"Men are heartless. They take no thought

- whether for the living nor for the death.

Life goes its own way - just as if nothing had happened.

And nothing has happened, either. Only to us two."

Grief connects us all, but something that we feel, perceive and experience very individually. With an adaptation of Ibsen's Little Eyolf and supported by contemporary interviews, the new music theater Great open eyes opens a dialogue around grief and child loss.


Through the fictional characters of the Allmers, Rita and Alfred, whose son Eyolf drowned, it examines the different phases of mourning in a non-linear narrative. Eyolf's last encounter with the Rat-wife, who, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, frees rats from the hatred of residents, becomes a reflective metaphor for the parents' unraveling grief process. Their emotional worlds surface in an episodic structure around this dream vision. These worlds reveal guilt, helplessness, anger, denial, premonitions, and repressed emotions. For Great open eyes, a concentric space was created, inspired by the haunting eyes of Little Eyolf. In the center of its iris is an earth-filled pool, from which Eyolf and the Rat-Wife emerge and descend. Surrounding the stage are orchestra and audience. They build an integrated part of the scene and soundscape with optical and acoustic impulses that the parents cannot escape. On this narrow path and three catwalks into nowhere, Rita and Alfred work through their grief, self-reflection, and external expectations. A mirror hovers above their heads, distortedly merging all levels.


Great open eyes seeks to be developed and performed in collaboration with communities and their opera institutions. The process begins with interviewing locals through partnerships with churches, support groups, and psychotherapists. Then collective experiences are drawn from the recorded interviews. The focus here is on similarities in grief processing and perceptions, but not on reproducing or recognizing individual fates on stage.

Creative Team

Manuel Zwerger


Carmen C. Kruse

Stage Director & Text

Valentin Mattka

Set Designer

Ulf Brauner

Costume Designer

Manuel Zwerger

The South Tyrolean composer studied composition at the conservatory in Innsbruck and the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus. In his work, he strives for interdisciplinary cooperation and exploration of sound, scene, movement, and stage. His compositions have been performed by the Ensemble Modern, Windkraft – Kapelle für Neue Musik, Ensemble chromoson, Ensemble airborne extended, Tiroler Kammerorchester Innstrumenti and the Streichorchester Sonarkraft in Argentina, Russia, Turkey, and Europe. Zwerger received a composition scholarship from the Akademie Musiktheater heute, the Richard-Wagner-Verband Wien, and the Hilde-Zach-Kompositionsförderstipendiums der Stadt Innsbruck. www.manuelzwerger.com


Carmen C. Kruse 

The Austrian-German freelance stage director focuses on creating places for encounters in large, small, new, and repertoire work. Together with composer Manuel Zwerger, Kruse currently explores the relationship between new opera and communities. In October 2019, they won the CROSS Award for the music theater Tutte le ricette (t.i.p.). Kruse gave her directing debut with Cavalli's L’Egisto at the Halifax Summer Opera Festival in 2017. Further productions brought her to the Osterfestspielen Baden-Baden, Staatstheater Mainz, Staatsoper Stuttgart, and the Ensemble Modern Frankfurt. She is an Alumna of the Akademie Musiktheater heute of the Deutsche Bank Stiftung (Directing Scholarship, 2017-19), L’Académie du Festival d’Aix (2020) and the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab (2018). www.cckruse.com


Valentin Mattka

German native Valentin Mattka studied Set and Costume Design at Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee. He is a freelance scenographer for film and opera. Mattka recently created sets for Korngolds Die Tote Stadt (Director: Luise Kautz) at Opernhaus Kiel, as well as the world premiere of Cheng-Syrse-Tangians Die Nacht der Seeigel, in collaboration with R. Stange and T. Ullrich, at Opera Stabile of Hamburgischen Staatsoper. He held a scholarship from the Akademie Musiktheater heute from 2016 to 2018. In 2020, he designs sets for La Juive (Director: Luise Kautz) at Opernhaus Kiel and Pierrot Lunaire (Director: Barrie Kosky) at Komische Oper Berlin.


Ulf Brauner

Born in Berlin, Ulf Brauner studied Fashion Design at the Universität der Künste and Tama Art University in Tokio. In 2013, Brauner won the Umbria Cashmere District Award in Perugia, Italy. 2015 the first price of the European Fashion Awards followed for his Collection auf und davon nach. He designed his first costumes in 2017 in collaboration with  Josa Marx for Medea (Director: Lucia Bihler) at Theater Lübeck. Costume designs for Das Leben des Vernon Subutex and Café Populaire (Director: Anja Schoenwald) followed at Schauspiel Stuttgart. In 2020, his work was showcased in Trauer ist das Ding mit Federn and Dekalog (Director: Christopher Rüping) at Schauspielhaus Zürich.




© 2020 by Carmen C. Kruse