Notwehr (2022) — Chamber opera (50′). Concept & co-creatie: Annelies Van Parys (muziek), Gaea Schoeters (libretto), Sjaron Minailo (regie). Een productie in opdracht van La Biënnale di Venezia, in co-productie met Studio Minailo, Hermes Ensemble @ Muziektheater Transparant.

Twee vrouwen delen ongewild een gevangeniscel: een jonge activiste die opgepakt is na een illegale protestactie, en een volksvrouw die haar vriend vermoord heeft.  Hun gedwongen samenzijn begint op gespannen voet, maar  naarmate de nachten verstrijken, delen ze hun angsten en hun hoop met elkaar. En raken met elkaar in gesprek over welke dingen in het leven het waard zijn ervoor te vechten, en hoever je daarin kan en mag gaan. En of een goed doel alle middelen heiligt, ook al overschrijd je daarmee de wet.  Hun gedeelde opsluiting wordt een innerlijke reis, die hen allebei blijvend zal veranderen.

Wat is vrijheid? En waarvoor ben je bereid ze op te geven?

La Barca brengt oude en nieuwe muziek samen: de madrigalen-cyclus La Barca di Venezia a Padua van Banchieri fungeert als een soort echo van het verleden en van de buitenwereld, en vlecht zich zo tussen de nieuwe muziek van componiste Annelies Van Parys.

Van Parys’  idiomatic instrumental writing, strong vocal lines, and her characteristic ability to weave in and out of music history without losing her own voice all contribute to the evening’s strength.

A good libretto – all too rare in contemporary opera – certainly helps. Schoeters strikes just the right balance between poetry and prose, never too wordy, but always a compelling narrative. The two women’s stories unfold without pathos, all the more moving for their economy. (Shirley Apthorp / Slippedisc)

Johanna Zimmer and Els Mondelaers, as the two imprisoned women, inhabit their roles completely.


During an illegal protest action, a young activist is arrested. She is locked up for the night together with an older barmaid, who’s been accused of killing her husband. The two women unwillingly share the small prison cell: their forced togetherness starts out on a tense note, but as time passes they open up to each other. First reluctantly and uneasily, then more intimately, they share their fears and hopes. Sheltered by the night, they look back on their lives, and wonder what freedom really is, and what they are willing to risk it for. And if the end justifies the means, even if that means breaking the law. Where at first they have no understanding at all for each others actions, they soon find out they have more in common than expected. Their encounter, confined in time and place by their imprisonment, becomes an internal journey, that will change them both.

What is freedom? And what are you willing to sacrifice it for?

Just like in Adriano Banchieri’s (1605/1623) madrigal cycle Barca di Venetia per Padova (two) people with a very different social background are brought together by coincidence — or is it fate? — and forced to spend a certain amount of time together in a limited space. And just like Banchieri’s travellers, these two women are ‘in the same boat’… Composer Annelies Van Parys’ music enters into dialogue with the Banchieri madrigals, as librettist Gaea Schoeters weaves the old texts into the new libretto and the vocal ensemble paints a picture of the events that led up to incarceration of both women. The two soloists share their thoughts and feelings not only with each other, but also with the audience, as they comment on their own situation — thus turning Notwehr into a performance that is both playful and touching, light and dark. Staged by Sjaron Minailo.



Lesbians in a palazzo light up the Venice Music Biennale – Slippedisc review (Shirley Apthorp) — read here

Een gevangenisdrama op maat van Tintoretto — De Tijd — read here

66th Venice Biennale of Music: beyond the bars, by a few notes — Olryx — read here or here in French

Biennale day 11 – video summary

Sous le regard du Tintoret – review

All about jazz – review

Corriere Musicale – review




24/09/22 — Première / Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venezia

Cast & Crew

Notwehr (50′)

Creation & crew
Annelies Van Parys / Adriano Banchieri — composer
Gaea Schoeters — librettist
Sjaron Minailo — stage director
Raphael Rene Jacobs — regieassistent
Maarten Warmerdam — lichtontwerp
Patricia Hofstede — kostuum
Annik Laruelle & Anne Van Es / Muziektheater Transparant — production manager

Johanna Zimmer — soprano
Els Mondelaers — mezzosoprano

Gaea Schoeters — vertelstem

VENETIAETERNA vocal Ensemble
Silvia Porcellini, soprano
Elisabetta Cuman, mezzosoprano
Miranda Ying Quan, contralto
Giacomo Schiavo, tenor
Francisco Augusto Bois, bass
Francesco Erle, conductor

HERMES ensemble
Mar Sala Ramagosa / Karin de Fleyt, flute / bassflute
Stijn Saveniers, violoncello & conductor
Bram Fournier, trombone
Gaetan La Mela, percussion


Translation (German) — Christina Brunnenkamp

Commissioned by La Biennale di Venezia
in coproduction with Studio Minailo/HERMESensemble/Muziektheater Transparant


Technische gegevens

Music Theatre Performance
for 2 singers, vocal ensemble (5) and ensemble (4)

Commissione de La Biennale di Venezia