera in eight scenes by Udo Zimmermann to a libretto by Ingo Zimmermann; Dresden, Staatsoper, Oper Studio, 17 June 1967 (revised version, Hamburg, Staatsoper, 27 February 1986).
Zimmermann’s first opera concerns the fate of two young Munich students, Hans and Sophie Scholl (baritone and soprano), and their friends; all were members of a resistance movement known as ‘The White Rose’ whose sense of Christian responsibility led them to distribute leaflets protesting against the policies of the Third Reich. In 1943 the Scholls were arrested, summarily condemned to death and executed.
The opera achieved its full effect only in its revised version of 1984–5 (subtitled ‘Scenes for Two Singers and Fifteen Instrumentalists’), gaining international acclaim following the 1986 première. The libretto, revised by Wolfgang Willaschek, uses diary entries by the Scholls themselves and material by the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed under the Third Reich, the German writer and critic Franz Führmann and Tadeusz Rózewicz. Originally a realistic presentation with linear narrative, the emphasis in the revision is on the internal experience of the characters. Felicitas Nicolai has described it as a mosaic of isolated, dreamlike, reflective moments of reminiscence, in the nature of snapshots. An hour before their death, Sophie and Hans Scholl look back at their actions, thoughts and emotions under the Third Reich, in six incidents in prison and seven flashbacks. The opera thus becomes a single 75-minute unity in which time stands still, a kind of ‘stationary music drama’, beginning with the closing of the prison door behind the protagonists, both the first and the last ‘dramatic action’ on stage....