Shuman Public Relations

[email protected] | (212) 315-1300

For Immediate Release


ST. GALLEN, SWITZERLAND (OCTOBER 11, 2023) – Grammy Award winning American composer Tobias Picker and Lambda Literary Award winning librettist Aryeh Lev Stollman’s newest opera Lili Elbe makes its world premiere at the Theater St. Gallen. Lili Elbe is the first grand opera written for and about a historical person of trans experience, and the world premiere stars American heldenbaritone Lucia Lucas. The premiere of Lili Elbe additionally marks the reopening of the newly renovated art-brut style Konzert und Theater St. Gallen building, which has undergone three years of renovations, and performances will take place on October 22, 29, November 2, 5, 11, 17, & December 3, 2023 in addition to a special ceremony celebrating the reopening of the hall on October 21, 2023

Commissioned by the Konzert und Theater St. Gallen, the opera tells the story of the painter Lili Elbe, who had the first gender confirmation surgery in the 1930s. In the tradition of great operatic works, Lili Elbe is the story of a love overcoming all obstacles. The opera allows a glimpse into the life of Lili Elbe and her wife Gerda Wegener, both famous painters. The opera explores Lili’s coming out and transition at a time when gender confirmation surgery was still completely uncharted territory. 

During her lifetime, Lili Elbe (1882–1931) was an internationally known personality. Unlike the 2015 film The Danish Girl, the opera is not based on the novel, but on historical sources, including Lili Elbe's own writings.

The world premiere production of Lili Elbe is conducted by Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Theater St. Gallen Modestas Pitrénas and stage directed by Krystian Lada, who has previously directed Florencia en el Amazonas and Messa da Requiem at the theater. The opera is choreographed by Frank Fannar Pedersen and features the St. Gallen dance company.

Lili Elbe is composer Tobias Picker’s seventh opera. His most recent opera Awakenings premiered in 2022 and was praised by The Wall Street Journal as a “a sensitive adaptation… [whose] elegiac, autumnal score, with its eloquent writing for solo string players, treads delicately in these stories of unrealized possibility.” Picker’s operas have been produced all over the world by the New York City Opera, San Diego Opera, Opéra de Montréal, Chicago Opera Theater, Covent Garden, Opera Holland Park, English Touring Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, among many others.

American heldenbaritone Lucia Lucas, hailed as “one of the most powerful and beautiful baritone voices you could hear” (The Side Balcony), is making waves on the operatic mainstages. Lucas has performed in cities all over the globe, including Dublin, London, Brussels, Berlin, Torino, Essen, Daegu, Korea, and the United States. Lucas made her Metropolitan Opera début as Angelotti in Tosca, making her the first openly transgender singer to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, and subsequently returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Gretch in Fedora. Lucas returns to the Metropolitan Opera this season for their productions of Roméo et Juliette and La Rondine. Other engagements this season include Silvio in Pagliacci at the Hawaii Opera Theatre. Lucas also served as dramaturg to the composer and librettist for Lili Elbe.

Lili Elbe

Opera in two acts  

World Premiere

Music by Tobias Picker 

Libretto by Aryeh Lev Stollman 


English with German subtitles


Sunday, October 22, 2023, 7 p.m. 

Sunday, October 29, 2023, 5 p.m. 

Thursday, November 2, 2023, 7:30 p.m. 

Sunday, November 5, 2023, 2 p.m. 

Saturday, November 11, 2023, 7 p.m. 

Friday, November 17, 2023, 7:30 p.m. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023, 7 p.m. 


Introductory soiree: Tuesday, October 17, 2023, 6:45 p.m. 

Post-performance discussion: November 5 and December 3, 2023 

Introductions: 30 minutes prior to performances on October 29, November 2, November 5, November 11, November 17, and December 3, 2023


Musical direction: Modestas Pitrenas 

Post-conducting: Stéphane Fromageot 

Production, stage, video: Krystian Lada 

Choreography: Frank Fannar Pedersen 

Collaboration stage design: Łukasz Misztal 

Costume design: Bente Rolandsdotter 

Lighting: Aleksandr Prowaliński 

Dramaturg (authors): Lucia Lucas 

Dramaturg (Production): Caroline Damaschke 

Choir rehearsal: Franz Obermair 

Direction of studies: Stéphane Fromageot 

Assistant director: Fleur Snow & Marcel Orłowski 

Stage management: lvana Aeschbacher 

Assistant producer: La Uyi 


Lili Elbe: Lucia Lucas 

Gerda Wegener: Sylvia D’Eramo 

Anna Larsen Bjørner, Mother Wegener, Young Woman: Mack Wolz 

Hélène Allatini: Jennifer Panara 

Claude Lejeune: Brian Michael Moore 

Danish Countess, Dagmar, Matron: Théo Imart 

Marius Wegener, Lili Elbe Cover: Sam Taskinen 

Christian X, Art Critic, Major Fernando Porta: Kristján Jóhannesson 

Eric Allatini: David Maze 

Professor Warnekros: Msimelelo Mbali 


Dance company: Isabella Tara Antonsdóttir, Baptiste Berrin, Guang-Xuan Chen, Gennaro Cipolletta, Coko De Windt, Mitch Harvey, Swne Küpper, Venetia Jia Yee Lim, Andrea Lippolis, Luis Martinez Gea, Charmene Pang, Adamantia Papakyriaki, Tommaso Terribile, Emma Thesing, Ariadni Toumpeki, lfigenia Toumpeki, Minghao Zhao 


Choir of the Theater St. Gallen Symphony 

Symphonic Orchestra St. Gallen 

Metanoia Quartet 

Children's extras of the Theater St. Gallen


Tobias Picker has drawn commissions from and performances by the world’s leading musicians, orchestras, and opera houses. The New Yorker has called him “a genuine creator with a fertile, unforced vein of invention”; The Wall Street Journal wrote he was “our finest composer for the lyric stage”; and BBC Music Magazine described him as “displaying a distinctively soulful style that is one of the glories of the current musical scene.”

His operas have been commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera (Emmeline, 1996), LA Opera (Fantastic Mr. Fox, 1998), Dallas Opera (Thérèse Raquin, 2001), Metropolitan Opera (An American Tragedy, 2001), San Francisco Opera (Dolores Claiborne, 2013), and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (Awakenings, 2022). His operas have also been produced by the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, San Diego Opera, Opéra de Montréal, Chicago Opera Theater, Covent Garden, Opera Holland Park, English Touring Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, and many other companies. In 2015, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis mounted a major new production of his Emmeline that won universal acclaim as “a work of gripping emotional intensity and extraordinary musical expressivity” (the Dallas Morning News), “one of the best operas written in the past twenty-five years (The Wall Street Journal), and “the greatest American opera of the 20th century (the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The world premiere recording of Fantastic Mr. Fox, his family opera, was released by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Odyssey Opera in Spring 2019 on the BMOP label, which won the 2020 Grammy award for best opera recording. In 2022, Picker’s opera Awakenings, based on “Awakenings,” Oliver Sacks' 1960's chronicle of his efforts to help the victims of an encephalitis epidemic, premiered at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

His extensive discography also includes albums devoted entirely to his works on Nonesuch, Sony Classics, Virgin Classics, Angel, Chandos, Ondine, Albany Records, Wergo, and Tzadik. Individual works have appeared on Sony Classics, Angel, and Ondine albums. Tobias Picker has had symphonic works commissioned and performed by the BBC Proms, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Opéra de Montréal, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Vienna Radio Symphony, and Zurich Tonhalle, among many others. In addition to three symphonies, he has composed concertos for violin, viola, cello, and oboe, as well as four piano concertos and a ballet, Awakenings, also based on the book by Oliver Sacks, commissioned by the London-based Rambert Dance Company.

An accomplished pianist, he has performed as soloist in performances of his piano concertos and chamber works with major orchestras and chamber ensembles around the world. He has received prestigious awards throughout his career and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has served as composer-in-residence for the Houston Symphony, from 1985 to 1990, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the Pacific Music Festival. In 2010 he founded Opera San Antonio and served as its artistic director until 2015. Picker then was appointed artistic director of Tulsa Opera from 2016 to 2022: his tenure in Tulsa would see the selection of Lucia Lucas as the first transgender opera singer to have a leading role on the American stage (for which he is featured in James Kicklighter's documentary film, The Sound of Identity), a baseball-themed production of Rigoletto adapted for an open-air baseball stadium to accommodate the gathering restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Greenwood Overcomes, a concert with new works by African-American composers to honor the memory of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, as well as a Thaddeus Strassberger-directed, immersive production of Salome.


Formed in 2000 from a merger of the Symphony Orchestra and the then City Theater, Konzert und Theater St. Gallen is the largest cultural institution in eastern Switzerland with international appeal throughout the Lake Constance region. Founded in 1801, St. Gallen is Switzerland's oldest professional theater company and is now run as a four-genre theater. Each season, more than 20 new productions are staged in the areas of concert, drama, musical theater and dance. The approximately 470 performances per year are attended by around 150,000 spectators. Apart from the Paillard Building and Tonhalle, two halls in Lokremise at the main train station and every two years the festival stage at Klosterhof are available as venues. Konzert und Theater St. Gallen employs around 250 people.


Press Contacts: 

Konzert und Theater St.Gallen

Johannes Hunziker | [email protected] | +41 71 242 05 13

Shuman Public Relations 

Lisa Jaehnig | [email protected] | (212) 315-1300

Constance Shuman | [email protected] | (212) 315-1300

Christina Bianco | [email protected] | (212) 315-1300