Of the Utopian Attempt to Produce Change Together. A Precarious Singspiel by Beate Engl, Leonie Felle and Franka Kaßner


PREKÄROTOPIA is entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events or living persons, however, is hardly coincidental.

The artists Beate Engl, Leonie Felle, and Franka Kaßner star in the roles of Speaker, Poupée, and Trickster, who live in the system PREKÄROTOPIA between dance number and wrecking ball. The play’s title blends the ""precariat*" and “utopia” in a kind of ambiguous figure—depending on one’s angle of view, it is an emblem of possibility or utter impossibility.

Dramaturgically and musically, too, the performance is a roller coaster of contrasts and sudden shifts: now trapped in individualistic and misanthropic isolation, now filled with euphoria by their shared struggle against the existing realities, the characters are neither static nor prototypical, developing over the course of the play, approaching, and ultimately failing to achieve, mutual understanding.

Altogether twelve songs with lyrics and music by the artists—including a breathy chanson, impassioned agitation, and a bawled punk ballad—outline an aesthetic of political-ideological difference and raise questions concerning the form and impact of joint political action. With a nod to Bertolt Brecht’s definition of the “Beggar’s Opera” as a play "for" rather than "about" beggars, PREKÄROTOPIA is proposed not as a diagnosis of contemporary society but as a vehicle of communication.

PREKÄROTOPIA is based on an unorthodox interpretation of the tradition of the Singspiel, a—usually comedic—theatrical performance with musical interludes. Emerging in the early eighteenth century, the format evolved into a simpler middlebrow counterpart to the lavishly produced courtly opera. Engl, Felle, and Kaßner have taken inspiration from a wide range of models, from Soviet-era visual artists’ theater productions and revolutionary leftist workers’ songs from the 1920s to German revue films to American 1950s aqua-musicals and Neue Deutsche Welle music videos.

Lenbachhaus hosts the play’s premiere, to be followed by two additional performances. The installation of sculptures, musical instruments, costumes, songs, and videos is on display at the Kunstbau for the entire duration of the exhibition.

* "Precariat" designates the part of a population that lives in or is at risk of poverty due to uncertain living and working conditions.

Curated by Stephanie Weber