The Knife: Tomorrow, in a year (2009)

The world seen through the eyes of Charles Darwin forms the basis for the performance Tomorrow, in a year. Theatre production company Hotel Pro Forma’s striking visuals blend with pop-duo The Knife’s ground-breaking music to create a new species of electro-opera.

An opera singer, a pop singer and an actor perform The Knife’s music and represent Darwin, time and nature on stage. Six dancers form the raw material of life. Together with the newest technology in light and sound, our image of the world as a place of incredible variation, similarity and unity is re-discovered.

The opera-genre provides the DNA, the framework of the performance. It is written for three singers of different backgrounds: popular music, classical opera and the performing arts. They are the narrators and the main characters in the performance. The singers tell about Darwin and they observe time and nature as Darwin.


Premiere on 2 September 2009 at Old Stage, Royal Danish Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark

Mezzosoprano Kristina Wahlin
Singer/actor Lærke Winther
Singer Jonathan Johansson
Dancers Lisbeth Sonne Andersen, Agnete Beierholm, Alexandre Bourdat, Bo Madvig, Jacob Stage, Jan Strøbech

Direction Ralf Richardt Strøbech and Kirsten Dehlholm
Music The Knife
Musical collaborators Mt. Sims, Planningtorock
Libretto The Knife, Mt. Sims, Charles Darwin
Set design Ralf Richardt Strøbech
Light design Jesper Kongshaug
Sound design Anders Jørgensen
Costumes Maja Ravn, Kirsten Dehlholm

Production Hotel Pro Forma

Louis Andriessen: La Commedia (2008)

Louis Andriessen’s latest music-theatre work, a collaboration with film director Hal Hartley, is based principally on Dante’s Commedia. The non-linear narration unfolds in five stadia that also show the influence of Hieronymus Bosch. The simultaneous existence of heaven, purgatory and hell, parallels between various scenes and the use of film and stage effects all create the complexity that is necessary to do justice to Dante’s greatest creation. To this end, all events portrayed on the film screen and on stage, including dance, the spoken word and song, should be regarded as a reaction to Andriessens’ extremely varied music. At the end of the piece we are left alone in the silence of eternity with Beatrice and the perennial grumbler Cacciaguida.


Wolfgang Mitterer: Massacre (2003)

Based on Christopher Marlowe’s drama »The massacre at Paris«, Wolfgang Mitterer paints an acoustic picture of destruction, conspiracy and the thrill of power. His protagonists virtually rid themselves of their identities, turning into typological representations of different points of view. The concrete electronic sounds used by the composer throughout the score as realistic sprinklings push aside the historical dimension and fragment the chronology of the narrative. The ensemble follows the score, which uses a graphical notation so as to leave the musicians room to find their own expression. A highly intense experience!

»Mitterer belongs to the long line of composers for whom music is not transcendental, whose music neither knows, nor searches for, the prophetic hereafter of eternal joy. His music plays on this side of heaven, in the run of the mill, resounding in the deaf stone of the earth, there where – putting an end to divine judgement – “there is a stink of being” in the words of Antonin Artaud.« (quote from the booklet by Stéphan Roth)

Taken from

“massacre” / nora petročenko, elizabeth calleo, valérie philippin, jean-paul bonnevalle, lionel peintre
remix ensemble, peter rundel
2008 live recording: théâtre de saint-quentin-en-yvelines / paris / by dominique bataille
joint production: T&M-paris, casa da música, festival musica strasbourg
released: col legno

World premiere 2003 at Wiener Festwochen.

Wolfgang Rihm: Die Hamletmaschine (1987)

When the composer Wolfgang Rihm was searching for new subject matter for musical theatre in the mid-1980s, he was no longer interested in setting a conventional libretto «of polished dialogues» and «subjectively involved plots». Instead, he dreamt of a stagecraft that extended beyond emotional dramas in the form of stories and was determined by image and reputation, ritual and the logic of dreams. Created by voices and instruments, sound itself is intended to become the protagonist of the theatre. Written in 1977, the East German dramatist Heiner Müller’s drama, Die Hamletmaschine, served as the driving force for a musical theatre that crosses boundaries. The fragmentary theatre text, which comprises a mere nine pages, yet is one of the most important written in the 20th century, is a grotesque rewrite of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and a deconstruction of the drama per se – a linguistically powerful and tempestuously apocalyptic vision of human futility in the face of the failed utopias of the modern age.
Using Heiner Müller’s text, Rihm has created a major work of musical theatre for singers and actors, choruses both live and recorded, a large orchestra, and percussionists positioned in the auditorium. Wolfgang Rihm’s Hamletmaschine is a forgotten masterpiece of the modern age and was last staged in 1990, four years after its première. In scenographic and musical terms, the composition is certainly comparable with the Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Soldaten, of which a spectacular production was staged at Zurich Opera House two years ago.
In a time characterised by fundamentalist attacks, religious wars, humanitarian tragedy, the loss of utopias and political uncertainty, Die Hamletmaschine becomes a matter of great topicality.

Taken from Opernhaus Zürich:

Hans Werner Henze: We come to the river (1976)

More than 30 years since its premiere in 1976, We come to the River still resonates with audiences. The plot centres around a General in the midst of a war between a fictitious nation and its imperial rulers. When a doctor informs the General that the long-term effects of an old injury will irrevocably lead to progressive blindness, he begins to see misery as a direct consequence of the war and his becomes the voice of protest, leading to his arrest and imprisonment in a mental asylum where the lunatics are building an imaginary boat that will take them to freedom. The General is blinded by two murderers, yet he still cannot escape the events of war and his own feelings of guilt. The lunatics, afraid the disfigured General is a danger to their plans to flee, smother him under large sheets, imagining that these represent the water of the river.

Despite the ill fate of the General, there is hope for the repressed nation at the end of the story:

We stand by the river / we will stand on the other shore / now our steps are certain / we can’t go down anymore.

The complexity of Henze’s opera begins with the staging, where multiple scenes are played at a time on a stage divided into three sections. Though there is no choir, the opera requires a huge number of singers – about a hundred roles – making it one of a kind in the history of opera. There is also a huge effort involved in the placement of so many singers and three large orchestras – one for each section of the stage. The stage itself, Henze insisted, “must go as far as possible into the auditorium”, covering the orchestra pit. Consequently, the Semperoper has been remodelled specially for this production to include parts of the stage rising into the auditorium and a 40 meter long footbridge.

We come to the River points to the global politics during the 1960’s and 70’s: The wars in Vietnam, Angola, and the Middle East; the latent conflict between east and west; the dictatorship in Chile. Henze integrates recordings of Chilean refugees directly into the music in order to show clearly the inhumanity during a war. He shows this also by not giving any of the characters names, reducing them to their military ranks, and through certain musical devices. He writes:

The music of violence has a certain number of parameters. There are signal-like calls, which can be understood typically as the music of the military. But beyond this, there are motifs, interval arrangements and also twelve-tone rows…which should be characteristic of smoothness, hypocrisy and indifference.

Considering the opera’s strong representation of terror, it is surprising that the piece ends on a note of hope, but Henze is showing that hope is integral to revolt against repression and fight for liberty.