2019 – 2021
Under the management team of Florian Lutz and Michael von zur Mühlen, Oper Halle formed one of the most experimental opera houses in Germany. Their participation in the first three-year season of NOperas! ended prematurely with Florian Lutz’s departure to the Staatstheater Kassel after the productions of “Chaosmos” and “Kitesh”.
2023 – 2024
The Staatstheater Darmstadt is a multi-genre theatre with music and dance theatre, drama and concerts. More than 500 employees work here in front of and behind the scenes to bring numerous productions – from plays and concerts to ballet and dance theatre to musicals, operas and operettas – to the various stages in the theatre and in the city every season. In addition, guided tours, introductions, discussion formats and workshops invite exchange and contact. The State of Hesse and the City of Darmstadt have been the sponsors of the State Theatre since 1972. Its new building, designed by the architect Rolf Prange, was one of the defining theatre buildings of the 1970s when it opened.
Uta Plate is a theatre maker, lecturer, director. After studying applied cultural sciences (University of Hildesheim), her publication “FREMD BLEIBEN” on intercultural theatre work was published. From 1999-2014 she was head theatre pedagogue at the Schaubühne Berlin. Since 2014, Uta Plate has been working internationally as a freelance director and lecturer. Her main focus is: intergenerational projects (“LEBEN LÜGEN STERBEN”, Theater Neumarkt, Switzerland, 2014, film: “WIR SIND GESTERN HEUTE MORGEN”, Theater Strahl. Berlin, 2020) Work with socially disadvantaged groups (Theatre in Jail, New Zealand, 2016), site specific projects (“A WAY”, Aarhus, Denmark, 2016), documentary theatre (“YOUTH MEMORY”, Deutsches Theater Berlin 2015 / “HIER.STEH.ICH.”, Deutsches Theater Berlin, 2017 / “30.nach.89. .”, Deutsches Theater Berlin, 2019), projects with young people (“GET UP STAND UP”, Bürgerbühne Dresden, 2017), theatre work with refugees and locals (“SERVUS SALAM”, Residenztheater Munich, 2017), Bürger:innentheater projects (“SCHÖNE NEUE WELT: FAMILIE 2.0”, Schauspielhaus Graz, Austria, 2019, “LA MÜDADA”, Theater Chur, Switzerland, 2020). She also teaches as a lecturer at the universities of Berlin, Gießen, Hildesheim, Hanover, Copenhagen (Denmark) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).
Lukas Rickli works as a pianist in the field of contemporary music, improvisation and theatre music. Lukas Rickli is a founding member of the Zurich “Kukuruz Klavierquartett” (performances at the “documenta 14” in Athens, among others). In the theatre world he is active both in the independent scene (e.g. with Boris Nikitin at the Vienna Festival) and at the municipal theatre (e.g. in Chur: “LA MÜDADA” (2020) with Uta Plate, in Zurich “PIANOFORTE” with Ruedi Häusermann). Lukas Rickli studied piano with Jean-Jacques Dünki as his main subject and free improvisation with Fred Frith and Alfred Zimmerlin as his minor subject at the Hochschule für Musik in Basel. He received composition lessons from Jakob Ullmann. He lives with his family in Basel.
Duri Collenberg studied piano at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) in the class of Hans-Jürg Strub and composition with Mathias Steinauer. He completed his piano studies in summer 2010 and studied composition at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with Willem Jeths and Wim Henderickx from 2011 to 2015. At Theater Chur he was engaged as musical director/composer for two productions: “LA MÜDADA” (premiere 01.10.2020) and “NOTLÖSUNG” (2014). With the artist trio “frölicher | bietenhader | collenberg” he regularly occupies places of the most diverse kind – a reservoir, a silo, a Bergell residential palace, etc. – in closely interwoven image/sound installations. He is a founding member of the “Kukuruz Piano Quartet”, a group for experimental concert and theatre music that maintains an active concert schedule at home and abroad – both in and deliberately alongside the tried and tested temples of high culture. The quartet has performed in productions with directors Ruedi Häusermann (“PIANOFORTE”) and Boris Nikitin (“24 PICTURES PER SECOND”) on various European theatre stages.
When Oblivia dedicate themselves to a new project, there is first an agreed theme, everything else is then developed from the first moment on in joint improvisation. The scenic work on “Obsessions” began during the past months. Two of the participants live in Berlin and Essen, the others in Helsinki. Although they improvised together, they were only connected via the internet due to travel restrictions. Improvisation with the local singers and musicians began in Bremen in a relaxed workshop atmosphere. For Oblivia, too, this meant uncharted territory. The challenge of developing a piece in which other people were involved for the first time in addition to the actors of the group itself led to a compromise with the previous way of working. Internally, the basic grid of an overarching structure for the piece had already been worked out, but in Bremen it was a question of approaching the open spaces for singers and musicians. Such work is not possible with all singers and certainly not with all orchestra musicians. The Bremen Theatre has made clever arrangements. Everyone showed themselves to be highly motivated to break new ground and to embark on the adventure of developing this piece as not only interpreters and performers, but also as co-creators.
The theatres participating in NOperas! have committed themselves to three-year cycles. The first of them comes to an end with this season. Together with the participating theatres, NOperas! is still laboriously manoeuvring its way through the corona-induced shunting of theatre schedules. Would it have made sense to breathe a little more air into the matter, not to announce a new project for one season, to postpone the second cycle by a year? As the only funding instrument in the German-speaking world that explicitly targets newer forms of music theatre, NOperas! is an important contact point for the work of the independent scene – to suspend it would have meant withdrawing support from this scene at a moment when many of its actors are still threatened in their existence as a result of the past theatrical lockdown.
It remains interesting: This year’s call for proposals was increasingly used by newcomers, while some of the more established players in the scene signalled that they themselves were still sitting on too many postponed projects to be able to devote themselves to new goals at the moment.
But this hardly made it easier for the NOperas! jury to select one and only one production from the many applications that deserved funding this year. In public, there is always the misunderstanding that feXm and NOperas! follow the idea of a competition, that the jury therefore connects its project selection with the statement that it is the “best” of all the submitted concepts. It is not without reason that representatives of the performing theatres are also involved in this committee alongside independent experts. Considerations based on their respective play concepts are also always taken into account in the selection of projects.
Six finalists were invited to Düsseldorf on 30 September to answer questions about their applications. At the end of the day, the jury was still not unanimous and so the decision was only made during an additional meeting on 11 October.
The first project of the new three-year season will be a (for the time being still unnamed) production by the Swiss-German group HIATUS. HIATUS are: composer Duri Collenberg, improvisational musician Lukas Rickli and theatre-maker Uta Plate – more about them soon on this website.
At the centre of their project, which fuses elements of an audio and video walk with the theatre action of singers and instrumentalists, is the experience, thinking and feeling of a selected group of children from different social backgrounds. What impressed the jury about the submitted concept was both the claim to meet the children involved at eye level and that of turning the musical and theatrical work with them into an ambitious theatre for adults. A dialectic play that takes adults back to an earlier existence of elementary conflicts, wishes and hopes. A reminder could emanate from it of our responsibility for this distressed planet, which we will soon have to hand over to the younger ones.
Within the framework of the production, a cooperation with the Zurich festival Blickfelder is planned. Initially, a version will be performed in Zurich that is limited to the digital level of audio and video feeds and will only be expanded with theatrical action in the course of further development in Gelsenkirchen and Bremen.
Berthold Schneider and his team at the Wuppertal Opera are going through difficult times. COVID has forced them to suspend operations since May and to postpone rehearsals and premieres again. Just now they had planned anew – then came the flood in July. Those who know Wuppertal know how close the opera is to the river: The floodwater penetrated into the lower part of the opera house, it flooded the orchestra pit and damaged many instruments. The damage is now estimated at around 10 million euros. The stage is not expected to be playable again until December at the earliest. It is little consolation that the Wuppertal Opera was chosen as one of the eleven winners of the Federal Theatre Prize for its artistic programme a few days before the flood – another is the Schlosstheater Moers, which presented François Sarhan’s multi-part feXm production “The Suitcase” in 2017 and 2018.
Unfortunately, the NOperas! project “Obsessions” has also been affected by the Wuppertal flood disaster. Even if it is possible to play again in December, it will take much longer to repair the damage to the submachinery. It will also be uncertain for a longer period of time whether the revolving stage, which is indispensable for this project, will be available again for the planned Wuppertal premiere of “Obessions” next March. If at all possible, the date should nevertheless be kept. The search has therefore begun for an alternative venue in the wider surroundings of the city.
NOperas! celebrated its first premiere in Wuppertal in January 2020 with the first performance of “Chaosmos”. At the time, people in the canteens talked with horror about a strange virus that had spread in China and were still convinced that they were at a safe distance. This soon turned out to be a mistake and soon after NOperas! started, the theatre was no longer the same. Corona, then, is about the same age as NOperas!, has remained an uninvited companion to this support programme ever since and continues to force it down improvised paths to this day.
The planned further development of “Chaosmos” on the theatre level did not happen, rehearsals in Halle had begun and had to be cancelled. As so often in the past, a film was made as a substitute, which Bremen and Wuppertal presented on their websites.
Under tense conditions, “Kitesh” then had its first performance in Halle in autumn 2020. But here, too, the virus got in the way. There was only one further performance, the third could not take place due to changes in hygiene regulations.
After extensive preliminary conceptual work on the Wuppertal version of “Kitesh”, the Wuppertal Opera then found itself forced to completely cancel – the lockdown had prevented the planned performances in January, “Kitesh” was initially postponed to May, but even then it could neither be rehearsed nor performed, and the house found itself unable to postpone it again. Bremen, on the other hand, has now saved “Kitesh” for the coming season, where it will be further developed and performed after (!) the premiere of the new NOperas! project “Obsessions” there.
Meanwhile, NOperas! and its partner theatres say goodbye to the season break with a small digital fireworks display that summarises once again what has been created in spite of everything within the framework of this programme:
As a substitute for the announced performances, Wuppertal Opera presents on its website a short film created as part of “Kitesh” – in its theatre productions, Hauen und Stechen work with filmic material in a variety of ways, and here it is now the other way round: a filmic work that extensively incorporates material from the theatre.
At the same time, after three and a half years of daring musical theatre explorations, the Halle-based management team around Florian Lutz is now taking its hat off by staging a festival entitled “Everything Ends” at the end. With live musical accompaniment by Marc Sinan, there will be a public viewing of the “Chaosmos” film on the forecourt of the Hallens Opera House. The event will be streamed simultaneously from a “virtual opera house” created for the festival. For both, see the calendar.
In addition to the short film, which will also be presented by Wuppertal Opera, a second film by the production team on the subject of Kitesh will be available as video on demand during the festival. It will soon be available on this website, “Chaosmos – The Film” can be found here, “Kitesh / Short Film” here.
Recently at the Zoom Symposium of the Austrian Music Theatre Days, NOperas! was presented as a competition. This can be seen as such, but it hardly corresponds to the self-image of this programme. The emphasis is hardly on putting some “best” music theatre project in the spotlight every year, let alone choosing a “winner”. Many applications would have deserved to be selected each time, but neither feXm’s funds nor the capacities of the participating theatres are sufficient for more than one production each.
This year, the jurors had to work faster and more intensively on evaluating the project proposals they received. This time, the current discourse on diversity and the distribution of power in theatre is reflected in a whole series of them. The first jury meeting took place yesterday via Zoom with a largely new line-up (→ see page Jury). Five projects made it to the finalists.