When Roller-Skating Nuns Came to the Opera House

In a rehearsal last week at the Mecklenburg State Theater in Schwerin, northeastern Germany, Fleshpiece, a shirtless performer with tattoos and purple hair, strode to the front of the main stage and delivered an impassioned monologue.

“This opera house, this is our church,” Fleshpiece intoned. “We continue to nail you to the present, just as Jesus was nailed to the cross.”

Supervising the scene was the experimental choreographer Florentina Holzinger, wearing a black baseball cap and a T-shirt printed with a picture of two nuns engaged in B.D.S.M. play.

Her previous works, including “Ophelia’s Got Talent” at the Volksbühne in Berlin and “A Divine Comedy” for the Rührtriennale festival, were boundary-pushing, peripatetic shows in which nudity, profanity, onstage helicopters, onstage ejaculation and performers hanging from their teeth have shocked and awed audiences. “Ophelia’s Got Talent” jointly won Germany’s Faust prize for best dance production last year, cementing Holzinger’s status as one of Europe’s rising theater stars.

In the German-speaking world, that kind of profile brings invitations to direct opera — and Holzinger’s work, which matches music with powerful, stage-filling spectacle, certainly has operatic qualities. Yet a gilded opera theater still seems an unlikely home for Holzinger, 38, whose anarchic works are collaged from new and old text and music, often with sharply contrasting styles.

Holzinger is known for her boundary-pushing experimental shows.Credit…Gordon Welters for The New York Times

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