AVENTURES | SUR SCÈNE | NOUVELLES AVENTURES is a contemporary opera performed by the Berlin Staatsoper, combining works from German-Argentine composer Mauricio Kagel and Hungarian/Austrian composer György Ligeti. Drawing inspiration from these composers is particularly interesting and bound to have a fascinating outcome, due to Kagel’s attraction to a theatrical emphasis on musical performances and Ligeti’s reputation as one of the most prominent avant-garde contemporary classical composers. Directed by Michael Höppner, this piece combines Sur Scène (1960) by Kagel with Aventures (1962) and Nouvelles Aventures (1966) by Ligeti, the result of which is truly abstract, fantastical and wonderfully nonsensical.

As the audience filters in, they find seating nestled into every corner of the Schiller Theater Werkstatt, which is centred around a pivotal, underwater-like sculptural object. Three mannequins (dressed primitively, appearing almost naked with seaweed coverings) are dramatically posed around this object. As the show begins, they actually turn out to be the actors/singers Markus Hollop (bass), Lena Hasselmann (mezzo-soprano) and Lydia Brotherton (soprano). Hollop, Hasselmannand and Brotherton give fantastic performances, enveloping the abstract characters with such a believable portrayal. The script is purposefully incoherent, composed of both spoken words and vocal textures that on occasion mimic instrumental sounds. An ‘instrumental theatre’ is thus created with a dramatic range of emotion expressed by the unconventional delivery of their vocal sounds.

In addition to the captivating performances and probably the most impressive feature of the performance is the set and costume design. Designer Günter Hans Wolf Lemke collaborates with Höppner and the musicians to creatively utilise every space of the studio in such a way that works perfectly with the widespread positioning of the audience. The set is such that can be viewed from every angle, interestingly giving each audience member a different view of the performance. With such an eccentric piece, this is an ingenious design. Having three islands placed at different edges of the studio on which more pianos and other instruments are placed means the obscure sound also encompasses the audience.
During the performance, various characters with unimaginably unexpected costumes and prop sappear, some of which are positively terrifying. Nonetheless, Lemke creates an expressive and fantastically imaginative visual language that compliments the audible composition impeccably. Lighting designer Sebastian Alphons adds the finishing touch to the scene, with low coloured lighting that adds a very sinister tone to what at times is comical. Almost as if it were an illogical dream, the performance is simultaneously alluring and terrifying.

AVENTURES | SUR SCÈNE | NOUVELLES AVENTURES will be at Staatsoper Schiller Theater Werkstatt from 15th – 24th November. Visit here for ticket information.

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