Innovative British director Katie Mitchell will be bringing her new production of Zauberland to Covent Garden’s Royal Opera this autumn, the opera company has announced.

This new dramatic work will put the refugee crisis centre stage in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre. It represents a vivid reimagining of Schumann’s Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love, 1840), a song-cycle of 16 songs taking their texts from poems in Heinrich Heine’s Lyrisches Intermezzo.

Belgian composer Bernard Foccroulle, former artistic director of Aix-en-Provence Festival, and British playwright Martin Crimp have created 16 new songs using poems by Crimp to be performed alongside Schumann and Heine’s original. Zauberland received its premiere at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris on 5 April 2019.

The opera tells the story of a young woman who, as conflict blazes across the Middle East, waits at a European border hoping to enter Zauberland ― a magic world of security and peace. But when she falls asleep, her dreams are haunted by strange images of the burnt-out city she has been forced to abandon. Violence and peace clash, showing how the themes of love and loss explored by the 19th-century Romantics remain relevant in today’s conflicted society.

Zauberland marks the Royal Opera’s third collaboration with Mitchell and Crimp and their first work for the Linbury Theatre. Mitchell’s thoughtful and nostalgic production highlights the contemporary refugee crisis, while invoking a yearning for fairy-tale landscapes which no longer exist that is characteristic of Schumann’s original piece. It opens up a new dramatic dialogue between past and present, and between ‘Fortress Europe’ and its eastern Mediterranean origins.

Brought powerfully to life by performers including American soprano Julia Bullock and French pianist Cédric Tiberghien, the production opens on 15 October 2019.



American soprano Julia Bullock in Zauberland. (Patrick Berger).