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Fritz Lang’s famous crime thriller movie from 1931, in a score by multiple-award-winning pianist and composer Moritz Eggert in which language, noises and music combine to form an iridescent fabric of sound. At the heart of Barrie Kosky’s production is the dazzling figure of the murderer – played by the internationally successful Texan baritone Scott Hendricks – who is being chased by the city mob.
The city is up in arms! A serial murderer is on the loose. Several girls have already been found dead. Under great pressure and using all the means at their disposal, the police search for the culprit. And the city’s criminals are also keeping busy, as the increased police activities – which involve raids and house-to-house searches – is bad for business in every sense. And so the murderer, ultimately a victim of his own sick urges, is pursued, hunted and driven to madness by all the city’s thieves, burglars, whores, fences, beggars and con artists.
In a way that was virtually revolutionary at the time, Fritz Lang’s film – one of the first German talkies – questions the extent to which a murderer who is mentally ill can be considered to be criminally responsible. As he is hunted by people from all social classes, the culprit appears ever more as a victim. With its people, cars, buildings, smells and sounds, the city itself increasingly becomes a threatening antagonist in the mind of the hunted. Although we are never given the name of this big city, the film exudes the atmosphere of 1920 Berlin. Using children’s songs and poems written by the Berlin-born, German-Jewish author Walter Mehring, composer Moritz Eggert – whose oeuvre encompasses 20 stage works that are as idiosyncratic as they are diverse – creates a piece of musical theatre that represents a blend of radio play, Threepenny Opera and big-city symphony.
Libretto by Barrie Kosky and Ulrich Lenz, based on the film of the same name by Fritz Lang and using poems by Walter Mehring
A work commissioned by the Komische Oper Berlin, funded by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundatio