Wallander goes Opera

The University of Tübingen, together with many partners, will bring the story of the popular police inspector Kurt Wallander to the opera stage in July 2016. The character is based on the protagonist of the globally renowned crime novels by Swedish author Henning Mankell. The opera W – The Truth Beyond resumes the story of Mankell’s last Wallander novel.

The concept originated with University Music Director and the Head of the Collegium Musicum, Philipp Amelung. He then recruited two creative, enthusiastic Swedish allies for his ambitious project – librettist Klas Abrahamsson and composer Fredrik Sixten. He then brought in experienced director Julia Riegel to stage the production. The creator of the series of crime novels, Henning Mankell, gave his blessing to the project before his death.

Amelung and his team are also receiving support from Landestheater Tübingen and the cities of Tübingen and Ystad, where the opera will be performed. University of Tübingen faculties have been taking part in interdisciplinary work in order to bring the project to fruition. Among them are the Institutes of German and Scandinavian Studies, the Institute of Media Studies and the Institute of Musicology. The Tübingen Centre for Media Competence and the State University of Music and the Performing Arts in Stuttgart are involved as well.

As part of a research training project that incorporates both theoretical and practical approaches, M.A. level Media Studies students are cooperating closely with the director in developing video elements for the stage production. Working together with the direction team, Tübingen’s Collegium Musicum and the Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra Reutlingen, students are following and documenting the process of production, developing a public relations concept, creating a website for the event and producing advertising content. Students in another seminar are producing a web report (german) about how the opera project came into being.

B.A. and M.A. level students of Musicology are addressing the project’s production dramaturgy in seminars reflecting upon both its practical and theoretical aspects. As they do, they are following critically the process of stage rehearsals, generating concepts and content for the programme, translating the libretto and developing German surtitles that will also be set in the stage manager’s musical score and which they will look after during the performances. Their work is based on analysis and interpretations from an advanced, interdisciplinary seminar with students of German and Scandinavian Studies that was dedicated to, among other things, the subject matter, libretto, musical score and production concept.

Media Change

The history of art has for centuries been marked by a diversity of forms of media change that often influences the narrative style and form of individual media. Digitisation has intensified the dynamism of media change. This is frequently discussed in the field of Media Studies using the term media convergence, which has greatly expanded the spectrum of possibilities for media transformations. Beyond that, the internet allows for global communication of media formats, such as opera in the cinema, for example. This technology makes it possible to reach new target audiences.

How are literature, theatre, dance, visual arts and film altered in view of this media change? The opera W – The Truth Beyond is based on novels that have been adapted for film many times. Musical theatre, literature and film are going to meet on stages in Tübingen and Ystad, bringing to life a new type of crime opera originating from intensive reflection on the media and the arts. It will appeal to a range of audiences: Wallander crime novel fans, opera lovers and friends of contemporary art music. The opera also addresses a broad selection of issues – dementia, confusing, tangled relationships, and a love that failed are in the spotlight in Wallander’s new, old case – that he long-believed he had closed and consigned to the past.