News from the world of higher education
News from the world of higher education

Premiere of Swedish opera about the Macchiarini scandal

The scandal surrounding the surgeon Paolo Macchiarini has received a lot of coverage in the media over the past decade. Now the affair has also taken its place in the world of fiction, through the newly written opera Mytomania, which is being performed at the Gothenburg Opera House.

The opera Mytomania was inspired by the scandal surrounding Paolo Macchiarini. It is being performed at the Gothenburg Opera House this autumn.

“This whole story is like a film or an opera in itself,” says director Clara Svärd.

She is sitting in the staff dining room of the Opera House. It is just over a week before the premiere, and the day has been devoted to rehearsals on the main stage.

Clara Svärd

Director Mytomania

Clara Svärd became involved in the production of the opera Mytomania as early as 2019. At that time, the plan was for the premiere to take place in 2021. The pandemic put a stop to that, but Clara Svärd does not see that as a major problem.

“The opera is about the universal relationship to truth and description of reality,” she says. “That has not become less relevant since 2021. Quite the opposite. There is even more material to pick from now.”


Macchiarini the source of inspiration

Paolo Macchiarini is the source of inspiration for the opera, but Clara Svärd explains that it is not a retelling of the scandal. “However, there are elements that the audience will no doubt recognise from real life.”

She has found portraying the main character, the manipulative surgeon Francis, to be the biggest challenge in the work. 

Clara Svärd has had to figure out his motivations and understand when and why he wants to lie. “The work itself takes a strong position on why he has this narcissistic personality. Through inner dialogues with his dead mother, it gives us keys to why he behaves this way. My challenge has been to portray it fairly.”

A few tables away sit Mytomania’s composer, Paula af Malmborg Ward, and the conductor, Andreas Hanson. They are hunched over a binder with sheet music and talking about the day’s run-through. “A production gets worked on right up until the last moment,” says Svärd.

The story’s source of inspiration seems to have attracted a new audience to the Opera House. “Group bookings are coming in from workplaces that do not usually call and book,” says Svärd. “I know that a large group from the Swedish National Board for Assessment of Research Misconduct is coming. That’s great.”

What feelings do you hope the audience leaves the opera with?

“My aim is always to put on a good show that makes people feel pampered and acknowledged. It’s not my ambition to create a better world. That feels like too much.”

Performed at the Gothenburg Opera House

Mytomania is a newly written Swedish opera inspired by the Paolo Macchiarini affair. The opera tells the story of Francis, a surgeon who has achieved stardom thanks to his groundbreaking research. But Francis’ life is a castle in the air. His research is a sham and patients die. At the same time, he goes to couples therapy with his wife and begins an affair with the therapist.

The opera was written by composer Paula af Malmborg Ward and librettist Kerstin Perski. Joachim Bäckström plays the role of the manipulative surgeon Francis.

Mythomania is playing from 8 October to 9 November. 

About Mytomania

The newly written Swedish opera Mytomania is being performed at the Gothenburg Opera House during the autumn, premiering on 8 October. The opera was inspired by the scandal surrounding Paolo Macchiarini. It was written by composer Paula af Malmborg Ward and librettist Kerstin Perski. The opera is about how today’s society relates to truth, a topic that director Clara Svärd believes is more relevant now than ever.

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