Berlin Opera Prize goes to #MeToo inspired works | News | DW | 25.05.2018
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Berlin Opera Prize goes to #MeToo inspired works

The prestigious prize is a major stepping stone from small performances to the national stage in Germany. But some local media may have missed the point.

The winners of the Berlin Opera prize opened their works to the public on Friday evening at St Elisabeth's (above), a neoclassical church that has been converted into a cultural center for Germany's capital. The prize represents a rare opportunity in the music world, a "stepping stone," as one winner described it, from student prizes to national recognition.

The two works selected to share this year's first prize seemed to have their fingers on the pulse of this year's seismic social shift — the #MeToo movement, and the numerous men in the media, political and business worlds who were held to account for sexual misconduct as a result.

This year's theme, "Take It Or Leave it!" challenged the teams to decide which parts of opera's 400-year history should be carried into the future.

Arianna, Ariadne, Ariane 

The first, by Caitlin van der Maas and Tom Smith, was called "Arianna, Ariadne, Ariane," and drew on the mythological figure of Ariadne to tell the stories of three women, including a modern-day refugee, abandoned by men on different islands.

Protheses of Autonomy

The second, a science fiction opera titled "Protheses of Autonomy," takes place in a future matriarchal society where a robot called She has been taught to perform the parts of all the great opera heroines in history and is trying "to understand what it is to be a woman and how women are perceived and expected to behave."

"We were in part influenced by the latest Blade Runner film, Black Mirror, artificial intelligence, the #MeToo movement and other feminist issues," said composer Thierry Tidrow, who won alongside director Zsofi Gereb and librettist Franziska vom Heede.

Media omissions?

While both operas received positive reviews on their artistic merits, notably from Berlin's largest radio station, rbb, Tidrow was a bit perplexed by some interesting omissions in local reporting of the event.

"At first I was pleased to see reporters from the Berliner Morgenpost at the premiere…but I was quite shocked to read their article the next day," he said, referencing Berlin's second most-read daily newspaper. "It mentions three people — the chairman of the Neuköllner Oper, the opera house we worked with, the moderator and a representative of GASAG, the company that sponsored the prize."

"Yes, they enabled the projects to be realized. But it's strange that the coverage focused on three old men when the theme of both operas was the empowerment of women, and three of the five winners were young women."

But for those who haven't missed the point — there is one more chance to see both ground-breaking operas at Berlin's St. Elisabeth Kirche on Saturday.

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