(c) Ursula Kaufmann / Ruhrtriennale 2018
Fri 31 Aug Sun 2 Sep
Oratorium / Staged Concert

Das Floß der Medusa

Hans Werner Henze, Steven Sloane, Kornél Mundruczó, Márton Ágh
31 Aug
2 Sep
  • Fri 31 Aug
    21:00 – 22:15
    First performance
    Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum
  • Sat 1 Sep
    21:00 – 22:15
    Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum
  • Sun 2 Sep
    21:00 – 22:15
    Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum

The frigate ‘Medusa’ was dispatched in 1816 to take the French Governor to the colony of Senegal. An inexperienced captain ran the ship aground on a sandbank. Lifeboats were reserved for European merchants and officers: all the others on board; 150 sailors, soldiers and workers were abandoned to their fate on a raft made of planks from the ship. After 13 days only 15 survivors were found.

In 1968, at the height of the student revolts, Hans Werner Hen-ze was commissioned to write a setting of this material. The libretto was written by the author Ernst Schnabel. For Hans Werner Henze those left behind on the raft were the disenfranchised, starving and oppressed of the third world: “victims of the heartlessness of egotists belonging to the world of the rich and powerful.” The composer wrote an oratorio with a chorus of the living and an ever-growing chorus of the dead, with the dead in a very high soprano detached from time, a complex baritone from Jean Charles fighting in vain for his life and a spoken voice integrated into the rhythm of the piece. Between stirring, activating sounds, the music leads to very fragile, delicate passages where the distress and accusations of the victims can be heard.

“The third world is coming and Europe is going to have to open its doors,” said Henze. Das Floß der Medusa now seems prophetic. At the world premiere in Hamburg the music was drowned out by noise: even before the first note was played there were disturbances. Music students had fixed a red flag and a picture of Che Guevara on stage. Henze raised his left fist and refused to take the flag down. The RIAS choir refused to sing under the red flag and eventually a group of a hundred policemen with batons broke into the auditorium.

The Hungarian director of film and theatre Kornél Mundruczó and his independent company, the Proton Theatre, will create a scenic and visual framework for the tensions between a European injustice that can no longer be denied, the disasters clearly visible on Europe’s external borders, the emotions that this work unleashed at the time of its world premiere and the timelessness of its central metaphor. The proven Henze-interpreter Steven Sloane will conduct the Bochumer Symphoniker, ChorWerk Ruhr and the Zürcher Sing-Akademie in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum.


Further Information

Introduction 45 minutes prior to show

Artist talk 1st of September after the performance

A production by the Ruhrtriennale in cooperation with the Proton Theater Budapest.

With friendly support of the Rudolf Augstein Stiftung.

Language information: German and Italian with German and English Surtitles


Composer Hans Werner Henze
Musical direction Steven Sloane
Director Kornél Mundruczó
Stage Design, Costume Márton Ágh
Costume Design Melinda Domán
Light Design Felice Ross
Text Kata Wéber
Production choir Sebastian Breuing
Choir CHORWERK RUHR Zürcher Sing-Akademie Chorakademie am Konzerthaus Dortmund e.V.
Orchestra Bochumer Symphoniker
Soprano Marisol Montalvo (La Mort)
Bariton Holger Falk (Jean Charles)
Speaker Tilo Werner (Charon)
Production Installation and Scenery Proton Theater


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