Ulrike Haage &
Mark Ravenhill

Rete Mirabile│Wundernetz

A micro-opera in ten acts (approx. 40 min.) by Ulrike Haage (concept, composition) & Mark Ravenhill (libretto)

Performances: February 12 (no tickets left), 19 (no tickets left), 26 (no tickets left) and March 5 (no tickets left) at 6:30 and 7:30 pm
Reservations required via: kunst@mfn-berlin.de, no entrance fee

Please keep in mind to pick up your reserved tickets 15 minutes before the performance starts. Otherwise your tickets will be given to interested other guests without prior reservation.


A Rete Mirabile (Engl. Wonderful Net) is the branching of an artery into a dense network of the finest blood vessels, reuniting to form not a vein, but another artery. In fish the Retia Mirabile serve as thermoregulators via countercurrent heat exchange.

Wundernetz | Rete Mirabile is inspired by the material content, structure and aesthetics of the wet collection in the Museum für Naturkunde. The composer Ulrike Haage made numerous visits to the museum, exploring the site, its atmosphere and its audio acoustic conditions. She familiarised herself with the research collection through conversations with its curator, Peter Bartsch, and experimented with specimen jars as sounding bodies. Haage translated her exploration of the space’s material and history into an associative fabric of sound, which oscillates between strictly repetitive minimal music and the echoes of Renaissance music. Choreographed as a modern travelling theatre, the concert-performance takes its listeners across three rooms in which the instrumentation responds to exhibits and displays: Glass, metal, wood, fur and leather. Moving with the singers and musicians from room to room, the audience experiences the work as an unfolding, rhythmic flow of time: as the time-based quality of music. The wandering ears, eyes and muscles of the audience thus travel through the museum, through language and sounds, through cultural history and through changing styles of art.

Mark Ravenhill’s libretto was written to the existing composition. It is inspired by excerpts from the treatise Vampyroteuthis infernalis, written by philospopher Vilém Flusser. It is a highly original essay on the vampire squid’s perceptual experience of the world, which he presents as diametrically opposed to that of humans. The actual specimen, first described in 1903, can be seen in the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. Ravenhill approaches the material poetically, critically and symbolically, and the octopus of his text can be read as representing the wealth of the exhibits in the wet collection. It is an animal that has triggered thought experiments throughout millennia of European intellectual history, and which since the era of historic Romanticism, has provided material for science-fiction, poetry and imaginative philosophical thinking. Ravenhill turns the octopus into a symbolic character. The ten songs of the micro-opera are composed in different poetic genres, thus reflecting the shifts of perspective and imagery between human and octopus. Through his poetico-philosophical perception of the animal, Ravenhill encourages a reflection on human hybris and impermanence.

The interplay between composition and libretto form a work that relates to the English Baroque tradition. As was common at that time, Wundernetz | Rete Mirabile stimulates thought through sensory experience, thereby interweaving an artistic view of the natural sciences with social reflection and an experience of the wondrous to form an acutely contemporary work of art.


Vocal quartet: Christina Andersson, soprano; Regina Jakobi, alto; Daniel Steiner, tenor; Jonas Böhm, bass
Percussion, marimba, vibraphone: Almut Lustig, Brigitte Haas
Technicians: Philipp Fiedler (lighting, stage)
Amanuensis: Michael Essl
Assistant director: Christina Haufe
Curator for Sound Art: Gaby Hartel

Please note: The maximum audience per performance is 60 people. The audience will move through the museum space together with the musicians and singers; therefore there will be no seating available. Please bring warm clothes: In order to preserve the objects in the wet collection it is quite cold.

Ulrike Haage &  <br />
Mark Ravenhill
Die Nass-Sammlung © Museum für Naturkunde / Carola Radke