Gabriel Prokofiev: Elizabetta (2019)

Commissioned by Regensburg Opera and written in collaboration with celebrated librettist David Poutney (director of WNO), Elizabetta is a contemporary, thriller opera inspired by the infamous Countess Elisabeth Báthory.

Set in the present day, Elizabetta opens as a satire of the current obsession with fitness and health, and Instagram narcissism, before delving into darker, more serious issues – such as human trafficking, the Ebola crisis, slavery, adoption and DNA testing  – prompting the question: what is the true cost of vanity and our yearning for self preservation?

Scored for full symphony orchestra, electronics and extensive percussion, Gabriel brings a refreshingly 21st century approach to Elizabetta, fusing classic operatic aria & recitative with techno & dance, TV-commercials, Congolese song, contemporary classical and electronic music.

This fast-paced, 25 scene, poly-stylistic ‘cinematic’ opera is directed by critically acclaimed German director Marcus Lobbes, with projection-led design from Michael Deeg, ingenious costumes from Christl Wein, featuring Regensburg Opera’s versatile soloists and 24-strong chorus. Conducted by Chin-Chao Lin.


George Benjamin: Lessons in Love and Violence (2018)

A king is forced to choose between love and a tough political stance. He takes a fateful decision, plunging the country into civil war and turning his own wife and son irreconcilably against him. But once the son has learned a few painful lessons in realpolitik and the ‘surgical’ use of violence, he commits a terrible act of violence in front of his own mother – with the intention of making peace.

For Lessons in Love and ViolenceGeorge Benjamin and author Martin Crimp were inspired by the quick scene changes and the vulnerable, complicated characters of Elizabethan drama. Their new opera is therefore also concerned with the question of whether – and to what extent – the dangerous machinery of power leaves scope for love and affection.

Musical director: George Benjamin
Author: Martin Crimp
Stage director: Katie Mitchell
Sets and costumes: Vicki Mortimer
Lighting: James Farncombe
Director of movement: Joseph Alford
Orchestra: Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
King: Stéphane Degout
Isabel: Barbara Hannigan
Gaveston/ Stranger: Gyula Orendt
Mortimer: Peter Hoare
Boy/Young King: Samuel Boden
Witness 1/ Singer 1/ Woman 1: Jennifer France
Witness 2/ Singer 2/ Woman 2: Krisztina Szabó
Witness 3 / Madman: Andri Björn Róbertsson
Girl: Ocean Barrington-Cook

Heinz Holliger: Lunea (2018)

The poet Nikolaus Lenau is one of the most fascinating artistic personalities of the Romantic period. A dramatist, political intellectual, guitarist and violinist, as well as the most successful lyricist of the Biedermeier period, he was a highly talented polymath. Lenau led a restless, intense life informed by his love for a succession of women before becoming mentally deranged in 1844, remaining in psychiatric care until his death in 1850. His most passionate and almost lifelong love affair was with Sophie von Löwenthal, the wife of his friend Max. With Sophie, Lenau maintained a dual correspondence that was split between “official” letters and unrestrainedly intimate messages.

The Swiss musician Heinz Holliger, one of today’s most important composers, was so drawn to Nikolaus Lenau’s transgressive life, work, ideas and sensibility that he made the figure of the poet the subject of his song Lunea, which was premièred by Christian Gerhaher five years ago at Zurich Opera House. Lunea in turn became the nucleus of a new opera about Nikolaus Lenau, which will now be premièred at Zurich Opera House.

Lenau-Szenen in 23 Lebensblättern by Heinz Holliger (*1939)

Musical director: Heinz Holliger
Librettist: Händl Klaus
Producer: Andreas Homoki
Stage design: Frank Philipp Schlössmann
Costumes: Klaus Bruns
Musical assistance: Michael Richter
Lighting designer: Franck Evin
Choir director: Raphael Immoos
Dramaturgy: Claus Spahn

Lenau: Christian Gerhaher
Sophie von Löwenthal: Juliane Banse
Anton Schurz: Ivan Ludlow
Marie Behrends/Karoline Unger: Sarah Maria Sun
Therese Schurz: Annette Schönmüller

Philharmonia Zürich
Basler Madrigalisten
Statistenverein am Opernhaus Zürich

World Premiere: 4 March 2018

Chaya Czernowin: Infinite Now (2017)

This creation commemorates World War I and takes as point of departure the play FRONT (2014) by Luk Perceval. The American-Israeli composer Chaya Czernowin saw the performance and connected the theatrical experience of FRONT with the novella Homecoming by the Chinese author Can Xue. The result of this union is music theatre about opening new perspectives in a harrowing situation.

In FRONT, we see the soldiers in the trenches, caught in an unending battle and constantly exposed to death. In Homecoming it is a woman who happens to find her way to a house on the edge of an abyss and gradually realises that it is impossible for her to escape. Two situations in which the moment becomes dilated to the point of infinity.

Premiere April 18th, 2017
Opera Ballet Vlaanderen

Moritz Eggert: Freax (2017)

In the artificially cut-off world of a show conceived as a mixture of circus and television entertainment which thrills its audience with so-called freax, people whose bodies do not correspond to the norm, a tragic love story unfolds. The dwarf Franz loves the tall, beautiful Isabella. But she is in love with Hilbert, the moderator of the show. Hilbert, for his part, loves great success. This is guaranteed by the freax – dwarfs, Siamese twins and hermaphrodites – who, not least due to their success with the public, are cut off and humiliated by their “normal” colleagues.
In a mixture of moving drama and biting satire, Franz‘ blind love and longing to escape permanent discrimination and to be accepted and loved as a man becomes a parable about the power of looks and about the fine line between hope and self-deception, closeness and betrayal.

Composer: Moritz Eggert
Lyricists: Hannah Dübgen
Opus/Year: 2007

Staged world premiere: January 21st, 2017, Theater Regensburg


Björk: Medulla (2015)

‘What happened before we got involved in problematic things like civilization, religion and nationhood?’ Th is opera takes as its starting point Medúlla, a 2004 conceptual album by the famous singer and songwriter Björk, an album entirely devoted to every sound and noise that comes out of the human throat. It was created in response to racist and nationalist reactions to the 9/11 attacks. Th e title refers to the Latin word for marrow, and by extension to the essence of things, corresponding to the composer’s desire to explore the heart of music and through it the fundamental element that unites humanity, regardless of belief, race, nationality, or age.

Music by björk
vocal arrangements and new composition by anat spiegel
Lyrics by björk, e.e. cummings, jakobina siguaroardott ir, sjón
released 30 august 2004
premiere La Monnaie / de Munt, 4/2/2015

Tod Machover: Death and the Powers (2010)

Death and the Powers: A Robot Pageant is a new opera by composer Tod Machover at the MIT Media Lab, in collaboration with the American Repertory Theater. It is a one-act, full evening work that tells the story of Simon Powers, a successful and powerful businessman and inventor, who wants to go beyond the bounds of humanity. Reaching the end of his life, Powers faces the question of his legacy: “When I die, what remains? What will I leave behind? What can I control? What can I perpetuate?” He is now conducting the last experiment of his life, passing from one form of existence to another in an effort to project himself into the future. Whether or not he is actually alive is a question. Simon Powers is himself now a System. His family, friends and associates must decide what this means, how it affects them, and whether to follow. New performance technologies for Death and the Powers are being developed at the MIT Media Lab, including a new technique of Disembodied Performance to translate Simon’s offstage performance into an expressively animated stage. Other novel “instruments” include a Musical Chandelier and a chorus of robots.

LIBRETTIST: Robert Pinsky
STORY: Randy Weiner, Robert Pinsky
DIRECTOR: Diane Paulus
CHOREOGRAPHER: Karole Armitage

World premiere: 24th September 2010, Salle Garnier Monte-Carlo
United States premieres with the American Repertory Theater in Boston and at Chicago Opera Theater (March and April 2011).

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 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: