Globalizing the Opera – Milo Rau, Fiston Mwanza Mujila and Hèctor Parra join forces for first Congolese-European mining opera



Essay Fiston Mwanza Mujila


After his controversial take on Mozart (La Clemenza di Tito), Milo Rau’s new opera work Justice (libretto: Fiston Mwanza Mujila, music: Hèctor Parra) takes us to the heart of the Congolese mining industry. It is the first lyric work on the crimes of transnational companies ever, developed with a Congolese-European artistic team: “How can we decolonize the gaze without taking such a situation into account?” (Mwanza Mujila)


At the center of Justice is a terrible accident: In 2019, an acid truck belonging to the Swiss company Glencore, one of the world’s biggest mining companies, crashed into a market place in South Congo near the city of Kolwezi. Dozens of people died in agony: a crime of “almost cosmic proportions” (Parra) for which there was never any justice.


Written together with the Congolese Man Booker Prize Nominee Fiston Mwanza Mujila (“Train 83”), set into music by Catalan composer Hèctor Parra (“The Kindly Ones”), with Congolese singer Serge Kakudji in one of the main roles and Congolese guitar player Kojack Kossakamvwe, it is the first Congolese-European opera collaboration of this size: “A requiem against forgetting as well as a manifestation of the truth.” (Mwanza Mujila)


Developed with the victims of the accident, Justice includes hundreds of instrumentalist and singers from all over the world, like the mythical baritone Sir Willard White or soprano Lauren Michelle. This “bridge between the continents” (Mwanza Mujila) will premiere 22 January 2024 in Geneva, performed by the choir and the orchestra of the Grand Théâtre de Genève – and open the Tangente St. Pölten Festival in April.


Interview Milo Rau




“Where politics fail only art can help,” wrote DIE ZEIT about Milo Rau’s first major Congo Tribunal in 2015 in the eastern Congolese city of Bukavu. A panel of Congolese and European lawyers had set itself the goal of finally ending the impunity of the large transnational mining corporations.


Further tribunals were held in Berlin, Zurich and the “world capital of cobalt” Kolwezi, and a cinema and television film were made. The opera Justice is based on this decades-long work, in particular the so-called Glencore Tribunal, which Rau and his team held in Kolwezi’s parliament in December 2021.


“Is it the most ambitious political theater ever staged?” asked THE GUARDIAN, Radio France Internationale saw the “craziest theatre project of our time”. Justice is the latest chapter in this attempt at transnational solidarity, a “completely new step in opera history” (Parra).


Or as singer Serge Kakudji, born in Kolwezi, puts it: “An opera about the Congo of today, developed with those affected and performed at one of the largest opera houses in the world, next to Glencore’s headquarters: that is an artistic revolution.”


Interview Serge Kakudji




  • – “Nothing more monstrous than man”: Antigone in the Amazon premieres at Paris Villette today Wednesday.

  • -“Completing modernism”: Vienna Festival (Wiener Festwochen) create together with Nuria Nono-Schoenberg and the Arnold Schoenberg Center the Academy 2nd Modernism. Global Platform for Women Composers.

  • -“Everyone will remember this experience forever”: The Last Generation premieres at NTGent this Friday 7 December.

  • -“Decolonizing the Future”: new text by Milo Rau published at Verbrecher Verlag Berlin.

  • -“Theater becomes reality again”: extensive interview with Milo Rau at Austrian Television ORF.