The kickoff at Tempelhof Airport—with just six performances in two weeks! In the upcoming seasons, each new programme at Komische Oper Berlin will open with a major production at an unusual location somewhere in the city.
First stop: Tempelhof Airport, Hangar 1. First work: The Raft of the Medusa, Hans Werner Henze’s powerful interrogation of humanity, directed by Tobias Kratzer.
154 people are drifting on the high seas towards an uncertain future. After the sinking of the Medusa, this frail raft has hardly any space and not enough food. Its lifeline to the more seaworthy lifeboat has long since been severed by the officers and commanders who decided to save themselves. Among the betrayed and oppressed castaways, a brute struggle for survival breaks out. In 1816, the French ship Méduse ran aground on a sandbank off the coast of Senegal. Only a few managed to save themselves, but in unspeakable ways. The French painter Théodore Géricault depicted the event in an impressive painting first exhibited at the 1819 Paris Salon, where it caused a scandal that still resonates today.
Like that painting from 1819, this musical theatre masterpiece has lost none of its explosive power since its premiere in 1968. Hans Werner Henze’s oratorio is a musical exhortation against the domination of one group over another. His stormy composition portrays injustice with radical high drama, and is a milestone of twentieth-century music theatre reminding us that nothing can be solved by looking away. With The Raft of the Medusa, director Tobias Kratzer has returned to the Komische Oper Berlin. Harking back to Théodore Géricault’s painting, his new production pulls powerful images to the surface. Kratzer lays bare the humanistic core of Henze’s brooding sonic portrait of brutal class dominance, filling the cavernous space of Hangar 1 with his visually stunning production.
Together with 83 choir singers, more than 40 extras, 20 singers from a boys’ choir, 82 musicians, and 3 soloists, the director Tobias Kratzer and stage designer Rainer Sellmaier bring the ocean right into the 6,000 square metre hangar, opening up different perspectives on Henze’s multilayered work between two audience stands.