Narrative podcast about the true story of Jan van Leiden: populism, polarization and radicalization are timeless
‘Getting rid of something with a Jantje-van-Leiden’; the proverb is many times better known than the life story of Jan van Leiden. And it is precisely this story that is more topical and relevant than ever five hundred years later. In the opera JS Bach – The Apocalypse by OPERA2DAY and the Dutch Bach Society, which will premiere on 17th January, this life story uses this life story to depict the mechanisms that can lead to radicalization and polarization. To bring these timeless themes to the attention of a wide audience, the podcast Jan van Leiden and the End of Times will also be available from 8th January.
The story about Jan van Leiden takes place in Münster around the year 1530. Jan van Leiden – actor, pub owner and tailor – becomes leader of a movement that proclaims the apocalypse: according to them, the end of the world was imminent. In Münster, Germany, he founded a utopia in 1531 that quickly radicalized into tyranny. The opera JS Bach – The Apocalypse follows Jan from his initial enthusiasm, through his flamboyant and ruthless kingship to his final confession on death row. The opera shows how people radicalize out of dissatisfaction with abuse of power and injustice around them and how radicalization escalates and ends in violence. A story that, according to artistic director Serge van Veggel, should be brought to the attention of a wider audience, also outside the walls of the theater:
‘When creating this opera, we did a lot of research into the themes of polarization, radicalization and end-time thinking. How do these mechanisms work, what drives someone who becomes radicalized and how do we look at this story in today’s light? Open the newspaper and you will see the mechanisms everywhere: whether it concerns the climate, migration or politics. It was surprising how the mechanisms have remained unchanged in five hundred years. Every person is often unknowingly susceptible to it. The knowledge we gained about this helped us create the opera. But it also helped us as people during this time. And that is precisely why we want to share that knowledge more widely outside the opera. With On the Record Media we have created a podcast series in which we delve deeper into these themes together with experts.’
Radicalization and end-time thinking
In the podcast Jan van Leiden and the End of Times, journalist Max Boogaard takes listeners along in his search for the story of Jan van Leiden. In a narrative form that resembles a ‘true crime’ podcast, he investigates how the story of Jan van Leiden is an example for universal radicalization processes and what Jan’s intentions were. Did he think he was doing the right thing? Boogaard delves deeper into the process of radicalization that Jan and his companions went through. In addition, it is a story about end-time thinking: the Anabaptists believed that the end times were coming. The podcast shows how the idea that the world is ending is timeless and drives radicalization.
Various experts speak in the podcast. Historian and journalist Luc Panhuysen, professor of terrorism Bob de Graaff, professor of New Testament Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte and Tower Keeper Martje Thalmann of the St. Lambertus Church in Münster shed light on the story of Jan van Leiden. Podcast maker Max Boogaard: ‘ The most special thing was the conversation in the tower of the Sint-Lambertus church. The tower where the iron cages in which the body of Jan van Leiden was exhibited at the time still hang. The body lay in the cage until 1585 until the body had decayed. The tower keeper still blows the peace horn over the city every evening . Everything fell into place there .’ The podcast also talks to Serge van Veggel about the creation of the opera, why he made an opera about this story in particular and what he learned during his research into Jan.
On January 8, episodes 1 & 2 of Jan van Leiden and the End of Times can be listened to via standard podcast apps, such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Episode 3 can be listened to from 15th January 15 and episode 4 is available from 22nd January.
The opera that Bach never wrote
JS Bach – The Apocalypse is the largest production ever by both OPERA2DAY and the Dutch Bach Society. The opera will premiere in The Hague on 17th January and can be seen throughout the Netherlands until the summer. The play is also programmed in renowned theaters in Münster and Leipzig.