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Le grand Macabre

on November 11, 2023
This is the page for the performance on November 11, 2023.
Music György Ligeti → Oper in zwei Akten
Text Michael Meschke & György Ligeti
nach La Balade du Grand Macabre
von Michel de Ghelderode


Cast 11.11.2023

Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado
Inszenierung & Bühne Jan Lauwers
Costume Design Lot Lemm
Lighting Design Ken Hioco
Choreography Paul Blackman Jan Lauwers
Dramaturge Elke Janssens
Nekrotzar Georg Nigl
Chef der Gepopo / Venus Sarah Aristidou
Fürst Go-Go Andrew Watts
Amanda Maria Nazarova
Amando Isabel Signoret
Astradamors Wolfgang Bankl
Mescalina Marina Prudenskaya
Piet vom Fass Gerhard Siegel
Weißer Minister Daniel Jenz
Schwarzer Minister Hans Peter Kammerer
Ruffiack Jusung Gabriel Park
Schobiack Jack Lee
Schabernack Nikita Ivasechko


Prophesied armageddons generally disappoint. In his only opera, Le Grand Macabre, György Ligeti created a large, discursive world theatre in which the plain, unvarnished human condition with all its drives and weaknesses is the cause of nothing less than an impending apocalypse. Into an imaginary, corrupt land of milk and honey – Breughelland, a vision of gluttony, drunkenness and lechery – Death arrives one day, otherwise known as Nekrotzar or the demonic Grand Macabre, to announce the impending destruction of the world and frivolous humanity. However, seduced by the pleasures of life, which he is unfamiliar with, the only person to die at the end is Nekrotzar himself. Everyone else draws the conclusion that their temporary survival should be used to continue their previous lifestyle.

Program booklet (2,50€)

In cooperation with NEEDCOMPANY.

Attendance at the performance is only recommended from the age of 12

The piece is set in the totally depraved but carefree prosperity of the Principality of Breughelland in the “umpteenth century”.


Piet the Pot, always slightly drunk (a professional wine taster) and duly cheerful, a sort of realistic Sancho Panza, sees the beautiful couple Amanda and Amando. They are looking for an undisturbed spot where they can make love in private, but this seems to be difficult in Breughelland, with its constant uproar. While Piet the Pot watches the couple avidly, Nekrotzar suddenly appears. Nekrotzar, the Grand Macabre, is a sinister, shady demagogic character, humourless, pompous, with an unshakeable sense of mission. Piet, who is fearless, mocks Nekrotzar, who announces he is “Death” and will destroy the whole world tonight, with the help of a comet. He orders Piet to fetch his props – scythe, trumpet, cape – and be his servant generally. He doesn’t ask if Piet is willing to do this – Nekrotzar is the master and used to people obeying him without question. Amanda and Amando meanwhile retreat into the vacant grave, and will sleep through the end of the world undisturbed. Nekrotzar rides to the capital of the principality. The pair of lovers sing a duet.


The home of the court astrologer, Astradamors. The mistress is Mescaline, who has Astradamors totally in her power. At the start of the scene, she attacks him, and then Astradamors has to look at the stars. Meanwhile, Mescalina – guzzling red wine – falls asleep and dreams that the goddess Venus finally sends her a better husband. Venus actually appears, together with Nekrotzar and Piet. Astradamors happily recognizes his drinking buddy Piet. Nekrotzar goes up to Mescalina, embraces her brutally and finally bites her neck like a vampire. With a terrible scream, she falls to the ground, lifeless – Astradamors rejoices. Nekrotzar orders her corpse to be cleared away.

Finale: Nekrotzar triumphantly announces the impending end of the world. Nekrotzar, Piet and Astradamors leave for the prince’s palace. Astradamors comes back and feels “at last master of the house”.


The gluttonous, baby-like Prince Go-Go rules in Breughelland. He is tyrannized by his two corrupt ministers, the leaders of the feuding White and Black Parties, although there is no difference at all in their positions. The business of state is conducted in a totally confused way, the ruling prince has no say, and the two ministers are in constant conflict, threatening to resign, and then reconciling, only to fall out again. They also force the prince to practise posture and riding and to “wear the crown with dignity”. They declare the country’s constitution is blank paper, but still force Go-Go to sign endless new decrees to raise taxes sky-high. Prince Go-Go is hungry, he thinks only of food and finally dismisses the ministers, accepts their resignation and gorges himself. A rapid appearance of the head of the secret police (“Gepopo”) with his entourage. He gives Go-Go an encrypted message and warns him of the arrival of an angry mob of demonstrators. There are cries of fear and rage from the people. The ministers try to calm the crowd from the balcony of the throne room, but the mob calls for the prince. He finally speaks to them and beats the constantly resigning ministers. Suddenly, the police chief appears again. The latest encrypted message warns of the arrival of an enigmatic, threatening figure. The police chief flees in panic, but instead of the threatening figure, Astradamors appears, yodelling happily, still rejoicing that he’s free from his wife. The ministers have meanwhile run away as well. Go-Go and Astradamors sing and dance together. Suddenly, a siren sounds, then another. Go-Go reverts to childhood, begs for help, and Astradamors hides him under the dinner table. Ne-krotzar appears in dark and grandiose pomp. Triumphantly and pompously, he announces that the end of the world is coming and recites distorted and fragmented quotes from the Book of Revelation. High above the “last trumpets” sound. The crowd beg Nekrotzar for mercy, and he gets sucked into the all-too fleshly activities of the Breughelland dwellers. Piet gives him a glass of red wine, and Nekrotzar believes in his megalomaniac obsession that he is drinking the blood of his victims, which he needs for reinforcement to fulfil his “sacred duty”. Piet and Astradamors keep filling his glass, and the inebriation scene becomes more and more mechanical. Go-Go also gets one glass after another under the table, and finally all four stum- ble around, drunk. Piet introduces the two rulers – Czar Nekro, Czar Go-Go – to each other. Suddenly there’s an explosion, screams of terror, and the threateningly close appearance of the comet. Nekrotzar panics, announces he will destroy the world, and falls from the saddle, drunk.


Piet and Astradamors think they have died and gone to heaven. Go-Go stumbles in, believing he is alive, but fearing he is the only living person left on earth. Three ruffians – Ruffiack, Schobiack and Shabernack – appear suddenly. They arrest Go-Go as “a civilian” and prepare to kill him. Suddenly, Nekro-tzar appears in all his gaunt height. When he recognizes the prince, the three ruffians let Go-Go go. Weakened by disappointment and alcohol, Nekrotzar wishes he was dead. But suddenly Mescalina appears and throws herself on him in a rage. Two ruffians hold Mescalina, and the third brings in the two ministers. The ministers cowardly and sycophantically plead for mercy, claiming they were only thinking of the 

welfare of the people. They and Mescalina accuse each other of inventing the astronomical taxes, launching the inquisition, and planning to dispose of the prince. The debate leads to a general melee until all of them are lying on the ground. Piet and Astradamors wander in, still thinking they are in heaven. The prince greets them and gives them wine to drink. This is too much for Nekrotzar. He begins to shrink in grief, gets smaller and smaller and finally disappears without a trace. The two lovers emerge from the grave, dishevelled.


Amanda and Amando know nothing of the assumed end of the world. The final chorus is sung by all except Nekrotzar. “Don’t fear Death, good people! At some point he will come, but not today! And when he comes, then it’s time... Farewell till then in cheerfulness!”