Music Theatre in Two Parts

on works by Juha T. Koskinen and Hans Werner Henze
texts by William ShakespeareHeiner Müller
and Jules Laforgue


Ophelia/Tiefsee by Juha T. Koskinen + Katharina Blum by Hans Werner Henze

World premiere of Ophelia/Tiefsee on February 14th, 2017 at the Maison de la Radio (Paris)
in the framework of Festival Présences.

World premiere of the diptych Violences on February 6th, 2019 at the Finnish National Opera (Helsinki)
in the framework of Festival Musica Nova.

with Thomas Kellner, actor
Vladimir Percevic, solo viola
Chamber orchestra (16 musicians)

Libretto and stage direction  Aleksi Barrière
Musical direction  Clément Mao-Takacs

Lighting design  Étienne Exbrayat

The performance on February 14th 2017 was preceded by a concert by Secession Orchestra (premieres by Florent Motsch, Kaija Saariaho and Davor B. Vincze) and broadcast live on France Musique.

« How violence is born and where it can lead. » This question, formulated by German author Heinrich Böll as a subtitle to his novel The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1974), is the starting point of this show. A Wehrmacht deserter, and later a committed intellectual in West Germany, Böll wrote in a time when the attacks of the Red Army Faction of Baader and Meinhof spread fear and confusion. But the foremost violence, as Böll postulated, does not lie in the punching fist or the fired gun: it is in words, images, intellectual structures and in society, all powers that wear us down constantly.

We offer to bring this violence into the realm of the visible through two juxtaposed stories, stories of fictional women invented by men, and rewritten by other men over time. Heinrich Böll imagined Katharina Blum, and Shakespeare imagined Ophelia, to question their own masculine points of view, and invite us to the act of trying, in their footsteps, to fathom the perspective of the Other. Katharina Blum became the character of a Volker Schlöndorff movie, for which Hans Werner Henze wrote music. Ophelia has had many new faces, until Heiner Müller made her a symbol of insurrection based on Ulrike Meinhof, who had also been an inspiration for Böll. It is that very distillation process, operated through translations from one language and one medium to another, that we wish to make visible, and it is also how we hope to give words to these characters without speaking in place of them.

Music theatre has the unique power to explore the multiple dimensions of identity, emotion, collective pressure, by replacing univocality and consensus by something apparently similar but actually fundamentally opposite: harmony and counterpoint.

Feedback & Press

“For myself, one of the most powerful experiences of the festival was a double bill produced by the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, Violences, featuring music theatre company La Chambre aux échos from France. This production combined the music for Katharina Blum by Hans Werner Henze and Ophelia/Tiefsee by Juha T. Koskinen into a single dramaturgical arc. Directed by Aleksi Barrière, this intense and compelling combination of music and drama addressed the roles of women in the arts and culture, with specific reference to manifestations of the character of Ophelia in Shakespeare.”
(Merja Hottinen, Finnish Music Quarterly)

“The combination of works give birth to contemporary, quick-paced music theatre, where text fragments create a multifaceted narrative. All the roles are performed by the brilliant German actor Thomas Kellner, who switches from one perspective to another in a split-second.”
(Samuli Tiikkaja, Helsingin Sanomat)

“With the qualities of the Secession Orchestra, crafted with extraordinary precision by Clément Mao-Takacs. (…) The character of Ophelia (…) is here personified by the prodigious actor Thomas Kellner. A travesti role that has the ability to demonstrate the demystification of feminine hysteria by Müller: to the latter’s Hamlet-machine answers Aleksi Barrière’s own dramatic machine. (…) One leaves this maelstrom (…) vigorously shaken, with a spinning head, and with a fierce desire to delve again into the texts.”
(Jérémie Bigorie,

“One remembers foremost the (trilingual) performance of actor Thomas Kellner and Aleksi Barrière’s amusing and original stage direction.”
(Alexandre Jamar, ForumOpéra)