Lisaboa Houbrechts is one of the artistic directors of Toneelhuis in Antwerp. She is steadily building her international career, recently with an acclaimed Medea at the Comédie-Française in Paris. During a press conference last Thursday, Stockholm’s prestigious Dramaten theatre announced its spring programme. There, Lisaboa Houbrechts is adapting and directing Yerma, Lorca’s timeless drama about childlessness and revenge. The premiere is on 1 February 2024. The very next day, 2 February, her lauded Vake Poes has its German premiere at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg as part of the Lessingtage festival (which is also hosting FC Bergman’s The Sheep Song). And immediately after that, she will direct Orfeo ed Euridice by Gluck at the opera house in Hanover, premiering on 22 March 2024.
DRAMATEN, STOCKHOLM: YERMA
Lisaboa chose the timeless drama Yerma because its subject matter is dear to her. Yerma has been married for two years and dreams of having a baby. She is obsessed with the idea, while all around her the bellies of other newlyweds are growing. She begins to question her husband Juan’s motives. What does he actually want? The situation is driving her crazy, but as long as he is alive, there is hope. Juan has his own problems and seeks support from the writer Lorca, who in Lisaboa Houbrechts’ adaptation comes on stage. And so, this Yerma is also about the assassination of Lorca himself, who may have been killed because of his sexual inclination.
Dramaten calls Lisaboa Houbrechts “one of the most exciting names in contemporary European theatre, acclaimed for her expressive productions that move freely between theatre, opera and the visual arts”. She brings an international artistic team to Dramaten, comprised of the French scenographer Clémence Bezat, the Belgian-Malian fashion designer Oumar Dicko and the Belgian composers Bert & Stijn Cools, who are making music in collaboration with the Lithuanian vocalist Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė and a choir.
The role of Yerma is performed by Swedish actress Nina Zanjani – known among other things from Wallander and Agent Hamilton. She is “excited to work with one of Europe’s most interesting directors”.
LESSINGTAGE, HAMBURG: VAKE POES & THE SHEEP SONG
For 15 years now, Thalia Theater in Hamburg has been bringing artists from all over Europe together at the Lessingtage festival. The upcoming edition focuses on a new, younger generation that is increasingly shaping and seeking its own future in a changing world. Toneelhuis is represented at Lessingtage with not one, but two productions. Lisaboa Houbrechts is a guest there with the award-winning Vake Poes. And FC Bergman’s The Sheep Song, presented at festivals around the world and cancelled for Lessingtage 2022 because of Corona, finally can be seen in Germany.
With Vake Poes, Lisaboa Houbrechts delves into the dark past of her own family’s history, from which it is difficult to escape. She interweaves fragments from Bach’s St. John Passion with her own texts, seeking a form for the unspeakable, for how the death of Jesus relates to the secret suffering of those scarred by trauma. For this ambitious narrative, Houbrechts works with actors, vocalists and musicians of all ages, from children to young adult performers to several established icons of the theatre world.
The Lessingtage programme also includes productions by Luk Perceval and by Mattias Andersson, author, director and artistic leader of Stockholm’s Dramaten.
The Sheep Song, FC Bergman 27 and 28 January 2024, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
Vake Poes, Lisaboa Houbrechts 2 and 3 February 2024, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
STAATSTHEATER HANNOVER: ORFEO ED EURIDICE
In Hanover, Lisaboa Houbrechts is directing Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice. The first joint production by the ballet company and the opera company in Hanover, this is one of the great classics in the history of opera and ballet. Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera caused a revolution in 1762. He eschewed the rigid forms of his predecessors and achieved the highest musical effects through concentration and simplicity – and put the focus on the choir, and on ballet.
The new production from Hanover aims to refine our perception of human rituals and processions, as well as Orpheus’ impossible desire to rescue his beloved Eurydice from the underworld. Together with the Italian choreographer Diego Tortelli, Lisaboa Houbrechts searches for light in the dark.
"Christoph Willibald Gluck was a great innovator. He turned away from the typical displays of virtuosity favoured by his contemporaries and wrote Orfeo ed Euridice, an opera that tells the extraordinary story of those two lovers with unprecedented clarity and purity. The ballet music, too, is governed by refine simplicity and integrated into the story in accordance with French tradition. It almost demands that the story be told through the language of dance.” (Benjamin Bayl, conductor)