Composers and their stage works 

The Europeans

Howard Barker

In The Europeans, male and female are equally matched.

The Viennese siege of 1684 has been lifted. The Turks have been repulsed from Europe and the Emperor and his court have returned to hail Vienna's military commander, Starhemberg. But Starhemberg refuses honours. He is searching for another self, one that can love, and he finds it with Katrin. She has undergone the extreme suffering that she alone can create, a character of knowledge and equality. She has been raped by the Turks and her breasts cut off, but she she insists on a public examination of her body by the city's leading doctors and wants a mass distribution of prints of her disfigurement around the city.

The birth of the product of the rape, a girl named Concilia by the mocking Emperor, takes place in full public view. Katrin is in love with language and holds onto it even at moments of extreme stress: "Sometimes I find a flow and then the words go-torrent-cascade cascade again. I used that word just now! I like that word now I have discovered it. I shall use it, probably ad nauseam, cascading!" But in the climatic scene three of Act II she and Starhemberg are largely silent. Both naked, they sit at a distance and gaze at one another in a shuttered room. Their bodies are imperfect but their endurance has been equal, as are their minds. This is not propaganda for safe sex, but rather a brief equilibrium between lust and intelligence which could only be envisaged after extensive experience of thwarted passion and defeated reason. The shutters are opened by Katrin's sister Susannah whose exasperated desire for the corrupt priest Orphuls has been blocked by his wilful celibacy. In the final scene Concilia is given to the Turks so there will be no false harmony between East and West. Katrin and Starhemberg, without children to distract them, finally kiss. The new Europe will be produced by war-weary adults.