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Work of the Week – Elisabeth Naske: The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business

A digestion mishap causes an investigation: This is the starting point of Elisabeth Naske’s new children’s opera which will be premiered at Wuppertaler Bühnen on 20 May 2022. The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business (German original title: ‘Vom kleinen Maulwurf, der wissen wollte, wer ihm auf den Kopf gemacht hat’) only requires three performers on the stage: a singer, an actor and a viola player. Taking place in the German city of Wuppertal,  Iris Marie Sojer plays the mole, Stefan Walz the gardener and with Sopie Rasmussen on viola. Ela Baumann is the director of the production, and Koji Ishizaka responsible for the musical side. We interviewed the composer about her new piece:

Elisabeth, the mole wishes to find out who is responsible for the heap of excrement that fell on his head. The children’s book written by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch has now been a classic for thirty years. In your musical setting, you have created two new figures: the gardener and Viola…

The gardener only represents the background of the story as the mole lives in his garden. The gardener symbolises ‘the outside world’ and transforms himself into all the different animals. Viola is the mole’s friend and comes over to play with him every day. She is a musical companion who only speaks through her viola, helps the mole with her comments and gives advice on how to find the culprit.

How does it sound when the sheep, goat and farmer’s dog do their business? We spent ages considering what the sound of excrement falling would sound like and ultimately remained puristic.

The consistency of these substances and their acoustic impact became the research object of the props department.

Why does the mole speak in such a funny way?

The mole lives in his own world beneath the ground and is actually a very reclusive animal. He has problems with the sound ‘s’ and his method of articulation is characterised by whistling, huffing and puffing.

In total, eight performances are taking place at Theater am Engelsgarten Wuppertal until 14 June. In the upcoming season, cooperation partner Musiktheater im Revier in Gelsenkirchen will take over the production. 

Illustration: Wolf Erlbruch / © Peter Hammer Publishers