El Cimarrón

El Cimarrón. Biography of the Runaway Slave Esteban Montejo.

Music: Hans Werner Henze
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Baritone: Martin Achrainer
Flutes: Norbert Girlinger
Guitar: Michael Langer
Percussion: Guntars Freiberg


The musical theatre “El Cimarron“ is based on the biography of the runaway slave Esteban Montejo from Cuba by Miguel Barnet, deriving its name from the original meaning of cimarrón as straying domestic animal, or, figuratively, fugitive slave.

Barnet stayed with Montejo, then 104 years old, over a period of two years and published the biography in 1966 in Havanna, where it caught the attention of Hans Werner Henze. He made El Cimarrón the theme of a musical theatre.

Despite the operatic character of the new composition, Henze, Enzelsberger and Barnet dispensed with the idea of assigning roles to actors. None of the four musicians on stage, not even the singer, act out Esteban Montejo, and still the audience is witness to the happenings. Music and text form a unity that cannot be split into roles.

In his adaptation, Enzensberger particularly emphasized Montejo’s qualities, namely stoicism, a precise diction, a certain ballad-like ceremoniousness and the unperturbed militancy of a man who fought for his freedom, but also for that of his brothers, all his life.

The work received its premiere at the 1970 Berlin Festival.