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Work of the Week – Wolfgang-Andreas Schultz: Achill unter den Mädchen

The question is not “to be or not to be”, but “who would you like to be”? In his opera, Achill unter den Mädchen, Wolfgang-Andreas Schultz raises questions about gender identity and role models. On 17 March 2023, The Munich Radio Orchestra, under the direction of Oliver Tardy, will take on the first night of this production by Franziska Severin featuring soloists from the August Everding Theatre Academy at Munich’s Prinzregententheater.

Within this work, Schultz interweaves two sagas from Greek mythology: the story of Achilles, who hides himself disguised as a girl in order to escape the oracle's divination, and the story of Acis and Galatea, a couple who have fallen in a forbidden love which tragically ends with the murder of Acis by Galatea's husband. Achill unter den Mädchen begins with Achill's desire to not have to hide and be allowed to live as a man. Then, when Odysseus is looking for Achill to go to war, Achill takes on the identity of the girl Pirrha. As they embark on their journey, Achill begins to view Odysseus as a male role model and ultimately begins to behave like him.

Search for the self: Achill unter den Mädchen by Wolfgang-Andreas Schultz

In the course of the opera, Achill is torn between his desire to not to have to pretend and finally be able to stay with his beloved one as he juggles between these two identities. The music reflects this as there is a clear musical persona for every character and expression; however, the harmony in Achill’s motif is split into bitonal structures which later resembles Odysseus’ theme as Achill reveals his true identity.

Achill: [...] I say it to myself. At night, when I lie awake, I say: 'You are Achill'. [...]

Pirrha [also Achill]: [fiercely] I am a woman! [...]

Achill: Away! Away with the masks! The false stuff! The men's ... clothes, the girls' clothes! I am … 

Achill, Achill! Never again will I be another, never again! [...]

Achill unter den Mädchen, received its world premiere in Kassel in 1997 and will be performed several more times at the Prinzregententheater on 19, 21, 23 and 25 March 2023. The general rehearsal on 15 March is also open to the public.



Wolfgang-Andreas Schultz: Composer Profile 

Achill unter den Mädchen: Work Details and Online Score 

Website Theaterakademie August Everding 


Illustration: Sarah / Adobe Stock