The Condemnation of Lucullus

by Paul Dessau / Bertolt Brecht
Opera in twelve acts
Libretto by Bertolt Brecht after his audio drama The Trial of Lucullus
sung in German
With an opulent State funeral procession Lucullus, Rome’s recently deceased military leader, is carried to his grave. Upon his arrival at the realm of shadows, Lucullus is immediately asked to give account of his worldly accomplishments. Here different conditions prevail – much to his consternation: In their lifetime, the tribunal’s jurors belonged to Rome’s lower class. And the cornice that Lucullus points out as testament to his triumphs, undergoes a completely different interpretation when the depicted are called to the witness stand. Even the former man of pleasure's culinary novelties fail to impress the jurors.
In 1949, Bertolt Brecht and Paul Dessau, both back from exile, reworked a radio piece into an opera in their adopted home of East Berlin. With that radio piece, Brecht had already put all military expansion on trial ten years earlier. Meanwhile, a whole or at least a divided nation was facing the question of responsibility for a criminal war. Whatever conclusions the audiences of that time may have arrived at – the authors wished for one with critical judgment – the collective on stage ends the process with a condemnation of the supreme commander: "Into nothingness with him!" The premiere of the score in 1951, with its spectacular wind and percussion section, turned into a cultural-political scandal. Seventy years later, Julia Lwowski and Franziska Kronfoth from the music theater collective Hauen und Stechen are re-evaluating it together with conductor Bernhard Kontarsky. Leading a process in the literal sense, namely as an incessant search, they piece together fragments of the past and go into the deep layers of the earth. Can nourishment be found there for new ways of thinking about how we want to live in the future? Who is allowed to bear witness to whom? And who would actually have to answer to whom today if we took our concept of justice at its word?
November 1, 2021
Recommended age
from grade 9