Dutch National Opera presents

Theatre of the world Louis Andriessen (1939)

This show was to been seen in June 2016


Duration 1:50

By Louis Andriessen

Language English, German, French, Middle Dutch, Latin, Spanish, Italian

Surtitles English & Dutch


Louis Andriessen
Grotesque in 7 scenes
Libretto by Helmut Krausser
World première 11 June 2016, Koninklijk Theater Carré, Amsterdam
Co-production with Los Angeles Philharmonic and Holland Festival 2016

‘Leigh Melrose solid as Kircher. (..) Lindsay Kesselman plays ‘a boy, an ambiguous character of Mephostophelian tendencies, with clean precision’ - Financial Times ***

A humorous, mysterious and diabolical creation.’ - Bachtrack ***

Louis Andriessen, together with librettist Helmut Krausser,  sketches the story of a colourful character in his new opera Theatre of the World. As Andriessen also Reinbert de Leeuw returns to Dutch National Opera with his ensemble Asko|Schönberg. The production is designed by the brothers Quay and directed by Pierre Audi. Theatre of the World has all the ingredients of a very special opera.

In short

Theatre of the World is inspired by the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680), who was seen as the last Renaissance man; a scholar who was learned on all fronts. Kircher was an Egyptologist, a Sinologist, a mathematician, a physicist, a volcanologist, a music theoretician and a composer, among other things. One of the tasks of the Jesuits was to seek God’s presence in everything. The results were then shown visually in a ‘theatre of the world’.

In Theatre of the World, Kircher travels through time and space, accompanied by a twelve-year-old boy. Is the boy his pupil, himself at a young age or the devil? He crosses the river of death, sees the tower of Babel and ends up in China. The journey is supposed to help him remember everything he has ever experienced. If Kircher can remain who he is, will that be in heaven or in hell? The old, weak man wants to make his peace with God. At his graveside, his loved one Juana praises the splendour of the world.

An opera about the last man who knew everything. Pierre Audi, Louis Andriessen and the Quay Brothers explain more about the creative process of this extraordinary opera.
What makes a scientist, archaeologist and poet Athanasius Kircher such a fascinating subject for an opera? Director Pierre Audi and composer Louis Andriessen explain.
See how the decor of Theatre of the World is built in Royal Theatre Carré.
Watch the trailer of Theatre of the World.

Pierre Audi

Resident director

PIERRE AUDI (stage director) became director of De Nederlandse Opera in 1988. As of 1 January 2013 he has become Director of Dutch National Opera. In the years of his leadership till september 2018 he is credited with giving the Netherlands its own opera tradition. His combined vision and audacity have earned him respect, both in the Netherlands and far beyond its borders, as both the Director of Dutch National Opera and as a stage director.

Reinbert de Leeuw

Muzikale leiding

REINBERT DE LEEUW (musical director) studied piano and music theory at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and then went on to study composition with Kees van Baaren at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. He has been the conductor of ASKO|Schönberg since its foundation in 1974.


Musical Director 
Reinbert de Leeuw
Stage Director 
Pierre Audi
Set & Video Designers 
Quay Brothers
Costume Designer 
Florence von Gerkan
Lighting Designer 
Jean Kalman
Klaus Bertisch
Athanasius Kircher 
Leigh Melrose
A boy 
Lindsay Kesselman
Pope Innozenzo XI 
Marcel Beekman
Sor Juana Ínes de la Cruz 
Cristina Zavalloni
The carnifex 
Mattijs van de Woerd
A couple of secret lovers (He and She) 
Nora Fischer, Martijn Cornet
Steven Van Watermeulen
Die Nachwelt (in person van Voltaire, Descartes, Goethe en Leibnitz) 
Jeroen de Vaal, Pascal Pittie, Michael Wilmering, Tomeu Bibiloni
Raffaele Fabretti 
Steven Van Watermeulen
Three witches 
Charlotte Houberg, Sophie Fetokaki, Ingeborg Bröcheler – talent


The composer Louis Andriessen has built up a very impressive career, both in the Netherlands and abroad. His productions for Dutch National Opera have included Reconstructie (1969), De Materie (1989), ROSA, a Horse Drama (1994), Writing to Vermeer (1999) and La Commedia (2008).


The libretto for Theatre of the World is by Helmut Krausser: writer, poet and playwright. He is internationally renowned as one of the best authors of the young German generation. His breakthrough came with his novel Melodien oder Nachträge zum quecksilbernen Zeitalter.

The brothers Quay

The identical twins are building up a mysterious and dark oeuvre of distinctive animation films, for which they invent and create everything themselves. A big exhibition of their work was held in EYE in 2014.

Main role

One of the main roles in Theatre of the World is sung by Cristina Zavalloni, the current ‘muse’ of Louis Andriessen, who said about her: “I heard her for the first time in The Hague [...] and nearly fell off my chair”.


Asko|Schönberg specialises in contemporary classical music. The famous ensemble is conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw, who is making his return to Dutch National Opera, where he has conducted several Andriessen operas in the past.


Commisioned by: Dutch National Opera and Los Angeles Philharmonic

Coproduction with: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Holland Festival 2016


This opera is supported by: 

    Fri 27 May Theatre of the World in LA Times (mei 2016)

    ‘Louis Andriessen is the great argumentative opera composer of our day .. He is, moreover, a master of operatic argument.’- Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

    Fri 27 May Theatre of the World in New York Times (mei 2016)

    ‘Theater of the World” is a lavish, bawdy, enthusiastically semi-coherent fantasia on early modern culture, but Mr. Andriessen has grown ever more expert as a technician.’ - Zachary Woolfe, New York Times

    Fri 18 Sep The Sunday Times - Andriessens' La Commedia (2008)

    Andriessens' score is a holiday of inventiveness and the distillation of a lifetime's creativity.