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September 14, 2009

Cancer is the subject of the opera by German theater director Christoph Schlingensief. "Mea Culpa" is the third part of an autobiographical trilogy. The Munich performance comes just days after news of his relapse.

Christoph Schlingensief
Christoph Schlingensief has plans to realize

The director was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008, but was in remission when he wrote "Mea Culpa," which premiered in Vienna's Burgtheater in March.

"The illness is back, but I am feeling positive and I have the strength for my next projects," he told the German press agency dpa on Saturday.

"The latest test results are sad for my wife and myself, but I don't want to moan a lot more in public now, but rather to give others strength and concentrate on my Africa project."

Stage of Burgtheater with film projection over stage
'Mea Culpa' includes film, music and text excerpts

In "Mea Culpa," the 48-year-old describes the highs and lows that he has suffered during his illness, and reveals his feelings and his dreams - among them the idea of creating a festival hall in Africa.

Link to earlier work

The opera also evokes earlier works, such as his staging of Richard Wagner's "Parsifal." Schlingensief has indicated a link between his life-changing illness and his work on a controversial production of Richard Wagner's “Parsifal” for the 2004-2007 Bayreuth Festivals.

Wagner is a kind of leitmotif through the collage-like work, which also includes music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Arnold Schoenberg, Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann. It also incorporates texts by Goethe and Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek, among others.

In the past, the work of the enfant terrible of German theater has frequently prompted people to leave the auditorium in protest and shock, the performance of "Mea Culpa" was met with enthusiastic applause.

Homecoming for Schlingensief

Schlingensief is no stranger to the Bavarian capital. In 1981 he moved to Munich to study German, Philosophy and Art History, living in an apartment block side by side with prostitutes and alcoholics.

"That was an ideal biotope for my hunt for disasters," he told German news magazine Spiegel in an interview in 1995.

The Burgtheater guest performance is being staged again in Munich's Bayerische Staatsoper on Monday, Sept. 14.

Author: Julie Gregson

Editor: Kate Bowen

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