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Munich Biennale

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Munich Biennale

The Munich Biennale (German: Münchener Biennale) is an opera festival in the city of Munich. The full German name is Internationales Festival für neues Musiktheater, literally: International Festival for New Music Theater. The biennial festival was created in 1988 by Hans Werner Henze and is held in even-numbered years over 2–3 weeks in the late spring. The festival concentrates on world premieres of theater-related contemporary music, with a particular focus on commissioning first operas from young composers.[1][2]

The first four festivals, under Henze

Henze, himself a prolific composer of operas, described the genesis of the festival like this:

The whole story started with a query from the departmental head of the (Munich) cultural office ... whether I ... would be interested in considering creating some sort of civic music festival in Munich. After a period of time I suggested organizing something that had been lacking up until that point, something that also did not exist anywhere else in the world and yet was an urgent necessity – namely, a place where the young generation of composers interested in theatre ... could realize their ideas.[3]

Henze curated the first four festivals, from 1988 to 1994, and established the general format of most of the festivals that followed.[4] Short runs of the premiered operas are preceded by talks and additional concerts from the featured composers, to introduce the audiences to their ideas and music.[5]

The later festivals, under Peter Ruzicka

Peter Ruzicka took over as artistic director ("one of the most influential administrative/ artistic positions in the European music-theatre scene")[6] in 1996, with that year's biennale being jointly curated by Henze. Ruzicka broadened the scope of the works presented, with more emphasis on works using multimedia, and moving away from the text-based sources that characterised the period curated by Henze.[7]

Operas given at the Munich Biennale

World premieres are marked as WP
Premiere Composer Title Libretto and source
1988-05-2929 May 1988 WP GlanertDetlev Glanert Leyla und Medjnun Aras Ören and Peter Schneider, after the epic poem by Nizami
1988-06-033 Jun 1988 WP KuhrGerd Kühr Stallerhof Franz Xaver Kroetz, after his own play
1988-06-044 Jun 1988 WP HolszkyAdriana Hölszky Bremer Freiheit Thomas Körner, after the play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
1988-06-1717 Jun 1988 WP TurnageMark-Anthony Turnage Greek the composer and Jonathan Moore, after the play by Steven Berkoff
1990-04-2626 Apr 1990 WP HamaryAndrás Hamary Seid still José Vera Morales, after the play Tóték by István Örkény
1990-04-2828 Apr 1990 WP Von SchweinitzWolfgang von Schweinitz Patmos D. E. Sattler (de), after the Apocalypse of St John in Martin Luther's translation
1990-05-066 May 1990 WP Von BoseHans-Jürgen von Bose 63: Dream Palace the composer, after the novella by James Purdy
1990-05-1414 May 1990 WP ReverdyMichèle Reverdy PrecepteurLe Précepteur Hans-Ulrich Treichel (de), after the play Der Hofmeister by Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz
1992-05-077 May 1992 [8] DinescuVioleta Dinescu Eréndira Monika Rothmaier, after the story The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother by Gabriel García Márquez
1992-04-2929 Apr 1992 WP LidermanJorge Liderman Antigona Furiosa the composer, after the drama by Griselda Gambaro
1992-05-2727 May 1992 [9] BattistelliGiorgio Battistelli Teorema the composer, loosely after the film by Pier Paolo Pasolini
1992-05-1616 May 1992 WP StablerGerhard Stäbler Sünde.Fall.Beil Andreas Lechner (de), after the drama Catherine Howard by Alexandre Dumas père
1992-05-2222 May 1992 [10] VirParam Vir Broken Strings David Rudkin, after the Buddhist story Guttil Jatak
1992-05-2222 May 1992 [10] VirParam Vir Snatched by the Gods William Radice, after the poem Debatar Gras by Rabindranath Tagore
1994-05-0101 May 1994 WP LeonTania León Scourge of Hyacinths the composer, after the radio play by Wole Soyinka
1994-05-1919 May 1994 WP MasonBenedict Mason Playing Away Howard Brenton
1996-12-044 Dec 1996 WP ObstMichael Obst Solaris the composer, after the novel by Stanislaw Lem
1996-12-099 Dec 1996 WP KulentyHanna Kulenty MotherThe Mother of Black-Winged Dreams Paul Goodwin
1997-04-1414 Apr 1997 WP WatkinsRoderick Watkins JuniperThe Juniper Tree Patricia Debney, after the folk tale by the Brothers Grimm
1998-04-1919 Apr 1998 WP HosokawaToshio Hosokawa Vision of Lear Tadashi Suzuki, after his stage play The Tale of Lear
1998-04-2121 Apr 1998 WP BhagwatiSandeep Bhagwati Ramanujan the composer, after the life of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920)
1998-04-2525 Apr 1998 WP Muller-WielandJan Müller-Wieland Komödie ohne Titel the composer, after the drama Comedia sin título by Federico García Lorca
1999-04-1919 Apr 1999 WP SoteloMauricio Sotelo De Amore Peter Mussbach (de)
2000-05-1010 May 2000 WP CzernowinChaya Czernowin Pnima ... ins Innere
2002-04-2727 Apr 2002 WP WernerAndré Werner Marlowe: Der Jude von Malta the composer, after the play The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe
2002-05-033 May 2002 WP StahnkeManfred Stahnke Orpheus Kristall Simone Homem de Mello
2004-05-1212 May 2004 WP StaudJohannes Maria Staud Berenice Durs Grünbein, after Edgar Allan Poe
2004-05-2525 May 2004 WP FerneyhoughBrian Ferneyhough Shadowtime Charles Bernstein
2006-05-099 May 2006 WP CattaneoAureliano Cattaneo PhilosophieLa Philosophie dans le labyrinthe Edoardo Sanguineti, after the Greek myth of the Minotaur
2006-05-1818 May 2006 WP Sanchez-VerduJosé María Sánchez-Verdú GrammaGRAMMA the composer
2008-04-1717 Apr 2008 WP PoppeEnno Poppe Arbeit Nahrung Wohnung Marcel Beyer, loosely after the novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
2008-04-1818 Apr 2008 WP Lang,KKlaus Lang ArchitekturDie Architektur des Regens after the Noh play Shiga by Zeami (c1363–c1443)
2008-04-2323 Apr 2008 WP BauckholtCarola Bauckholt Hellhorighellhörig (none)
2008-04-3030 Apr 2008 WP JoneleitJens Joneleit Piero – Ende der Nacht Michael Herrschel, loosely after the novel Die Rote by Alfred Andersch
2010-04-2727 Apr 2010 WP MaintzPhilipp Maintz Maldoror Thomas Fiedler, after Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautréamont
2010-04-2828 Apr 2010 WP IllesMárton Illés WeisseDie weiße Fürstin after the first draft of the dramatic poem by Rainer Maria Rilke
2010-05-085 May 2010 WP SchedlKlaus Schedl Tilt[11] Roland Quitt, after the diary of Sir Walter Raleigh
2010-05-085 May 2010 WP TabordaTato Taborda EinsturzDer Einsturz des Himmels[11] Roland Quitt, after the book La Chute du Ciel by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert
2010-05-085 May 2010 WP BrummerLudger Brummer (web) In Erwartung[11] Peter Weibel
2010-05-099 May 2010 WP WangLin Wang QuelleDie Quelle the composer and Can Xue, after a story by Can Xue
2012-05-033 May 2012 WP NemtsovSarah Nemtsov AbsenceL'Absence the composer, after Livre des Questions by Edmond Jabès
2012-05-055 May 2012 WP KimEunyoung Esther Kim (web) Mama Dolorosa Yona Kim
2012-05-1616 May 2012 WP HerrmannArnulf Herrmann Wasser Nico Bleutge (lyrics)
201405077 May 2014 WP[12] NikodijevicMarko Nikodijević Vivier Gunther Geltinger (de), after the life and death of Claude Vivier
201405088 May 2014 WP[12] MoussaSamy Moussa (web) Vastation Toby Litt
2014051111 May 2014 VivierClaude Vivier Kopernikus opéra-rituel de mort, libretto by the composer
2014051717 May 2014 WP[12] SchnebelDieter Schnebel Utopien
2014052222 May 2014 WP[12] ParraHéctor Parra Das geopferte Leben Marie NDiaye


The Munich Biennale has provided first or early commissions for stage works from many composers now established as opera composers, such as Mark-Anthony Turnage, Detlev Glanert, Gerd Kühr, Hans-Jürgen von Bose, Param Vir, Toshio Hosokawa and Violeta Dinescu.

The strongly international scope of the festival has meant that it has been able to offer opportunities missing at a national level.[13]



  1. ^ Munich Biennale Concert Series: Biennale plus Ernst von Siemens music foundation 2010
  2. ^ Hans Werner Henze: Komponist der Gegenwart. p. 117. 
  3. ^ festival history pages "Munich Biennale Official website". Munich Biennale. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Official website, archive notes to first biennale, 1988
  5. ^ Official website, Klangspuren (discussion concerts) archive
  6. ^ Salzman, Desi, p. 164
  7. ^ Official website, archive notes to fifth biennale, 1996
  8. ^ Dinescu's Eréndira was a co-commission with the Staatsoper Stuttgart, where it had its world premiere on 18 March 1992
  9. ^ Battistelli's Teorema was a co-commission with the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, where it had its world premiere in the Teatro Comunale, on 10 May 1992
  10. ^ a b Vir's operas Broken Strings and Snatched by the Gods were a co-commission with De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, where they had their world premieres on 11 May 1992
  11. ^ a b c Tilt, Der Einsturz des Himmels and In Erwartung were presented in a triple bill entitled Amazonas
  12. ^ a b c d Advance information for the 2014 edition from the Munich Biennale website. Retrieved 25 Dec 2013
  13. ^ Salzman, Desi; p.222: ".. with one or two notable exceptions, the lively London theatre and music scene has not developed a strong creative music-theatre component. The result is that the Munich Biennale and the film industry have sometimes been better patrons for new British opera and music theatre than local musical institutions".


  • münchener biennale Festival website Retrieved 13 March 2012
  • Salzman, Eric; Desi, Thomas (2008). The New Music Theater: Seeing the Voice, Hearing the Body. Oxford University Press USA.  

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