Works
Music Theatre | 2023

Searching for Zenobia

Music-theatre for actress, vocalist, mezzo, female vocal ensemble, string ensemble and percussion (2023)
Text by Mohammad Al Attar translated into German by Sandra Hetz
Commission: Munich Biennale
Co-production: Munich Biennale/Staatstheater Braunschweig
First performance: Munich, 31.05.2024
Isabel Ostermann, direction, Sarah Granheis, dramaturgy, Stephan Von Vendel, scenes and costumes
Krista Birkner, actress, Milda Tubelytè, mezzo, Mais Harb, vocalist, Elias Aboud, percussionist
Staatschoir Braunschweig, Staatsorchester Braunschweig
Susanne Blumenthal, conductor
Edizioni Ricordi, Milano
Duration: ca. 60 m

PRESENTATION
The starting point of the project are the letter by Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, to the Roman Emperor Aurelian at a time when Aurelian was attacking all the territories she had reconquered in the Middle East, as recorded in the Historia Augusta, written in the 4th century. In chapter XXVI, we read that Aurelian complained about Zenobia's prowess as a female fighter and how he decided to write to her to demand her surrender. In chapter XXVII is reported the Zenobia's reply, showing the refuse and the impressive boldness of this highly cultured Syrian queen.
The figure of Zenobia was mythical in Venetian Baroque culture and the only opera by Tommaso Albinoni that survived the destruction of the Saxon State Library in Dresden caused by the British and American bombings in 1945, was his first opera score "Zenobia, regina de' Palmireni" (1694), premiered in the Theatre of SS. Giovanni e Paolo in 1694. The score was saved through the purchase of the famous German music antiquarian Leonhard Liepmannssohn (1840-1915) who later sold it to the DC Library of Congress. These events and the migration of the score due to wars and cultural exchanges and its symptomatic journey is the hidden subject of the work.
In collaboration with the librettist Mohammad Al Attar, the singer Mais Harb and the percussionist Elias Aboud, three Syrian artists refugees in Berlin, we tried to define a new vision of Zenobia and Palmyra. Palmyra today is rather the site of the atrocious Tadmur prison where many dissidents were imprisoned and tortured and the archelogic site destroyed by ISIS in 2015, than the mythic place of a great civilization.
The score became a field of action of different impressions coming from the different paths of migration of people and works today and in the past. 
Last updated on

Music-theatre for actress, vocalist, mezzo, female vocal ensemble, string ensemble and percussion (2023)
Text by Mohammad Al Attar translated into German by Sandra Hetz
Commission: Munich Biennale
Co-production: Munich Biennale/Staatstheater Braunschweig
First performance: Munich, 31.05.2024
Isabel Ostermann, direction, Sarah Granheis, dramaturgy, Stephan Von Vendel, scenes and costumes
Krista Birkner, actress, Milda Tubelytè, mezzo, Mais Harb, vocalist, Elias Aboud, percussionist
Staatschoir Braunschweig, Staatsorchester Braunschweig
Susanne Blumenthal, conductor
Edizioni Ricordi, Milano
Duration: ca. 60 m