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Der Mieter / The Tenant

Arnulf Herrmann *1968

Opera. Libretto by Händl Klaus based on motifs in Roland Topor's novel Le Locataire chimérique (1964)
Commissioned by Oper Frankfurt

Performed in German with German surtitles
ca. 1 hour 50 minutes, without interval
an introductory talk, in German, begins in the upstairs foyer 30 minutes before every performance  

Lodgings are scarce, so Georg is delighted to have found a room. The previous tenant is dead. She threw herself out of the window. Not long after he moves in the other people in the house start intruding on his life. It starts with complaints about noise. Then he is expected to help drive other tenants away. Everything takes place in a climate of increasing fear, intimidation and – what weighs most heavily – gradual self-restraint and the need to become increasingly obedient in order to be able keep his room. The extent to how he is free to move and act becomes less and less. His (bio)sphere begins to vanish. In the end it is unclear whether the threat is real or imagined – advanced paranoia. He begins to imagine that he is being forced to suffer the same fate as the previous tenant. And worse: that he should become part of her. Not only does he lose his own identity, he turns into a woman and takes his life.

Arnulf Herrmann's opera is based on Roland Topor's novel Le locataire chimérique which was made into a film - The Tenant - by Roman Polanski. Unlike the book and film the opera concentrates on being forced to conform. How far is one prepared to go? In the end it is secondary whether pressure from outside is really put into force or if, from a certain point on, it only feels like that. What is one's own? What is the unknown?