Drawing: Wojtek Klakla
Dagny Gioulami was born in Bern in 1970 to a Swiss father and a Greek mother. (Dagny is a Swedish forename – one of her grandmothers was from Sweden – and Gioulami is a Greek surname). She studied drama at the Zurich University of Fine Arts and was an actress in the permanent ensemble of the Städtische Bühnen Münster. She has also appeared in productions at the Schauspielhaus Zurich, Theater Basel, Stadttheater Bern and for many smaller companies.

Since 2000 Gioulami has been writing librettos and stage works, for companies such as the Opernhaus Zurich, Staatsoper Hannover, The Opera Group London, Stadttheater Bern or the Landschaftstheater Ballenberg. Her opera Birds. Barks. Bones. (music: Edward Rushton) won a 2005 British Composers Award.

Between 2010 and 2013 she studied at the Swiss Literary Institute (Schweizerische Literaturinstitut) in Biel (Master CAP, Bern University of Fine Arts). Her debut novel, Alle Geschichten, die ich kenne (All the Stories I Know) was published in early 2015 by weissbooks.w, Frankfurt am Main. Gioulami has received many accolades and awards for her novel, including the Literature Prize of the Canton of Berne, and it was on the shortlist of the Rauriser Literature Prize. She lives in Zurich.

Catalogue of Works

San Keller: Künstler und Polizisten (Artists and Policemen)

Dramatisation of recollections by various artists. Shifting Identities, Kunsthaus Zurich, 2008

The performance artist San Keller asked artists he knows to provide reports of any incidents with the police they had been involved in. Dagny Gioulami turned the anecdotes into theatrical scenes which San Keller then performed in the style of a Punch-and-Judy show during the exhibition.

Die Katze, Schreckmümpfeli (The Cat, a Little Bite of Horror) for Swiss Radio SRF1

2018 (author and speaker)

Edith, suffering from an undefined physical disorder, visits Dr Corday’s medical practice: she claims to have a cat on her chest. When Dr Corday learns that Edith has been referred to her by Dr Siegenthaler, he starts to become afraid.

Mattemärli, play for children

Commissioned by the Stadttheater Bern, 2008

Noemi has run away from home in order to find her cuddly toy dog. After a mysterious trip down the lift to the Matte (a part of the city of Bern on the level of the River Aare) she lands in a strange and unknown world which seems at the same time to be the Matte. Can Noemi stop the Matte being flooded and also find her dog?

A Dream Within a Dream, libretto for Stefan Hanke, after motifs from the works of Edgar Allan Poe

2017, first performance still to be announced

After the death of his mother, little Henri moves into his aunt’s hostel. Are the strange figures he meets in the night residents of the hostel or characters in his nightmares?

Writing workshops

Creative writing workshop with pupils of form 8 at the Humboldt Gymnasium Konstanz, 2017 and 2018.

Bachelorette, one-act opera, part of the 5-part opera “Apartment”

libretto for Edward Rushton, Theater Stok, Zürich. First performance 2017

Élodie and Lisette are both applying to rent the same flat. They must find out if they want to keep fighting each other or if they wouldn’t prefer to move in together.

Made in Europe, speech

Speech at the European Ministry and the Literaturhaus Nordrhein-Westfalen on the occasion of a reading in the Europa erlesen, 2017

Following a process of thought starting with the migratory routes taken by members of her family, Gioulami maps out pathways and follows threads throughout Europe. She contemplates the (metaphorically speaking) clogged pipelines that the people of Greece have had to battle against in the period since the financial crisis.

Bleu Électrique (collaborative work), stage play,

Developed and written together with Eleni Haupt and Claudio Schenardi (Theater Amalgam), Maxim Theater Zurich. First performance 2017.

Switzerland, 2035. A former (female) member of parliament breaks into one of her old rivals’ house in order to convince her to take part in a protest against a misogynistic popular referendum. Will the two old pioneers of women’s suffrage go to the barricades once more? Bleu électrique casts light on the history of women in Swiss politics and raises questions about equality in the world today.


Children from Eichliacker School in Winterthur wrote stories from which Dagny Gioulami developed the structure for a libretto.

In workshops, the students composed songs and wrote theatrical scenes. The music was written by composition students of Andreas Nick (MkZ, Musikschule Konservatorium Zurich and Winterthur). The children themselves played and sung, together with the Musikkollegium Winterthur orchestra. First performance 2017.

Drachencamping, opera for children, libretto developed with children for the Musikkollegium Winterthur

Winterthur, Stadthaus. First performance 2016

Summer holidays on a camp-site. The children are annoyed with their parents and wish that a dragon would come and take them away. And in fact, a dragon does come but takes their parents away. The children celebrate their freedom, but before long they want their parents back again; the dragon is nowhere to be seen.

Über Anpassung (About Adapting), short story

viceversa literatur 10, 2016

Heidi, the literary figure, is a Swiss girl who has to conform and adapt to her foreign surroundings. In this story, she accompanies the narrator in her childish attempts to be a real Swiss girl.

Bermuda Dreieck (Bermuda Triangle), short story

Carte Blanche, Kulturtipp

The narrator transports a disused 1970s iron sculpture from Zurich to a Greek village, while talking on the subject of buying and selling.

Alle Geschichten, die ich kenne, (All the Stories I Know), novel

weissbooks.w, 2015

Alle Geschichten, die ich kenne starts in Zurich, in a dry cleaner’s shop. The shop’s new owner seems to be pursued by bad luck. To try and save her, the narrator sets off on a journey to her home country, Greece. She is pinning her hopes on her Aunt Irini, a brilliant seamstress, who has entered a mysterious pact with Fate. “It’s just a dress”, says the tattooed policeman. “It’s the key to her fate. The key to her fate is in my hands.”

Toutes les histoires que je connais

Traduit par Stefanie Lanni

Die Abenteuer der Jackson Kinder im kanadischen Busch (The Adventures of the Jackson Children in the Canadian Bush), short story

in Wie groß ist die Welt und wie still ist es hier (How Large the World and How Quiet it is Here), a collection of stories set around the Hotel Waldhaus in Sils Maria, weissbooks.w, 2014

Valerie, a student, is invited by an older actor on a journey to Sils Maria and moves around the hotel as if sleepwalking.

Der Pfarrer und der Kapitän (The Priest and the Captain), stage play commissioned by the Landschaftstheater Ballenberg. First performance 2012

It is the beginning of the 20th Century, shortly before the aeroplane made its breakthrough as a popular means of air-travel. An ageing hot-air-ballooning pioneer is about to take off on an expedition across the Swiss Alps. His appearance in a small village community causes unrest, as forgotten stories come to light again.

Zine with Anna Albisetti: Ten Questions on Röntgenplatz

Pandora, organische Maschine (Pandora, Organic Machine), monologue for a melodrama as well as a work for voice and piano by Edward Rushton

Ensemble Counterpoise, Cheltenham Festival. First performance 2011 (melodrama)

Jonathan Sells, baritone and Edward Rushton, piano, Theater Stok. First performance 2012 (sung version). Zeus imposes upon his son Hephaistos the task of building a machine that will bring bad luck to the mortals. In his smithy, the god forges Pandora, a machine in the shape of a perfect woman, and brings it to the humans. It is then only a matter of time and of unlucky chance until the contents of the famous “box” are released.

Cicadas, oratorio by Edward Rushton

For solo singers, choir, children’s choir, instrumental ensemble. LSO St. Luke's, London, first performance 2010

Ceres warns the terrible king Erisichthon not to cut down her sacred oak, which houses a nymph. The king is deaf to her commands and strikes down the tree. Ceres takes revenge by making him feel eternally and insatiably hungry. The king ultimately is forced to eat himself.

Uruguay, stage play for young people

Commissioned by the Jugendclub MoMoll, Schaffhausen. First performance 2010

The suffering of the survivors of a famous air-crash in the Andes in 1972 is the story on which a gang of teenagers base their initiation ritual. Their reenactment of the incident in a forest somewhere in the Swiss provinces seems to be going well, until one of the girls disappears.

Zack und Zoé, stage play for young people

Classroom play about the influence gender roles in choosing a profession. Commissioned by the Department for Education and Culture of the Canton of Uri. First performance 2009

Zack and Zoé have lost contact with each other since they left school. They meet again in a classroom where they have been given the task of talking to the pupils about their apprenticeships and their jobs. They start digging up old conflicts about their previous relationship and about their various choices of profession. It soon becomes clear that they are still in love with each other. http://www.mytopjob.ch/index.php/theater

Dramaturgy or dramaturgical assistance

Amongst others for Corsin Gaudenz, Charlotte Joss, Claudio Schenardi, Samuel Schwarz.

Im Schatten des Maulbeerbaums (In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree), opera for children, libretto for Edward Rushton

Commissioned by the Opernhaus Zürich. First performance January 2008

Mr Bim, a rich man, sells the shade of his mulberry tree to a wanderer, without understanding that the shadow moves around during the course of the day. And so the stranger sits wherever the shadow falls. While the rich man becomes ever angrier, Wim, his son, makes friends with his new house-mate.

S' bluetig Pfand (The Bloody Pledge), historical festival-play

Commissioned by the Grüningen local authority, 2008

The play sheds light on two generations of the Gessler family, reeves in the city of Grüningen. Particular focus is on the reasons why Gessler “the Good”, who had to pawn Grüningen to the city of Zurich in the year 1408, became Gessler “the Bad” in the myth of William Tell.

Die Fromme Helene (Pious Helen), libretto for Edward Rushton

Commissioned by the Staatsoper Hannover. First performance February 2007

Wilhelm Busch’s comic book about Pious Helen, recounted by its own characters, who are at the same time the singers. Meanwhile, sitting round a separate smokers’ table, a fireman, a psychiatrist and Busch himself comment on what’s happening.

The Shops, libretto for Edward Rushton

Commissioned by The Opera Group, London and the Bregenz Festival. First performance July 2007

A police officer and philatelist, a psychologist and art-collector, salespeople in department stores and a self-help group for shopaholics: these are the characters in the opera The Shops. The drama centres around Christophe, who steals valuable stamps from museums, gets caught in the act, and later finds out what his mother has done with his collection.

Harley, libretto for Edward Rushton

Commissioned by the Opernhaus Zurich. First performance November 2005, Opernhaus Zurich

A provincial museum in Central America. The figures in a family portrait are alive and captured for ever within the painting. The young daughter makes contact with the museum’s security guard and asks him to paint her out of the portrait so that she can reinvent her life-story.

Birds. Barks. Bones. Trojan Trilogy, libretto for Edward Rushton

Commissioned by The Opera Group, London. First performance July 2004

The one-act operas Philoctetes, a tragedy for five male singers, and Linen from Smyrna, a comedy for five female singers, are joined together by the one-act “Satyr-play” Barks to make a full evening’s operatic entertainment. In Barks all ten singers together perform the role of Odysseus’ old dog, who recognises his returning master and then dies.

Philoktet (Philoctetes), libretto for Edward Rushton

Commissioned by The Opera Group, London. First performance July 2004

The Greeks will only be able to defeat the Trojans when they have Philoctetes’ bow in their possession. Years before, Odysseus had left Philoctetes behind on a deserted island after he had been bitten by a snake. Now Odysseus sends Achilles’ young son Neoptolemus to plead with the lonely and wounded warrior to give them his bow.

Leinen aus Smyrna (Linen from Smyrna), libretto for Edward Rushton

Winner of the teatro minimo copetition (Opernhaus Zurich/Bavarian State Opera). First performance June 2001

As part of the trilogy Birds. Barks. Bones., in an English version for The Opera Group, London, first performance July 2004. Odysseus has died. At his wake, five women take their farewells and argue about which of them knew him best and which he loved the most. During the fight the women are able to liberate themselves from their illusions of the heroic Odysseus and manage to draw closer to each other as sisters.