Tree of Codes, ‘cut-outs in time’ an opera

Tree of Codes (2013-15), ‘cut-outs in time’, an opera
Premiere season: 9, 12, 14, 18, 20 April, 2016, Staatenhaus, Cologne Opera

Liza Lim – Tree of Codes information and libretto (read-only downloadable doc)

new info: Tree of Codes – programme notes
Field recordings as ‘cut-outs of the real’ in Tree of Codes

Text about the opera: Michael Rebhahn, translation Christine Chapman

Four years ago, I blogged that I had been commissioned to write a new opera.
Tree of Codes, is now coming into view after a long journey and will be premiered on 9 April 2016 at the Staatenhaus in Cologne. The work was commissioned by Oper Köln, Ensemble MusikFabrik and HELLERAU – Europäisches Zentrum der Künste in co-operation with the Akademie der Künste der Welt. (see links above for more info)


Background note (L. Lim)

Tree of Codes takes place during an extra day grafted on to the continuity of life. Within this margin of secret time, a ‘backstage’ area, the boundaries between the natural world, animals, birds, humans and machines are dissolving. Dead matter is combined with the living and becomes animated. It learns to dream, to speak, to sing…

A bird mimics language and humans sing like birds. Father…does he know he’s dead?…conjurs birds made out of rubbish into mutant forms of being, recuperating strange life across a boundary of death. There is a kaleidescope of relationships joined by ventriloquism – one thing speaks for another – this world is made up of contingent parts where form is an excuse for slippage. Scene 3: ‘Ventriloquism’, begins with a comet, its sounds recorded by the Rosetta space mission, whilst far, far below, perhaps affected by some strange gravitational pull, a brass band blurts into life. The bubbling, percussive song of the comet is mirrored in a chorus of frogs and insects, Father’s ‘generatio aequivoca which he had dreamed up’ – not real frogs and insects but ‘a kind of pseudofauna and pseudoflora, the result of a fantastic fermentation of matter.’ Musicians play the most primitive of violins in the form of blocks of wood that are bowed with sticks to sound out this pseudo animal kingdom yet, out of this, emerge rhythmic patterns that recite Goethe’s Erlkönig.

Displacement and dissociation of time, space and identity create effects of menace and wonder. What is authentic? What is fake? The opera Tree of Codes asks:how do the inheritances of our genes, our stories and the unconscious beliefs passed down through generations, shape who we are, our desires, our curses? Do the living and dead exist in a relationship of ventriloquism?’ As Bruno Schulz says: ‘What is a Spring dusk? A multitude of unfinished stories. Here are the great breeding grounds of history. The tree roots want to speak…memories awake…’


Emily Hindrichs, soprano (Adela)
Christian Miedl, baritone (Son/Doctor)
Carl Rosman, tenor (Mutant Bird)

Theatre performers from Company Numero23Prod
Yael Rion (Father)
Diane Decker (Touya)
Anne Delahaye (Adela double)
Stéphane Vecchione (Son double)

16 musicians of Ensemble MusikFabrik (also singing & on stage)
Liz Hirst (Flute/Piccolo/Subcontrabass Flute), Liz Hirst
Peter Veale (Oboe/Cor anglais)
Carl Rosman (Clarinet/Bass clarinet, in addition to singing role of Mutant Bird)
Lorelei Dowling (Bassoon)
Christine Chapman (double bell Horn)
Marco Blaauw (double bell Trumpet)
Bruce Collings (double bell Trombone)
Melvyn Poore (double bell Euphonium)
Dirk Rothbrust (Percussion)
Benjamin Kobler (Piano/Toy Piano/Shruti Box/Kalimba)
Juditha Haeberlin (Violin)
Hannah Weirich (Violin)
Axel Porath (Viola/Strohviol)
Dirk Wietheger (Violoncello)
Florentin Ginot (Double Bass)

Clement Power, conductor
Massimo Furlan, director
Claire de Ribaupierre, dramaturg