Stewart Copeland and Jonathan Moore’s latest collaboration “Electric Saint,” co-commissioned by Kunstfest Weimar and Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar, to receive its world premiere at Kunstfest Weimar in September 2020.

As the State of Thuringia marks its centenary in 2020, Kunstfest Weimar will ask: ‘How does the Free State of Thuringia see itself today?’ Multifaceted, contradictory, wild and yet traditional: Is it a land of music, a modern hub of cutting-edge technology or a romantic setting with fortresses, castles and forests?

In today’s first-look programme announcement, there are nods towards central themes which will be fully revealed in the main programme launch in April 2020, alongside a line-up of artistic luminaries including: La Fura dels Baus, Gregory Maqoma, Amir Reza Koohestani and Anselm Kiefer.

The major co-commission by Kunstfest Weimar and Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar at the heart of this year’s programme is a new work by composer Stewart Copeland and librettist Jonathan Moore who bring their latest opera Electric Saint to Kunstfest Weimar in September 2020. The world premiere performance will take place on September 6, 2020, with seven subsequent performances in Weimar. The opera tells the dramatic story of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison and the race for electricity.

“We are proud to introduce this highly acknowledged and prolific creative duo—the legendary rock star Stewart Copeland and his librettist and director Jonathan Moore—to continental opera audiences,” said Rolf Hemke, Director of Kunstfest Weimar. “They have chosen a theme which is emblematic of our time: dealing with the existential struggle of turbocapitalism against an altruistic attitude for the common good. We are delighted to combine musical excellence with a thought-provoking, politically engaged staging to seduce new audiences to attend an exciting piece of contemporary music theatre!”

After three previous operas together, including two literary adaptations (2013’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” for Royal Opera House Covent Garden and 2017’s “The Invention of Morel” for Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera), Copeland and Moore turn to the real-life rivalry between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, brilliant minds and inventors with diametrically opposing philosophies. Perhaps the best modern analogy would be Bill Gates and Steve Jobs: one a radical, detail-oriented genius, the other a talented inventor but also a shrewd marketer and businessman. Tesla believed that electricity and power should be free for the good of humankind; Edison instead saw them as an opportunity to enhance his own personal wealth.

“Tesla was an emotional man with a high-octane frenzy of inspiration so his music crashes like waves upon the shore,” remarks Copeland. “Illuminating dry scientific concepts with operatic emotional intensity was a challenge, but it ultimately led to interesting uses for the human voice. Humans can sound like electrons!”

Further programme highlights announced today include:

Bach meets Electro meets Flamenco in Free Bach 212, created by internationally acclaimed Catalan directors’ collective La Fura dels Baus. Led by their charismatic co-founder Miki Espuma and in codirection with David Cid, the group reimagines J. S. Bach’s «Peasant Cantata» (BWV 212), his best-known secular cantata as a staged, illustrated and ironically disrupted concerto. Bach is repeatedly interrupted, paraphrased or contrasted by electronic music and flamenco, visualised by expressive dancer Miguel Angel Serrano and the flamenco-singer-and-dancer Mariola Membrives with atmospheric video projections by David Cid.

Gregory Maqoma, arguably the most influential choreographer in southern Africa today, and his Vuyani Dance Theatre company transport the character of Toloki, originated by South African writer Zakes Mda, into the heart of Maqoma’s dance piece, Cion. Set to Ravel’s Bolero, which was originally composed as a ballet score, Maqoma transforms this masterwork into a danced requiem, an energetic, sweeping memento mori. After successful performances at festivals in Johannesburg, Marseille, London and Amsterdam, Cion receives its German premiere in Weimar.

Iranian stage director and screenwriter Amir Reza Koohestani has been invited together with his Mehr Theater Group to festivals around the world and in Germany has become one of the most sought-after directors for the stage, including the Munich Kammerspiele and the Deutsches Theater Berlin. In 2020 Koohestani will debut his stage adaptation of Anna Seghers’s novel Transitan insightful and compassionately told exploration of displacement and exile – at the Kunstfest Weimar, in a coproduction with the famous Thalia Theater of Hamburg and performed by its commanding ensemble.

The Kunstfest Weimar and its ambassador Matthias Goerne present the next edition of its special Kunstfest concert format World Premiere of a Painting. Following last year’s world premiere of a new painting by Georg Baselitz, this year sees Anselm Kiefer create a new work especially for this occasion in 2020. Kiefer is one of the most influential contemporary painters in the world. His paintings often possess a rugged, otherworldly aesthetic marked by an impressive physicality often evoked by the materials he incorporates.  Born in Weimar, Matthias Goerne is a celebrated baritone star who has performed on the world’s foremost concert podiums and opera stages. For this production, he is developing a song programme which emotionally and thematically references and interprets Kiefer’s newest work.

In its first ever joint exhibition project with the Kunstfest, the Klassik Stiftung Weimar will present an exhibition opening on 27 August 2020 featuring 120 masterpieces of German Romanticism including numerous brightly coloured aquarelles. Most of the works belong to the collections which Goethe originally established for the Grand Duke of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach and himself. In addition to Caspar David Friedrich, Philipp Runge and Johann Füssli, the exhibition features drawings by over 35 other artists including Tischbein, Carstens, Fohr, Horny, von Schadow, Schinkel, von Schwind, Richter and the Nazarene artists Overbeck and Schnorr von Carolsfeld. The exhibition especially highlights the opulent works of the late Romantic period by von Schwind and his contemporaries.

The founding of the Weimar Republic in 1919 marked the beginning of Weimar Cinema, the golden age of German film. Based on reconstructed movie programmes shown at Weimar’s local cinemas and the Weimar municipal archive, Kunstfest presents the second annual Weimar silent film retrospective. Entitled Imagination Overload. Films of the Weimar Republic in Weimar’s Cinemas in 1920, the programme features rare works outside the established film canon which were crowd-pullers 100 years ago, including Italian heroic epics, early science-fiction films and especially the works by Ernst Lubitsch (1892 – 1947), who later became a famous Hollywood comedy director. Interviews with experts from the fields of film, culture and music will shed light on their cinematic cultural legacy.

Kunstfest Weimar runs from 26 August to 12 September 2020.