Iphigenie auf Tauris

Pina Bausch

Dance-opera in four acts after Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera of the same name Libretto by Nicolas Francois Guillard, German version J. B. v. Alxinger and Ch. W. Gluck

Premiere 5. December 2019


Abducted by the goddess Diana and taken to the island of Tauris, the king’s daughter Iphigenia serves as a priestess in the temple. When the two young Greek men Pylades and Orest become stranded on Tauris, they are taken captive and are to be sacrificed. Iphigenie feels a certain affection for Orest, without realizing that he is her brother. She decides to let one of them escape. Wishing to save his friend, Orest convinces Iphigenie to help Pylades. On the way to the sacrificial bench, he talks about his sister, named Iphigenie. Finally recognizing each other, the siblings are rescued by the returning Pylades. In 1974 Pina Bausch created her first dance-opera with this choreography to Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera »Iphigenie auf Tauris« from 1781. The singers frame the dancers on the black and white stage, while the tragic story is told using only a few props. The Semperoper Ballett is the first company to which the Pina Bausch Foundation has entrusted the work, previously the exclusive property of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.


The story so far
Agamemnon is sailing to Troy with his army. He wishes to placate the gods who are denying him wind and sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Diana. However, during the sacrifice, Diana abducts Iphigenia, unnoticed to all, and she is taken to Tauris where she should serve as a priestess. Clytemnestra, her mother, takes revenge for the alleged death of her daughter and strikes Agamemnon who has returned home, dead in his bath. The second daughter, Electra, persuades Orestes, the brother, to murder Clytemnestra. Since then, Orestes has been pursued by the Eumenides. Together with his friend Pylades, he travels to Tauris. As atonement for his deed, he should here steal the statue of Diana and bring this to Greece as announced by the Oracle of Delphi.

Act one
A storm is raging on Tauris. Iphigenia who has been a priestess of the Scythians for 15 years, has been tormented by a bad dream: Agamemnon is dead, her mother forced a sword into her hand. Her duty of having to sacrifice every arriving foreigner has become unbearable for her. Thoas, king of Tauris, is also tormented by the fear of the gods’ revenge. Orestes and Pylades are stranded in the storm. Thoas and the people see them as welcome victims to appease the raging gods.

Act two
Orestes and Pylades await their sacrifice. Orestes laments the friend who has to die because of him. Pylades is taken away. Orestes is haunted by visions. In a dream, the murdered appear to him, Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. In front of Iphigenia and the priestesses he reveals himself to be Greek, tells of the death of Agamemnons and Orestes’s murder of his mother. Orestes has been punished and Electra is the only survivor. 

Act three
Iphigenia wants to release one of the foreigners and send him to her sister Electra with a message. She decides upon Orestes. He is so similar to her brother. When the friends bid each other farewell, she, too, reveals herself to be Greek and offers Orestes the chance of freedom. Orestes wants to save his friend yet Pylades does not want to accept his sacrifice. Finally, Orestes convinces Iphigenia to let Pylades flee who then hastily departs to seek help.

Act four
Iphigenia prays to Diana – she wishes for her heart to be filled with cruelness to enable her to fulfil her sacrificing duty. Orestes is ready to be sacrificed. He speaks of his sister Iphigenia. She suffered the same death. The siblings recognise one another. Thoas has learnt about Pylades’s escape and wants to punish Iphigenia for her betrayal. At the last moment, Pylades returns and throws himself between them and wants to kill Thoas. The goddess Diana appears, Orestes is absolved and the siblings and Pylades return to Greece.