Jan Blockx - De Herbergprinses (1896)

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  • Nestor De Tière (librettist)
  • French piano reduction of Herbergprinses
  • Miss Kernitz in her creation as Rita

Libretto: Nestor de Tière
World première: 10 oktober 1896, Lyrisch Toneel Antwerp: Antonia Kernitz (Rita), Louis Leysen (Merlyn), Laura Berthaut (Reinilde), Hector Dufranne (Jan Rabo).
American première: 1909, Manhattan Opera New York: Fausta Labia (Rita), Alice Zeppilli (Reinilde), Adrien Vallès (Merlyn), Hector Dufranne (Jan Rabo), dirigent: Leandro Campanari.

1910-1913 Edison Cylinder 17010; Maurice Decléry (baritone)
Akte II 'L’automne après l’averse" (Song of Buts)

1960 Akte II, NIR Orchestra, Mina Bolotine (Reinilde), Raymonde Severius (Rita), Louis Devos (Merlyn), Tony van der Heyden [Jan Rabo or Buts), Jacques de Boeck, Jan Reisig; Maurice Deno (chorus), Daniël Sternefeld (conductor)

27 januari 2016, Museum Vleeshuis Antwerpen, Joris Grouwels (baritone)
‘Ik keek te diep in 't glas’ (I had one too many) (Act I, sobering-up monologue Jan Rabo)(Available form 401Concerts Nr. 2)


The smith Jan Rabo is seen sleeping in front of Rita’s inn. Villagers, on their way to the market, spot him there and chatter about the woman of the inn, who is ‘dark eyed’ and of a disputable reputation. Jan, still half drunk, starts a song in which he tries to recall how he got there: ‘Ik keek te diep in 't glas’ (I had one too many). Rita succeeds in seducing the painter Merlijn, who initially tied (tried) to stand up against her in favour of his girlfriend Reinilde. His succumbing to Rita’s charms causes grief amongst Reinilde and Merlijn’s mother.

401COnc2Logo130aud401Concerts Nr. 2 (Audio)
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401Conc2Logo130401Concerts Nr. 2 (Video)
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In Act II Rita wildly celebrates with Merlijn, who has now (now WEG) debts and has become an alcoholic. She turns down her previous lover, Jan Rabo, which results in a big fight.

Jan Blockx: De herbergprinses 'Slot Act II (the famous scene at the Flemish fair)'
1960 SFO NIR Mina Bolotine, Raymonde Severius, Louis Devos, Tony Vanderheyden, Jacques de Boeck

In Act III Jan Rab ostabs (stabs) Merlijn to death in an act of revenge, just at the moment when Reinilde appears to tell him the joyous news that his paining has at last won first prize in a competition..

Download excerpts from Herbergprinses and Bruid der Zee

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.


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  • Fin de siècle postcards of 'De herbergprinses' Act I

De herbergprinses had its fortunate baptism on October 10, 1896, on the stage of Lyrisch Toneel Antwerp, with Antonia Kernitz als Rita, Louis Leysen as Merlijn, Laura Berthaut as Reinilde and Hector Dufranne as Jan Rabo. In the French translation, as of 1898, it conquered Brussels, Ghent, Bordeaux and other French cities. In The Nederlands it was performed in The Hague and Utrecht and the work also reached Germany and South-Africa. In 1909 Oscar Hammerstein had it performed at his Manhattan Opera New York, with Fausta Labia as Rita, Alice Zeppilli as Reinilde, Adrien Vallès as Merlijn, Hector Dufranne as Jan Rabo under the baton of Leandro Campanari. The smaller parts were given to such celebrities as Jeanne Gerville-Réache (Kateleyne), Armand Crabbé (Marcus) and Charles Gilibert (the innkeeper). Remarkably, the only 78RPM ecording of De herbergprinses is Buts Act II song, recorded in French by Maurice Decléry as ‘L'automne après l'averse’; an odd choice, since Decléry was a celebrated Jan Rabo in the pre-World War I era.

Jan Blockx: De herbergprinses ‘L'automne après l'averse’ (Act II, song of Buts)
Maurice Decléry (Buts) (Edison cylinder 17010)

In musical terms De herbergprinses is a classic verimso drama, which has strong resemblances with Leonavallo’s Pagliacci. The brusque, realist libretto of Nestor de Tière (in later periods decidedly modified to a less realistic taste) was after the recipe that came into vogue with Carmen: one takes a luscious femme fatale in a colourful labourers’ setting (the cigarette girl Carmen, the village vamp Lola, the circus actrice Nedda, and here the frivolous innkeeper’s daughter Rita) and one pours out a lavish sauce of couleur locale over the moribund drama that springs from the fight over the vamp’s favours. De Tière sort of combined Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci in an Antwerp based inn. Jan Blockx endowned the tormented Merlijn with Canio-like notes and coloured the whirlpool of doomed emotions and desire ingeniously with harmless Flemish folklore tunes. Although his ‘Flemishness’ was disputed in Flanders, Herbergprinses gained him an international reputation as the creator of a Flemish school in the veristic (then contemporary) mould, just like Eugen D’Albert later in Germany (with an opera, Tiefland, that sounds stunningly close to Herbergprinses). Until the late 1970’s De herbergprinses remained in the repertoire of Flanders, after which it disappeared completely in the slipstream of the elimination of the Royal Flemish Opera Antwerp in 1982.