In his Anatomy of Melancholy of 1621 the English scholar and cleric Robert Burton describes melancholy as a basic feature of the human condition. It is his description of its manifold manifestations that is at the heart of this staged performance under the direction of Thomas Hengelbrock. Texts by Burton, Shakespeare and other seventeenth-century poets are interwoven with compositions from the golden age of English music, breaking them up, complementing them and reflecting the efforts of a man struggling to find a meaning to his life. Their bewitching beauty underscores every thought, however absurd, in the labyrinth of our existence. Together with the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble, the actor Graham F. Valentine places this account of a Faustian figure seeking to fathom the mysteries of the outer and inner world within a fascinating wider context. As Dr Melancholicus he delivers a scientific lecture to his students, in the course of which he examines the phenomenon of melancholy, initially treating it from a dispassionate distance but then finding himself increasingly affected by this “sickness unto death”, a sickness from which he is ultimately incapable of freeing himself.


“In this production, which genuinely sets new standards in the performance of early music, everyone, including the singers and musicians, are also actors. Not a single gesture or movement, no matter how small, is fortuitous, everything is part of a synthesis of the arts that the production has transformed into a real story by the subtlest of means, a story in which the Baroque view of the world unfolds with panoramic amplitude.” STUTTGARTER ZEITUNG

Enchantment, enthusiasm, ovations.” BADISCHE ZEITUNG

“Wordily, with subtle gestures and drawing on several different languages, the Scottish actor Graham Valentine delivers a lecture that provides a survey of medical literature over the centuries. Choir, ensemble and individual voices blend together with early English vocal music as though they were a single design – the beautiful singing, which could not be bettered, enters as if it is the most natural thing in the world. What remains at the end is this impression of the subtle refinement of the sonorities.” FRANKFURTER NEUE PRESSE

“The choir in particular made it clear how it is possible to achieve an ideal clarity and balance with purely solo voices.” FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU


Texts by Robert Burton, Shakespeare and others
Madrigals, songs and operatic scenes by Dowland, Morley, Gibbons, Purcell and others


Simone Kermes Soprano
Graham F. Valentine Narrator
Philippe Arlaud Director

Balthasar Neumann Choir and soloists
Balthasar Neumann Ensemble
Thomas Hengelbrock Concept, Stage and Musical Direction


Aschaffenburg, Berlin, Essen, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Köln, Stuttgart