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Work of the Week – Peter Eötvös: Sleepless

“When it’s out of necessity, anything is permissible.” This bold statement appears in the opera Sleepless by composer Peter Eötvös and his wife Mari Mezei, the librettist. Jon Fosse’s novel Trilogy provides the basis for the story. Eötvös himself will conduct the world premiere of the work in Berlin at Staatsoper Unter den Linden on 28 November 2021. The work will be staged by Kornél Mundruczó, with set design and costumes by Monika Pomale. The performance will take place in English with German and English surtitles.

Sleepless by Peter Eötvös and Mari Mezei – an opera ballad in two acts 

The plot focuses on the tragic struggle between two young parents who have unexpectedly become homeless. In desperation, the father, Asle, succumbs to animalistic instincts and he ultimately commits several murders to save his sleeping wife, Alida, and their unborn child from their precarious situation. After Asle is executed for his crimes, the child grows up alone with her mother. Years later, Alida has lost everything: deserted by her daughter, she loses her mind and her ability to sleep.

Two bundles and a fiddle case. A ballad about non-existent belonging. A sad story full of secrecy, melancholy and surrealism. The story is simple, almost biblical. Here, too, there are causes and consequences. And the question remains – is the cause of the sin well-grounded; can sin be justified? Also, whether the consequence, the judgement, is fair. The ‘sleepless’ of the title refers to the insomnia of the protagonist brought about by her persistent spiritual trauma. Mari Mezei

Sleepless has been co-commissioned by the Staatsoper Unter den Linden and the Grand Théâtre de Genève. The national premiere in Geneva will take place on 29 March 2022. More information about Eötvös’ operas and stage works can be found below. His tragic-comedy Valuska is scheduled to premiere in Budapest in October 2023. Valuska, Eötvös’ first opera in his native language Hungarian, is based on the novel The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai.

photo: Claudio Guglieri/Unsplash; Victoria Palacios/Unsplash; Staatsoper Unter den Linden