I have had the privilege to read this play, and I strongly recommend to anyone to see it and enjoy it !



“When I look out into the world, I must hate what I see, for it is a world that does not understand that music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.  Music is the bridge between intellectual and sensuous life, the entrance for mankind into a higher world of knowledge which comprehends us but which we cannot comprehend.”

Ludwig van Beethoven

Being Beethoven is a new play from Lightweight Theatre. Recently it opened at the Black Barn Bistro in Havelock North and, of the four performances given, three were booked out. The play is at present preparing to tour to Australia and other parts of New Zealand. The play juxtaposes two aspects of Beethoven’s life – his composing in which he was an undisputed genius and the tragic limitations of his ability to understand the world around him. Containing some 30 recorded excerpts from Beethoven’s music, the audience is taken on a journey of many emotions – between tragedy and comedy, between the sublime and the ridiculous. The play lasts for about an hour and a half plus interval. Lightweight Theatre is Michael Burton (Central Hawkes Bay) and Judit Bauerdiek (Auckland). Its previous production was Gunner Inglorious which was performed more than 80 times and toured to 64 different venues from Kerikeri to Stewart Island. Gunner Inglorious received some of the following comments from critics:

“Very highly accomplished.” – Otago Daily Times “Acting of a high calibre in minimalist staging.” – Wanganui Chronicle “Never falters … his voice soars and falls.” – Hawkes Bay Today “Huge resources of energy and emotional stamina.” – Rotorua Daily Post

For reviews of Being Beethoven, see below.

“Creatures of a day, my music will make you free, able yourselves to create like gods. He who understands my music will be freed by it from the miseries which others drag about within themselves.”


An essay that appears in the programme notes by Michael Burton

His eye is full of turbulent energy. His hair, which seems to have remained for years out of touch with comb or scissors, shades his broad brow in an abundance and disorder with which only the snakes about the Gorgon’s head can be compared. Sir John Russell – visitor to Beethoven in 1821 Beethoven was most awkward and bungling in his behaviour; his clumsy movements lacked all grace. He rarely picked up anything without dropping or breaking it. Ferdinand Ries – pianist and pupil of Beethoven He is an utterly unbridled personality. Goethe
George Bernard Shaw once said about the legacy of great people, “The work or the life.” That may or may not be true, but it is a good starting point to consider Beethoven. He whose work reached extraordinary heights of achievement shows more than a little inadequacy in other areas of his life. It is fair to say that there is abundant evidence of the failure of his personal life on many levels. Examples to be used in the writing of a play were not hard to come by, and my first hope is that Being Beethoven gives the audience insight that is really in accordance with the facts as to how it was to be Beethoven – as well as a little sympathy for those unlucky enough to be for a time his servants! Beethoven was a man of extremes – that can be heard in his music – and in that music he transcends his human limitations. Does it matter then what his personal life was like? Should we not listen to the quartets, the sonatas and the symphonies and draw a respectful veil of silence over everything else? Historically, Beethoven’s character has been both given the aura of sanctity (the argument how could anyone who wrote music like that not be a saint?), and pulled down into the mud. I try to do neither but make it the subject of a drama in which we see some things – pleasant and unpleasant – that actually happened but go also behind the appearances to try and understand what was really working in his soul. One finds there many contradictions – the man who was capable of hurling a plate of cooked lungs at a waiter’s head (and laughing uproariously as the poor fellow licked up gravy dribbling down his chin) was the same man who poured into his work arguably the greatest power of love for humanity that has ever yet been heard on this earth! Balancing the many characteristics of the man who is Beethoven is something that cannot easily or simply be done. Beethoven believed it was the task of music to transform the world. Nowadays it is fashionable to smile at artists who make such claims, and some of Beethoven’s music can indeed be smiled at, for there do exist pieces in which, though the preacher’s earnestness is clearly to be heard, the music itself does not catch fire. Yet is there another composer who did succeed as much as Beethoven? Is there anyone else who we can say has managed through music to change the world to anything like the same extent? At the event at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate that more than any other marked the end of the Cold War, it was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that was chosen to be played; at the recent performance in the Royal Albert Hall by Daniel Barenboim’s combined Israeli/Arab orchestra that aims to contribute through music to peace in the Middle East, it was the Eroica that closed the programme. Beethoven changed the musical world – but the great tasks he set himself as artist and liberator are still being accomplished. The political vision he describes near the start of the play – a world guided neither by politicians nor business corporations who want power for themselves but by those who have “unified the conflicting tensions of their personalities into one great yearning for creative achievement” – may sound naïve or arrogant in the form he gives it. But compare that vision to a recent formulation of the idea of a World Parliament of Cultures by the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin:
Nations hide behind walls and barbed wire. . Cultures however expand without hindrance. Art, literature, music, dance and poetry live in and between people. Like the world oceans they constitue a common heritage of humanity and are not the possession of nations or religious hierarchies. . A World Parliament of Cultures would be made up of men and women (definitely not professional politicians) who, because of their competence, their wisdom and their altruism, would be handed the tasks of producing conceptual solutions for certain problems. They would be people like Dag Hammarskjöld in whom vision became grounded. Maybe all of us should learn from these artists who know the way between vision and reality. They go this arduous way day after day; they know the hurdles and they are able to assess true progress when claiming victory over a problem they have been working on, when claiming victory over themselves. . Politics today is still based upon certain drives. Art however is based on intuition, which seems to me to be a higher power.
Evidence to me that Beethoven’s vision is very much alive and needed today! In these early years of a new century, we have ample evidence that the old ways of division and power politics are not working. We urgently need to scrutinize anew all the wisdom of the past to find our new direction and the stars to steer by, and among much else it is good to look again at the aims by which Beethoven lived. At the foundation of his world-view, the existence of an accessible world of spiritual reality – the place from which creative intuitions came – was more than a statement of blind faith – it was his constant lived experience attained from the times when he was being most deeply alive and creative. Through all phases of his life, from the young hero to the old sage, he saw his life’s work in terms of the degree to which living close to this second, non-physical reality could be fruitful in its effect on those who heard it. Creativity comes at a price, and Beethoven paid dearly in his personal life for what it took to clear a path to the source of his inspiration. What gave him fire to do what he did was knowing that people of future times would be transformed by the music he wrote; he believed before all else that music could make people free.

Creatures of a day, my music will make you free, able yourselves to create like gods. He who understands my music will be freed by it from the miseries which others drag about within themselves.”

  • Being Beethoven Napier Century Theatre, Napier Between February 25 and 29 at 8pm (at Black Barn) Reviewed by Chris Gardner
“Music is the bridge between intellectual and sensuous life, the entrance into a higher world of knowledge which comprehends us but which we cannot comprehend. It is the wine that inspires those who hear it to create new life.” – Beethoven The musical genius of Ludwig van Beethoven was shared with an unbridled passion at Saturday’s preview performance of the Lightweight Theatre company’s one man show Being Beethoven. The performance, at Napier’s Century Theatre, marked the 21 st anniversary of Prometheus Ethical Finance and was written and performed by Central Hawke’s Bay’s Michael Burton. With a minimum of props Burton kept the audience transfixed as he transported the audience into the heart and mind of one of the world’s greatest composers. But props were not really necessary thanks to Burton’s ability to convey the musician in a vibrant way keeping the audience’s attention. His wild eyes drew viewers into Beethoven’s inner soul, while his unkempt and wild hair reminded you that this man did not comform with the norm. While chronicling the time that Beethoven discovered he was going deaf, the play is full of lighter moments as the musician reflects on his place in the world. About half of the two-hour play takes place within the musician’s head, as he dreams up symphony after symphony, where he recalls meetings with patrons and publishers. Particularly amusing was Beethoven’s reaction to the receipt of his latest work, dragging a member of the audience onto the stage to join him in his revelling. While the preview performance included recorded excerpts of Beethoven’s work, the Black Barn performances will feature a live performance by the Ponticelli String Quartet. A must for anybody interested in the man behind the music.
2. BEING BEETHOVEN Iain Trousdell 25 th Feb 2004 For “Sphere” March issue, 2004
A sincere thanks to Lightweight Theatre for not only entertaining, but also for contributing to cultural understanding with their marvelous play, Being Beethoven. This solo play can stand tall in any venue anywhere in the world, characterizing so very well such a mighty composer and advocate for the free creative human spirit. It’s a big play for a big man! The play is written with compassionate, witty and respectful insight into Beethoven’s personal greatness and weaknesses. Ludwig is presented not only as a uniquely powerful transformative composer and full human being, (in his case with an almost alarmingly wide range of behaviours!), but also as a creative philosopher. This philosophy of creativity has been almost buried within his music, and I for one, am very grateful for Michael Burton’s wonderful script, presenting the Maestro’s thoughts about life, his music and their purposes in such an accessible fashion. It’s not so often you get someone of Beethoven’s stature to have an evening chat and passionate exposition about his life with! And there were many times when the great man became real for me as he shared his thoughts and memories in the course of the long day of the great 9 th Symphony’s inaugural performance. Lightweight Theatre’s director Judit Bauerdiek has developed the play into a tour de force, with Michael acting a powerful, convincing Beethoven in a dynamic full stage presentation with sparse, convincing props, augmented by a beautiful variety of musical excerpts from the master’s key transition periods of his life. The lighting worked well, and the play’s moods ranged from up tempo to somber in line with our hero’s own emotional volatility. For anyone interested in a good night out with Ludwig van Beethoven, for anyone wanting to come further to grips with the concepts and practice of freedom and creativity this show is a must-not-be-missed event. And for those who love his music, you will love it all the more after this evening with Lightweight Theatre’s Being Beethoven.
Last Sunday local music-lovers were treated to 90 minutes of extraordinary historical eavesdropping as Hawkes Bay-based actor Michael Burton presented ‘Being Beethoven’, his own monologue on the tortured genius from Bonn. Indeed Burton could hardly have been more convincing as the misanthropic, dysfunctional Beethoven; afflicted with gout, jaundice, failing eyesight and the loss of hearing which he railed at in the despairing Heiligenstadt Testament of 1802. The attentive local audience witnessed a whole gamut of the composer’s well-documented moods; self-awareness of genius, his ecstasy, his intolerance; his appetite for love – though who many of the ladies were he neither knew nor cared – his unpredictable switches of disposition. As the Wairarapa audience first looked in on Beethoven in his quarters he was shamelessly playing music publishers off, one against the other, with promises of his Missa Solemnis, proposed in 1817/18 and delivered to Archbishop Rudolf in 1823, three years after the coronation for which it was intended. We were also privy to a backward ‘glance’ at the heroic/prolific decade 1802-1812, by the end of which he was profoundly deaf. By this time he was hearing the music within himself; though Sunday’s Greytown Music Group ‘soundbites’ were taken from recorded music by Roy Goodman with The Hanover Band and pianist Bernard Roberts. Throughout this energetic, instructive and thoroughly entertaining solo performance ‘Being Beethoven’ onlookers are drawn closer to imperishable music and the personal turmoils that beset its troubled composer. I found the presentation far more worthwhile than the spurious 1994 movie ‘Immortal Beloved’ (Director Bernard Rose) with Gary Oldman as Beethoven , Barry Humphries as Clemens Metternich, Jeroen Krabbé playing Anton Schindler and Isabella Rossellini as Anna Marie Erdody. Burton’s theatrical ‘tour de force’ ends following the first performance of Beethoven’s 9 th (Choral) Symphony; after which the composer readies himself for his ‘indian summer’ which produced the surpassing final string quartets. Director Judit Bauerdiek and Burton have together fashioned an illuminating and largely irresistible text in which this giant among composers lurches about, poised uncertainly between triumph at his Promethean inspiration and disaffection with publishers and Viennese concert managements. ‘Being Beethoven’ was moving, good-humoured and educational by turns. In short – an unexpected and wonderfully entertaining night out.
4. On Radio NZ “WHAT’S GOING ON”, Monday 13 th September 2004. Lynn Freeman interviewing Kate Tringle after a performance in the Boathouse Theatre, Blenheim
LF: Hawkes Bay actor/writer Michael Burton has gone beyond the music in his play about one of the greatest classical composers, Beethoven. Michael’s solo show Being Beethoven has opened in Marlbrough, and our reviewer, Kate Tringle, went along for a look and a listen and she joins me now. Hi Kate. KT: Hi. LF: Did you learn anything new about Beethoven? KT: Yes, I think that basically what Michael Burton was wanting to achieve was to give us, the audience, a real insight into what it was really like to be Beethoven, and although we all know he was a musical genius and he had a very erratic personality, the thing that really came across to me was just what an incredibly passionate man he was. LF: And what happens in the play itself? KT: I think at the beginning basically it all takes place on the eve of the performance of his Ninth Symphony, and we’re kind of in his room and he’s in his nightgown and we’re getting the chance to hear his internal dialogue really, so it’s a preparation for the Ninth Symphony and he talks about … it’s a sort of musing … he talks about his thoughts on all kinds of things – on his music, on his life. It’s really interesting because he’s a very complicated man – not only is he this genius but he’s really got this very erratic social behavior and I think that from the outset the audience is really taken in by this wild man with these big eyes and he’s got hair all over the place and pacing around in his nightgown and sometimes he’s working himself into a fever pitch and then all of a sudden you have these moments where he’s a philosopher. A lot of the play is showing the inner workings of his mind, trying to give us an idea of what it’s like to be in his head. LF: It’s impressive, isn’t it, because Michael’s the performer and also wrote this piece so do you think he did a good job equally on both counts? KT: Yes! I mean it’s always difficult, I think, when you’re a one-man-band and so on the side of the performance it really required a tremendous amount of energy and it’s difficult to thing to hold an audience’s attention the whole way through and so on that account he was amazing, you know, he was really full on! On the other, the script that he wrote – there was just line after line which is trying to show the philosophical side of Beethoven that has some beautiful stuff he’s written – it’s really impressive! LF: Thank you very much Kate Tringham. Michael Burton’s Being Beethoven is on at the Suter Theatre as part of the city’s Arts Festival before touring the South Island.
5. For The Nelson Mail Monday September 13 th 2004. Being Beethoven, written and performed by Michael Burton, Suter Theatre. Reviewed by Andrew Rose
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a great composer? If so, the one-man play from the Lightweight Theatre Company, at the wonderfully intimate Suter Theatre, might surprise, as it suggests that being Beethoven was boorish, bungling, bellicose and more than a bit barmy. The play takes the audience deep into the tortured soul of a genius who seems continually to be having a bad hair day. We listen to his thoughts on life, and experience his acceptance of increasing deafness and how his soaring creative freedom had to come to terms with the loneliness of often living in another dimension. Michael Burton has written the play with great wit and compassion to provide a humane insight into Beethoven’s weaknesses as well as his greatness. The script is peppered with fabulous quotes from Beethoven, and throughout the performance there are musical highlights from the composer’s vast repertoire. Burton also performs the play wonderfully, using great energy and power, allowing the audience to really connect with Beethoven the man. We see a man who one minute loftily identifies himself with Prometheus, bringing the gift of fire to man from the gods, while the next minute he is raging about imaginary conspiracies to cheat him out of payment for his work. The audience quickly realises that Beethoven, with all his great gifts, is dreadfully lonely. But tragically, this loneliness is of his own making. Though he could write music that could inspire and communicate all the emotions, his social skills were appalling – and later, his deafness just increased his isolation. The second part of the play deals with the night of the first performance of his Ninth Symphony, and is particularly moving when a member of the audience is inveigled up on stage to join Beethoven in his revelling. The set is simple but very effective, as are the props. Great use is made of the lighting to match Beethoven’s moods as they swing from sombre to allegro. The lighting effects are often augmented by a variety of musical excerpts from some of Beethoven’s landmark works. For everyone looking for an entertaining insight into the creative processes, as well as the enjoyment of some beautiful music, Being Beethoven is highly recommended. It continues until Tuesday before performances in Murchison and Takaka.
6. For The Otago Daily Times, Dunedin, Saturday October 2 nd 2004. Clever portrayal of genius Elizabeth Bouman Being Beethoven Globe Theatre
Success of a one-man show depends on the “one man” establishing immediate audience rapport and continuing so till the end. Hawkes Bay actor Michael Burton excelled in holding my full attention to the last fade out, when I attended Being Beethoven at the Globe Theatre on Thursday evening. This clever portrayal of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven focuses on the thoughts and philosophy of a genius, portraying incidents and circumstances which influenced many of his great works. As if in conversation with the audience, Burton, with tousled hair and velvet jacket, chronicled with compassion the financial woes, memories of loves, burden of ill health and deafness, and many triumbphant highs of new music, in particular his Ninth Symphony, when the actor drew a member of the audience to experience the Ode to Joy from his desk-top centre-stage. The script respectfully conveyed the sadness and eccentricity of a lonely genius in Vienna, often overlooked by devotees of Beethoven repertoire, showing the man as a great philosopher. A 15-page programme was crammed with interesting quotes and anecdotes. Numerous musical excerpts punctuated the performance and the few essential props, together with well-cued lighting changes, worked convincingly in the “time-worn” ambience of the Globe. Being Beethoven is presented by Lightweight Theatre (director Judit Bauerdiek) and is excellent, intimate theatre entertainment. The season finishes tomorrow.
7. From the Hauraki Herald Burton’s Beethoven a gem
It’s impossible for people now to know what it was like to live as Ludwig van Beethoven. But the theatre production by Michael Burton touring the peninsula gives you a good insight. Being Beethoven is an energetic and comic version of a sombre story of one of the world’s most famous composers. The solo play written and performed by Burton and directed by Judit Bauerdiek explores the man’s creativity and inspiration. It follows his financial struggle as a composer andhis triumph at creating the Ninth Symphony. The play is punctuated by 30 excerpts of Beethoven’s music and Burton’s presence throughout these is commendable. He takes the play off the stage at times and the theatre is intimate enough that the audience can’t lose sight of his movements. Anyone worried about the lack of characters shouldn’t be concerned – it’s a captivating performance. SJH
8. Review – The Dominion Post, Friday February 25, 2005 by Ewen Coleman
Creating a solo performance is probably one of the hardest forms of theatre to sustain, yet two such pieces have opened this week, each devised by the performaer and each a great example of Fringe Theatre at its best. Train Ghosts is the creation … [Review of Train Ghosts, written and performed by Craig Geenty] Another actor who has a passion for his subject matter is Michael Burton whose solo performance based on the life of Ludwig van Beethoven, Being Beethoven, is currently playing at Old St Pauls. For Beethoven, like many other great artists before and after him, it’s his artistry rather than the person that most people are interested in, but when such a piece as Burton has put together is seen, it becomes obvious that the person and their personality is integral to their art. Why eccentricity and creativity always seem to go hand in hand is still a mystery, but the two were certainly part and parcel of Beethoven’s life. Mixing Beethoven’s actual words with words that he may have spoken and intertwining facts with philosophical statements, Burton’s portrayal of one of the greatest composers of all times makes for compelling theatre. His relentless energy and animated performance is at times electrifying, and with Beethoven’s wonderful music surging through the play at appropriate moments, this is another performance not to be missed.
Being Beethoven is about to open at the Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland, April 20, 21, 22, 23. Book through Ticketek. Being Beethoven will then only be done in a few performances to schools during 2005 while Lightweight Theatre focuses on its performances of Three Romantic Comedies, the show which has just played at the Edible Arts Festival in Napier and which travels now to the South Island and all parts of New Zealand. A feature of this show are performances in private houses – anywhere considered that can hold a minimum of 25 people. We shall do more performances of Being Beethoven in 2006 and hope to bring it to Europe (Berlin, Bremen, Stuttgart and Basel) and to USA between March and June.
1. Feb 15. Century Theatre, Napier (Preview performance for the 21 st birthday of the Prometheus Ethical Finance Bank) [* Reviewed by Hawkes Bay Today, see reviews.] 2-5. Feb 25, 26, 27, 29. Black Barn Bistro, Havelock North [* Reviewed by Sphere, see reviews.] 6. March 27. Christ Church, Pukehou 7. April 22. All Saints Church, Howick, Auckland 8. April 30. Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School 9. May 16. Greytown Music Group [* Reviewed by The Wairarapa Times-Age, see reviews.] 10. June 2 . Woodford House School, Havelock North 11. 28th July – Palmerston North, Massey University Lunchtime performance 12. 10 September The Boathouse Theatre, Blenheim 13-15. 12-14 September Suter Theatre, Nelson [* Reviewed by The Nelson Mail, see reviews.] 16. 15 September. Murchison Theatre, Murchison 17. 18 September. Village Theatre, Takaka 18. 22 September Regent Theatre, Greymouth 19. 23 September. Hokitika Dramatic Society Hall, Hokitika 20. 25 September Waipara 21-27. 29 September to 3 October (six performances) Globe Theatre, Dunedin (at the Dunedin Fringe Festival) [* Reviewed by The Otago Daily Times, see reviews.] 28. 6 October at Burnside Homestead, 527 Burnside Rd, Enfield, Oamaru 29. 8 October Hohepa Recreation Centre, Barrington St, Christchurch 30. 9 October Private house, Hanmer Springs 31. 10 October. Te Kapowai, 178 Hoddy Rd, Nelson 32+33. 15 +17 October Chanel Arts Centre, High Street North, Motueka 34. Saturday, 4 th December at 7.30pm At Haurakei House, Coromandel 35, 36, 39, 40 Monday 6 th, Tuesday 6 th, Saturday 11 th and Sunday 12 th December At the Thames Little Theatre, Thames [* Reviewed by The Hauraki Herald, see reviews.] 37, 38. Thursday 9 th and Friday 10 th December At the Paeroa Little Theatre, Paeroa 41-45. 23-27 February 2005 at Old St Pauls Church, Wellington. As part of the Wellington Fringe Festival. [* Reviewed by The Dominion Post, see reviews.]
CONTACTING US: Lightweight Theatre is Michael Burton and Judit Bauerdiek. Being Beethoven is available for schools in a shortened version of just under 60 mins. Michael Burton November 21, 2004
Send us your comments if you have seen the play. (We may post these on the website later.) We are also interested in hearing from possible future venues for the play.
Creatures of a day, my music will make you free, able yourselves to create like gods.  He who understands my music will be freed by it from the miseries which others drag about within themselves.”

Michael BURTON – April 1st, 2005