Music: Nativity with Witches

The curtain rose on a heath full of shaggy, diabolical hags hurling harsh-mouthed imprecations into the night. Their wild language was a witches' brew of medieval Bavarian dialect, laced with great lumps of Latin and Greek; in the background, no fewer than 20 different percussion instruments fired the cauldron with a tingling, thwunking cacophony. Anyone wandering into Stuttgart's Opera House last week would have quickly recognized, in both words and music, the style of Germany's most highly regarded living composer, Carl (Carmina Burana) Orff, 65. Less obviously, the dark, demonic and shatteringly effective scene was the opening of a Christmas pageant.

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