401Concerts Nr. 3 – Dutch Opera's in the Kröller-Müller Museum
May 29, 2016
Highlights from Dutch operas composed during the lives of Anton en Helene Kröller-Müller.
Excerpts of operas by Cornelis Dopper, Willem Landré, Daniël de Lange, Gerard von Brucken Fock, Julius Röntgen', Jan van Gilse, Jan Brandts Buys and Richard Hageman.
On May 29 2016 our third 401DutchOperas concert took place in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. Soprano Jolien De Gendt, tenor Denzil Delaere, pianist Pieter Dhoore and violin player Ann Vancoillie shall perform arias, duets and interludes from operas composed during the life and times of Anton and Helene Kröller-Müller, the founders of the famous museum. Performed will be excerpts from Julius Röntgen’s Agnete and De lachende Cavalier (The laughing Gentleman), Cornelis Dopper’s De blinde van Casteel Cuillé (The blind girl of Castle Cuillé), Willem Landré’s De roos van Dekama (The rose of Dekama), Daniël de Lange’s Lioba, Gerard von Brucken Fock's Jozal, Jan van Gilse’s Helga von Stavern (Helga of Stavern), Richard Hageman’s Caponsacchi and Jan Brandts Buys’s De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau). Seghers: ‘A special programme with almost entirely contemporary world premières. Caponsacchi is the only opera of a Dutch composer that was ever performed at The Metropolitan Opera House New York. Lioba was composed on a libretto by the famous Dutch author of the 1880's generation Frederik van Eeden; De roos van Dekama was written after Jacob van Lennep. Röntgen and Dopper are among the golden engraved names of the most important composers on the balcony edges of the The Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam. From their operas not a single note has been played for more than 100 years. Van Gilse eventually created the unequivocal Dutch operatic masterpiece Thijl, and the earlier Helga von Stavern promises fireworks. The highlights of these operas shall find a fitting, almost natural environment in the Kröller-Müller Museum amidst so many paintings from the times that these compositions were made.’
Anton (1862-1941) and Helene (1869-1939) Kröller-Müller reached early adulthood in an artistic era that would become famous as the age of impressionism. In The Netherlands the most notable exponents who operated within the larger context of this stylistic period were Vincent van Gogh, George Hendrik Breitner, Jan Toorop and Isaac Israëls, all roughly from the same generation as the Kröller-Müller couple. In Dutch literature this was the era of the famous generation of the 1880’s, among them Frederik van Eeden. He produced a single dramatic text, Lioba , which was composed by Daniël de Lange. Among the highlights of this score is the beautiful love duet, which is performed at the concert. In De Roos van Dekama from 1894 composer Willem Landré looks back at the book by the famous Dutch author of the first half of the 19th century, Jacob van Lennep.
Literally every single visitor of The Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam has spelled the names of the balcony composers engraved in golden letters, Brahms, Wagner, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and after that one wondered and wonders… who might be Cornelis Dopper and Julius Röntgen? When The Royal Concertgebouw opened in 1888 they were well established contemporary Dutch composers, names which the Kröller-Müllers would not have wondered about in the same way as we do today. After more than 100 years of oblivion we will recreate highlights from Dopper's De blinde van Casteel Cuillé (1894) and Röntgen's Agnete en De lachende Cavalier (1919), their operatic masterpieces. De lachende Cavalier was constructed on a libretto that drew its inspiration entirely from the well-known painting by Frans Hals.
Initiator René Seghers sais that the mesmerizing ‘Moonlight duet’ from Gerard von Brucken Fock's opera Jozal surprised people. Apart from that, the opera was composed at the exact moment when Helene Kröller-Müller started collecting art. Perhaps the best known name on the programme is Jan van Gilse, who produced the only unchallenged masterpiece of Dutch opera, Thijl . Less known is his 1913 opera Helga von Stavern, a work that has a demanding soprano part that foreshadows the steel cold atmosphere of Turandot. In The Netherlands of the fin de siècle, art nouveau and early abstract painters such as Piet Mondriaan and Bart van der Leck, one should not expect the commercialism of a Verdi or Puccini. Rather than love and revenge plots, Dutch composers were surprisingly often looking for literary plots that put the protagonists for impossible choices between higher artistic, religious or philosophical ideals and their personal happiness – love. This is also the case in Richard Hageman's 1932 opera Caponsacchi, the only opera of a Dutch composer that was ever performed at The Metropolitan Opera New York. Hageman was not an American, as is often believed, but rather a born and bred Dutch inhabitant from the province of Friesland. Once in America he became second conductor of The Metropolitan Opera House and went on to compose for Hollywood, where he invented what we now recognize as the sound of the American Western as defined by John Wayne. For teh soundtrack of Stagecoach in 1939, he received the first Oscar ever for a Dutch inhabitant. The Kröller-Müller Museum will bring the Dutch creation of excerpts from Caponsacchi. All opera fragments are creations in modern time, except for Jan Brandts Buys’s 1916 opera Die Schneider von Schönau, which was the most successful Dutch opera ever. It had an international performance practice that lasted until the 1980's.
The 401DutchOperas concert with Dutch opera music from the life and times of Anton en Helene Kröller-Müller is organized in the wake of René Seghers' (arts editor of Villa d’Arte, feature author for Luister Classical Music Magazine, and author of the Dutch language biography of Jacques Brel, the American biography of Franco Corelli, and the 401DutchDivas website) work on an anthology of Dutch and Flemish operas. Because there have been more than 400 Dutch operas composed since 1680, of which almost no recordings of any kind exist, Seghers and his co-organizer Anthony van der Heijden decided to organize concerts with highlights of these forgotten Dutch and Flemish operas. On the website 401DutchOperas.com these concerts will be made available. Thus progress on the book and bringing the music back to life is going together.
Especially for the Kröller-Müller Museum all scores of the operas performed have been digitalized and made performance ready. Seghers: 'These were all handwritten scores, largely even full orchestra scores, many of them coming from our collaboration with the archives of the Nederlands Muziek Instituut, which then had to be reduced to piano-vocal scores. The Kröller-Müller Museum concert is an artistic dream come true that we value as a continuation of the work of Hélène and Anton Kröller-Müller. It is in the spirit of their creation that, amidst all the paintings, we can now also hear the music from this fascinating period in the history of art, exactly as the Kröller-Müllers once intended it to be, since they designed an auditorium in the museum especially for this purpose.'
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