Sarah Nemtsov:

Sarah Nemtsov: "Sacrifice"

Sarah Nemtsov’s music theatre work Sacrifice was premiered on March 05 in Halle (stage director: Florian Lutz, conductor: Michael Wendeberg). The world premiere of the opera is now available on Bühnen Halle's YouTube-Channel.



Oper Halle
5.3.2017 (WP)


Read the latest review on Sacrifice here (in German).

“This ‘opera’ is about everything that is happening now: war, terror, migration, populism...Strong, absolutely unpretentious music whose artfulness – even when quoting Björk and Bach – one soon hardly notices.”

“A multi-layered, raging piece of music theatre. The opera reflects the burning topics of our day as well as our fears.”

die deutsche bühne
“It is above all the intoxicating sounds unleashed by Nemtsov that dominate here and open up spaces of association for the red-hot topics of our time... An extraordinary music-theatre experience.”


“May I be Sacrificed” – Thus begins Dirk Laucke’s libretto for Sarah Nemtsov’s opera, which had its world premiere in Halle, Germany in March 2017. The words are taken from an Afghan poem which conjures up the beauty, grandeur and dignity of the homeland – including the deaths of people who live for this country. The poem is attributed to the Taliban.

In the opera Sacrifice, however, it is not some distant Taliban who invoke their own death for a higher religious or patriotic cause. It is two girls from Sangerhausen in the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt, who in 2014, aged 15 and 18, left behind German majority society and made their way to Syria to wage jihad. Their story, graspable only in fragments, and reported in the newspapers for weeks in tones of consternation, anxiety, shame and helplessness, is the realistic basis of the newly composed opera.


Dramatist Laucke brings in an ensemble of additional characters whose varying situations fluctuate between fleeing and fighting, resistance and self-Sacrifice. A family in 2015 takes in a group of refugees: the man and wife argue about the acceptability of supporting a cause to the point of self-Sacrifice – and about where, on the other hand, denial of support turns into nationalistic ideology. There is also a young Syrian waiting in Istanbul for his German visa.

These are “not realistic characters but projection surfaces”, comments Sarah Nemtsov – surfaces on which to project the search for meaning in one’s own life within a society’s conflicting forces. The two girls’ path into extremism, almost certainly leading to their own death, is its opposite. The search for meaning becomes total self-Sacrifice. “What brings a person to this – first the idea, then the act? How, when and by what means are (internally) the boundaries transgressed? Could there have been a way back?” Nemtsov was already absorbed in these ideas approaching the opera’s subject, when Florian Lutz and I together with her and Laucke first presented the material as the basis of a possible composition.


Sacrifice is a work that plays out in the present and deals with events from the recent past. Seldom has a music-theatre work responded to our present-day reality as this one does. Opera can and must turn to the real world when radicalization and marginalization tear a society apart. Yet anyone hearing and seeing Sacrifice will immediately understand that it is much more than just a documentary reprocessing of actual occurrences.

Note by Michael v. zur Mühlen (excerpt). Used by kind permission of the author and Oper Halle.

Photos: Falk Wenzel