Like a ‘Lady Gaga of her time’, she kept reinventing herself

Over a hundred years ago, Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (Mata Hari’s real name) grew to become an internationally celebrated dancer. She was a star who wrapped all men around her little finger, but she was also a strong, individual woman, who was later accused of being a double agent and was executed in 1917. Her life had fascinated Ted Brandsen for years, mainly because of her ability to continually transform herself. As a young girl, wife, dancer, diva and spy, she threw herself into life and never gave up, despite the many setbacks she faced.

Exotic Sensation

Together with librettist Janine Brogt, Brandsen developed a scenario that brings Zelle’s story to life in flamboyant, cinematic scenes. Act 1 sketches her youth and her unhappy marriage to officer Rudolphe MacLeod, which ended following the death of their two-year-old son. Thrown upon her own resources, Zelle leaves for Paris, where she creates a new version of herself as the exotic dancer Mata Hari. Her performances cause a sensation. In Act 2, which takes place on the eve of World War I, her success wanes and circumstances force her to offer her services as a spy – with fatal consequences.