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

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.