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“A Man like a Leaf” – Johannes Harneit’s Opera “Robber” after the Novel by Robert Walser in Hamburg

The latest opera by Johannes Harneit, “Robber,” to a text by Robert Walser, will receive its premiere performance in Hamburg at the Opera Stabile (Hamburg State Opera) on 24 June 2005. The libretto is the work of Torsten Beyer; the producer is Hans-Jörg Kapp. The soloists are Ulrike Bartusch (voice), Wobine Bosch (percussion) and Johannes Harneit (piano).

“Edith loves him; more of this later. Perhaps she never should have formed a relationship with this penniless good-for-nothing.” Thus begins Robert Walser’s novel “The Robber,” written in such a microscopically small script that it was long considered unreadable. It is a novel about a man who, according to Walser, resembles a leaf “that a boy knocks down from a branch with a rod because it strikes him as isolated.”

“Robber” tells the story of the lovers’ triangle between the “robber,” the waitress Edith and the young vamp Wanda. “Robber” translates this triangle constellation into a chamber music setting, in which the spatial arrangement of the musicians to each other becomes the point of departure for a voyeuristic game of staging and self-staging.

Robert Walser, born in Biel, Switzerland in 1878, lived in Zurich and Berlin, where he was active as a writer and pamphleteer. He returned to his home country and was a patient at the Herisau sanatorium. He died of a heart attack in 1956 whilst taking a walk through a snow-covered landscape.