An imagined Viennese music room where a solitary pianist plays Brahms’s last works gradually transforms into the symbol-rich garden of Schoenberg’s The Book of the Hanging Gardens.

Drawing on Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, Strindberg’s A Dream Play, Max Klinger’s Brahms-Phantasie and the sensual paintings of Gustav Klimt, In the Garden of Dreams moves from dawn (late nineteenth-century) to the dark of night (1908), from a protected Viennese interior to a decaying landscape where Schoenberg’s haunting monodrama, The Book of the Hanging Gardens, reaches its shattering conclusion as reality, dream, memory, and hallucination merge in the mind of an obsessed lover.

Presented in collaboration with Houston Grand Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde.


In the Garden of Dreams


Music by Brahms and Schoenberg with theatrical lighting and projections. Text from Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, Strindberg’s A Dream Play, Max Klinger’s Brahms-Phantasie and the erotic paintings of Gustav Klimt.


May 2013, Cullen Theater, Wortham Theater Center, Houston. A Da Camera of Houston production.


Recording available.


World premiere: Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4, 2013
Cullen Theater, Wortham Theater Center

Concept and direction: Sarah Rothenberg
Projection and video design: Sven Ortel
Lighting and set design: Marcus Doshi
Original performers: Charlotte Hellekant, mezzo soprano; Michael Sumuel, bass-baritone; Sarah Rothenberg, piano



Charlotte Hellekant, mezzo-soprano, and pianist/director Sarah Rothenberg perform movements IX, X, XI from Schoenberg’s The Book of the Hanging Gardens, Op. 15 . Excerpt from In the Garden of Dreams world premiere, Houston, May 3, 2013.


“Sarah Rothenberg Unravels Darkness of Human Psyche in Love-Obsessed Multimedia Spectacle…Rothenberg sketches a bewitching milieu that injects additional high octane, inner psyche turmoil to intensify haunting pieces by Arnold Schoenberg and Johannes Brahms; art by Max Klinger and Gustav Klimt; and the writings of Sigmund Freud and August Strindberg…In essence, what Rothenberg’s In the Garden of Dreams accomplishes is to demystify music’s journey from the harmonic tradition of Brahms, the symbolism of Wagner and into a new tonality in the hands of Schoenberg.” –

“No one word can sum up “In the Garden of Dreams” – the latest in a series of boundary-crossing performances devised by Sarah Rothenberg” – Houston Chronicle