Opera by Pietro Mascagni, in a new set up by Bernhard Glocksin and Fabian Gerhardt, arrangements: Alexandra Barkovskaya/Derik Listemann.

First performance: 14. April 2016. Up to 22. Mai 2016.


In a small Japanese village, the young Iris lives alone with her blind, controlling father. The rich, unscrupulous Osaka distracts her with a “puppet show” in order to kidnap her. Astonishingly, Iris follows the troupe of actors almost voluntarily. Almost immediately after their arrival in the city, Osaka places the unsuspecting girl in an upscale bordello and tries to take possession of her. Iris defends herself – in a temple, a successful businessman once showed her a unique picture of a girl and an animal…:“And then the slimy tentacles of the octopus surrounded the girl, horror in her eyes, but she smiled. Laughed and began to thrash around. Then she became still and died. And the businessman whispered to me: This octopus is death. This octopus is called lust.“ Osaka doesn’t have the slightest interested in all of this – he’s paid his money and wants to have his fun. Alarmed that his daughter is in Yoshiwara, the blind father appears and curses her in a violent rage. Iris collapses – what did I do to all of you?

Difficult subjects. A 15-year-old girl who is made into a prostitute, abandoned by her father who calls her a “street cur” (!) in his violent rage – greed, lechery and hard heartedness presented openly – on an opera stage! Not today, but instead in 1898 – six years before the Madama Butterfly of his friend Puccini and seven years ahead of Salome, the opera scandal by Richard Strauß. This Iris is much more radical in the “scandalous” presentation of the pursuit of sex and the subjugation of a young, unexperienced girl (and her body).
As scandalous then as it is today, where not only lascivious desire but an entire “culture war” is projected onto the bodies of girls in many places: traditional values versus the temptations of modernity, religious and traditional boundaries against the rich world, itself nearly free of taboos and boundaries, as the dominant World Wide Web shows us across the planet on a daily basis.


1898: Mascagni became a shooting star eight years prior with Cavalleria rusticana; it is the age of verismo, the realistic as possible presentation of the lives of simple people on opera stages. But Luigi Illica, his librettist, added something more, something unusual to this hard story: poetry and a kind of “green utopia”. His libretto begins and ends with a “hymn to the sun”, subtitles the behavior of the men as “egoism” and adds poetic texts that comment lyrically on the events taking place – the luster of the rising light, the awakening of nature, Mount Fuji as “the symbol of the human desire for peace and quiet”. And ends with the words that Mascagni sets to music with in their glory and majesty: “Because love is my being and poetry is the language of love! (Stage direction: The day dawns – horns and trombones on the stage) I am heat, the light, the heat, the light, the love!”

This incantation sounds like a green or esoteric beacon of hope. Fantastic! And still: Can something like this still be put on stage today? Isn’t this idea of utopia also long since dead, killed off by omnipresent cynicism and staggering indifference?

No kitsch: in Japanese opera, we do not see exotic adornment or escapism, but instead a mirror that allows us to see ourselves. Is not Japan the fast consolidation of our European system? Fascinated by Mascagni’s rich world of sounds and Illica’s extraordinary text, we attempt to combine the past with the present by concentrating on the core of the musical score and the brisance of the story of the girl Iris.

Directed by: Fabian Gerhardt | Musical Direction by: Hans-Peter Kirchberg Dramaturgy by: Bernhard Glocksin | Scenography by: Rebekka Dornhege, Nina Thielen | Film by: Vincent Stefan

Featuring: SuJin Bae, Seri Baek, Yuri Mizobuchi, Till Bleckwedel, Gustavo Eda, Elias Han