Denis & Katya
Amplified opera in two acts
Libretto by Ted Huffman
German version by Robert Lehmeier
A “Romeo and Juliet” tale in the age of social media: Two Russian teenagers hide in a hut to get away from their parents. When they are found by police the situation escalates – and Denis and Katya share their conflict with the world on social media. The real actors and their worldwide viewership spur each other on. The lines between digital perception and reality become blurred. What in the virtual world appears to be a game becomes deadly earnest. At the end, the two youngsters are dead. Denis & Katya is based on a true story which the British composer Philip Venables and his librettist Ted Huffman have adapted as a dense and intense work of musical theatre that was first performed in 2019 in Philadelphia. One mezzo-soprano and one baritone slip into the roles of various witnesses to reconstruct this teenage tragedy. The principal protagonists, Denis and Katya, only appear in these reports, overlaid by internet posts, WhatsApp messages, electro-acoustic sounds and an ensemble consisting of four cellos. All this combines to create a gripping piece of opera for our times that goes beyond the actual events themselves.
Introduction to the work 30 minutes before curtain-up
Stroboscopic effects (flashes of light) will be used during the performance. Under certain circumstances, certain flash frequencies can trigger seizures in epileptics and people at risk of epilepsy.
The opera is based on a true story that happened in the small town of Strugi Krasnye around 70 km northeast of the Russian city of Pskov. Several eyewitnesses – a journalist, Denis’s best friend, a neighbour, a teacher, a teenager and a doctor – reconstruct the story of the two teenagers Denis and Katya. Following an argument with Katya’s parents, the two youngsters have run away to a hunters’ hut where they hang out, drink alcohol and film each other for social media. They enjoy the attention they get from their viewers and start to perform more and more on a virtual stage. Katya’s mother disapproves of her daughter’s relationship and tells the police that Denis has abducted her. As a result, the police surround the hut. Stirred up by the comments posted on social media, the situation escalates. Shots are fired from an air rifle. Finally, the police storm the hut. Denis and Katya die in unexplained circumstances.