The Munich Biennale is worldwide the only festival that exclusively features world premieres of new music theater works. It opens up multifarious opportunities for young composers to experiment with their artistic projects on the highest level.
When Dr. Hans-Georg Küppers, the director of the Department of Arts and Culture of the City of Munich, inquired as to whether, starting in 2016, we would be interested in assuming the positions of artistic directors of this special festival, we were not only surprised and extremely pleased in view of the wonderful perspectives, we immediately comprehended the trust placed in us as a challenge to continue the extraordinarily successful history of the last decades and to further develop the new contextual and formal dimensions. After Hans-Werner Henze and Peter Ruzicka, once again two composers were offered the positions, which speaks for the special interest the City of Munich has in this festival.
To us, music theater is more than just a genre-related, sensual amusement. The classic term "composition" has been expanded. And for very good and comprehensible reasons. Our life-immanent relationships, especially in regards to aesthetic and formal frameworks, support one another, disregarding initially the dramatic political changes. How do the arts react? Or better yet: how do they act?! Because in a pilot project, apparently only beholden to truth and beauty, that which will be invented, experimentally deepened, and attempted very soon finds itself - frequently under different names and masks - in entirely different social correlations, not least in advertising, films, and everyday communications and media. But also where news is conveyed and opinions are formed. To us, this means to open up and protect art spaces as places for research. The expanded term "composition" encompasses very different formats. From new opera to scenic installation, from minimalized artistic intervention in municipal spaces to composed performance, just to name a few. This spectrum forms a space that reflects and artistically intensifies our social "multilingualism" and everyday media polyphony. This resulted in new music theater becoming an open field, which can illuminate social and also political issues under special conditions.
We had decided from the beginning to make the Munich Biennale once again primarily a forum for young artists and newcomers. The average age of the artists is approximately 30. In order to open up new paths for young artists, starting in 2013 we organized so-called international platforms, at first in Munich and then also with international partners worldwide, for example in Athens; Buenos Aires; Beijing; Shanghai; Rotterdam; and other cities. Here selected young artists from different disciplines, in other words, not just composers, but also set designers; authors; directors; video artists; performers; etc., come together to discuss certain subjects and questions, they get to know one another and their works, and in the end they form teams that will pursue together their respective projects over the course of the following months and years. To us, team work is just as important as when the individual artist concentrates at a desk or in a workplace; the artistic trades meet eye-to-eye and get involved from the beginning in productive discussions.
In the second edition of our festival we will examine the term "private matter" with the methods of observation and expression specialized in abstraction and sensualization. Whereas the fine arts, cinema, documentary film, literature, and acting in many locations deal intensively with this subject, up to now original projects in contemporary music theater dealing with the rich impact of the metamorphosis of "private matters" have to be searched for with a magnifying glass.
Starting with the question of whether a recall of a "private matter" still seems possible or desirable, or whether the unbridled publication of everything that is personal requires previously unknown protective spaces, the fifteen world premieres will deal with the technological, sociological, psychological, and historical aspects of the subject, and in particular also with the tonal, performative, and aesthetic facets of the questions that are posed. The developed formats and works promise to provide new perspectives on the definition and experience of "private matters," as well as surprising developments regarding the invention, publication, and reception of contemporary music theater.
Following the edition in 2016 that was concentrated in a relatively small area, the Munich Biennale 2018 can be experienced at different locations. In addition to our "traditional performance venues" at Muffatwerk and the Gasteig Cultural Center, we will also be showing our productions this time at Marstall (Residenztheater); Schwere Reiter; Villa Waldberta at Lake Starnberg; Einstein-Hallen, white-Box; in municipal spaces (Max-Joseph-Platz); and in five private apartments in Munich.
The publicist and cultural theorist Navid Kermani will reflect (accompanied by Manos Tsangaris) on the festival in his daily "Salon of Wondering and Responsibilities" in conversations with surprise guests. On the second weekend of the festival the American urban sociologist Saskia Sassen, the Austrian author Marlene Streeruwitz, and the American architect Daniel Libeskind will explore further aspects and perspectives regarding the issues of the changes in "private matters."
It is our hope and desire that the Munich Biennale, as a unique international festival of new music theater, will continue to be able to - in an intense form - stimulate and quicken the practice and lively discussion of contemporary music theater, and that as many visitors as possible will experience the diversity and quality of the artistic spectrum offered, and that, last but not least, the participating artists will also receive stimulation, support, and motivation for their research activities.
Daniel Ott, Manos Tsangaris