Survey of reviews in Dutch press by Frits van der Waa:
As was to be expected, the premiere of Theatre of the World attracted national and international attention, and was generally greeted with acclaim. Most of the leading Dutch newspapers reported on it. There was a lot of praise for the music and the performers, but less so for the libretto and the staging.
‘A masterfully eclectic score and one of the best works and of Andriessens late period’, writes Floris Don in NRC Handelsblad. ‘Kircher’s life is mainly an excuse to let the imagination flow as in an lsd-trip. That Audi doesn’t get further than a tangled staging were the characters too often aimlessely wander about is understandable.’
Trouw’s Peter van der Lint points out that some scense and characters seem superfluous. ‘But for the rest Andriessen rules supreme, with music that makes a lasting impression. The weakest link is Cristina Zavalloni. Her entrances, in a floating votive picture, are marvellous, but her performance is weak, with a hoarse, bleating vibrato.’
According to Erik Voermans (Het Parool) Kraussers libretto is ‘subtle and witty. The more pity that this wittiness is nowhere to be seen in Audi’s staging.’ He rightfully remarks that the ‘tornado’ erected bij the Brothers Quay makes it impossible to get a good view of the video projection, and thinks that Andriessen ‘brilliant score’ is ‘very heterogenous, fraught with music history, and therefore caleidoscopic’, so that the dramatic line becomes fragmented. ‘But musically, this is Andriessen at his very best, that’s for sure.’
The critic of De Volkskrant, your present writer, voiced similar objections, but was very enthousiastic about Lindsay Kessellmann’s performance as the Boy, ‘so convincing that is it hardly credible that the person behind all the costumes and masks is a female soprano’.
‘This week Carré is the place to be.’ writes Francois van den Anker (operamagazine.nl). He lauds not just Kesselmann, but also Melrose and Beekman. ‘Especially during the first scenes - where the audience sometimes is at a loss which way to look - Melrose provides focus and attentio. (…) Beekman’s pope is reminiscent of the clerics in Fellini’s movie Roma. The tenor is razor sharp in his use of his almost hysterical timbre and shows an impressive expressivity, which makes him the hero of this perfomance.’
The only Dutch critic who is not convinced by Theatre is Floris Solleveld. In his very-well balanced review on theaterkrant.nl he describes all the interesting and praiseworthy ingredients of the opera, only to establish: ‘But as a perfomance it doesn’t work. The intellectual fascination for Kircher doesn’t come across. There is no book dust here. A magical trip around the world, that the kind of thing we did in school plays.’ Nevertheless, ‘it was a moving sight, when Louis Andriessen and Reinbert de Leeuw embraced each other during the applause; two men who embody the history of the new music in Holland. But I could not avoid thinking: fifty years ago they would have bashed this.’
The article in the German Neue Musikzeitung (nmz.de) by Frieder Reinighaus is very verbose, hard to translate and not very outspoken. By comparison Shirley Apthorp’s review in TheFinancial Times is short and to the point. ‘It is not Andriessen’s finest work’, she writes. ‘Krausser’s libretto, which veers between German, English, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and French, combines intellectual pretension with incoherence to irritating effect. Andriessen sets it with his characteristic magpie eclecticism. […] Audi tackles the piece in good faith, bringing it an earthy physicality layered with opulent imagery.’ And she concludes: ‘Somewhere between the bass guitar and synthesiser, cheesy melodies and vulgar trombones, Athanasius Kircher is left mired in his multilingual misconceptions. He is Andriessen’s Parsifal, a holy fool sent to redeem humankind on behalf of his composer, but he seems forever lost in his own journey.’