Roma Europa Festival, Heiner Goebbels on Sunday with “Liberté d’action”

Rome, 24 Sept. (askanews) – An elegant musical theater show for voice, live electronics and two prepared pianos, accompanied by a surprising play of lights and technology. The great German composer and director Heiner Goebbels, one of the most important exponents of the contemporary music and theater scene, returns to the Romaeuropa Festival on Sunday 25 September at the Auditorium Parco della Musica “Ennio Morricone” to present Liberté d’action, a staging of texts by one of the great talents and outsiders of 20th century European art: Henri Michaux.

On stage the talented German-Swiss theater and film actor David Bennent meets two pianists of the prestigious Ensemble Modern, one of the main ensembles of Nuova Musica, which brings together about 20 soloists from Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Japan, United States and Switzerland.


Liberté d’action explores – linguistically, vocally, musically, scenically – autonomy and dependence. Born in Namur, Belgium in 1899 and died in Paris in 1984, Henri Michaux was a genuinely nonconformist artist. Inspired by experiments with hallucinogens, he was an exceptional painter whose works have been exhibited all over the world since the late 1950s, and at the same time an eloquent and very modern poet, with a powerful language, for whom words are no longer at the service of communication, but what cannot be communicated (Octavio Paz). In his poetic and reflective texts, suggestive and at the same time explosive, Michaux indulges in a sort of exorcism against himself and the rest of the world, while with his paintings he tries to express the unspeakable. Both forms of expression are characterized by strong gestures and rhythmic musicality.

“I can’t even say what I find more fascinating than the work of this artist: the texts or the paintings, I will try to approach him with a third means, music”, declared the German master. In this performative concert, Michaux’s fundamental distrust of language corresponds to a voice which, in the original French and in the German translation, acts in a virtuous and varied way, and is repeatedly challenged and repressed: by the sounds of the two prepared pianos, from live electronics and the use of lights and technology. Even “freedom of action” is strictly limited on stage, just like in real life.


Heiner Goebbels cultivates a long-standing collaboration with both Ensemble Modern (in the musical theater pieces Schwarz auf Weiss, Eislermaterial) and with David Bennent with whom he worked on the occasion of Documenta 1987. What began then with Maelstromsüdpol (a ‘ performance installation with Heiner Müller and Erich Wonder) was then continued, together with the Ensemble Modern, in his first work Landschaft mit entfernten Verwandten / Landscape with distant relatives (Geneva 2002) and now continues with Michaux – for a new jointly produced radio piece by SWR and Deutschlandfunk Kultur and for the concert on stage Liberté d’action.

Bio The composer and director Heiner Goebbels (1952) is one of the most important exponents of the contemporary music and theater scene. His compositions for ensembles and large orchestras published by Ricordi Berlin are currently performed all over the world, as are many of his musical theater works and staged concerts, mostly produced by the Théâtre Vidy Lausanne, the Ensemble Modern and the Festival RUHRTRIENNALE International of Arts He has created a great variety of sound and video installations which have been exhibited by Artangel London, MAC Lyon, Museum Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, Albertinum Dresden, New Space Moscow, Bogota Museum of Art. Heiner Goebbels worked for nearly 20 years as a professor at the Institute for Applied Theater Studies at Justus Liebig University in Giessen (1999-2018) and was president of the Theater Academy Hessen for twelve years (2006-2018). From 2012 to 2014 he was artistic director of the RUHRTRIENNALE International Festival of Arts. In 2018 he received the first assignment for the newly established Georg Büchner Professorship, from the President of Justus Liebig University and settled at the interdisciplinary research center ZMI – Center for Media and Interactivity in Gießen. The musical theater production Stifters Dinge is still in the repertoire of the Théâtre Vidy. Schwarz auf Weiss, Eislermaterial, Landschaft mit entfernten Verwandten are in the repertoire of the Ensemble Modern. His latest productions John Cage: Europeras 1 & 2, Harry Partch: Delusion of the Fury and Louis Andriessen: De Materie are distributed by the Ruhrtriennale, Everything that happened and would happen by Artangel London.


David Bennent is a German-Swiss theater and film actor. In 1979, at the age of twelve, he made his film debut in Volker Schlöndorff’s adaptation of Günter Grass’s novel Die Blechtromme as Oskar Matzerath. 28 years later, Bennent, by now a well-known theater actor with few film and television roles, reunites with Schlöndorff, in Kazakhstan in the road movie Ulzahn – Das vergessene Licht (2007), where he plays the companion of a Frenchman (Philippe Torreton) in the his final journey as the extravagant shaman Shakumi. Born in Lausanne in 1966, in a family of artists (the father the actor Heinz Bennent – born in 1921 – the mother the dancer Diane Mansart and the older sister Anne Bennent) he devoted himself to the theater, becoming one of the youngest actors in receiving a gig at the Comédie Francaise in Paris in 1984 and acting at the Schaubühne in Berlin in 1985. He has appeared in Shakespeare’s plays, starred in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and was euphorically celebrated by critics for his “crazy appearances, his infantile coldness and large eyes that flee into the unknown ». He has performed with Patrice Chéreau (Les Paravents), Klaus Michael Grüber, Robert Wilson, George Tabori, Hans Neuenfels, Arie Zinger, Joel Jouanneau, Thomas Langhoff and Leander Haußmann and was part of Peter Brook’s company for seven years from 1990 to 1997, with which he traveled the world. She has appeared in Yves Boisset’s “Dog Day” (1983), Ridley Scott’s fantasy “Legend” (1985), “Poem” (2003) and Spike Lee’s “She She Hate Me” (2004).

Since its founding in 1980, Ensemble Modern (EM) has been among the leading ensembles of New Music. It currently brings together around 20 soloists from Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Japan, the United States and Switzerland who reflect the ensemble’s culturally diverse background. Resident in Frankfurt am Main, the ensemble is known for its democratic organization and unique working method. Art projects, partnerships and financial matters are jointly decided and implemented. Its programming includes musical theater works, dance and video projects, chamber music, ensemble and orchestral concerts. Ensemble Modern has performed in the most renowned festivals and prestigious entertainment venues, such as the Berliner Festspiele, the Bregenzer Festspiele, the Cité de la Musique, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, the Festival d’Automne in Paris, Hellerau Dresden, Holland Festival, Klangspuren Schwaz, Konzerthaus Berlin, Kölner Philharmonie, Kunstfestspiele Herrenhausen, Ruhrtriennale, Salzburger Festspiele, Wien Modern and Wigmore Hall London. The Ensemble regularly produces musical plays in collaboration with the Frankfurt Opera, as well as a series of concerts / workshops entitled Happy New Ears. Since 2011 he has joined the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra in the presentation of the cresc… Biennial for Current Music Frankfurt Rhine Main festival. Further collaborations and projects complete the multifaceted profile of Ensemble Modern which strives to achieve the highest degree of authenticity possible by working closely with the composers themselves. Musicians rehearse an average of 70 new works each year, 20 of which are world premieres.

The ensemble’s work is characterized by extraordinary and often long-term cooperation initiatives with famous artists, such as John Adams, Mark Andre, George Benjamin, Peter Eötvös, Brian Ferneyhough, Heiner Goebbels, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, György Ligeti, Olga Neuwirth, Enno Poppe, Rebecca Saunders, Simon Steen-Andersen, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Steve Reich, Frank Zappa or Vito Žuraj, as well as leading artistic personalities from other artistic genres. In addition to its multifaceted concert activity, Ensemble Modern presents the results of its work through recordings, many of which have won numerous awards. Nearly 50 of the more than 150 CD productions have been released by the ensemble’s label, Ensemble Modern Media. In 2003 the Ensemble brought together its existing education and further education projects under one roof, founding the International Ensemble Modern Academy (IEMA) with the aim of transmitting the musical legacy of modernism. IEMA formats developed specifically for specific target groups include the Masters in Contemporary Music for Young Professional Musicians in collaboration with the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, as well as international masters, composition seminars and school projects. Projects that pursue the goal of educating a large audience on a great variety of contemporary musical trends and are characterized by an open and creative approach to artistic processes.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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