Shadowtime is a thought opera based on the work and life of the German philosopher, essayist, and cultural critic, Walter Benjamin. The libretto was written by Charles Bernstein for composer Brian Ferneyhough and had its premiere in May 2004 at the Munich Biennale, with subsequent productions at the Festival d’Automne in Paris, and the Lincoln Center Festival in New York.
In its seven scenes, Shadowtime explores some of the major themes of Benjamin's work, including the intertwined natures of history, time, transience, timelessness, language, and melancholy; the possibilities for a transformational leftist politics; the interconnectivity of language, things, and cosmos; and the role of dialectical materiality, aura, interpretation, and translation in art. Beginning on the last evening of Benjamin's life, Shadowtime projects an alternative course for what happened on that fateful night.
Opening onto a world of shades, of ghosts, of the dead, Shadowtime inhabits a period in human history in which the light flickered and then failed.
Tess Crebbin in Music and Vision, says "Bernstein's libretto, plain and simple, is the finest contemporary libretto that I know of.