Munich Biennale

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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 de (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 de (Thomas Körner (librettist)), 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 de (D. E. Sattler), 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 de (Hans-Ulrich Treichel), 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 de (Andreas Lechner), 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 de (Peter Mussbach)
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 "the Double Life" 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] Nikodijevicde (Marko Nikodijević) Vivier de (Gunther Geltinger), 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. festival history pages "Munich Biennale Official website" Check |url= value (help). Munich Biennale. Retrieved 27 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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. 10.0 10.1 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. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Tilt, Der Einsturz des Himmels and In Erwartung were presented in a triple bill entitled Amazonas
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 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. ISBN 978-0-19-509936-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links