Heiner Goebbels explores the fascinating and forbidding realm of puberty.

When the mountain changed its clothing

Heiner Goebbels, Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica

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‘What do young girls dream of? Of the knife and of blood.’ This quote from the French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet serves as the starting point for Heiner Goebbels’ latest piece in music theatre. Goebbels has created a collage of texts and music to explore the development of children into adults. Forty girls and young women from the world famous Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica aged between 10 and 20 constantly sway between childish innocence and the unpredictability of adolescence. Switching from medieval to folk works and contemporary music, they portray with unbelievable energy and great musical precision this fascinating and forbidding realm in which the old is no more and the new is still out of reach.



concept, direction and music
Heiner Goebbels
artistic director Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica
Karmina Šilec
set design / light
Klaus Grünberg
Florence von Gerkan
Matthias Mohr
sound design
Willi Bopp
Florian Bilbao
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Joseph von Eichendorff
Adalbert Stifter
Gertrude Stein
Alain Robbe-Grillet
Marlen Haushofer
Marina Abramović
Ian McEwan
Johannes Brahms
Arnold Schönberg
Karmina Šilec
Lojze Lebic
Sarah Hopkins
Heiner Goebbels
Steirischer Herbst
Maribor Theater Festival
Festival Borstnikovo srečanje in Maribor 2012 Culturele Hoofdstad van Europa
Festival d’Automne à Paris
Grand Theatre, Luxemburg
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussel
Holland Festival
KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen
with support of
Vrienden en Sponsors van Ruhrtriennale e.V.
G. Ricordi + Co Bühne und Musikverlag GmbH München

They hum, sing, stamp and clap their way through chunks and snippets of their choral repertoire ...

Financial Times

background information

“What do young girls dream of? Of the knife and of blood.” This short dialogue from Alain Robbe-Grillet concluded Heiner Goebbels 1995 music theatre work Die Wiederholung. Goebbels remained fascinated by the French writer; in interviews the theatre maker repeatedly maintained that there would come a time when his texts would inspire him again. More than 15 years later that time has finally arrived. Heiner Goebbels' latest work starts where Die Wiederholung ended, with this dialogue about young girls. When the mountain changed its clothing is a music theatre piece about change – the inevitable, sometimes daunting process leading to an uncertain future. The piece is performed by 35 female singers of the Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica aged between ten and twenty. During a working visit to the Slovenian town of Maribor, Goebbels was greatly impressed by the quality and the confidence of the young girls in the choir. “You only need three voices to form a choir,' goes a Slovenian saying. Men and women still sing separately, and the Balkan tradition of the three-part choir using the famous throat vocal technique is still very much alive. In Goebbels' production, the girls of the Carmina Slovenica sing a Slovenian folk song in this singing technique, which, translated into English, goes as follows:


When mountain Kanin changed its clothing

Mountain Kanin has changed its clothing in the spring

It put on a white shirt and green trousers


Goebbels creates polyphonous music theatre. Every text that inspires him he remembers and places, if the opportunity offers itself, next to another one. Marina Abramović, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Ian McEwan are some of the authors who have each been given their own voice. The same goes for the music. For When the mountain changed its clothing it's Johannes Brahms, Arnold Schönberg, Sarah Hopkins, Lojze Lebič and Heiner Goebbels himself who have been given a voice. However, which composer is telling the real story, that is for the public to decide. In the ideal world of Goebbels, everyone in the audience directs their own music theatre.

So does Goebbels stay in the background as a director? It might seem so, as the girls and their artistic director Karmina Šilec have had quite an impact on the production. Goebbels provided them with his sources of inspiration, after which they went to work with Florian Bilbao (choreography), Willi Bopp (sound design) and Matthias Mohr (dramaturgy). But after an intensive collaboration building this piece of music theatre through improvisations and the exchange of ideas, the work came back to Heiner Goebbel's drawing board, and he emphatically left his mark on it. “Composer/director Heiner Goebbels can make gripping music-theatre out of the most unpromising materials. He can do this because telling a gripping narrative is not his aim. He wants to illuminate a difficult theme through cunningly contrived assemblages of sound, movements and words,” writes Ivan Hewett in his review in The Telegraph.

It might not seem to be a difficult theme. The changes in the lives of adolescent girls might seem to be lacking in depth to a modern audience. But the young girls from Maribor show that there is a lot to tell about this crucial phase of life...


Heiner Goebbels (1952) is a German composer and director. From 1971 to 1978 he studied sociology and music in Frankfurt. In 1976 he was one of the founders of the Sogenanntes Linksradikales Blasorchester (So-called Left Radical Brass Band). He has made experimental (pop) music as a member of the duo Goebbels/Harth (1975-1988) and the art rock trio Cassiber (1982-1992), and he has composed for film and the theatre. From the 1980's onwards he has produced a number of award-winning radio plays, most of them written by Heiner Müller. He has also developed the genre of the 'staged concert' with works including The man in the elevator (1987) and The liberation of Prometheus (1993). In the 1990's he started creating works for music theatre, including Ou bien le débarquement désastreux (1993), Die Wiederholung (1995), Eislermaterial (1998), Landscape with distant relatives (2002) and Stifters Dinge (2007). Goebbels' work has been performed by the Ensemble Modern, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Asko Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie and the Berliner Philharmoniker. He has collaborated with lighting and video designers such as Norbert Meissner, Mischa Kuball and Michal Rovner and has created various sound installations, for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and other venues. Goebbels has been awarded many honorary doctorates and many international prizes, including the Prix Italia, the Hessischer Kulturpreis, the Goethe Plakette der Stadt Frankfurt and the European Theatre Prize. His music theatre work Eraritjaritjaka (2004, based on a text by Elias Canetti) earned him six theatre awards. Goebbels was resident composer at the Luzern Festival in 2003 and at the Bochumer Symphonikern (2003-2004). He is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and heads up the theatre institute of the Justus Liebig University in Giessen. Since 2006 he has been the director of the Hessische Theateracademie and in 2010 he was made artistic director of the Ruhrtriennale 2012-2014.


Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica is a Slovenian vocal ensemble which was formed in 1964 as the Central Choir of Maribor. Since the current conductor Karmina Šilec took charge in 1989, the ensemble has been given a very different outlook. Carmina Slovenica concentrates on the performance of new music and 'vocal theatre', combining contemporary music, theatre and choreography. The group has performed worldwide at venues including the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, the Teatro Teresa Carreño in Caracas, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. They have also been on the bill of many international festivals, including the ISCM's World Music Days, the Moscow Easter Festival, the Dresdner Musikfestspiele, the IFCM's World Symposium on Choral Music and European Symposium on Choral Music, the French summer festival for choirs Polyfollia, America Cantat, the World Choir Games, Europa Cantat and the Ruhrtriennale. Carmina Slovenica and their conductor Karmina Šilec have won many prizes for their various productions.

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