401Concerts 8 Gerard von Brucken Fock: Jozal Act II (Scheveningen)

Poster JOZAL-18-11-2017voor internet401Concerts 8 in the Old Church of Scheveningen (Saturday, November 18, 2017, 3 PM) is a try-out concert, preceding the 401DutchOperas studio recording of highlights of Gerard von Brucken Fock's fantastic opera Jozal. Previously, 401Concerts 3 in the Kröller-Müller Museum brought the beginning of the second act duet (with soprano Jolien De Gendt, tenor Denzil Delaere, pianist Pieter Dhoore & violin player Ann Vancoillie). The second part was performed at 401Concerts 4 in the OBA Den Haag, with heldentenor Hendrik Vonk as Jozal, soprano Barbara Schilstra as Asdé and Wolter Willemsen at the piano. At both performances shortened versions were performed, also of Jozal’s great aria in Act I. On 401Concerts 8 Hendrik Vonk and Barbara Schilstra will perform the aria and the duet without cuts for the first time in history (Jozal was never performed during Von Brucken Fock’s lifetime or thereafter, apart from our performances of highlights).

Our fascination with this unique and mesmerizing masterpiece resulted in the plan to record the entire second act, including the prelude and the dialogue between princess Asdé and her bodyguard Rezon, while waiting for the arrival of prince Jozal, Asdé’s betrothed. Unfortunately for Asdée Jozal has seen the light at the end of Act I, when a dying soldier begged those watching him die to take up God’s sword and restore his Kingdom, thus ending the reign of the evil and bloodthirsty emperor. Jozal was so taken by the story that he felt the higher caalling and in a vision of justice he takes up the sword and proclaims himself the saviour of mankind. The emperor he has to battle in this last, apocalyptic battle however is precisely Asdé’s father.

Although Jozal is only the son of a coal burner, that particular coal burner once saved the emperor while lost in the woods. The emperor then rewarded him with ever higher positions is his empire and Jozal eventually became a prince and the betrothed of the emperor’s daughter. Once he meets Asdée in the second act, the programmed love duet soon turns into a parting duet. Having taken up God’s sword in the previous act, Jozal is now the direct enemy of Asdé’s father. Therefore, he can’t see a future for their love. Asdé then balances between ardent declarations of love and begging Jozal to flee with her, back to the woods where she shall share in his former humble existence. When all her pleading and begging fails, she finally strips from her dress and offers Jozal the delights of her flesh. That temptation he can’t resist, and 35 minutes after he first tried to resist her, he succumbs to her seduction in a passionate finale.

The cast

Hendrik Vonk (Prince Jozal, tenor)
Barbara Schilstra (Princess Asdé, Jozal's betrothed, soprano)
Frits Muusse (Asdé’s bodyguard Rezon, baritone)
Wolter Willemsen (Erard concert wing 1848)
Location: Oude Kerk, Scheveningen
November 18, 2017 (15.00 hours / 3 PM)

Production: Hendrik Vonk

With support from: GHG von Brucken Fock Fonds
Partner: Nederlands Muziek Instituut

The music of Jozal

Pianist Wolter Willemsen once described the Jozal score as ‘manic’ and that is perhaps a fair description of what can be expected. Von Brucken Fock composed the work on his own libretto between 1910 and 1912 in a period rife with euphoria. He actually believed Jozal would change the world, much in the way Wagner planned it with Parsifal, the difference being that Von Brucken Fock thought that his attempt would be successful! When he could not even get the work performed, the financially independent composer eventually became a salvation army soldier, travelling the roads of Europe with his noble wife, while playing salvation songs on a barrel organ, spreading the word by means of pamphlets. He actually tried to divorce his wife, after Tolstoy had taught him that marriage eventually killed true love. Divorce from love, exactly as Jozal (Von Brucken Fock’s alter ego) plans to do. In terms of music it seems that Von Brucken Fock wanted to outdo even the Tristan duet in length and extremes. At the same time his music is unique to the point where it defies definitions. In moments one could think that Chopin clashes into the early twentieth Century, taking along all sorts of overtones while turning over in an uncontrollable salto mortale.

World Premiere

Until 401Concerts 3 and 401Concerts 4 not a single note of Jozal was known or performed. The work never left Von Brucken Fock’s office until René Seghers discovered it in the archives of the Nederlands Muziek Instituut. The integral performances of the Act I aria ‘Ja ik neem het’ and the Act II duet are world premieres.

Recording Jozal

Following the concert and the studio recording we hope to record also the second act finale, in which a ghost predicts a bad outcome for Jozal, now that he has forsaken his calling. The ghost (tenor) also has phantasmagorical music to sing.