Skip to content

Composer Moritz Eggert: 'Caliban turns from victim to perpetrator'

'Many opera productions still assume a nineteenth-century vision of the world,' says German composer Moritz Eggert (1965) in the podcast below. 'But art must be relevant to our own times; the answers of then are not the answers of now. Our current problems are largely rooted in our colonial past, in our exploitation of other countries and peoples.'

Commissioned by the Opera Forward Festival, he composed a new opera, Caliban, named after the eponymous character in The Tempest by Shakespeare. But although power and powerlessness play a major role in this, he wants to avoid an overly direct link with current events. 'The theme of the victim-offender relationship is much more universal and affects us all. Caliban develops from someone who is oppressed, to someone who becomes an oppressor himself.'

Lyricism and emotion

Eggert wants to write music that touches people. In modern operas, he says, characters are often used more as symbols of an idea than as flesh-and-blood people. He calls melody almost the most important aspect of music and unabashedly puts lyrical vocal lines in the mouth of the 'monster' Caliban. 'Caliban is full of music and even full of love. He constantly switches between the low baritone register and his falsetto. This illustrates how he slowly loses his innocence.'

'Prospero is a spoken role because the monarch has long since lost his innocence. He no longer has the ability to sing. In a way, he makes Caliban his equal, and at the end of the opera, he too loses his melody. He recites only on one and the same pitch. Incidentally, I paired Caliban with a contrabass flute, which underlines his earthiness.'

Ned McGowan, double bass flute 20-3-2017 (Photo: author)


We also recognise the theme of deformed outcasts in his earlier operas, such as Freax and Die Schnecke. 'That theme interests me, not because I see myself as a freak, but because modern music is often considered extravagant and strange. Somehow, as a living composer, you always have to defend yourself.'

Inclusive music

Eggert writes what he calls 'inclusive music', in which modern dissonance, jazz, folk music, Renaissance polyphony and pop form a natural alliance. 'My inspiration was Bernd Alois Zimmermann, an often misunderstood composer. That mixing of styles does not stem from a postmodern penchant for pleasing audiences, but is completely authentic. It presents itself from within the notes themselves.'

Eggert wrote his hour-and-a-half-long opera for the Asko Schönberg, three singers and a speaking voice. I attended a rehearsal on Monday 20 March and spoke to him afterwards for a podcast.

Listen to the whole conversation here (in English).

Good to know

Thea Derks

Thea Derks studied English and Musicology. In 1996, she completed her studies in musicology cum laude at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in contemporary music and in 2014 published the critically acclaimed biography 'Reinbert de Leeuw: man or melody'. Four years on, she completed 'An ox on the roof: modern music in vogevlucht', aimed especially at the interested layperson. You buy it here: In 2020, the 3rd edition of the Reinbertbio appeared,with 2 additional chapters describing the period 2014-2020. These also appeared separately as Final Chord.View Author posts

Private Membership (month)
5€ / Maand
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Own mastodon account
Access to our archives
Small Membership (month)
18€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of less than €250,000 per year
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Posting press releases yourself
Extra attention in news coverage
Large Membership (month)
36€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of more than €250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Share press releases with our audience
Extra attention in news coverage
Premium Newsletter (substack)
5 trial subscriptions
All our podcasts

Payments are made via iDeal, Paypal, Credit Card, Bancontact or Direct Debit. If you prefer to pay manually, based on an invoice in advance, we charge a 10€ administration fee

*Only for annual membership or after 12 monthly payments

en_GBEnglish (UK)