Presented as a futuristic spectacle that transports audiences to the year 2033, Weill’s Der Silbersee at the Opera Ballet Vlaanderen premiered on 18 September in Ghent, Belgium, with varying reactions from the press. Opera Traveller enthused about the “music and narrative that are undoubtedly worthy of rediscovery,” while the Vlaanderen orchestra’s performance of the new critical edition was held in high esteem: “The tight musical direction of Karel Deseure – together with Weill’s brilliant score – is the attraction of this production” (De Morgen). Der Silbersee runs through 16 October in Ghent and Antwerp. Click for details.



Der Silbersee opens with a moving trumpet solo and then shows the orchestra of Opera Ballet Vlaanderen – under the steadfast direction of conductor Karel Deseure – across a kaleidoscope of musical styles: luscious classical music, furious spoken singing, melancholic song and even just carnivalesque screaming.”

“Benny Claessens portrays the character of Olim with passion, sometimes bouncing, sometimes endearing, always captivating and very often roguish. His performance sparkles but never becomes banal.”

“For three hours one is overwhelmed by vibrant play, subtle dance steps, unashamedly funky costumes, and spectacular sets (a castle with real stained glass windows, an Egyptian temple, a Magritte-like cloudy sky…) that are rich in references to conflicts from the present (such as the Gaza war) and the past (including the Holocaust).”

“At times, the excess overgrows the content. That said, every time director Ersan Mondtag pushes the pause button on his spectacular turbo directing machine, emotion flares up and the scenes hit all the harder. The Belgian soprano Hanne Roos – who is responsible for the arias of Fennimore, a somewhat clumsy double role with Marjan De Schutter, who takes the spoken lines – always manages to hit the mark. The same can be said of Spanish tenor Daniel Arnaldos, who as Severin is convincing in both singing and playing.”

一 Els Van Steenberghe, Knack Focus (20 September 2021)


“The music and narrative are undoubtedly worthy of rediscovery. Mondtag has given us a real show – one that looks fabulous and gives us a highly entertaining camp extravaganza that provides laughs. At the same time, it did feel too leisurely paced and dragged just at the point at which it should have crackled with energy. Similarly, the social context and political implications of the work, particularly in the dark times we live now, felt underexplored. That said, musically it was immensely satisfying, and it was tremendously entertaining for the most part.”

“Conductor Karel Deseure did his best to keep the evening moving along, leading off with a lively account of the overture. He was sensitive to that unique Weillian combination of acerbic brassiness and wistful nostalgia. The Opera Ballet Vlaanderen orchestra was in superb form, the brass shaping their melodies artfully.”

“Daniel Arnaldos sang Severin in a focused lyric tenor, putting the text front and centre where it belongs. He also dispatched his dialogue in highly idiomatic English and impeccable German.  Perhaps Arnaldos lacks the last degree of heft for Severin’s more declamatory music, but he always used his instrument intelligently and his stage presence and charisma were undeniable.  Hanne Roos sang Fennimore’s music in a bright soprano, a little shallow of tone at first, but she soared with pulchritudinous ease over the chorus in the final scene.”

Opera Traveller (19 September 2021)


Der Silbersee requires excellent actors who can sing and singers who can act. In Mondtag’s staging this creates an additionally (welcome?) disruptive factor: an actor like Benny Claessens (Olim) cannot be held in check, he dashes and tumbles through his text with a freedom unseen in opera.”

“The company tries out all kinds of concepts to perform the play: successively expressionist theatre, an ‘actualization’ of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the nouveaux riches such as Egyptian pharaohs, Chinese opera, queer camp. Unfortunately, they do not immediately realize that those in power have already infiltrated into their midst. At the end, the Jewish Fennymore is ready to leave with her suitcase. Where to?”

“The tight musical direction of Karel Deseure – together with Weill’s brilliant score – is the attraction of this production.”

一 Stephan Moens, De Morgen (20 September 2021)


“The production extensively updates the work. All kinds of scenes have been inserted, not in German, but spoken in English and sometimes in Dutch. As a result, the running time expands to more than three hours.”

“The direction suggests an erotic relationship between Olim and Severin. That can flourish only when Von Luber reveals the secret that benefactor Olim is the same as police officer Olim. Severin forgives him and together they flee to the Silbersee to drown in it. The director has turned it into a gay-love scene of cheesy allure, with Olim as the master in a black rubber outfit and Severin as a willing slave in a pink sailor suit. Boy, what a cliché.”

一 Franz Straatman, Place de l’Opera (20 September 2021)


“German director Ersan Mondtag puts so many different layers into Der Silbersee that you are never quite sure how to interpret the spectacle on stage and what exactly you are looking at.”

“For three hours you sit and watch an opera that constantly questions itself. Perhaps that is the primary theme of the production: in the theater everything is possible, the only limit is the imagination of the makers. In that sense, Mondtag and Claessens – he really is the driving force on stage – constantly challenge the audience.”

“Not everything works equally well, but Der Silbersee is a production not to be missed. One will go home exulting, the other annoyed. Mondtag knows no middle ground. Whatever remains intact, however, is Weill’s impossibly good music… it always caresses the ears.”

一 Koen Van Boxem, De Tijd (20 September 2021)



Video Trailer (click image to watch)


Behind the scenes video featuring musical director Karel Deseure and his experience with Der Silbersee


Behind the scenes video featuring director Ersan Mondtag and actor Benny Claessens


Production Photos by Annemie Augustijns