Sergej Newskis Franziskus has been premiered in 2012 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Franziskus is written for narrator, high male voice, soprano, eight soloists and chamber orchestra. The libretto consists of four scenes and is based on a text by Claudius Lünstedt, which has been written exclusively for this project. The plot describes the holy life out of the perspective of Saint Francis in four pictures: conversion, dialogue with the biological brother, doubt and death. The main sources are two biographies of Saint Francis companion Thomas von Celano. In the text of Lünstedt Saint Francis appears as a complex character full of contradictions. It is not about a glorified saint’s image but a very well-drawn psychological portrait based on biographical research. The main character of Franziskus is represented by two actors: on the one hand a rather dry, partly ironic, partly expressive voice of a speaker, on the other hand a counter-tenor, who occurs in the most important scenes and moments of simultaneous narration. Overall, the text is allocated in equal parts a half to the speaker and the singer.
The inconstancy and expressivity of the main character is compared with a more static environment which does not mean that the music has mainly "oratorical" character. It rather creates a space in which the voice of the protagonist (and the associated scenic component) can develop. The soloists play the role of the disciple as well as the choir and the people and become particularly active in the 4th scene, where they also act partly as individuals.
The percussion apparatus is a very important part of all four scenes: Four evenly dispersed players use elemental material such as stones, wood and iron besides conventional instruments to change the atmosphere of the entire room. By using these elemental materials as body of sounds the bridge between the Franciscan order of the poverty and simplicity and aesthetics of the Italian Arte Povera is struck. Newskis opera Franziskus has been nominated in four categories for the Russian national theater prize "Golden Mask" and has been awarded the Special Jury Prize in the category Music Theatre.