, Bruch‘-

Theater Neumarkt, Zurich,
11–13, 15, 22–23, 25–28 January 202411–13, 16, 23, 25–28 January 2024

Diderot in Petersburg


With Frances Chiaverini, Challenge Gumbodete, Stanislav Iordanov, Nadège Meta Kanku, Sascha Ö. Soydan. Contributions by Joy Ahoulou, Jana Baldovino, Frieder Haller & Phung-Tien Phan, Winona Sloane Odette, Eneas Nikolai Prawdzic, Annelie Schubert.


In search of witty entertainment, the Russian tsarina Catherine II invites the French philosopher Denis Diderot to visit her in St. Petersburg. Fascinated by the erotic and financial charisma of the legendary despotess, the prominent writer accepts. However, not everyone is pleased about his arrival. In particular the court scholar Lagetschnikoff, a Machiavellian upstart, fears for the loss of his privileges. Diderot raves about freedom, Lagetschnikoff vows hostility. Under the direction of Catherine, a dangerous spiral of intrigue and manipulation unfolds, confronting Diderot’s joyful humanity with the otherworldly of political power. Что делать? Que faire? What to do?

Diderot in Petersburg (1873) by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch is an erotic-burlesque novella that contains a ‘dialectic of enlightenment’ avant la lettre. The fictionalised confrontation between philosopher and empress leads down into the torture chambers of anti-modernism where the obligatory whip is unpacked to exorcise the philosopher’s arrogance. Instead of ‘freedom, equality and fraternity’: ‘orthodoxy, autocracy and nationalism’. 250 years after Diderot’s historic journey of 1773–74, ,Bruch‘- undertakes a counter reading of the scandalous text and stages it as an allegorical play in the guise of a contemporary operetta. Between Russian Hardstyle and French Cold Wave, a political diorama and sensual laboratory opens up in which the ecstatic potential of laughter is explored – ‘rira bien qui rira le dernier!’



Ueli Bernays, Westlicher Geist trifft russische Seele, NZZ, 12 January 2024.

Leonard Haverkamp, Zarin sucht Lover, Nachtkritik, 12 January 2024.

Fabienne Nägeli, Kuriose Verwechslungskomödie – das Theater Neumarkt inszeniert die Operette «Diderot in Petersburg» als gelungenen Kommentar auf unsere Gegenwart, SRF, 15 January 2024.

Valeria Heintges, Optik, Schwung und Schau, Theater heute, March 2024.