Giuseppe Verdi, Claude Debussy or Hector Berlioz had all tried previously, but none of them was able to successful conclude their vision of the aged monarch created by William Shakespeare.
To Aribert Reimann, the suggestion – at the instance of a persevering Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau– to create an opera based on King Lear also overwhelmed him at the beginning, but that was not an impediment to his head being filled with music; to the extent that he took the step to live the composing process as if it were an absolute obsession. He made an agreement with his librettist to maintain the essence of the original text, reducing it substantially to leave space for the music as the true germ of the drama.
The score is almost abrasive in its chromatic effects, most radical for its period, and undoubtedly more than appropriate to take on questions such as filial ingratitude, mental health, the passing of time or the loss of power.
Lear is a savage and pessimistic work, in which man’s most basic instincts are running high and dominate the characters, taking them to their limits to finally provoke a grand massacre.