A timeless Requiem by Hans Werner Henze



Das Floß der Medusa is a timeless requiem for the forgotten victims of the indifference of the privileged classes. Romeo Castellucci, one of the most radical theatre makers of our time, gets his teeth into this recalcitrant work, which kicks off the Opera Forward Festival 2018.


In 1968, the German composer Hans Werner Henze caused a huge scandal with Das Floß der Medusa. The premiere of this oratorio was abruptly called to a halt by the police just before curtain-up, following the riot that erupted in the auditorium when a large picture of Che Guevara was unrolled. Fortunately, recordings had been made of rehearsals, which were broadcast by Norddeutscher Rundfunk. The premiere eventually took place in Vienna in 1971. Henze created a new version of Das Floß der Medusa in 1990.


Das Floß der Medusa tells the story of the French frigate Méduse, which was wrecked on the sandbanks off Mauritania in 1816. The French government left the 150 victims to their fate. This scandalous episode from history was immortalised in the enormous painting Le radeau de la Méduse by Théodore Géricault.


After the war, Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012) was able to resume his music studies. In his work, he focused on recognisable human emotions, with a strong social engagement. He turned his back on emerging serialism and became known mainly as a composer of Neo-Romantic work of great lyrical quality. His Fifth Symphony (1963) was made on commission from the New York Philharmonic, with Leonard Bernstein as the conductor.

Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012) Das Floß der Medusa 1968/1990 (revision)


Ingo Metzmacher musical director

Romeo Castellucci stage director, sets, costumes and lighting

Silvia Costa Associate stage director
Piersandra di Matteo dramaturgy

Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra orchestra

Chorus of Dutch National Opera chorus

Cappella Amsterdam chorus

Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderkoor children's choir

Ching-Lien Wu, Daniel Reuss & Eline Welle rehearsal directors

Lenneke Ruiten La Mort

Bo Skovhus Jean-Charles

Dale Duesing Charon 



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