Katrin Stöck

Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg

Music theatre as an application for mobile devices and interactive performance

Based on compositions for music theatre by the young Portuguese composer Manuel Durão (*1987 in Lisbon, living in Leipzig) I want to discuss new forms of music theatre apart the traditional opera or theatre stage and also apart the concert podium, which was the place for instrumental theatre and similar forms from the second half of the twentieth century. This research focusses on the questions of musical composition practices, performance and reception but also deals with the relationship between music and image and technical aspects, too.
There arise questions to be answered how the younger audience can be reached by the visual, auditory, performative and interactive aspects of music theatre. The music theatre Opus magnus by Manuel Durão (Libretto by Daniel Schmidt, Video by Nicola Piccini) uses parallels to everyday live as strategies. Opus magnus is first a piece appearing and functioning as a smartphone app, where the auditory aspects are in main focus. There are videos, texts both spoken and to be read and áudio files. The spectator/user can experience the piece at anytime and anywhere, as a whole, in parts, repeating it, segmenting it and putting it together in another order.
But the app was transformed into live music theatre too, when it was performed in two separate versions: First as a part of an interactive theatre piece, where the audience had to design their own piece by researching a mystery story based on the topic of the panama papers. This event was performed at the Podium Festival Esslingen in 2016, directed by Jeffrey Döring. Here the music by Manuel Durão was only a small part of the whole piece. The audience, divided in groups had to investigate the plot by searching tips and arguments about a fictive business company and its strategies. The music provided a soundscape and at the end it was presented as a part of the result of the investigations. For the second time in Leipzig 2017, the music was more in the foreground and was presented with some film sequences produced by Nicola Piccini.
Based on this example there has to be asked: What kind of music is part of this theatre? Does the music reflect the music preferences of younger people too? How do music, text and video, and app-character interact in this music theatre? Which traditions of music theatre does the music reflect and how the technical conditions of an app are affecting the compositions techniques, the sound and the interpretation of the music? The lines between interpreter/singer/actor and composer/librettist/video artist and spectator/user are blurring: what about the reception of such music theatre and new definitions of the creator, the interpreter and the spectator?

Keywords: music theatre as app; interactive music theatre


Dr. Katrin Stöck studied musicology and theatre sciences as well as German literature at the Universities of Halle-Wittenberg and Leipzig. She was working as scientific research assistant for musicology at the University of Leipzig from 2012 to 2017, now she is working as a scientific research assistant at the University of Halle. 2013–2015 she was researching at CESEM/Lisbon, still being a member of its working group „Teoria crítica e comunicação“. Her doctoral thesis about Music Theatre in the GDR appeared (in German) in 2013 at Böhlau- Verlag. 1999–2012 she participated in the revision of the Riemann-Musiklexikon (Mainz 2012). She is leading courses and lectureships, organising conferences (International GfM-Conference Leipzig 2008, Int. Congress of Luther research, Wittenberg 2017), and is working as a freelance dramatic advisor. She is specialised in music theatre of 20th and 21st centuries, musical life during the dictatorships (GDR and Portugal), theory of music theatre.