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full-scale opera with composer Param Vir

Theater Bonn   scheduled for Beethoven 250th Anniversary season 2020

William Dazeley baritone

director Vasily Barkhatov


Our central character is one whose earlier life is known to us only in legend – but of whom one haunting tale is told:  how, on his thirtieth birthday, three troubling messengers appear to him, and send him on a quest from which, years later, he will return utterly changed.  At this point, he enters into history;  and onstage before us he will begin to become recognisable as an historical world-figure whose name – and icon – we all know.

But we might find him a surprising character – not at all the familiar figure of that icon.  And his actual teaching might surprise us too:  a teaching that makes no appeal to any myth-system or divine authority, but is rooted in human experience and plain ethical sense.  This is not because as librettist and composer we have adapted or secularised him.  The very reverse.  For we have his words themselves, in their oldest canonical form, in the regional dialect in which 2,500 years ago he spoke them.  This ‘Canon’ has been our source – source, too, for the rich diversity of characters whose lives we see transformed by him:   the serial murderer, the outcaste ‘untouchable’, the mother with her dead child…

In undertaking to make music-drama of him, we have worked to do so truthfully and with scruple.  At intervals over a quarter-century, our theatrical concept has evolved through eleven (some quite radically differing) versions.   One concern throughout has been to avoid pseudo-Eastern kitsch.  Another, how to avoid the primary offence of presuming -- as dramatist, or composer, or singer -- to inhabit this supra-human man.  Above all, how can we present onstage his radical teaching, arisen historically in an age of peace and economic progress, so as to resonate with an audience in a world as different as ours? 

Hence, for all these reasons, our double-drama device:  the ancient story, seen performed in a politically repressive modern setting.  In its performance, that outer violence-ridden world and that inner meditative world begin increasingly to intersect – until, in our final scene, in a startling reversal, they explosively fuse.


production currently on hold because of the pandemic