Tragicomic musical theatre about melancholy and burnout

The String Quartet's Guide to Sex and Anxiety

Calixto Bieito, Heath Quartet

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What is the relationship between sex, fear and music? The Spanish director Calixto Bieito and the British Heath Quartet bring tragicomic musical theatre about melancholy and burnout. Several important philosophical works are Bieito’s sources of inspiration, like The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), an essay by Robert Burton, Platform (2003) by Michel Houellebecq and The Concept of Anxiety by Søren Kierkegaard. Four string players and four actors on stage reconstruct the melody of melancholy in a staging full of insanity, creativity and music. This show doesn’t have the cure, but you will feel better after seeing it.

'The direction, acting and music blend together to create an unforgettable, disconcerting experience that stands out amongst other theatre' - Stage Talk Magazine ★★★★★

'Strange and beautiful (...) Calixto Bieito’s intense theatrical collage brings together four first-rate actors and the miraculous Heath Quartet.' - The Guardian ★★★★

'Unusual, provocative, penetrating' - Reviewsgate ★★★★★


Music performed by The Heath Quartet will include Beethoven string quartet no.11 opus 95 (the “serioso”), Op. 132 and Ligeti String Quartet No. 2.

Background information

The following important philosophical works are Bieito’s sources of inspiration: 

The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), an essay by Robert Burton,
Our Need of Consolation is Insatiable (2014) by Stig Dagermann,
Sleet: Selected Stories (2013) by Stig Dagerman,
My Age of Anxiety (2014) by Scott Stossel,
Wanting to Die (1981) by Anne Sexton,
Platform (2003) by Michel Houellebecq,
LOVE, LOVE - Unreconciled: Poems 1991-2013 (2017) by Michel Houellebecq,
The Noonday Demon (2002) by Andrew Solomon,
The Concept of Anxiety by Søren Kierkegaard


Calixto Bieito (1963) is one of Spain’s most famous contemporary directors and gained his reputation through his radical interpretations of classical operas. He studied Spanish literature and art history at the University of Barcelona and direction

at the ‘Institut del Teatre’ (also in Barcelona), trained as an actor in Tarragona and followed masterclasses with Jerzy Grotowski, Ingmar Bergman, Peter Brook and Giorgio Strehler. 

His international breakthrough came with striking productions of works including Tomás Bretóns zarzuela La verbena de la paloma, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño at the Edinburgh International Festival. 

From 1999 to 2011 Bieito was the artistic director of the Teatre Romea in Barcelona, where  he led international tours of works including Macbeth (Salzburg, Munich), Die Dreigroschenoper (Paris, Ruhr triennial) and Peer Gynt (Bergen International Festival). between 2010 and 2012 he was a guest director at the International Arts Festival of Castilla y León.

In 1999 Calixto Bieito made his debut as an opera director. Productions of works including Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera and Mozart’s Don Giovanni were followed by important engagements at German opera houses, such as Berg’s Lulu (Basel), Ligeti’s Le grand macabre (Freiburg), Gluck’s Armida (Komische Oper, Berlin) and Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer and Parsifal (Stuttgart).

Important productions in past seasons were Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten (Zürich, 2013), a double bill of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s castle and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (Komische Oper Berlin, 2015), Così fan tutte (Basel, 2015),  Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (Munich, 2016), Halévy’s La juive (Münchner Opernfestspiele, 2016) and Verdi’s Otello (Staatsoper Hamburg, 2017). In 2018 Bieito will be directing works including Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten at the Komische Oper Berlin and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Festspiele Zürich.

Oliver Heath (violin), Sara Wolstenholme (violin), Gary Pomeroy (viola) en Chris Murray (cello) together make up the Heath Quartet, founded in 2002 at the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, UK). Since then, the quartet has grown to become one of the UK’s most talked-about chamber music ensembles, and has won prizes including the Borletti-Buitoni Special Ensemble Scholarship (2011), the Ensemble Prize of the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (2012) and the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artists Award (2013).

The Heath Quartet frequently performs in the US and Europe. They made their debut in Carnegie Hall 2014, played the Lincoln Center for the first time a year later (both in New York) and played European venues including the Beethoven-Haus Bonn, the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Musée d’Orsay (Paris), the Wiener Musikverein, the Wiener Konzerthaus and the Vara Konserthus (Sweden). 

In the UK the quartet has played virtually all the large concert halls, as well as the BBC Proms, where they collaborated on the world premiere John Tavener’s Requiem Fragments in 2014. In the Netherlands, this season the Heath Quartet performed with pianist Hannes Minnaar at the Concertgebouw.

Highlights of  their 2017/18 season included a dedicated concert series in Wigmore Hall (London), during which the quartet performed all five of Jörg Widmann string quartets. The Heaths also performed the world premiere of a new work by Helen Grimeand recorded a new CD featuring the octets of Enescu and Mendelssohn. Earlier CD releases in featuring works including Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 and No.3 and the complete string quartets of Bartók received excellent reviews around the world.



direction, design
Calixto Bieito
set design
Calixto Bieto and Annemarie Bulla
costume design
Annemarie Bulla
Tim Mitchell
Dan Hoole
assistant directors
Laure Roldan and Lucía Astigarraga
Stuart Rogers
assistant producer
Catherine Fowles
performed by
Heath Quartet
Nick Harris, Mairead McKinley, Cathy Tyson and Miltos Yerolemu
costume supervisor
Kay Wilton
technical design
Ebrahim Nazier
Gabrielle Dawes
production manager
Tomas Wright
Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Brighton Dome & Festival, Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg, Holland Festival

This performance was made possible with support by