Kepler’s Trial

Johannes Kepler’s aged mother Katharina might well have remained entirely in the shadows had she not, in the summer of 1615, been accused by a neighbour of being a witch. The case dragged on for six years, eventually leading to a trial, in which the famous astronomer took over his mother’s defense.

Drawing on Ulinka Rublack’s recent The Astronomer & the Witch, which aims to fuse microhistory and intellectual history, Kepler’s Trial is an opera which explores the uncertainties involved in scientific knowledge making and the relationship between a mother and son.

It is the culmination of a highly unusual creative process, in which a team of scholars working in a wide range of different fields, and from several different institutions, met regularly to explore the story, and to consider the challenges posed by bringing it to the stage.

The opera seeks to illuminate the story through the combination of allusions to the music of the early 17th century (cornetts and sackbuts, chorales, Lutheran drinking songs) with video sequences by Aura Satz that amplify its themes of sight and illusion.

Text from Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2016. Keppler’s Trial by┬áTim Watts.

I arrived after their performance to take some photos. The entire St John’s Chapel was dark but for two sets of spotlights on either end of the Chapel. It was getting late which meant we did not have a lot of time, so we staged a few photos near the spotlights to maximise the light we had in the photos.

Theo Platt with Jacob Fitzgerald
Cerys Purser
Top: Clare Cav. Middle: Alex Ledsham, Tom Mullock, Henry Phillips, Tom Ainge. Front: Rachael Feord, Lara Weaver, Carys Brown and Satowa Kinoshita. Foreground: Matt Wilkinson
Matt Wilkinson
Matt Wilkinson and Alice Webster
Top: Stephen Matthews, Daniel Brown, Gopal Kambo, James Beddoe. Middle: Tom Ainge, Tom Mullock, Henry Phillips, Alex Ledsham. Front: Katherine Ladd, Ella Rechter, Catalina Garcia, Lara Weaver, Carys Brown and Clare Cav. Standing Michael Bell, Rachael Feord and Nicholas Keone Lee.
William Ashford
Lucy McMahon and Isabel Estevez
Lucy McMahon and Isabel Estevez
Lucy McMahon and Isabel Estevez
Isabel Estevez

Video about the making of Kepler’s Trial:

Johannes Kepler – Theo Platt
Katharina Kepler – Cerys Purser
Einhorn/Magistrate – Matt Wilkinson
Daemon – Hugh Cutting
Schoolmaster/Gabelkhover – Michael Bell
Ursula Reinbold – Alice Webster
Dorothea Klebl – Carys Brown
Young Johannes – Jacob Fitzgerald

Organ/Harpsichord – Joseph Wicks
Violin – Julia Hwang, Stephanie Childress
Cello – Laura van der Heijden

Production Team
Director – William Ashford
Producer – Clare Eagle
Conductor – Graham Walker
Photography – Johannes Hjorth

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