18 edycja 18 edycja 18 edycja konfrontacje teatralne

When the mountain changed it’s clothing

Music theatre by Heiner Goebbels with Carmina Slovenica

When the mountain changed its clothing explores the changes experienced by the 40 girls from Maribor, ages ten to twenty. They confront us with stories and questions about the end of childhood.the old is no more, yet the new remains out of reach. On this threshold, they assemble to play seemingly harmless games, verses, songs, and create poetic threatening imaes. In a mutual interplay of sovereignty and repression, the young singers move through the cycle of the seasons, constantly calibrating the balance of power relations among one another and especially between the audience and the stage.

„What do young girls dream of” – „Of the knife and of blood.”

In 1995, this fragment of dialog by French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet closed an early musical theatre work by Heiner Goebbels, Die Wiederholung (The Repetition). It now represents the point of departure for his latest work of music theatre. Together with the singers and his artistic team, Heiner Goebbels developed a scenario in which the girls constantly sway between a cliche of childish innoicence and unpredictability. These highly charded images also emerge from the unbelievable energy of the young protagonists and reflect a social transformation: the rapid political and social changes in the region of this chorus and their musical culture.

Under the musical direction of Karmina Šilec, the Slovenian chorus has developed an international reputation. With its large repertoire, stretchung from medieaval to folk works and contemporary music, they perform around the world. Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica not only impresses with their great musical and choreographic precision, but also due to the self-confidence of the young singers.

The music to When the mountain changed its clothing combines choral music from Carmina Slovenica’s repertoire with partisam songs from the Tito era and popular music.


Heiner Goebbels – artist, curator, teacher

A music critic once said that he prefers Heiner Goebbels working in the theatre rather than composing. Theatre critics, on the other hand, couldn’t disagree more. The man in question manages to escape all judgements, clear definitions or genres. What is more, he has turned this changeability into his trademark and a source of great fun for him as an artist. At the same time he remains an artist that subjects theatre to self-reflection, questions the mechanisms of the performing arts, and the structures within which the artists have to function. He continuously explores the relationship between theatre and the other arts (visual arts, music, literature). He mastered the art of collage to the point that it became his own language. His relentless nature (also towards his co-workers), precision, excellent intuition, persistence and undeniable talent allowed him to create new, sometimes breath-taking creative landscapes.

He is, after all, one of the greatest contemporary European composers and performing arts auteurs, a professor and a director (until 2012, when he decided to choose the Festival of one of the biggest sources of talent in Germany: the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Gießen (founded in 1982 by Andrzej Wirth and run by Goebbels since 2003). He also remains a teacher, a lecturer, and an uncompromising advocate for independent theatre. However, in Germany his status is still quite ambiguous. The experimental artists consider him too mainstream, while the so-called season ticket audience still see him as something of a radical. His ability to continuously balance between these two worlds is a defining quality of his personality and place in the theater. His frequent comments criticising the monopolist position of repertory theatre and the opera in the German system are often refuted for their lack of consistency, whereas the independent artists consistently express envy at his privileged position and status as a star – a status that makes his production of new projects that cost hundreds of thousands of Euros a whole lot easier. He chooses to place his status as “in-between”; in between music and theatre, independent art and the mainstream. And he never stops working, ridiculing the attempts to classify his works according to genre or system. “They can call me what they want, I have no time to deal with that”, this sentence, said during an interview, became his credo, or, as his critics see it, a way of dodging critique.

A notorious theatre revolutionary has transformed into one of the most popular and distinctive stars of the European mainstream theatre. What is so interesting is that he entered the world of theatre as a renowned avant-garde musician. Who remembers the So-Called Left-Radical Brass Band of which he had been a member or the Cassiber group, which astounded the European and American avant-garde in the 1980s? This was the time when Goebbels started composing music for performances and directing radio plays mainly based on lyrics by Heiner Müller. In the mid-80s they became close friends and collaborators and since then Goebbels has frequently called this collaboration one of the most important in his life. In the 70s and 80s he founded numerous alternative music bands, participated in the radical left-wing movement in Frankfurt am Main and started a long-time collaboration with Ensemble Modern.  It was also at this time that he started playing his first stage concerts of his own music. The moment of Goebbels entering the theatre world was, therefore, a farewell to the aesthetics of mimesis, and a welcoming to the time of the second great performing shift on the stages of Europe with the birth of independent preforming arts spaces around the continent (such as the Kampnagel in Hamburg or Kaaitheater in Brussels). It was also the time of important performances by Robert Wilson, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Robert Lepage, and The Wooster Group. Heiner Goebbels had a meaningful role in this influential international movement. He was the co-founder and spokesman for radical changes in the way we think about theatre. His art was inspired by such artists as Heiner Müller, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Maurice Blanchot and Gertrude Stein. He has often referred to them in his subsequent performances, concerts and texts. At the same time, he remained a strong advocate for changing the theatre production system: all of his performances were created in opposition to the structures of institutional European repertory theatres and operas. Up to this day he considers himself an independent artist (he has never really worked within the structures of a repertory theatre with the exception of Theatre Vidy-Lausanne, (an institution that was very different from traditional European theatre based on repertory[1]). At the same time he gained the status of one of the most recognisable artists in the world, which makes it possible for him to demand budgets that make even opera artists jealous. His name became a trademark and he managed to gather around himself a circle of gifted artists, who have been collaborating with him on all his performances. Some of the most important are: Klaus Gruenberg (responsible for stage and light design), Stephan Buchberger (playwright), Willi Bopp, Hubert Machnik, and Matthias Mohr (one of the new members of the team, working as an assistant or collaborator.) However, their collaborative work is always signed by only one name: the director’s. It does mean that the praise often goes to only one person, on the other hand, that same person is entirely responsible for gathering funds for the projects, as well as dealing with the audience’s response. It is Goebbels who appears in the media, but he guarantees that the company will survive and stand up to even the most cutting critique.

A large part of his professional activity is committed to working with students (he is a professor at the Institute of Applied Theatre Studies in Gießenand the head of Hessische Theaterakademie). What is more, he is eager to travel around the world to conduct seminar classes. He is also a devoted manager. One of his achievements is reforming the Institute in Gießen and substantially extending its international collaboration. A recent success in his work as a manager at Gießen is inviting the renowned researcher and dance dramatist, Bojana Kunst. Goebbels has not ceased to fight for more space for young artists, but he is far from being a radical or rebel. That time in his life is past, right now he is one of the most influential figures of the mainstream world, no matter how much he resents to being called that.

Marta Keil

The complete article was published in “DIALOG” issue no 5/2013

[1]          Teatr Vidy in Lozanne is organised around a system of international coproductions and touring with its performances; it collaborated with the world-known directors like: Peter Brook, Josef Nadj, Heiner Goebbels.


Heiner Goebbels
German composer and director, born 1952, living since 1972 in Frankfurt/Main. Graduated in sociology and in music he creates music theatre, staged concerts, radio works, compositions for ensemble and for big orchestra. As a composer he collaborates with the finest ensembles and orchestras (Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, Orchestra in the Age of Enlightenment, Berlin Philharmonics) and conductors (Lothar Zagrosek, Sir Simon Rattle, Peter Eötvös, Peter Rundel and many others).
Since the beginning of the 90ties he composed and directed unique and celebrated music theatre works such as Black on White (1996), Max Black (1998), Eislermaterial (1998), Hashirigaki (2000),Landscape with distant relatives (2002), Eraritjaritjaka (2004), Stifters Dinge (2007), Songs of Wars I have seen (2007), I went to the house but did not enter (2008) among many others, which mostly have been produced by Theatre Vidy, Lausanne and have been invited to the most important international theatre and music festivals in Europe, the US, South America, Australia and Asia.
Many CD releases with ecm-records for which he recieved two grammy nominations; writings, lectures. He recieved many international record-, radio-, theatre- and music-awards. Composer in residence at the Lucerne Festival and for the Bochum Symphonics, member of several academies of arts, honorable fellow at Dartington College of Arts and at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London; fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Berlin (2007/08) and artist in residence at Cornell University, Ithaca USA.
Heiner Goebbels is professor at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies of the Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen and since 2006 President of the Theatre Academy of Hesse. From 2012 until 2014 he is artistic director for the International Festival of the Arts Ruhrtriennale.
In 2012 Heiner Goebbels is winner of the International Ibsen Award, one of the world’s most prestigious theatre prizes.


The vocal ensemble Carmina Slovenica with its artistic director Karmina Šilec is noted for its innovative programming which explores works from the forefronts of the contemporary music scene. With »Choregie – vocal theatre or theatre of voices« Carmina Slovenica is introducing a concept which incorporates contemporary music, drama, movement and other stage elements.
With this concept of vocal theatre the ensemble performed on stages worldwide – from Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space to the Teresa Carreno Theatre in Caracas, from Hong Kong Cultural Centre to Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. Carmina Slovenica has been invited to music events of the highest esteem such as the World Music Days (organized by the ISCM), Moscow Easter Festival, Dresdner Musikfestspiele, the World Symposium on Choral Music (organized by the IFCM), the European Symposium on Choral Music (IFCM), Polyfollia, America Cantat, Choir Olympics, Europa Cantat etc.
Many productions have been awarded on different occasions, lately in 2008, when Karmina Šilec received an award from the International Theatre Institute “Music Theatre Now” in the category Music beyond opera.
The main aim of the ensemble and its artistic director is a continual search for new music and new fields of work which has already shown results in a wide repertoire it has today; from early and ethnic vocal music to the latest avant-garde. The choir with its characteristic sound and wide-ranged virtuosity is the ideal ensemble for different repertoires – from a cappella music of all genres to vocal instrumental projects.
Concert tours in almost all countries of Europe, the USA, Canada, Africa, Central and South America, Japan and China, many highest awards at international choral competitions, participation in many international projects, recordings made for many radio and television stations, 15 CDs and 1 LP produced, excellent reviews of the ensemble’s performances by musical experts and critics … all these achievements speak for themselves and confirm the choir’s highest reputation.

Karmina Šilec has brought freshness and originality to the world of vocal music, opening new spaces of expression, persuasiveness, intensity of experience, and communication. With “Choregie – vocal theatre” and its innovative interventions, she has opened wider artistic spaces and set trends towards complex multi-media events – productions performed on stages of international festivals and broadcast by the EBU and Eurovision.
As conductor she has projects with various ensembles: Carmina Slovenica Choir, the Radio Slovenia Symphony Orchestra, the Slovenian National Opera and ballet Maribor, the Slovenian National Project Choir, ensemble !Kebataola!, Orchestra Chorus Instrumentalis and many ensembles worldwide.
Karmina Šilec has received more than 20 of the highest and different special awards on International competitions, just to name some: she was awarded with the international Robert Edler Prize for Choral Music, received the Prešeren Fund award for the project “Vampirabile” and most recently an award by the ITI – International Theatre Institute “Music Theatre Now” in the category Music beyond opera.
She also works as an artistic adviser for choral music, gives lectures to conductors and is regularly a guest conductor, jury member or member of artistic committees at festivals and competitions. She teaches conducting at the University of Maribor and lectures at many universities around the world.
Karmina Šilec is the artistic director of Choregie – New Music Theatre, the international project Attacca, the Choregie aka Choregie festival for new music and the concert series Attacca. There are few artistic teams in Slovenia as widely recognizes in the international arena as can undoubtedly be said for the conductor Karmina Šilec’s outstanding ensemble Carmina Slovenica and !Kebataola!, together with the movements she created.

120925_RT_Whenthemountain262, _ Wonge Bergmann für die Ruhrtriennale, 2012

© Wonge Bergmann für die Ruhrtriennale, 2012

120925_RT_Whenthemountain221, _ Wonge Bergmann für die Ruhrtriennale, 2012

© Wonge Bergmann für die Ruhrtriennale, 2012

120925_RT_Whenthemountain101, _ Wonge Bergmann für die Ruhrtriennale, 2012

© Wonge Bergmann für die Ruhrtriennale, 2012

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Concept, Directedion and Music: Heiner Goebbles
Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica
Artistic director: Karmina Šilec
Stage and Light design: Klaus Grűnberg
Costumes: Florence von Gerkan
Dramaturgy: Matthias Mohr
Sound design: Willi Bopp

Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica
Ambrož Maja, Arnejčič Ana, Arnejčič Iva, Bočnik Špela, Bočnik Tamara, Borec Saša, Borko Mojca, Borkovič Neža, Breznik Barbara, Brvar Špela, Črnčič Jasmina, Dvornik Danaja, Germ Eva, Gostenčnik Anja, Gostenčnik Staša, Gril Rogina Kaja, Habjanič Sintija, Hanžič Nina, Karlovčec Nastja Anastazija, Knehtl Špela, Kralj Nika, Lačen Alja, Lavrenčič Alenka, Lazar Petra, Novak Ana, Pečovnik Nika, Pušenjak Nina, Reljič Aina, Ritonija Sara, Sandrin Ana, Stojkovič Melanija, Studen Ana, Šimek Barbara, Topolovec Jera, Vasle Neža, Vinkovič Anja, Zidarič Mojca, Žnidar Anja

Texts: Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Jeseph Eichendorff, Adalbart Stifter, Gertrude Stein, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marlen Haushofer, Marina Abramović and Iam McEwan
Music: Johannes Brahms, Anrold Schönberg, Karmina Šilec, Sarah Hopkins and Heiner Goebbles

A Ruhrtriennale production. Coproduced by Steirischer Herbst (AT), Maribor Theatre Festival (SI), Festival Borštnikovo srečanje in the context of Maribor 2012 European Capital of Culture (SI), Théâtre de la Ville-Paris & Festival D'Automne, Paris (FR), Grand Theatre, Luxemburg (LU), Kunstfestspiele Herrenhausen (DE) Holland Festival, Amsterdam (NL) and Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels (BE).
Kindly supported by the association of friends and sponsors of the Ruhrtriennale.

Read more:

An interview with Heiner Goebbels by Lukáš Jiricka