Richard Hageman

Richard Hageman: Biography
Richard Hageman: Caponsacchi
Richard Hageman: Caponsacchi Synopsis
Richard Hageman: At Movies

  • Hageman-to-Mario-Chamlee
  • Richard-Hageman-1
  • From the Charles Mintzer Collection
  • Richard Hageman at home (From 'Gevierde Friezen in Amerika' - Published with permission of Friese Pers Boekerij).

Richard Hageman was the only Dutch composer to see a self composed opera performed at the Metropolitan Opera House New York. He was born in Leeuwarden on July 9, 1881, as the son of violinist/piano player and conductor Maurits 'Maurice' Leonard Hageman (1829-1906) and Francisca van Westerhoven (1851-1884), a trained singer who performed und the stage name Francisca Stoetz. Richard Hageman was a child prodigy who performed as a concert pianist by the age of six in his native the Netherlands. A scholarship of ƒ 100 from Queen-Regent Emma allowed his to complete his studies at the Amsterdam Conservatory, after which he was granted another scholarship to continue his studies at the Brussels Conservatory. As a young man he was an accompanist for vocalists with the Amsterdam Royal Opera Company, and he became one of the Opera Company’s conductors in 1900, when he was only 18 years old.

By Jan Jaap Kassies (based on Asing Walthaus – Richard Hageman: Oscarwinnend componist, in: 'Gevierde Friezen in Amerika' (Leeuwarden : Friese Pers Boekerij, 2009). The book can be ordered from

Download 401Concerts 3 with Caponsacchi

The recording of our third 401DutchOperas concert in the Kröller-Müller Museum is downloadable via 401Concerts 3. Apart from highlights of Richard Hageman's Caponsacchi it also includes highlights from Cornelis Dopper's De blinde van Casteel Cuillé,Willem Landré's De roos van Dekama, Daniël de Lange's Lioba, Gerard von Brucken Fock's Jozal, Julius Röntgen's Agnete and De lachende Cavalier, Jan van Gilse's Helga von Stavern and Jan Brandts Buys’ De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau).

Download historic recordings fromCaponsacchi via Richard Hageman in Opera Film & Song.

Richard Hageman married the singer Rosina van Dyck and traded Amsterdam for Paris in 1903, where he became the accompanist of the world famous voice teacher Mathilde Marchesi. In 1906 he joined chanteuse Yvette Guilbert for a trip across the Ocean, to accompany her during a tour through the United States.

During his stay in the United States Hageman saw numerous career opportunities, and he decided to return there in 1908 (following the five year waiting period, Hageman also became an American citizen), when he was appointed the assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera. His debut performance there was in Gounod’s Faust on November 24, with the likes of Enrico Caruso (Faust), Geraldine Farrar (Marguerite), and Adamo Didur (Méphistophélès). Among others, he also conducted there the likes of Jacques Urlus and Lawrence Tibbett. In 1914, he became first conductor at the Met, a position he would hold until 1932. During his tenure at the Metropolitan Opera, among other responsibilities, he conducted the Metropolitan’s Sunday night concerts for eight years. Hageman would continue to conduct at the Met until the 1937 sequence of his opera Caponsacchi, which is featured in our download here.

The 1920’s

In the 1920’s, Hageman worked with various opera companies and orchestras, in addition to which he was head of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. More and more he turned to composing, perhaps spurred on by the success of a few early songs, such as ‘At the well’ en ‘Do not go, my love,’ both on lyrics by Tagore.

Richard Hageman: ‘Do not go my love’
Zinka Milanov, 1955
MP3 Download DO201301

Caponsachi at the Met

401COnc3Logo130401Concerts 3 (Video)
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401COnc3LogoAud130401Concerts 3 (Audio)
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Apart from songs, Hageman composed the concert drama The Crucible, orchestral works, film music and the mentioned opera, Caponsacchi. Arthur Goodrich based the libretto on the poem The Ring and the Book (1869) by Robert Browning, who himself had adapted it from a play he once wrote with Rose Palmer. At the centre of the plot stands a historical trial that took place in Rome, at the end of the 17th Century.

The Caponsacchi première took place on February 18, 1932, in Freiburg, Germany, in a German text adaption of the original English language libretto. The German title was Tragödie in Arezzo. Because of Hageman’s American game, part of the World première was broadcast over a number of American radio stations. Following the second Act, Hageman was called to the stage none less than five times, and at the end of the opera he received a blazing twenty curtain calls. Following this triumph, the opera went on to Münster and Vienna, where it was likewise well received, always in the presence of the composer. It wasn’t until some years thereafter that Hageman returned to the United States, where he was eventually to conduct some incidental guest performances at the Met in 1934 and 1936, culminating in the American premiere of Caponsacci, in the original English language, on February 4, 1937. The soprano lead was entrusted to the renowned soprano Helen Jepson, and none less a baritone than Lawrence Tibbet sang the evil genius Count Guido. Tenor Mario Chamlee sang the title role, Hageman himself conducted, and, last but not least: George Balanchine was entrusted with the choreography of the ballet music.


Sadly, at the Met, the work failed to make the same favorable impression it had made in Weimar, Münster and Vienna. The reception was at best lukewarm, reported the correspondent from The New York Times, adding that the composer had borrowed from about each and every single one of his more famous colleagues, which resulted in a score that lacked any sort of thrill. The Herald Tribune added that Hageman hadn’t just been wasting his own time, but also the time of the correspondent. Stage Magazine summarized the review in The New York Times when it judged the opera ‘utterly dull’.With the second performance on February 10, Hageman’s Met career came to an end, both as a conductor and a composer (bar a performance of his song ‘Do not go my love’ at a Gala on December 11, 1938).

Richard Hageman: Caponsacchi ‘Carneval music’
Richard Hageman (conductor), 1938
MP3 Download DO201301

Richard Hageman: Caponsacchi ‘Who are you’
Helen Jepson (Pompilia), 1937
MP3 Download DO201301

Regardless, Hageman received the David Bispham Memorial Medal for Caponsacchi, but the opera remained unperformed. There is also no complete recording (unless the world Premiere broadcast from Weimar is preserved somewhere?). In the early 1990’s, the opera was nearly performed in The Netherlands, where a performance edition and a plot synopsis were actually made in the context of a larger radio project that was titled, The Grand Crossing. Regrettably, the planned performance never materialized.

Three years after his finest hour in the Met, Hageman conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in the ‘Overture’ and the ‘Carnival Music’ from Act I. These, along with his song reordings and some of his film scores, we have released on MP3 Downloads DO201301 and 201302 (a free members bonus download).


Hageman in Hollywood

From 1938 onwards, Hageman concentrated his activities on producing movie scores. Hageman’s first movie soundtrack was for Men with wings, a spectacular movie filmed in stunning Technicolor, rather ahead of it’s time in 1938. Hageman’s big break though came in 1939, with the soundtrack for Stagecoach, a Western by John Ford. The plot revolved around a group of people traveling on a stagecoach. Their path crossed with that of the great Indian leader Geronimo and in the process they all learned a few things about each other. If that was as simple a plot as they come, the movie’s success was linked with the now legendary name of John Wayne (and given that Stage Coach was his 82nd movie, Wayne may very well have been a legend at the time). The music was based on American folk songs, and contributed significantly to the authentic atmosphere of the film. For his score Hageman was awarded an Oscar in 1940, along with none less than three fellow composers. Since it is unspecified who exactly composed what, we can only go by Hageman’s credit for the ‘musical adaption,’ presuming that he blended folksong material and folksong based songs as they occur in the movie, into a unified whole, especially where it concerned the large scale orchestra sections.

Richard Hagema: Film music for She wore a yellow ribbon (Medley)
Taken from the original 1949 movie (including dialogues where they intervene with the music)
MP3 Download DO201302 (Free bonus download)

Following the tremendous success of Stagecoach, Hageman became sort of John Ford’s favorite soundtrack composer. He continued to write the music for Ford classics as Fort Apache, She wore a yellow ribbon, the fugitive, Wagon master, and 3 Godfathers. His total output of film scores consists of contributions to none less than 50 movies in the span of 1937 – 1950.

As has been mentioned, hageman also acted in a number of movies. Often he appeared in a side role, such as the one of the bar piano player in 3 Godfathers. His finest hour as an actor came in 1951, when he played conductor Santi in the Great Caruso. Famous for the title role performance by Mario Lanza, we would like to point out that opera lovers can also enjoy the likes of sopranos such as Jarmila Novotná and Dorothy Kirsten here in stunning, full color cinemascope. A few years later Hageman gave up conducting, and few compositions sprang from his hands in those years. He died on March 6, 1966, in his house in Beverly Hills.

With kind acknowledgement to Friese Pers


'Arme Visschers’ (‘Poor fishermen;’ the forgotten song of the fishermen’s disaster in Peazens & Moddergat)

Early March 1883 was the date that one of the greatest catastrophes at the Frisian ‘Wadden–Sea’ occurred. The fishermen’s fleet from Peazens en Moddergat was forced to sail out too early in the year, due to the need to supply their poor families. By surprise, a blazing storm occurred and none less than 80 good, strong men from the fishermen’s villages drowned at sea, in ice-cold water. The effect on the villages, bereft of their workingmen, and husbands, was disastrous. A good 50 families were deprived of their supplying fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers. The surrounding villages initiated support, but most of the collected money never made it to the poverty stricken villages.

Poor fishermen

Documentary director Johann de Graaf discovered the song 'Arme Visschers,' which was composed especially for a memorial fundraiser in aid of the two villages. It was composed by Leeuwardian musical school director, conductor and amateur composer Maurice Hageman, father of the then only 2 years old Richard Hageman, the later famous met conductor and Hollywood composer. Maurice Hageman’s song received a grand performance in Leeuwarden, but the financial benefits weren’t sufficient to even cover the costs of the organization of the event. The fundraiser [roved a disaster that eventually didn’t benefit the villages Peazens-Moddergat.


Short interview 401DutchOperas with Sietse de Vries, who performed the part of Maurice Hageman in the documentary (interview Augustus 13, 2013).

The commemorative performance 2013

Richard-Hageman-bookUpon discovering the song and it’s context, De Graaf initiated a modern day performance in memory of the victims and the catastrophe, 130 years after it all happened. A truly terrific initiative, although it was perhaps a little hampered by an inadequate performance of the song by a locally know folk singer, where a classically trained voice would have been fitting. However, the sacral images of those present in grief certainly lend the movie a certain commemorative atmosphere. Perhaps we should not lament the vocal part too much, since the gathering was certainly a local success. Nonetheless, we would love to hear this song sung by an alto of the type that The Netherlands has been famous for throughout the past 100 years, and why not a Frisian one!
Maurice Hageman’s song also deserves such a classical performance in Peazens-Moddergat. In the meantime we warmheartedly recommend you to the beautiful documentary made by Omroep Fryslân Televisie (June 4, 2013; repeated at Nederland 2 on June 8 & 9), which we embedded from YouTube at the beginning of this chapter.

Met dank aan Johann de Graaf, Sietse de Vries, Fryslân DOK

Download 401Concerts 3 with Caponsacchi

401COnc3Logo150The recording of our third 401DutchOperas concert in the Kröller-Müller Museum is downloadable via 401Concerts 3. Apart from highlights of Richard Hageman's Caponsacchi it also includes highlights from Cornelis Dopper's De blinde van Casteel Cuillé,Willem Landré's De roos van Dekama, Daniël de Lange's Lioba, Gerard von Brucken Fock's Jozal, Julius Röntgen's Agnete and De lachende Cavalier, Jan van Gilse's Helga von Stavern and Jan Brandts Buys’ De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau).

Download historic recordings fromCaponsacchi via Richard Hageman in Opera Film & Song.

Tickets for 401Concerts 3 in the Kröller-Müller Museum

Through the website of the Kröller-Müller Museum tickets for the May 29 2016 concert are available through The concert is part of a special presentation. The price includes catering and a meet & greet with the artists. By attending you support the project of salvaging Dutch operatic history by means of a series of unique live recordings of its highlights. By nature our concerts are singular events, each time with entirely new repertoire, which has to be constructed for handwritten manuscript scores. Ths makes these concerts far more expensive to organize than average concerts that can be taken on tour.