Jan Blockx - The Bride of the Sea (1901)
Libretto: Nestor De Tière
World première: 30 november 1901, Koninklijke Vlaamse Opera te Antwerpen: Adolfina van Elsacker (Kerlien), M. Judels-Kamphuizen (Djovita), mr. De Ville (Arrie) en M. G. Wauquier (Free Kerdee), onder leiding van Jan Blockx.
Franstalige creatie: 1902, Muntschouwburg te Brussel: Harriet Strasser (Kerlien), Charlotte Pacquot d’Assy (Djovita), Ernest Forgeur (Arrie), Henry Dangès (Free Kerdee), Pierre d’Assy (Morik).
January 27 2016, Museum Vleeshuis Antwerpen, Joris Grouwels, Pauline Lebbe
Akte II ‘Ach liefste comt…’ (Come, my beloved)(Kerlien & Free Kerdee)(Available form 401Concerts Nr. 2)
Text: René Seghers
Act I opens to with Arrie singing his famous folk song, ‘Het waren twee Coninckskinderen’ (They were both children of Kings), the tune of which functions as a leitmotiv throughout the opera.
Jan Blockx: De bruid der zee 'Het waren twee coninckskinderen'
Laurent Swolfs (Arrie) (Pathé 50046-9459).
Arrie and fisherman’s daughter Kerlien are in love and wish to marry. Kerlien’s father, however, envisions the rich fisherman Free Kerdee as her groom. When Arrie asks for the girl’s hand, the father refuses, because Arrie doesn’t own his own boat. Free, who is Arrie’s best friend, then gives him one of his own boats, even though he himself is secretly in love with Kerlien.
In the final scene of Act I the shrimp girls appears, singing their enchanting chorus ‘Garnaal, meidekens van de zee’, which evolves into a duet between Kerlien and the local femme fatale, Djovita, who desires the rich Free. Arrie leaves with the other fishermen to Iceland.
In Act II Arrie has not returned, even though he has been away for a full year. Free asks Kerlien’s hand in the duet, ‘Ach liefste comt…’ He swears that he saw Arrie drowning, which releases her of her vow of loyalty. Just when she gives in, under pressure from her impoverished parents who see the prosperous marriage as the answer to their material problems, she hears the song that Arrie always sang for her, ‘Twee Conincskinderen’. Subsequently Morik appears, a beach scavenger, who throws jewelry at Djovita, which culminates into an impassioned duet in which he expresses his feelings for her, and she sings about her feelings for the jewelry. Act III has Djovita manipulating Kerlien to the point where the girl becomes mad with grief. Step by step Djovita encourages Kerlien in a wicked mind game to become Arrie’s ‘bride of the sea’. To the horror of her parents and Free, Kerlien loses her sanity. At the moment that Arrie had promised to return, she sings her desperate aria, ‘Ik ben de bruid der eeuwige zee’ (I am the bride of the eternal sea) and jumps into the roaring waves.
When Free wants to jump after her in an attempt to rescue her, Djovita holds him back. This infuriates the jealous Morik, who stabs her in the back. Free then jumps after Kerlien, but too late. He returns alone, with Djovita dying at his feet in the dunes.
Download excerpts from Bruid der Zee and Herbergprinses
Our download program with Flemish opera arias and duets 401Concerts Nr. 2 was filmed and recorded on January 27, 2016, in Museum Vleeshuis, in a coproduction with the artists, soprano Pauline Lebbe and baritone Joris Grouwels. Lebbe sang the aria 'Comme une fleur' from La route d'Émeraude. Grouwels sang Jan Rabo's sobering-up monologue 'ik keek te diep in 't glas' from Jan Blockx' opera De herbergprinses and appeared with Lebbe in the Act II love duet of De bruid der zee, a duet that ranks among the most beautiful love duets in all Flemish opera. Further aria's and duets in the concert are from operas by François-Auguste Gevaert, Armand Limnander van Nieuwenhove and Emiel Wambach and August De Boeck. Some highlights can be seen in the video trailer above. The complete concert is downloadable from 401Concerts Nr. 2.
The creation of De bruid der zee took place in the Royal Flemish Opera Antwerp, on November 30, 1901, with Adolfina van Elsacker (Kerlien), M. Judels-Kamphuizen (Djovita), mr. De Ville (Arrie) and M. G. Wauquier (Free Kerdee), conducted by the composer. With so much national sentiment revolving around Blockx it is most peculiar that the Antwerp première cast has been completely forgotten in favor of the later French cast of the Brussels creation in 1902, with Harriet Strasser as Kerlien, Charlotte Pacquot d’Assy as Djovita, Ernest Forgeur as Arrie, Henry Dangès as Kerdee and Pierre d’Assy as Morik. In The Netherlands the opera was performed by the Noord-Nederlandse Opera of Cateau Esser, with Irma Lozin as a remarkable Djovita. In the 78RPM era tenor Laurent Swolfs (1906, Pathé) and baritone Emile van Bosch (1913, Parlophone) recorded Arrie’s opening song ‘Het waren twee Coninckskinderen’. In 1924 Betty Dasnoy recorded Kerliens Act II aria ‘Ik ben de bruid der eeuwige zee’ (HMV), along with the enchanting Act I ‘Garnaal, meidekens van de zee’ (with Octavie Belloy). In 1958 the opera was edited for Flemish television under baton of Frédéric Devreese. Yet there is no trace of this telecast after the broadcast date.
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