Elena Mendoza and Matthias Rebstock’s La Ciudad de las Mentiras: Composed Theater in the Plural

Carmen Noheda

Complutense University of Madrid, Spain


This study discusses the creative process of La ciudad de las mentiras (City of Lies), music theater co-authored by the composer Elena Mendoza and the stage director Matthias Rebstock. Gerard Mortier commissioned City of Lies, the first music theatre that premiered at the Teatro Real in Madrid in 2017. My research considers the work’s narrative principles, which are based on four stories by the Uruguayan writer Juan Carlos Onetti (1909–1994). This interrelationship leads me to argue about experimenting with narrative processes on the idea of polyphony. Concerning this exploration, my proposal shed light on the diversity of working methods and highlights aspects related to the production systems of opera houses that condition the authors’ conception of music theater. I aim to examine Mendoza and Rebstock’s multidisciplinary collaboration and their artistic practices that affect co-presence and corporeality when two female instrumentalists in the main roles and an ensemble on the stage together with actors and singers leading both the dramatic and musical actions. This approach reflects on a precise set design that entails non-hierarchical performances and improvisation scenes. The theoretical framework that supports this analysis refers to the terminology for “Composed theater” investigated by Matthias Rebstock and David Roesner. Therefore, I address both performative and creative processes and production conditions that challenge music theatre creation in the current context of the Teatro Real.



Carmen Noheda is a Ph.D. candidate in Musicology at the Complutense University of Madrid (defense on January 2021), with a Training Professor Program grant from the Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities of Spain. She has an M.A. in Music Creation and Performance, a B.A. in Clarinet at the Madrid Royal Conservatory of Music, and a B.A. in Musicology at the Complutense University of Madrid, both with honors. She has been a Visiting pre-doctoral fellow at the Seoul National University (2016) and the University of California Los Angeles (2018). Carmen is on the Executive Board of the Spanish Clarinet Association and the Music and Arts Group at the Spanish Musicological Society. Her research focus is on contemporary Spanish opera and music theater.