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Review: A Funky Rethinking of Schubert’s Winter Journey

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The tenor Ian Bostridge in “The Dark Mirror: Hans Zender’s Winterreise” at Lincoln Center.

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Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times

“The first and greatest of concept albums” is what the excellent English tenor Ian Bostridge calls Schubert’s song cycle “Winterreise” in his 2015 book, “Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession.”

“The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise,” Netia Jones’s staging of Schubert’s cycle at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart festival over the weekend, heaped concept on concept. Mr. Bostridge, as theatrically inclined as he is obsessed with “Winterreise,” plunged in with both feet.

To begin, the German composer Hans Zender’s “composed interpretation” of the work for tenor and small orchestra, from 1993, replaced solo piano with a funky band, producing atmospheric sound effects and strains with prominent accordion, redolent of the Weimar era. And Ms. Jones’s scenic design, in the Rose Theater of Jazz at Lincoln Center, made evocative use of projections, a near-constant play of shadow and light in black and white, with Mr. Bostridge often holding forth against gigantic ghostly images of his (the protagonist’s?) younger self. The projections also included English translations of the texts.

“Winterreise,” in 24 songs, tells of a spurned young lover’s exile from the home of his beloved. He hovers nearby, spotting tokens and recalling happier times amid glimmers of delusional hope. Then he wanders farther afield and burrows more deeply into himself, ending in an aging (in this production) despair, bordering on madness, that somehow retains its beauty, poise and eloquence.

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Mr. Bostridge, in a staging by Netia Jones at the Mostly Mozart festival. His gaunt physique and a slight stiffness of manner worked to his advantage in creating this haunting portrayal.

Credit
Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times

Ms. Jones cast the cycle in a symmetrical arc, with Mr. Bostridge ending as he began: seated to the right, at the top of a ramp, and dressed, more or less, in formal indoor wear. He descended right to left through several numbers, lay down for “Rast” (“Rest”), bundled himself against the snow, approached the audience and even addressed it directly at one point. Then he retreated song by song back up the ramp and into himself.

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