401Concerts 4 - Dutch fin de siècle operas from the NMI archives

On 18 December 2016 401DutchOperas and Nederlands Muziek Instituut organized 401Concerts 4 in the concert hall of the OBA Public Library The Hague. Soprano Barbara Schilstra, tenor Hendrik Vonk, bass-baritone Andreas Goetze, the 401DutchOperas Choir conducted by Frits Muusse and pianist Wolter Willemsen performed arias and duets from Dutch fin de siècle operas that are kept in the archives of the Netherlands Music Institute. Performed were excerpts from Cornelis Dopper’s De blinde van Casteel Cuillé (The blind girl of Castle Cuillé), Daniël de Lange’s Lioba, Gerard von Brucken Fock's JozalEmile von Brucken-Fock's Seleneia, Jan van Gilse’s Helga von Stavern and Jan Brandts Buys’s De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau).

130COncert4401Concerts Nr. 4 (Audio)
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401ConIV130401Concerts Nr. 1 (Video)
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Seghers: ‘A special programme with almost entirely modern day world premières. Lioba was composed on a libretto by the famous Dutch author of the 1880's generation Frederik van Eeden; Dopper is among the golden engraved names of the most important composers on the balcony edges of the The Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Van Gilse eventually created the unequivocal Dutch operatic masterpiece Thijl, and the earlier Helga von Stavern has mesmerizing music.’

Partners: Nederlands Muziek Instituut

The concert

The Dutch fin de siècle was announced in literature by the deadent movement of the so called Tachtigers (the 1880's generation), 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 stunning duet between Tancolf and Lioba, which is performed at the concert.

The bewildering ‘manic Moonlight duet’ from Gerard von Brucken Fock's opera Jozal surprised the audience. Seghers: 'Pianist Wolter Willemsen described it to me as 'manic music', and this is an accurate description indeed. I have never heard anything like it.'  Perhaps the best known name on the programme was 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. One should not expect the commercialism of a Verdi or Puccini though. 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. Fascinating is also the finale of the second act of Jan Brandts Buys’s 1916 opera Die Schneider von Schönau, easily the most successful Dutch opera ever. It had an international performance practice that lasted until the 1980's, although its initial popularity ended with the rise of Hitler post 1933, because the librettist was allegedly jewish.

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 also Julius Röntgen)? When The Royal Concertgebouw opened in 1888 they were well established contemporary Dutch composers that everyone knew. After more than 100 years of oblivion we will recreate highlights from Dopper's De blinde van Casteel Cuillé (1894), an operatic masterpiece. 401Concerts 4 brought the final madness aria of Margarete, 'Krassend eraven' (Shrieking ravens), which marked the debut of the 401DutchOperas Choir conducted by Frits Muusse.

401DutchOperas anthology in progress

The 401DutchOperas concert with Dutch operatic treasures from the archives of the Nederlands Muziek Instituut is organized in the wake of René Seghers' work on an anthology of Dutch and Flemish operas. Because there have been more than 400 Dutch operas composed since 1678, of which almost no recordings of any kind exist, Seghers and 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 goes hand in hand. Seghers is 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, the jubilee book of the International Vocal Competition 's-Hertogenbosch and their archives website 401ivca.com, and the 401DutchDivas website

Cooperation with Netherlands Music Institute

Especially for the OBA The Hague concert all scores of the operas performed have been digitalized and made performance ready. Seghers: 'These were all handwritten scores, largely even full orchestra scores from our long-time partner, the Nederlands Muziek Instituut, which then had to be reduced to piano-vocal scores. It is from this intense collaboration over a period of seven years that the project and the concerts as such became possible at all, which now enables us to hear the music from this fascinating period in the history of Dutch art again.'


The concert is downloadable from the 401Concerts 4 downloadpage.