The Lehman Brothers
The Lehman Brothers
© Christina Baumann-Canaval

Lehman Brothers

Stefano Massini

The Rise and Fall of a Dynasty

Deutsch von Gerda Poschmann-Reichenau

Premiere: 2 February 2023 / Kammerspiele

Synopsis

“Lehman Brothers” – Since 2008, this name has epitomized collapse, insolvency and the financial crisis. But what do we know about the story of the powerful US investment bank and about the people behind this label that has become a myth of failure? On 11 September 1844, a Jewish immigrant from Rimpar in Bavaria arrives in America, the promised land. His name is Heyum Lehmann and with his arrival in the new world, he becomes a new person: Henry Lehman, because everything is different in America. He opens a tiny textile business in Montgomery, Alabama, where his two brothers soon join him.

The family business grows faster and faster, quickly reaching dizzying heights. Starting in the cotton trade and progressing to investments in other sectors, the fabric store develops into a Wall Street giant and finally becomes a financial empire whose collapse in 2008 marked the onset of a global financial and economic crisis that is still affecting our world today.

From the invention of blue jeans to the great adventure of the railroad, from the financing of several wars to the birth of Wall Street, the impressive epic uses almost biblical language to recount an incredible success story that becomes a nightmare.

Over three years, Italian writer Stefano Massini (*1975) meticulously researched vast amounts of material that he poured into a breathtaking text. “The Lehman Brothers” premiered in France in 2013 and was translated into multiple languages. It won several awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award in 2019. The play includes more than 120 characters and was first produced in a version with only three actors by Sam Mendes at the Royal National Theatre.

As always, director Claus Tröger guarantees thrilling theatre and up-to-date material. He stages the imposing epic about three Lehman generations with only three actors. The performance space is designed by Erich Uiberlacker, who works for theatres including the Schauspiel Graz, the Leipzig Opera and many Austrian stages. The costumes are designed by Stephanie Bäuerle, head of the costume department, and the soundtrack is provided by musician Julius von Maldeghem.