German inmates bring Mozart opera to life in prison

Thu Oct 21, 2010 6:31am EDT
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By Maria Sheahan

FRANKFURT (Reuters Life!) - Criminals sitting out long-term sentences were given a rare opportunity to break down the figurative walls between prison life and freedom by joining local students in staging an opera near Frankfurt.

All five shows in the production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" took place inside prisons in the region, but the organizers hope to take the show out to the public next year.

This year's last performance was at a prison in the town of Butzbach, north of Frankfurt, Wednesday evening.

Some 80 local inmates clad in uniforms of dark trousers and red shirts, as well as outside guests, attended the show in the towering 116-year-old brick-faced facility's gymnasium, under the watchful eyes of uniformed guards.

Visitors had to follow the prison's security procedures, handing over photo identification at the gate, being checked with hand-held metal detectors and walked across the graveled yard by a prison guard in cold October rain.

Frankfurt actress and comedian Maja Wolff started the project three years ago with musician Ulrike Pfeifer, and this is the third production the duo has put on so far.

This year's project brings together male and female inmates for the first time, which has posed considerable challenges.

The male and female inmates were not allowed to rehearse together, so they learned their lines and steps separately and met for the first time at dress rehearsal on opening night.   Continued...