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Work of the Week – Wilfried Hiller: Momo

On 16 December, the world premiere of Wilfried Hiller’s children’s opera Momo will take place at Munich’s Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz, staged by Nicole Claudia Weber and conducted by Michael Brandstätter. Anna Woll will play the title role of Momo, alongside the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz chorus and children’s choir.

Commissioned by the Munich Gärtnerplatztheater and with a libretto by Wolfgang Adenberg, Momo is based on the eponymous children’s novel by the late Michael Ende, with whom Hiller had a long-standing artistic partnership. As a tribute to their friendship Hillier affectionately modelled the character Gigi on Ende, including references even within the music itself, such as when Hiller quotes a guitar melody of Ende’s in a pizzicato melody in the cellos and double basses. Hiller’s instrumentation is purposefully restrained in the beginning, only engaging the full orchestra at the climax of the action, and in keeping with Hiller’s unorthodox style, the character Master Hora is represented by a chorus rather than an individual.

 Wilfried Hiller – Momo: A music theatre piece for children

Momo is poor and lives alone in a modest dwelling just outside the city. Nevertheless, the young girl has many friends, as she has the rare gift of being a very good listener. One day, the mysterious Men in Grey of the Time Savings Bank appear in the city, convincing people to bank their time. Only Momo realises that the people are being cheated out of their time, and so declares war on the Men in Grey. With the help of Master Hora and his turtle Kassiopeia, Momo tricks the Men in Grey, and manages to free the stolen time, returning it to its rightful owners.

Momo: What’s the time?
Master Hora: Time is always there, it’s like music that we do not hear because it’s always in us. Sometimes you can hear it, like ripples on the water caused by the wind.

9 further performances of Momo will be staged at the Gärtnerplatztheater from 17 December to 18 January 2019. Also this month, Hiller’s Singspiel Das Traumfresserchen will be performed at the Staatstheater Cottbus on 27 December.

© Christian POGO Zach