Fri 17 Aug Sat 25 Aug
Creation / Music Theatre

Universe, Incomplete

Charles Ives, Christoph Marthaler, Titus Engel, Anna Viebrock
17 Aug
25 Aug

“In case I don’t get to finishing this, somebody might like to try to work out the idea, and the sketch that I’ve already done would make more sense to anybody looking at it with this explanation.” (Charles Ives)

Inspired by these tempting words, the director Christoph Marthaler, the conductor Titus Engel and the stage designer Anna Viebrock develop their own highly individual perspective on an uncompleted project by the American composer Charles Ives (1875–1954): the Universe Symphony, which is one of the great utopian works of the 20th century. It is utopian because Charles Ives conceived it as a sonic event that would explode all classical forms of performance. It is also utopian because he never completed it – instead continually composing it anew. It is an unfinished jumble consisting of notes, sheets of sketches and pages of score.

Using only sections of the work that were actually composed, Christoph Marthaler, Titus Engel and Anna Viebrock create a scenic and musical environment in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum in which the instrumental soloists, together with the Bochumer Symphoniker and an ensemble made up of actors, dancers and singers, will look back from a distant future on our life today and fantasize a future out of the present. Other compositions by Charles Ives independent of the Universe Symphony will occupy the lacunae within the incomplete universe. The artistic team will investigate a musical Gesamtwerk, complementing it with a scenic and visual tension between contemporary experiences ranging from loss to invention.

 The Swiss conductor Titus Engel (1977) works with numerous orchestras and several opera houses, specializing in modern and contemporary music. The stage designer and Professor of Stage Design at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, Anna Viebrock, has been Christoph Marthaler’s closest artistic collaborator for 30 years. She has realized music theatre projects and exhibited installations of her own since 2002. A portrait of the director and Artiste associé of the Ruhrtriennale 2018–2020, Christoph Marthaler, can be found here.




Den Zumutungen und dem Wahnsinn der Realität setzt Marthaler Musikalität, Feinnervigkeit und schräge Poesie entgegen, jenseits aller Hoffnung, losgelöst von der Zeit und zugleich ein Meisterwerk des Timings. Eine einzigartige Aufführung, für solche Kreationen wurde die Ruhrtriennale erfunden.


Further Information

Introduction 45 minutes prior to show (except 17th of August)

Artist talk 22nd of August after the performance

A production by Ruhrtriennale.

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation. With friendly support of Stiftung Pro Bochum.

Language information: German with English Subtitles


Composer Charles Ives
Director Christoph Marthaler
Musical direction Titus Engel
Stage Design Anna Viebrock Thilo Albers
Co-Regie Joachim Rathke
Co-Costume Charlotte Pistorius
Light Design Phoenix (Andreas Hofer)
Dramaturgy Malte Ubenauf
Arrangements Tobias Schwencke
With Joaquin Abella Tora Augestad Liliana Benini Bérengère Bodin Marc Bodnar Magne-Håvard Brekke Bendix Dethleffsen Haizam Fathy Altea Garrido Ueli Jäggi Jürg Kienberger Antonio J. Navarro Michael Wilhelmi Thomas Wodianka Clemens August Becker Helmut Schmitt Schlagzeugstudent*innen der Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln Schlagzeugstudent*innen der Folkwang Universität der Künste, Essen Schlagzeugstudent*innen der Hochschule für Musik Detmold Schlagzeugstudent*innen der Musikhochschule Münster Schlagzeugstudent*innen der Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Orchestra Bochumer Symphoniker Rhetoric Project Schlagquartett Köln


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