Music theatre is the oldest and perhaps still the most common way of theatre for most cultures of the world. Only in Europe was there a time, when it had to be »reinvented«. In order not to strain the imagination of the audience back then, it had to be the story of a singer that marked the beginning of Opera – Orpheus has continued to accompany music theatre ever since; he emerges wherever music theatre is in a state of upheaval, forced to starting anew of reflect on itself. With two performances, one on the first day, one on the last, Orpheus also marks beginning and end of this year’s BAM! festival.
BAM!, the festival of Berlin’s independent music theatre scene, is taking place in 2019 for the second time. As in 2018, it unites a dense programme of outlooks on new paths in music theatre. If BAM! is hardly about opera, yet, it is focusing on theatre forms that still persue opera’s original questions, renewing the search from a contemporary perspective for a unity of action on stage and musical sound. Strategies that have taken the place of simple storytelling here remain closely intertwined with new methods of work, which can still hardly be reconciled with the structures of German Stadttheater. They can therefore be found only in the untamed field of the independent theatre scene. BAM!s aim is to unite their various forms and perspectives for a larger audience, creating the chance to explore what unites them in their diversity and to catch a glimpse on where paths of music theatre are leading today.
A first orientation in answering this question might already be found by a look into this website. A large proportion of this festival’s participants is no longer assigned here to just one of the traditional theatre professions. Above all, time and again, you will find instrumentalists being mentioned also as theatre performers. It is one of the major strengths of Berlin’s music theatre scene that it unites artists from all over the world, who question the existing regulations of the music and theatre business and have professionalized themselves on their own initiative beyond their original field of education. And if you flip through the pages you might also become aware of this: While in the political arena democracy is on the test more than ever, hierarchical relationships within music theatre are receding in favour of shared decision-making.
New music theatre, however, hasn’t only been lacking only of presentation areas, that make it visible and comparable for a larger audience, it is also lacking a network of coproducers, who would carry its performances to places beyond their origin. Throughout Europe, this theatre therefore strongly remains regionalized. While differing greatly in forms of expression, separate regions only seldom get into an exchange.
For this reason, with each of its upscoming issues BAM! is aiming to focus on one further hot spot of music theatre next to Berlin. We start – in a collaboration with the Dutch music theatre festival »Operadagen Rotterdam« – by connecting with the vibrant music theatre scene in the Netherlands, presenting three selected productions from the music theatre scene of the closely related cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. They will be accompanied by a symposium devoted to the interplay of different working methods, funding systems and aesthetics of Holland and Berlin. In return, three of this year’s performances originating in Berlin will be shown next May at Rotterdam’s »Operadagen«. For the Berlin audience, this exchange opens up a European perspective in comparing ways of contemporary music theatre. For the Berlin scene, this opens a path to further international publicity, additional appearances and future partners.
With venues that were closely adjacent to each other, BAM! became in 2018 a meeting place where visitors constantly crossed paths. The festival’s space is even more focused this year, when BAM! will cast its anchor at Berlin’s Volksbühne. Up to the foyer areas, all the existing venues of this famous place will be used for performances. Acker Stadt Palast, Ballhaus Ost and St. Elisabeth Church come in as further venues, creating satellites around the festival’s centre. BAM!‘s Festival Lounge and its Late Night events are housed in Volksbühne’s Grüner Salon. With free admission, they offer the opportunity to meet, sort thoughts and get drunk.
BAM! is organized by the association of ZMB (Zeitgenössisches Musiktheater Berlin), in which the independent music theatre scene of Berlin has joined forces.
We are looking forward to meeting you!