Musikfest Berlin

Kirill Petrenko conducts Dallapiccola’s “The Prisoner”

Kirill Petrenko (photo: Frederike van der Straeten)

Kirill Petrenko devotes this concert to three great composers of the post-war avant-garde. Luigi Dallapiccola’s expressive short opera The Prisoner deals with existential concepts such as hope and freedom – and their misuse during totalitarian regimes. Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Iannis Xenakis, whose 100th birthday will be celebrated in 2022, also composed works that oppose injustice and oppression. Zimmermann’s evocative Symphony in One Movement leads the listener “from an apocalyptic threat to mystic immersion”, according to the composer, whereas in Empreintes Xenakis creates a richly coloured, shimmering soundscape.

Berliner Philharmoniker

Kirill Petrenko conductor

Wolfgang Koch baritone (Il prigioniero)

Ekaterina Semenchuk mezzo-soprano (La madre)

Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke tenor (Il carceriere, Il grande Inquisitore)

Caspar Singh tenor

Oliver Boyd baritone (2nd sacerdote)

Rundfunkchor Berlin

Iannis Xenakis


Bernd Alois Zimmermann

Symphony in one Movement (2nd Version from 1953)

Luigi Dallapiccola

Il prigioniero (The Prisoner), opera in a prologue and one act (concert performance)

Wolfgang Koch baritone (Il prigioniero), Ekaterina Semenchuk mezzo-soprano (La madre), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke tenor (Il carceriere, Il grande Inquisitore), Caspar Singh tenor, Oliver Boyd baritone (2nd sacerdote), Rundfunkchor Berlin choir (offstage choir)

In cooperation with Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin

Dates and Tickets


Kirill Petrenko

Kirill Petrenko has been chief conductor and artistic director of the Berliner Philharmoniker since the 2019/20 season. Born in Omsk in Siberia, he received his training first in his home town and later in Austria. He established his conducting career in opera with positions at the Meininger Theater and the Komische Oper Berlin. From 2013 to 2020, Kirill Petrenko was general music director of Bayerische Staatsoper. He has also made guest appearances at the world’s leading opera houses, including Wiener Staatsoper, Covent Garden in London, the Opéra national in Paris, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and at the Bayreuth Festival. Moreover, he has conducted the major international symphony orchestras – in Vienna, Munich, Dresden, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Rome, Chicago, Cleveland and Israel. Since his debut in 2006, a variety of programmatic themes have emerged in his work together with the Berliner Philharmoniker. These include work on the orchestra’s core Classical-Romantic repertoire, most notably with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony when he took up his post. Unjustly forgotten composers such as Josef Suk and Erich Wolfgang Korngold are another of Kirill Petrenko’s interests. Russian works are also highlighted, with performances of Tchaikovsky’s operas Mazeppa, Iolanta and The Queen of Spades attracting particular attention recently.

Wolfgang Koch

“Basically, I began studying in order to sing Sachs some day,” says Wolfgang Koch. He has more than achieved this goal – not only because he has sung the role from Richard Wagner’s Meistersinger von Nürnberg in Vienna, London, Berlin and Munich. Today Wolfgang Koch is generally regarded as an outstanding baritone for the operas of Wagner and Richard Strauss – as someone who copes with the enormous vocal demands of these roles like hardly anyone else. That gives the singer the freedom to portray characters with subtle nuances, for example, when he sings the role of Klingsor in Parsifal “with fascinating complexity, like a master of the unreal” (Die Zeit). Wolfgang Koch works frequently with Kirill Petrenko: as Wotan in the Ring des Nibelungen, as Sachs and in Parsifal. Other collaborative performances are planned for this season, when Wolfgang Koch interprets the role of Barak in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Kirill Petrenko. Wolfgang Koch is by no means only at home in German repertoire, however; for instance, he made his debut at New York’s Met as Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca. Wolfgang Koch is from the district capital of Altötting in Upper Bavaria and studied at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich as well as with Josef Metternich, Gianni Raimondi and Leodino Ferri. After his studies, he was an ensemble member at the Bern Theatre, the Staatstheater Stuttgart and the Vienna Volksoper. He made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in Berg’s Wozzeck, conducted by Claudio Abbado, at the end of 1996. In addition to his operatic career, Koch also appears as a concert soloist on stages throughout the world. He was awarded the title of Bavarian Kammersänger in 2015.

Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke

Whether as Herod in Richard Strauss’s Salome, as Mime in Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen or as the Captain in Wozzeck by Alban Berg, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke is one of the most outstanding dramatic tenors of our time. He is also a “stage animal”, who “with overwhelming presence and exemplary textual clarity achieves” genuinely “thrilling character portrayals” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung). “For me,” says the Austrian, who was born in Zell am See, “the voice category of ‘dramatic tenor’ was the right decision from the beginning, even though they are often the smaller roles …, not Wozzeck, but the Captain, not Siegfried, but Mime”. Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke studied at the University of Music and performing Arts in Vienna. After his first engagements in Linz, Basel and at the Gärtnerplatztheater in Munich, he made his debut in 1997 at the Paris Opera, which became the singer’s first artistic home. He debuted with great success in 1999 at the Glyndebourne Festival, where he has since appeared in many tenor roles in more than 130 performances. Other engagements have taken him to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, to Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Amsterdam and to the festivals in Salzburg, Bregenz and Aix-en-Provence.

Ekaterina Semenchuk

In her appearances at international opera houses and concert halls, Ekaterina Semenchuk is not only acclaimed for her powerful voice but also for her forceful stage presence. This intensity is due not least to her desire to go beyond the musical score during her work on a piece. “In order to create a living work of art,” says the mezzo-soprano, “we must identify with the spirit and the epoch in which an opera is set.” The Minsk-born singer, who is equally at home in Italian, French and Russian repertoire, studied at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in St. Petersburg and made her debut at the Mariinsky Theatre there at the age of only 24, while she was still a student. She appears regularly at the Salzburg Festival, where she debuted as Eboli in Don Carlo under Antonio Pappano in 2013. From Salzburg, Ekaterina Semenchuk launched her international career, which has taken her to New York’s Met, the Paris Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden as well as Verona and Milan. She is equally in demand as a concert soloist, devoting herself in particular to works by Dmitri Shostakovich, Gustav Mahler, Mikhail Glinka and Antonín Dvořák.