Composer Siegfried Matthus, who had a decisive influence on musical theater in the GDR, died on Friday at the age of 87 from a long and serious illness in the presence of his wife Helga in his house in Stolzenhagen near Berlin, just like the Freundeskreis Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg in the Family Order announced on Monday. The portal “Tag24” had previously reported the death of the artist.
We owe more than 600 compositions to Matthus. His work includes 14 operas, more than 60 large orchestral works, numerous chamber music, ballet scenes and film music. At 27, he wrote his first opera, “Lazarillo von Tormes”.
Matthus was born on April 13, 1934 in the former East Prussia. After fleeing and being deported, he lived in Brandenburg and Berlin. He studied at the Berlin Conservatory, where he was a master’s student with Hanns Eisler. In 1964, he joined the Komische Oper in Berlin, where he worked with Götz Friedrich and Harry Kupfer.
Even in the days of the GDR, Matthus gained great international recognition. In 1979, the Dresden Staatskapelle performed its work “Responso” before the United Nations in New York. The Dresden Semperoper was reopened in 1985 with his opera “Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke”. After its world premiere in 1985, his opera “Judith” was performed over 20 times at the Komische Oper in Berlin.
He had a close relationship with Rheinsberg, where he graduated from high school in 1952. His vision after the fall of the wall was to revive the Place des Muses, which was once created in the castle by the Prussian princes Heinrich and Friedrich. In chamber opera with opera workshop and performances, which has been there since 1990 and of which he was artistic director until 2014, young singers from all over the world still apply every year under the direction of his son Frank. Matthus. Later, their careers often lead them to international operas.
During his years in chamber opera, Matthus also premiered other operas himself. These include “Kronprinz Friedrich” and “Effi Briest”, which premiered in 2019 at the Cottbus State Theater. For the inauguration of the Frauenkirche in Dresden in 2005, he composed the “Te Deum”. “My models were the musical dramaturgical system of the Verdian Requiem and the treatment of contemporary documents in Britten’s ‘War Requiem’,” he writes in the foreword.
Matthus was a member of the Academy of Arts in West Berlin since 1976 and of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts since 1978. He was honored as an honorary citizen of the city of Rheinsberg and received the Federal Cross of Merit 1st class in 2005 and the Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic in 2015, having been honored twice with the National Third (1972) and Second Class (1984) Prize during the GDR era. The German Critics’ Association awarded the composer an award in 1998 and emphasized that he had achieved the feat of adapting to common listening habits without falling into compromise or cliché.
The Freundeskreis Kammeroper Rheinsberg is certain that his music will live on. “Through the musicians and singers who interpret them with joy, through the listeners whose hearts they touch”, says the farewell. (dpa)