Nacht mit Gaesten (Night with Guests)

… a gruesome play about a world in which everyone is everyone else’s wolf,
in which everyone kills for their own gain.
Peter Weiss

The Composition

Several years ago I came across »Nacht mit Gaesten«, a drama by Peter Weiss. It is a street ballad penned in Knittelversen (a kind of doggerel, or poetry irregular in rhyme and verse) that revives the old concept of the “Schaubude” (travelling wooden theatre), as well as adopting elements of the 'Kasperltheater' (classic puppet theatre). Hiding behind the façade of the supposedly humorous is the horror of a cutthroat world in which everyone fights against one another and everyone betrays one another. I regard the piece, which premiered in 1963, as a parable for the brutalization of society.

The musical language orients itself around the genre of the street ballad and the Kasperltheater. With few exceptions that involve singing, the main characters speak in rhymes. They are portrayed as graphically as possible in their one-dimensional, simplistic form. Nothing is musically 'psychologized'.

The composition complies with the text at a structural level, too: mixtures of exuberant triads and fourths and tritones are as omnipresent in the score as rhymes in Peter Weiss’ work. They bring about a similar simplification despite the contrapunctal and rhythmic complexity of the whole.

Since the murderous world of the adults is told from the perspective of the children, the technique of the canon – a popular singing form among children – is brought to bear, as well as the manipulation and alienation of catchy melodies, children’s songs and other musical citations.

Stefan Litwin

The Premiere

Music theatre for 6 performers
and 8 instruments (2016)
based on Peter Weiss’ theatre piece of the same name
World Premiere 21. 10. 2016 Hochschule für Musik Saar (University of Music Saarland/Germany)

A production by the Hochschule für Musik Saar (HfM Saar) with the support of the friends and sponsors of the HfM Saar (FuF) and the Ministry for Education and Culture of the Saarland

Video / Audio


»Nacht mit Gaesten«
Excerpt (Szene 1) from the world premiere (6 min.)

»Nacht mit Gaesten« - Ouverture / Students of the der Hochschule für Musik Saar / Musical direction: Stefan Litwin
Live recording of the world premiere (5 min)

Photo: Tobias Heitz

Cast of the World Premiere

Musical direction: Stefan Litwin • Production: Frank Wörner • Stage and costume design: Annette Wolf • Dramaturgy: Eva Behr

Guest: Johannes Kruse • Mother: Lisa Stroeckens • Father: Antonio di Martino • Children: Lisa Bebelaar, Natalie Jurk • Warner (Alert): Patrick Bullinger

Violin, Viola: Lorenz Blaumer, Kiril Tsanevski • Piccolo, Flute, Bass Flute: Sonja Dörner, Marie Puzzioli • Clarinets: Antonia Uerschels, Frederik Versik • Double Bass: Gabriele Basilico, Stephan Goldbach • Drums: Patrick Kraus, Fabian Scheid, Wolfram Stifel • Guitar, Banjo: Ender Rangel, Juan Pablo Gonzalez Tobon • Piano: Bokyon Chang, I-fang Shih, Ji-Hye Yang

Musical Assistance: Felix Schauren • Stage Design and Costume Assistance: Kathrin Engel • Project Office: Julia Hartnik • Assistant Director: Amanda Aatz, Lara Rüter

The Production

It was clear to us all that such a topical piece should also reach young people. Working closely with the university administration and with the generous support of the Vereinigung der Freunde und Förderer der HfM (Association of Friends and Patrons of the HfM), who commissioned me to write a composition, our team designed a concept that has allowed us to stage the music theatre productions at other venues as well without too much effort.