The Murder of Halit Yozgat

Ben Frost, Staatsoper Hannover, Schauspiel Hannover

Chilling opera about the reconstruction of a murder case

With The Murder of Halit Yozgat, the Australian composer Ben Frost, known for his exceedingly diverse oeuvre of experimental and electronic music, has produced his second opera on a remarkable and particularly dark subject.

21-year-old Halit Yozgat was assassinated in broad daylight, in his family’s internet cafe on April 6, 2006 in Kassel Germany. Five witnesses were present in the 77 square metre space when Halit was shot twice in the head. Remarkably, an undercover agent from the German secret service was among those present in the cafe at the time of the murder, yet he claimed not to have heard gunfire nor noticed the body slumped at the front desk.

Chilling opera about the reconstruction of a murder case

With The Murder of Halit Yozgat, the Australian composer Ben Frost, known for his exceedingly diverse oeuvre of experimental and electronic music, has produced his second opera on a remarkable and particularly dark subject.

21-year-old Halit Yozgat was assassinated in broad daylight, in his family’s internet cafe on April 6, 2006 in Kassel Germany. Five witnesses were present in the 77 square metre space when Halit was shot twice in the head. Remarkably, an undercover agent from the German secret service was among those present in the cafe at the time of the murder, yet he claimed not to have heard gunfire nor noticed the body slumped at the front desk.

A rigorous counter-investigation by London-based research agency Forensic Architecture inspired the Australian composer and director Ben Frost to write the opera The Murder of Halit Yozgat. With his unconventional combination of sound art, electronic music and dark metal, Frost brings a performance in which a sound nobody heard irrevocably ties all of those present together.

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dates

Wed June 15 8:30 PM

Thu June 16 8:30 PM

Prices

  • default from € 37
  • HF Young € 20
  • CJP/student € 12

language & duration

  • German, English surtitles: English, Dutch

  • 2 hours 10 minutes

Background

As with his first opera, The Wasp Factory (Holland Festival 2014), the Australian composer Ben Frost decided on a remarkable and particularly dark subject for The Murder of Halit Yozgat. The real-life and unsolved murder in an internet cafe in Kassel, where the young Halit Yozgat was shot in the head twice while five patrons were present, retrospectively turned out to fit in a string of racially motivated murders committed by the far right NSU (National Socialist Underground). Andreas Temme, the undercover officer present and one of five witnesses, later stated not to have noticed anything when the murder occurred. He claimed he heard no shots, smelled no gunpowder, and did not notice the lifeless body of Yozgat upon leaving.

Background

As with his first opera, The Wasp Factory (Holland Festival 2014), the Australian composer Ben Frost decided on a remarkable and particularly dark subject for The Murder of Halit Yozgat. The real-life and unsolved murder in an internet cafe in Kassel, where the young Halit Yozgat was shot in the head twice while five patrons were present, retrospectively turned out to fit in a string of racially motivated murders committed by the far right NSU (National Socialist Underground). Andreas Temme, the undercover officer present and one of five witnesses, later stated not to have noticed anything when the murder occurred. He claimed he heard no shots, smelled no gunpowder, and did not notice the lifeless body of Yozgat upon leaving.

Detailed timeline

The reputable interdisciplinary investigation team ‘Forensic Architecture’ set out to meticulously chart the events and conflicting statements. To this end, a highly detailed timeline was drawn up on the basis of all available information such as the login data of computers and telephones at the scene. A video was made of the different scenarios in the painstakingly recreated internet cafe. The discrepancies in Temme’s statement were particularly striking.

The possible involvement of police officials in the far right activities of the NSU, i.e. ‘NSU Complex’, is a point of political and social contention. Can the truth still be brought to light? According to Ismail Yozgat, the victim’s father, there are only two possibilities: “Either Mr Temme killed my son himself, or he saw who killed my son”.

The ingenious reconstruction of what might have happened during those 9.26 minutes on the 77 square meters of the internet cafe was presented as an artwork in 2016 at Documenta 14 in Kassel and was nominated for the prestigious Turner prize.

In The Murder of Halit Yozgat, Frost follows the blueprint of the investigation team. The audience is taken through the disparate perspectives of various witnesses in which the gunshots are the only sure thing: the fact that binds all present. What did the shots sound like in different parts of the cafe? Did the mother and her child see anything of the crime? And what about the teenagers playing videogames in the back? In the end, the audience becomes an eye and earwitness in this search for the truth and in the failure to ever learn it.

Experimental sound art

In his work as a composer and stage director, Frost is constantly looking for new ways to combine music and performance. In The Murder of Halit Yozgat, a theatre production in the Game Changers series from the Hannover State Theatre, in co-production with the Holland Festival, he combines acoustic and electronic sound with spoken word and singing. The mainly German libretto was written by Daniela Danz. Frost’s experimental sound art incorporates much more than just music and really comes into its own in the theatre. Regarding the production of his previous opera, he said: “I don’t make the voice of a string quintet any more prominent than the hissing of a snake or the cracking of ice”. According to the Dutch newspaper NRC, Frost’s play demonstrated “the wealth of possibilities for musical theatre not just to move emotionally but also to get under your skin and truly unsettle”.

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  • © Salar Kheradpejouh (Ben Frost)

  • © Sandra Then

  • © Sandra Then

  • © Sandra Then

  • © Sandra Then

credits

direction Ben Frost libretto Daniela Danz music Ben Frost, Petter Ekman conductor Florian Groß, Maxim Böckelmann choreography Sasha Milavic Davies set design Lisa Däßler, Mirella Weingarten costumes Lisa Däßler, Kerstin Krüger lighting design Elana Siberski dramaturgy Yvonne Gebauer surtitle operator Milos Zilic cast Céline Akçağ, Tahnee Niboro, Gudrun Pelker, Mathias Max Herrman, Yannick Spanier, Richard Walshe, Sascha Zarrabi music performed by Niedersächsisches Staatsorchester Hannover commissioned by Staatsoper Hannover production Staatsoper Hannover, Schauspiel Hannover coproduction Holland Festival