Michael Roes

Michael Roes

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2011/12, 2012/13, 2014/15

Born in 1960, Michael Roes is a novelist, poet, anthropologist and filmmaker with a focus on exchanges with foreign cultures. He studied philosophy, anthropology and psychology at the Freie Universität Berlin, and holds a diploma in psychology (1985) and a PhD in philosophy (1991). He completed his PhD thesis, a study on the sacrifice of sons (Jizchak. Versuch über das Sohnesopfer, 1991), in Berlin, and has conducted anthropological field research in Israel and the Palestinian territories (1987,1991), Yemen (1993–1994) and the United States (on Native Americans in New York State 1996-1997). He was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Budapest (1994–1995) and has held a guest professorship at the Central European University, Budapest (2004; 2005/2006). He has drawn inspiration from a diverse range of cultures in his work, including Native American culture, featured in the novel Der Coup der Berdache; contemporary China in Die Fünf Farben Schwarz; and the Islamic world in Leeres Viertel, Weg nach Timimoun, Nah Inverness, and Geschichte der Freundschaft.  

Research Project

Nathan the Wise

During my Fellowship I would like to work on the theoretical and applied project of realizing a transcultural staging of Lessing’s play “Nathan the Wise.” The primary idea is to stage an opera in which every participant speaks/sings in their native language. The second aspect is to perform the opera/play at its historical site and to lighten the different time levels—the narrated time (the century of crusades), the narrator’s time (the age of enlightenment) and the staging time (the present)—visible in one and the same performance. : A third challenge is to reflect on the performing process and its transformation into new forms of alternative dramaturgies and independent realizations that go beyond staging an opera at an opera house.

All these aspects need careful consideration and preparation, made possible in the instructive atmosphere of the Research Center.

I will be working on the libretto and the film script, and, after the Fellowship, on directing the opera. On a conceptual level, the artistic work will be documented, published and discussed at the Research Center to analyze the multiple aspects in which culture is interwoven here.

This project is only possible due to the close collaboration with the composer of the opera, Amos Elkana, who will be a Fellow at the Research Center at the same time as myself. He describes the urgency of our project in the following words: “The work’s theme is based on the concept of brotherhood and the conviction that Jews, Christians and Muslims deserve to co-exist without being attacked or denigrated. Nathan proposes that a man should be judged simply as a man and not as a member of a particular group, since the value of the individual as a human being supersedes his creed or religion. The story told in this play is, of course, extremely relevant to our time, which has been marked by distrust and fear based on ethnic and cultural differences.”

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung