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“Black Earth” depicts Stalin regime at Basel theatre

Bjoern Waag treads the boards in Huber's "Schwarzerde" Keystone Archive

An opera by a Bernese composer, Klaus Huber, retraces the life of a dissident poet deported to Siberia by Stalin.

Currently performed at the Basel theatre, “Schwarzerde”, or Black Earth, depicts the woes of Ossip Mandelstam (1891-1938), whose life ended in absolute darkness – in black earth – after being mistreated and killed by Stalin’s thugs.

Black Earth, which is directed by Germany’s Claus Guth, comes to life in three languages – German, Russian and Armenian.

Each language represents different spheres of experience, namely daily life, utopia and mythology, which are woven into a complex network.

Guth resorts to images, which spectators may find familiar. The scenario becomes a symbol of the confused soul.

During a raid, a thug overturns a desk, which symbolises the resistance against uniformity.

Elisabeth Hornung’s and Bjorn Waag’s voices are particularly noteworthy, as they exploit Huber’s lyricism.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR