György Ligeti

Le Grand


Oper in zwei Akten

Thursday 23. November 2023 19:00 – 21:30 One intermission Main Stage
30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung
im Gustav Mahler-Saal
Subscription 19

Ticket information

Season 2023/2024

Choose a day of the week and your favorite seats and enjoy five performances in one season.

The following performances are included in this subscription:

05. October 2023: TOSCA
23. November 2023: LE GRAND MACABRE
25. January 2024: DORNRÖSCHEN
11. April 2024: SIMON BOCCANEGRA


Season 2024/2025

Choose a day of the week and your favorite seats and enjoy five performances in one season.

The following performances are included in this subscription:

07. November 2024: BILLY BUDD
19. December 2024: LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN
13. March 2025: DON CARLO
10. April 2025: SALOME

Cast at
23. November 2023


Georg Nigl

Chef der Gepopo / Venus

Sarah Aristidou

Fürst Go-Go

Andrew Watts


Wolfgang Bankl

Piet vom Fass

Gerhard Siegel

Weißer Minister

Daniel Jenz

Schwarzer Minister

Hans Peter Kammerer

Musikalische Leitung

Pablo Heras-Casado

Inszenierung & Bühne

Jan Lauwers


Lot Lemm


Ken Hioco


Paul Blackman


Elke Janssens

About the Production

Short Summary

One day, Death, alias Necrotzar, alias the demonic Great Macabre, bursts into an imaginary, corrupt land of milk and honey - the »gluttonous, drunken and whorish« Breughelland.

He wants to proclaim the imminent destruction of the world and frivolous humanity. Seduced and overwhelmed by the unknown desires of life, only Nekrotzar himself dies in the end. Everyone else comes to the moral that their temporary survival should be used to maintain the way of life they have led until then.

Le Grand



The play is set in the totally run-down yet carefree and prosperous principality of Breughelland in the "so-and-so century".

Piet vom Fass, always slightly drunk (a "wine taster" by profession) and therefore always cheerful, a kind of realistic Sancho Panza, catches sight of the beautiful lovers Amanda and Amando. They are looking for an undisturbed place where they can make love in secret, but this seems difficult to achieve in the always tumultuous Breughelland.

While Piet looks greedily at the couple, Nekrotzar suddenly appears. Nekrotzar, the Great Macabre, is a sinister, shady, demagogic figure, humorless, pompous, with an unshakeable sense of mission. Piet, who knows no horror, mocks Nekrotzar, but he announces that he himself is "Death" and will destroy the whole world tonight with the help of a comet.

He orders Piet to fetch his props - scythe, trumpet, cloak - and to serve him as a servant. The question of whether Piet is willing to do this is not even asked - Nekrotzar is the master and is used to being obeyed without contradiction. Meanwhile, Amanda and Amando retreat to the empty tomb and sleep through the end of the world undisturbed. Nekrotzar rides to the princely capital. The lovers' duet is heard.

In the house of the court astrologer Astradamors: Mescalina is the mistress, who has Astradamors under her unlimited control. At the beginning of the scene, she attacks him, after which Astradamors has to look at the stars. Meanwhile, Mescalina falls asleep sipping red wine and dreams that the goddess Venus is finally sending her a better man.

Finale: Nekrotzar confidently announces the imminent end of the world. Nekrotzar, Piet and Astradamors set off for the princely palace. Astradamors returns once again and sees himself "finally as master in his own house".

Venus does indeed appear and with her Nekrotzar and Piet. Astradamors is delighted to recognize his faithful drinking companion Piet. Nekrotzar approaches Mescalina, embraces her brutally and finally bites her neck like a vampire. She sinks lifelessly to the ground with a hideous scream - Astradamors cheers. Necrotzar orders the corpse to be removed.

Breughelland is ruled by the gluttonous, babyish Prince Go-Go, who is tyrannized by his two corrupt ministers, the leaders of the feuding White and Black parties, who are in no way different from one another. As a result, the affairs of state are conducted in a rather confused manner: The ruling prince has nothing to say, and the two ministers are in constant conflict, constantly threatening to resign, only to reconcile briefly and then fall out all over again. They also force the Prince to perform posture and riding exercises and to "wear the crown with respect". They declare the country's constitution to be empty paper, but at the same time force Go-Go to sign ever new decrees to increase taxes ad infinitum. Prince Go-Go is hungry; he thinks of nothing but food and rejects the ministers for the first time, accepts their resignation and stuffs his mouth. The head of the secret political police ("Gepopo") quickly appears with his entourage. He hands Go-Go a coded message and warns him of the arrival of an angry, demonstrating crowd.

You can hear the people's cries of fear and anger. From the balcony of the throne room, the ministers try to calm the crowd with soothing speeches, but the people call for the prince. The Prince finally speaks to the people and beats up the ministers who are constantly resigning. Suddenly the chief of police appears again. The latest coded message warns of the arrival of a mysterious, threatening figure. The police chief flees in panic, but instead of the dangerous figure, Astradamor appears yodeling merrily, still rejoicing that he has got rid of his wife.

In the meantime, the ministers have also run away. Go-Go and Astradamors sing and dance together. Suddenly an alarm siren wails, then another. Go-Go becomes a child again, he begs for help and Astradamors hides him under the dining table. Necrotzar appears in dark, grandiose pomp. He proclaims confidently and loudmouthed that the end of the world is imminent and declaims twisted, distorted quotes from the Book of Revelation. High above, the "heavenly trumpets" sound.

The people beg Nekrotzar to spare them and he gets caught up in the all-too-earthly hustle and bustle of the Breughellanders. Piet hands him a glass of red wine, and Nekrotzar, in his megalomaniacal obsession, believes he is drinking the blood of his victims, which he needs to strengthen himself so that he can fulfill his "sacred duty". Piet and Astradamors keep topping him up, and the drinking scene becomes increasingly mechanical. Go-Go is also handed one glass of wine after another under the table, and finally all four of them are staggering drunk. Piet introduces the two rulers - Tsar Nekro and Tsar Go-Go - to each other. Suddenly there is an explosion, cries of fear and the ominous glow of the comet. Nekrotzar panics and announces that he is now going to smash the world and falls down drunk.

Piet and Astradamors think they are dead and believe themselves to be in heaven. Staggering, Go-Go appears, feeling that he is alive, but fearing that he is the only person still alive on earth. Three rude warhorses - Ruffiack, Schobiack and Schabernack - appear unexpectedly. They arrest Go-Go as a "civilian" and set about killing him. Suddenly Nekrotzar stands there in all his gauntness. When he recognizes the prince, the three warhorses let Go-Go go.

Weakened by disappointment and alcohol, Nekrotzar wants to die. But suddenly Mescalina appears and pounces on him in a rage. Two warhorses hold Mescalina down and the third brings the two ministers to him. The ministers plead for mercy in a cowardly and mocking manner, as they have only ever had the people's welfare in mind. They and Mescalina accuse each other of inventing astronomical taxes, introducing the Inquisition and plotting to eliminate the prince.

The discussion leads to a general brawl until everyone is lying on the floor. Piet and Astradamors walk in, still thinking they are in heaven. The prince greets them and gives them wine to drink. This is enough for Nekrotzar: out of grief, he begins to shrink, becomes smaller and smaller and finally disappears without a trace. The lovers emerge from the grave in a rather disheveled state.

Amanda and Amando know nothing of the supposed end of the world. The final verses are sung by everyone except Nekrotzar: "Fear not death, good people! Someday it will come, but not today. And when it comes, then it's time ... Farewell so long in merriment!"

Scene 1 & 2 45 min
Intermission 25 min
Scene 3 & 4 + Finale 65 min

Jan Lauwers: a great theater maker and universal artist who has been shaping international art in the most diverse fields for many years. His wondrously fascinating theater evenings - such as Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea at the Staatsoper - are as enchanting as they are thought-provoking. Now he takes on György Ligeti's musical theater landmark Le Grand Macabre.

The synaesthetically inclined Ligeti - he associated colors and shapes, machines, physical apparatuses with musical processes and, conversely, sounds and noises with colors, words and letters - also sought »the total fusion of action and music« in Le Grand Macabre, i.e. a stage event through music. A deliberately crazy and »exaggerated music«, mind you, which is characterized by an orchestration that almost breaks the rules. In addition to the rather small string section, which represents the lyrical element, the instruments include a bass trumpet, harmonica, whistles, six doorbells and, last but not least, twelve differently tuned car horns, which open the opera like fanfares and symbolize the broken, unsteerable world of Breughelland on the one hand and are also remotely reminiscent of Monteverdi's Toccata to L'Orfeo on the other.

The end of the world does not usually happen. With his only opera Le Grand Macabre, György Ligeti succeeded in creating a grand and discursive world theater in which the unvarnished human condition with all its drives and weaknesses brings down nothing less than an impending apocalypse.
György Ligeti's grotesque masterpiece, which premiered at the Royal Opera in Stockholm on April 12, 1978, is not only a central work in the oeuvre of the Austro-Hungarian composer, but has also become a permanent fixture in the repertoire worldwide. Through ironic distance, alienation and a continuous ambiguity that »takes the serious humorously and the comic deadly seriously«, the basic theme of the opera - the necessary abolition of fear and the triumph of Eros - is unfolded before the eyes and ears of the audience.

© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper

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Tickets for our standing room can be purchased online or at the Bundestheater box office from 10 am on the day of the performance. BundestheaterCard holders can book standing room tickets online the day before the performance.

In addition, a fixed contingent of standing room tickets is available for regular evening performances from 80 minutes before the start of the performance at our standing room box office (Operngasse entrance).

Our operas are sung in the original languages - these vary depending on the work.

At each seat, subtitles in different languages can be switched on or off via a separate subtitle screen. In addition to the original language of the opera, you can choose from up to eight languages: German, English, Italian, French, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin).

In the event of a change of performance, you can of course return or exchange your tickets.

As changes to the cast cannot be ruled out due to illnesses or other hindrances of artists, there is no entitlement to a refund of the ticket price or exchange in this case.

Tickets cannot be returned or exchanged if you are not admitted to the auditorium due to being late (even after the interval).

About Your Visit


The cloakrooms are located next the the entrances at the Operngasse. You can find additional cloakrooms on the left and right side of the balcony and the gallery and in the boxes. All cloakrooms are free of charge.

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Our gastronomy opens at the same time entry is permitted. You can enjoy some snacks and drinks before the performance starts or you can book a table for the break.

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