Thirty minutes after curtain call, Musica Angelica finally started Michael Sturminger’s show, “Infernal Comedy — Confessions of a Serial Killer”, with their beautiful performance of C.W. Gluck’s “Don Juan.”
The orchestra, who played with great passion and energy, was brilliantly conducted by Martin Haselbock.
As the musicians swayed with each crescendo, working their way into a forte, John Malkovich walked onto the stage, adorned with only a desk, lamp, a stack of autobiographies and the orchestra, to an eruption of applause. Early in the play he told the audience, “I’ve never been able to tell the truth,” setting up the tone for the evening.
Malkovich, who played the deceased Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger who came back to life to promote his autobiography, stopped the orchestra and demanded the audience’s attention so he could introduce himself.
Because the orchestra was on stage during the entire performance, Malkovich had the opportunity to interact with the musicians. This created a special dynamic that is rare in many operas and musical theater performances, allowing Malkovich’s character to develop a more human aspect as the audience watched him struggle to communicate with the outside world.
The music flared up once again, clearly agitating Unterweger, who ran his hands over his face and paced around the stage.
This was a pattern throughout the show, possibly demonstrating how stressful interactions with others were to the introverted character who desperately craved attention and power. After all, serial killers are often neurotic, socially uncomfortable and self-centered — any attention given to others could be seen as potentially threatening.
After stopping the orchestra once again, Unterweger told the audience about his autobiography, Confessions of a Serial Killer.
The opera consisted of eight monologues, telling stories of Unterweger’s childhood, and Claire Meghnagi, who portrayed the various women in Unterweger’s life, beautifully performed six arias by composers such as Vivaldi, Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart, expressing pain, love and betrayal.
A self-proclaimed womanizer, Unterweger laughed as he told the audience about all the women who loved him, paid his rent, fed him and nurtured him. He seemed proudest when he said, “There were quite a few others who simply wanted to fuck a murderer.”
Klussman and Meghnagi were perfectly composed throughout the performance, despite Malkovich strangling, squeezing and kissing them. There was even one scene where he lay a slain corpse on the ground and covered her with his autobiographies; I didn’t see a single flinch from the convincingly lifeless actress.
Unterweger served 15 years of his life sentence before being released for demonstrating exemplary rehabilitation.
Following his release, he began writing for magazines and newspapers, and proudly smirked when he said he even got to accompany Los Angeles law enforcement through red-light districts.
These opportunities provided Unterweger with police strategies and other information valuable to a serial killer plotting his next attack.
After three women were found dead in L.A., the FBI arrested Unterweger in 1992. When he arrived in Austria, he was charged with 11 homicides and found guilty for committing nine murders.
On June 29, 1994 Unterweger was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He committed suicide that night using shoelaces and the string from his track suit, admitting the knots used were identical to the knots used to strangle the murdered prostitutes.
It became clear at this point in the performance that Unterweger was not going to share any more information with the audience.
He reminded his eager crowd that in Austria, alleged criminals must appeal to the verdict before they are declared guilty.
Unterweger’s suicide left the Austrian legal system with no choice but to declare him innocent of all crimes, leaving him with no reason to persecute himself in front of his audience.
Truly, this was a chilling performance.