A New Music Theater for the Destruction of Man(kind) : Ulrich Rasche’s Agamemnon at the Ancient Greek Epidaurus Theater

Saturday, Feb 25, 2023

9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

The music theatre of German director Ulrich Rasche has garnered a cult following in contemporary theatre and music circles and has been labelled “machine theatre”, “techno opera”, “treadmill theatre” and “choir theatre”. In his latest production of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon at the 2022 Athens Epidaurus Theater Festival, a scenic and musical interpretation of the play is performed in the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in Greece. Aeschylus’ 458 B.C. play is no less current in our modern time, as Agamemnon triumphantly returns home from the Trojan War after 10 years, only to be slaughtered by his wife Clytemnestra. The textual performance is accompanied (but not superior to) newly composed music by contemporary/pop composer Nico van Wersch. Set for four percussionists on a platform in the center of a revolving mechanical stage, the music mimics the minimalist stage design with repeating patterns that blend with the actors’ monologues and choirs. The live music connects the elements of machine, nature and man, and acts not as background noise, but drives the whole work as its rhythmic structure determines the actors’ continuous steps on top of the revolving stage. 

In this case study, an aesthetic analysis shows a posthuman in new music theatre, but a practical analysis reveals also a transhuman make-up. Comparing elements of Trans- and Technological Post-Humanism outlined by philosopher Janina Loh (2018), as well as her theories on feminist philosophy in technology (2019), bring current philosophical views to critic the music theatre form. Results will be presented on how specific aspects of current technology are used to transform and also transcend human existence within a musical and theatrical setting, and how technology can help form a new feministic perspective on an old character (Clytemnestra). As a musician in the piece, my participant-observations reveal how digitalization tools affected the composition process, the performers’ experience and the sonically immersive outcome.

Katelyn King

A native of Atlanta, USA, Katelyn Rose King is a researcher and performer working in the fields of theatre, music and everywhere in-between. Although classically trained in percussion performance and theatrical music interpretation, she is currently working toward a doctoral degree at the Universität Hildesheim and is part of a research team at the Hochschule der Künste Bern that surveys the new music theatre scene in Switzerland. Katelyn has a Master in Composition and Theory in Théâtre Musical from the HdK Bern, an MMus from McGill University, a BMus from Kennesaw State University and is a Fulbright Scholar.