A great challenge for all involved is the new production of Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Die Soldaten, directed by Alvis Hermanis and conducted by Ingo Metzmacher. In 2012, this work, rightfully labeled an "opera of the century", occupies the space that Alexander Pereira has designated for an opera world premiere during each year of his artistic directorship – starting in 2013, a new work for the musical stage will have its world premiere every year.
In March of 1958, the City of Cologne commissioned the opera Die Soldaten from Bernd Alois Zimmermann – based on the "comedy" of the same title by Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz – which became a key work of modern music history. The only completed opera by the German composer was supposed to be performed in 1960 during the World Music Festival, but the demanding score and presumably also organizational difficulties of the Cologne Opera prevented rehearsals from beginning. From that time, Zimmermann struggled against the stigma that his musical theater work was unperformable. In 1963, finally, several scenes were performed in a concert version, and on February 15, 1965, Die Soldaten finally had its world premiere in Cologne. It was a great success. Audience and critics recognized the new, trend-setting aspects of this opera, which anticipates most modern elements of musical theater. "The story is set in French Flanders. In Lille and Armentiers. The time is: yesterday, today and tomorrow. That is what the score says. One stumbles over this, unavoidably. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. That means, on any given day. Repeating itself eternally. Independent of historic context. How is that possible? Bernd Alois Zimmermann believed in a spherical shape of time. That everything that ever happened and is yet to happen stands side by side, simultaneously. Now and forever. It is only to our perception that it seems that things happen sequentially," conductor Ingo Metzmacher writes in his book Vorhang auf! (Curtain Up!) about Zimmermann's masterwork, which he will now conduct in Salzburg for the first time.