20180922 401Concerts 17 JBBF Opera Concert (Johannette Zomer)

JBB FESTIVAL OPERA

SPECIAL GUEST: JOHANNETTE ZOMER. Mmv. Jolien De Gendt, Barbara Schilstra (sopraan), Denzil Delaere, Hendrik Vonk (tenor), Nemanja Milisevic (bas), Eske Tibben (mezzo), Jan ten Bokum, Pieter Dhoore, Reinild Mees (piano), instrumentaal kwartet (Linda Jongenburger, fluit • Lea van der Heyden, viool • Henk Menkveld, clarinet • Lineke Stoop (cello), Koninklijk Zutphens Mannenkoor o.l.v. Wim Riefel, 401ZutphensMeisjeskoor o.lcv. Ivette van Laar., host: René Seghers.
TICKETLINK 24,75 euro

On Saturday September 2 2018 (2 PM) we present the central performance of the Jan Brandts Buys Festival Zutphen 2018, the Opera Concert in Hanzehof (Buitensociëteit). Guest of honour and star of the matinee is the internationally renowned Zutphen born soprano Johannette Zomer. An array of fine artists (sopranos Jolien De Gendt en Barbara Schilstra, mezzo-soprano Eske Tibben, tenors Denzil Delaere en Hendrik Vonk, baritone Hans de Vries, bass Nemaja Milisevic), the Royal Zutphen's Male Choir an the Girls CHoir of Muzenhof present highlights from all ten operas composed by Brandts Buys (arranged for chamer orchestra by the utphen based musicologist and Brandts Buys biographer Jan ten Bokum). On the programma also three world premieres, o.a. these include the two final operas of the composer. These remained unperfomred because his death in 1933 prevented him from seeing to their performances and the rise of the Nazis, which coincided with the composer's death, further complicated things.

Rene-Seghers-costumeONLINEArtistic director of the Jan Brandts Buys Festival Zutphen 2018, René Seghers: 'Unique is the performance of the torso from the so called 'Spanish Fragment', the composer's first, uncompleted, opera experiment from 1898. Onwards the opera concert takes us on a fascinating journey from Das Veilchenfest (1905) to Glockenspiel (1912), Die Schneider von Schönau (1915), Der Eroberer (1917), Der Mann im Mond (1918), Micarême (1919), Traumland (1925) and Hero und Leander (1929) to Ulysses (1932). Bar two isolated performanes of Die Schneider von Schönau and our own performances of excerpts from Micarême (which we have just recorded and released on cd, along with aria's from Hero und Leander), nothing of these operas has ever been heard since World War II. These are all creations in modern times.'

Tickets Opera Concert Hanzehof: click here

Partners: The city Zutphen, Operaplatform Gelderland-Overijssel, Nederlands Muziek Instituut (NMI), Provincie Gelderland, Prins Bernhard Fonds Gelderland, Gravin van Bylandt Stichting, Jan ten Bokum, Johannette Zomer

Das Veilchenfest 1905 *
(Akte 3 Eerste deel) Mich treibt ein banges leises Weh (Ivi, bedelares) 

Spaans fragment 1898 **
(Akte 1 Scene 4 en 5) Du dunkle, wollustvolle Nacht (Koning Juan, Irene) *

Die Schneider von Schönau 1915
Akte 1 II, Steig auf, mein Lied (Florian)
Akte 2 VIII, Heute soll ich mich entscheiden (Veronika)
Akte 2 XII, Ich bringe euch die Uhr zurück (Christian)
Akte 3 XIX, Ich sehe dort Veronika (Florian, Veronika)

Der Eroberer 1917 *
Akte 2 XII en XIII, Vater! Mutter! Alles verloren! (Erika, Veroveraar)  

PAUZE

Glockenspiel 1912 *
Trink, Kamerad (Columban, Veit, Amor, Agnes)

Hero und Leander 1929 **
Akte 3, Hier liege du… (Hero)
Akte 3, Ha, was ist das? Zurück! (Finale Hero, Leander)

Traumland 1925-1927 *
Akte 1, Ach Gott ich wagt’ (Schoolmeester, Droomgod)
Akte 2, Im Namen meines Volkes steh ́ ich hier (Burgemeester)

Micarême 1919 *
Gott sei gedankt (Junge Frau)
Es singt und rauscht die Nacht / Mein liebes Lied (meisjeskoor, Narr)
Säume nicht, verträume nicht (Junge Fraun, Narr)

Ulysses 1932 ***
III, Komm, besungener Ulysses (Duet van de Sirenen)
VIII, Holde Penelope, hör ́ uns gnädig an (Mannenkoor) 

Der Mann im Mond 1918 *
Akte 3 Scene 14, Der Erde bist du nun genesen (Zizipe, Prins, Sassafras)

* Creation in modern times
** World premièr
*** World première in public

THE OPERAS OF JAN BRANDTS BUYS

1898, Spanish Fragment

Akte 1 Scene 4 en 5 'Du dunkle, wollustvolle Nacht' (Koning Juan, Irene)

In 1892 an accidental journey to Vienna for Dutch magazine Het Vaderland would determine the course of Brandts Buys's life.  He had to report on the International Ausstellung fur Musik- und Theaterwesen but then decided to remain in Vienna, where he hoped to establish himself as a composer. To support himself he worked as a music arranger for various publishers. By 1898 he started the composition of an opera after a Spanish theme, then very popular. He never completed the work, of which only the first act and a bit of the second one were completed. Just as in his 1919 opera Micarême this Spanish opera experiment is also set at Carneval. The plot though has no further things in common with Micarême. In the Spanish Fragment womanizer Gomez is obstructed in his activities by Don Quichot and Sancho. Although the 'Spanish Fragment' is Brandts Buys's first opera experiment to which he actually compsoed music, it is not the earliest operatic experiment among his works. A few lines of a libretto for a childhood opera (to which no music was composed) reveal Brandts Buys's  early vocation for the genre. The brooding, late romantic duet from act I of the 'Spanish Fragment' is a veritable world première. Creators here are tenor Denzil Delaere and soprano Jolien De Gendt, who thus continue the line of Brantds Buys's creators such as Richard Tauber, Minnie Nast en Lotte Lehmann.

1909, Das Veilchenfest

JanBrandtsBuysVeilchenfest

Akte 3 Eerste deel 'Mich treibt ein banges leises Weh' (Ivi, bedelares)

Directly or indirectly, Brandts Buys connection with the composer Dohnányi resulted in his first completed opera Das Veilchenfest, since their joint acquaintance Victor Heindl gave him the libretto. It was this libretto that made Brandts Buys abandon his initial project on a Spanish subject, since the new text had a similar Don Quichot-like character, only now he performed his honourable tasks in Vienna, which seemed the more commercial option. By 1907, the overture to Das Veilchenfest was played at the Wiener Concert-Verein, under the title of ‘Neidhart Fuchs’. His ‘Illyrische Ballade’ was there singled out, and awarded with a Prize. Previously, the Fitzer Quartet had performed works of Brandts Buys and the world famous soprano Lilli Lehmann had interpreted his songs. Thus, Jan Brandts Buys suddenly found himself back in Vienna as a promising young composer.

Two years were needed to finally mount a production of Das Veilchenfest at the Komische Oper Berlin, 1909. Mahler had previously rejected it in Vienna, presumably because he wasn’t convinced by the libretto. When the work failed to make an impression in Berlin, also the critics pointed to the libretto as the culprit, although Ten Bokum states that the music, even within it’s Wagnerian influences, is at times rather original: ‘Text wise one might link Jan’s opera to Pfitzners Rose vom Liebesgarten (1900), music wise perhaps with Braunfels. The latter’s Prinzessin Brambilla (1909) was, however, not yet completed and therefore cannot have been on influence on Das Veilchenfest.'

The opera was never given again and the duet between Ivi (soprano Barbara Schilstra) and the beggar (Eske Tibben) is one of the msot special recreations in this retrospect op Brandts Buys's operas.

1912, Das Glockenspiel

'Trink, Kamerad' (Columban, Veit, Amor, Agnes)

In 1910 Brandts Buys settled in Siffian, in South Tirol. Under the spell of its nature, he there composed his 1912 opera Das Glockenspiel, a comical opera in one act, which had its premiere in Dresden, 1913. The influence of Wagner was now completely gone, and the work breathes the atmosphere of the 19th Century Spieloper after Lortzing, but then through-composed. The strong influence of Tirol is further manifest in the original title, Flitterwochen (honeymoon). The folklore-like lyricism and the absence of major arias in favor of an arioso-recitative style with short, overflowing melodic arches sort of announce Die Schneider von Schönau. Both works also share the same librettist, Ignaz Michael Welleminsky (who later produced, among others, Zwei Herzen in Dreivierteltakt). At the word premiere, Das Glockenspiel couldn’t compete with Wolf-Ferrari’s Der Liebhaber als Arzt, for which it served as a curtain raiser, and later little was heard of Brandts Buys’ second opera. Nonetheless, his progress then resulted in a deal between him and publisher Josef Weinberger, after which he could live from composing. It marked his return to Vienna in 1914. The special atmosphere of the opera can be sensed to perfection in the quartet 'Trink, Kamerad', as performed here by Jolien De Gendt, Eske Tibben, Denzil Delaere and Nemanja Milisevic.

1916, Die Schneider von Schönau

JanBrandtsBuysSchneiderBerlinAkte 1 II, Steig auf, mein Lied (Florian)
Akte 2 VIII, Heute soll ich mich entscheiden (Veronika)
Akte 2 XII, Ich bringe euch die Uhr zurück (Christian)
Akte 2 XIII En sluipt de liefde om het huis (Veronika)
Akte 3 XIX, Ich sehe dort Veronika (Florian, Veronika)
Potpoutrri uit Die Schneider von Schönau

Brandts Buys’ finest hour arrived with the April 1, 1916 world premiere in Dresden of Die Schneider von Schönau. Dresden brought out its finest artists for the premiere. Minnie Nast, the famous creator of Sophie in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, was Veronika. The still unknown Elisabeth Rethberg distinguished herself as Michele. The ingenious, comical plot and the subtle, often gorgeous music that Brandts Buys composed to the Bruno Hardt-Warden/ Ignaz Michael Welleminsky libretto, met with veritable ovations by the end. In the decades following, the work was given in no less than 70 theatres within the German speaking realms. In The Netherlands, the work was given its premiere on October 2, 1917, in the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, under a Dutch title, De kleermakers van Marken (The tailors of Marken). It was in the Dutch version that the Dutch radio produced the work in 1952. There is a gorgeous recording of Veronika’s Moon song, ‘En sluipt de liefde in de buurt (Und schleicht die Liebe um das Haus)’ with Aukje Karsemeyer-De Jong. The poetic qualities of this opera stand out in this Dutch production, perhaps not surprising, since Van Kempen had been the concertmaster for the 1917 performances in Poznán. A more recent VARA radio recording of the original German version from Utrecht in 1991 features, among others, Soile Isokoski as Veronika. This recording has its prime merit in finally disclosing the work as a whole, although Brandts Buys masterpiece is drawn into the realms of Korngold and Humperdinck, where it decidedly doesn’t belong. The folkloristic Spieloper-element is wholly absent in this interpretation. For those who would like to obtain a more balanced idea of the music along with an echo of Richard Tauber’s famous interpretation of Sebastiaan, I refer to a more idiomatic performance from 1951, with a young Rudolf Schock and Lore Hofmann in ‘Ich sehe dort Veronika’.

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Jan Brandts Buy: Die Schneider von Schönau  ‘Ich sehe dort Veronika!’
Rudolf Schock (Florian), Lore Hofmann (Veronika Schwälble), Nordeutschen Rundfunks DDR & Rias-Berlin, 21 maart, 1951

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Jan Brandts Buy: De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau ‘En sluipt de liefde in de buurt’
Aukje Karsemeyer-De Jong (Veronika), Radio Filharmonisch orkest o.l.v. Paul van Kempen, 1952

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Jan Brandts Buy: Die Schneider von Schönau  ‘Steig auf mein Lied' (Act I)
James Roden (Florian), Radio Filharmonisch orkest o.l.v. David Parry

JanBrandtsBuysSchneiderTauber

Surprisingly, the light hearted comedy around three tailors who compete with each other for the hand of an attractive young widow, after which a passing young lad runs off with her, only failed in Brandts Buys’ city of residence, Vienna. The high brow Viennese musical world could never take Brandts Buys serious, since he was a self-declared traditionalist, who was very outspoken in his negative opinion regarding contemporary musical tendencies. His only pupil, the progressive Alois Haba, was dismissed after just a few lessons.

The ultimate disappearance of Die Schneider von Schönau from the repertoire seems to have been a direct result from the Nazi policies in the late 1930s. Librettist Welleminsky was Jewish. Because of that, a planned 1938 Salzburger Festspiele performance was canceled and the work was forbidden. Post World War II there have only been incidental revivals. The first one was in Dresden, 1951, with Rudolf Schock, of which we provided a sample here. Then in 1952 the mentioned Dutch AVRO Radio recording, in 1963 a staged performance in Würzburg, and in 1991 the mentioned VARA Matinee performance from Utrecht. Die Schneider von Schönau remains not only by far the most successful opera of any Dutch composer in history, but it also contains some of the most beautiful pages among Dutch operas.

Our Opera Concert in Hanzehof on 22 september 2018 will feature no less than four central pieces from the opera, startin with Florian's tenor aria 'Steig auf mein Lied', performed by Denzil Delaere. Net comes the lyric duet between FLorian and Veronika from act III, 'Ich sehe dort Veronika', with Delaere and Jolien De Gendt. Veronika's central aria from act II,  'Heute soll ich mich entscheiden' is performed by Special Guest Johannette Zomer. The pitch black Serbian bass Nemanja Milisevic further sings Christians aria 'Ich bringe euch die Uhr zurück' from the second act. The pinao recital that begins at 7 PM iN Dat Bolwerck on Saturday evening 22 September further brings the Grand Potpourri from Schneider von Schönau, played by Wolter Willemsen.

401COnc3Logo150Another mesmerizing piece of the opera is Veronika's evening murmuring at the end of Act II, 'En sluipt de liefde om het huis' (in the Dutch version in 401Concerts 3 performed by Jolien De Gendt and in 401Concerts 4 by Barbara Schilstra).

1917, Der Eroberer

  • JanBRandtsBuysEroberer1
  • JanBRandtsBuysEroberer2
  • JanBrandtsBuysEroberer3
  • Elisa Stünzner in DER EROBERER, 1917
  • Richard Tauber in DER EROBERER, 1917
  • Hanns Lange in DER EROBERER, 1917

Hans de Vries, bass-baritone in the opera recital at theJan Brandts Buys Festival Zutphen 2018: 'Der Eroberer is by far the most challenging role I have ever performed as a bas-baritone.'

Akte I, 'Gift! Gift in meinem Herzen' (Erika)
Akte 2 XII en XIII, Vater! Mutter! Alles verloren! (Erika, Veroveraar)

Ten Bokum describes Der Erober as ‘a serious number opera with comical elements.’ It was a case of ‘almost’ right, and therefore wrong. The culprit was once again the libretto. The title was valid enough at the end of World War I, yet the plot didn’t fill this in with relevant content. Instead it was against set in an irrelevant, naive, pre-industrial Biedermeier environment. It did not have an effect on stage; yet it should be noted that this opera contains Brandts Buys’ most progressive music in all. It also reveals a self-chosen limitation that will more often limit the success of his works onwards, where Brandts Buys proved persistant in his anti-dramatic ideas about libretti. In his opinion the audience came to hear the music and the more simple the plot and the less complicated the action on stage, the less it distracted from the music. Most peculiarly, it is precisely here that Ten Bokum cannot find a single tune that one can remember, although he upholds that a great performance will produce exciting dramatic effect. Regardless, Erika’s Act I aria 'Gift! Gift in meinem Herzen' and the great duet between her and the Conqueror in their night of bliss and abandon, contains stunning music, as was proven by our studio recording o the aria and the duet, which we recorded after having tested them in various try-out performances with lyric-dramatic soprano barbara Schildtra and baritone Hans de Vries. Ten Bokums description of the enormous orchestral powers required, equal to those in Elektra also makes one curious. The plot revolves around an anonymous military leader (the Conqueror) who is about to march into a small town. The beloved of the local and very boring pharmacist, fancies the reckless conqueror, and dreams to be seduced by him. Till so far al seems normal, but onwards the Conqueror emerges as a supernatural creature in between Wotan and The Flying Dutchman. This results in some magical-realistic scenes, culminating into him visiting her bedroom in the night before her wedding to the pharmacist. When she wakes up, she is hallucinating, and dances away with Totenhans. When the pharmacist enters her bedroom, he sees that she empties the entire bottle of sleeping potion that he gave her. Erika drops dead.

1918, Der Mann im Mond

JanBrabdtsBysMannMond

Akte 3 Scene 14, 'Der Erde bist du nun genesen' (Zizipe, Prins, Sassafras)

With Der Mann im Mond Brandts Buys presented the concept of Der Eroberer in reverse, as part of a genuine comedy, a genre which he was experienced in. Apparently he was convinced that, despite the failure of Der Erober, he was on the right track where it concerned the underlying ideas. Thus, he maintained the magical-realistic atmosphere in a fairy-tale like comedy around the evil Princess Zizipe. In a Turandot-like attempt to avoid having to marry a mortal man, she falls in love with the man in the Moon, who then answers her love and turns out to be her Prince Charming. Thus, the opera arrives to an ending where they live happily ever after. An added point of interest in the role of Zizipe is seen in her being a coloratura soprano, which was new to brandts Buys operas. This followed from his orientation at 18th and 19th Century opera traditions as models for Der Mann im Mond. Ten Bokum dubs it a veritable fairy-tale opera, simple, romantic, and colorful both in instrumentation as in staging.

The première was again planned for Dresden, but had to be postponed when in October 1918 the German revolution erupted, affecting also the structure of the opera houses in Germany. Therefore, the work was not premiered until June 18, 1922, with Richard Tauber and Elisabeth Rethberg in the principal roles. Brandts Buys’ hunch that the underlying dramatic concept of Die Erober could prove a success in a comical, fairy-tale setting proved right. Der Mann im Mond was a resounding success, and quickly made its way to other German theatres. Especially the impressionistic Moon Night-melody in Act II was singled out as one of the absolute highlights. We have however chosen the excuberant ensemble finale of the opera in which Jolien De Gendt as the evil but happy coloratura soprano Zizipe has a ball with tenor Denzil Delaere and bass Nemanja Milisevic.

1919, Micarême

MicaremeCD500Gott sei gedankt (Junge Frau)
Es singt und rauscht die Nacht / Mein liebes Lied (meisjeskoor, Narr)
Säume nicht, verträume nicht (Junge Frau, Narr)

Micarême was not composed for the main opera stage but rather for the revue and operetta audience. Ten Bokum believes that the disastrous economic context of those post war days made Brandts Buys believe he had better chances there. The entire work hardly lasts 40 minutes and is wholly oriented on the waltz. Within the waltz dynamics, there is also a very seductive Hungarian gypsy-like perfume. Although Brandts Buys may not have been an avant-garde composer, he distinguished himself increasingly as revolutionary of the stage. Micarême, for example, is through-composed, which is wholly unusual for a comic opera. New to the composers’ music was a strong accent on rhythmic and melodic expansion. After playing through but a few fragments this made us decide to include the highlights of Micarême in our first 401NederlandseOperas concert on April 26, 2015, in Laag-Keppel (The Netherlands). Whereas it may be difficult to imagine a successful staging of this opera, the music of Micarême is irresistible in terms of rhythm, schwung, melody and atmosphere. The story is set in the night of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the exact border of Carnival and the following time of fasting. That moment was once known as ‘Micarême.'

Despite the gorgeous music and the efforts of theatre director Egon Dorn of the Viennese Künstlerbuhne Ronacher, Micarême did not meet with the hoped for success at the November 14, 1919 premiere. Perhaps this is hardly surprising for a work that lasts but 37 minutes and therefore cannot be programmed separately (a problem that Puccini brilliantly solved in Il Trittico by composing complementary pieces to perform along with it). Micarême made it to Zürich in Switzerland, which of course was not the success Brandts Buys had hoped for. It was not until after his death, that it was perfomed again. This was in 1937 in the Maria Theresienstraße, Vienna, June 1937. A year onwards, on October 26, it was given in the Stadsschouwburg Arnhem (The Netherlands). Micarême was paired there with Johan Wagenaar's De doge van Venetië (The Doge of Venice). Perhaps these performances induced Reeser in his book ‘A Century of Dutch Music’ to dub Micarême Brandts Buys most successful opera after Die Schneider von Schönau.

ConcertFrrontOn April 26, 2015, 401DutchOperas performed  the Waltz, the Song of the Joker, and the duet at 401Concerts 1 in Hoog-Keppel (Netherlands). Soprano Jolien De Gendt wa The Young Wife and tenor Denzil Delaere the Joker ‘Prince Carnaval’. Pieter Dhoore accompanied them from the piano on this truly unique matinee, which presents excerpts from a plenitude of forgotten Dutch operas.

In September/Oktober 2018 we recorded the complete  Micarême with René Rakier (piano), De Gendt, Delaere, Hans de Vries as Alte Herr and the 401DutchOperas female choir (conducted by Frits Muusse). The recording was issued on compact disc in may 2018, as a promofor the Jan Brandts Buys Festival Zutphen. In Zutphen, the cd-ensemble will perform the compelte opera twice as Festial opener on Friday 1 September (7 PM + 8.30 PM in Dat Bolwerkck). Highlights (the girl's choir with tenor song, the final duet and the waltz aria of der Junge Frau) will also feature in the opera Concert in the Hanzehof. Jan ten Bokum himself will there accompany special guest Johannette Zomer in 'Gott sei gedankt... Madonna sag...'. Ten Bokum: 'My colleagues have given beautiful performances of the opera and its highlights, but... I will play the waltz aria for Johannette in a much faster pace, I believe it really an up-tempo piece!'

1927, Traumland

JanBrandtsBuysTraumland

Akte 1, Ach Gott ich wagt’ (Schoolmeester, Droomgod)
Akte 2, Im Namen meines Volkes steh ́ ich hier (Burgemeester)

By 1920, Brandts Buys settled in Loznica near Dubrovnik. In hindsight this was not a very convenient move, given the distance to various stagings of Die Schneider and newly to be produced operas. His inspiration also dried-up for a while, and it wasn’t until 1927 that he presented a new opera, Traumland, a fairy-tale opera. With Traumland Brandts Buys parted from his regular librettsts Warden and Welleminsky. He thought himself better suited to realize his artistic ideal: to make the action so irrelevant as possible in order to let the music tell the story. Regardless, we can of course still describe a ‘plot’, even though this is again a plot in a plot which involves a dream as the central piece of the opera. In the prologue, a teacher has invited a fair lady to his class, in order to tell the children a story about an evil Sphinx. If she were a man, she tells the children, she would teach that Sphinx a lesson or two! The teacher falls under her spell but is too shy with his modest position to ask for her hand in marriage. He falls asleep, which is the beginning of his dream, the central part of the opera. In this dream he is a prince who defeats the Sphinx in a joint effort with his school children. Following, he marries the beautiful fair lady. When he awakes from his dream, still behind the harmonium in his class, he tells the fair lady about his dream and thus asks her to marry him.

Even though Traumland was due to be again premiered in Dresden, Brandts Buys encountered great difficulties to find a publisher for this story about a bunch of schoolchildren and their teacher. It wasn’t until he shortened the original title, Das Schulfest, oder das Traumland (The school celebration or the Land of Dreams) into Traumland, that he found Weinberger prepared to publish hit, on the condition that he would add an epilogue to the work. In this epilogue, the pair thanks the dream for his help, with the motto – some dreams come true! On November 24, 1927 the opera was premiered in Dresden. This fairly unique work, which employs a very individual musical idiom if compared with the best known works in this genre (Humperdinck’s) or within the realm of the Spieloper, unexpectedly proved Brandts Buys greatest success since Die Schneider von Schönau. This regardless the fact that is had fierce competition, even within Dresden, from Krenek’s Jonny Spielt Auf and by Richard Strauss who conducted some of his own operas there. Traumland received four repetitions that season, and would receive several revivals in the years to come. Our performane of two central highlights of Traumland at the Jan Brandts Buys Festival Zutphen will feature the rising Flemish tenor Denzil Delaere and bass Nemanja Mlisevic. An explosive combination of beauty and darkness that will most certainly be remembered long after the performance is finished. 

1929, Hero und Leander

Akte 3, 'Hier liege du…' (Hero)
Akte 3, 'Ha, was ist das? Zurück!' (Finale Hero, Leander)

The penultimate result of Brandts Buys journey in search for a more formal libretto led him to research both the 18th Century concept and the Spieloper concept from various angles, which he then transported to his own operatic langue. His choice for Grillparzer’s Hero und Leander, which touches upon the conventions of 18th Century opera seria, perfectly fits the composer’s ongoing journey. For one, the music was clearly more important in opera seria than the actual plot, which ultimately wasn’t very much more than a sequence of arias and duets, expressing individual emotions, while being only loosely embedded in a plot that was mostly limited to linking recitatives. Van Bokum states hat his, on first sight perhaps surprising choice for a classical Greek subject, is a logical outcome of this research, since mythological subject were the topic of opera seria. The work has five acts and the Greek element is basically limited to the props on stage, while the scenes at the foot of the lighthouse, where the waves rage, were designed after romantic paintings. Grillparzer’s version is well known: Hero is about to become a priestess in the service of Aphrodite, when Leander spots her and falls in love. Once she is on watch in the lighthouse, he visits her there, pleading to lay with him in the bushes at the peninsula below the lighthouse. After a while, she gives in. Leander will go ahead, to make sure the path is safe, but is spotted by some priests. These inform the high priest, who implores the Gods to punish Leander. He then missteps on the dark, while descending to the sea on the small path that leads downwards. He falls over and drowns in the raging waves. When, in the morning, Leander discovers what happened, she requests permission to die, in order to be buries with Leander. When this request is denied, she throws herself into the waves. For the first time since Das Veilchenfest, Brandts Buys uses here Wagnerian techniques, although these are limited to structural matters rather than implementing his Gesammtkunstwerk theory, which of course didn’t interest the composer. The first three acts work as closed scenes, all ending with a crescendo ensemble finale. The tragic fourth and fifth act are through-composed and flow over into each other, although no one has ever been able to hear this. The reason is simple: to date, Hero und Leander had never been performed except for our own try-out performances and our recording of Hero's act III aria by Barbara Schilstra. The stock market crash on Wallstreet and the subsequent depression resulted in a theatre practice where all risks were banned and this title was judged very difficult. Presumable fort hat reasons, discussions of a 1931 Munich performance eventually had no result. A complicating factor was also the fact that the fame of Brandts Buys rested on comic operas alone. Mounting a serious opera by this composer was thought an added risk. Hero's monoloue 'Hier liege du...' and the following heroic duet with duet Leander 'Ha, was ist das? Zurück!' from act III are stunningly dramatic and of grand scope. For the performance in the Jan Brandts Buys Festival Zutphen we found Heldentenor Hendrik Vonk prepared to undertake this challenging tenor part. In the aria and duet Barbara Schilstra juggles between extreme emotional outbursts and shimmering pianissimos.

1932, Ulysses

I 'Jahre, Stunde, Monde, Tage' (Penelope)
III, 'Komm, besungener Ulysses' (Duet van de Sirenen)
VIII, 'Holde Penelope, hör ́ uns gnädig an' (Mannenkoor)

The last opera of Brandts Buys was Ulysses. Contrary to what the title suggests Ulysses is not another heroic opera seria, but a comedy in seven scenes. Ten Bokum: 'His sister in law, Wera Solander, reworked some episodes from Homer, and organized them in a sequence of loosely linked adventure epics with a comical undertone. Thus she enabled Jan to draw back on his earlier successes in this genre, within the Spieloper formula with separate scenes that work as a picture postcard book, to be staged as tableaux vivants. In this way he was able to demonstrate his believe that stage action doesn’t have to be linear [..] The result is an opera with much humor, big ensembles, and scenes dansante. In short, a very lively and diverse work that comes close to Viennese operetta in atmosphere. Here and there the music is utterly sweet.'

Brandts Buys completed Ulysses on June 10, 1932, but did not live to see it performed. He passed away on December 7, 1933, in Salzburg. It wasn’t until March 1937 that the work received a concert performance in the context of a radio broadcast on unknown operas, of which the master tapes unfortunately were not preserved. Thus, we have again to rely on Ten Bokum, when he writes that Ulysses lives at the grace of a sequence of very special highlights, who are unfortunately sided with mere academic writing. In a second studio recording Barbara Schilstra recorded Penelope's sewing aria 'Jahre, Stunde, Monde, Tage', as a bonus track for the release of the opera concert. St the Festival she peformes with mezzo soprano Eske Tibben the hauntingly beautiful duet of the Sirens. The Royal Zutphen's Male Choir will perform the suitor's choir from scene VIII, 'Holde Penelope, hör ́ uns gnädig an'.

Brandts Buys in retrospect

Artistic director van het Jan Brandts Buys Festival Zutphen 2018, René Seghers: 'The perspective of time allows us to look differently at Brandts Buys today, than his contemporaries were able to do. For one thing, we have now Ten Bokum’s wonderful biography, which brings the composer’s artictic credo to the foreground. Brandts Buys was quite a unique composer in upholding very principal (anti-)dramatic and unconventional ideas of ho wan opera should be constructed, principles which he followed throughout, at times against the odds. At the same time he considered opera mere amusement, and demanded of his works that they should provide an entertaining evening. All his operas are thus chains in his life-long search for the optimal form of his musical theatre avant le lettre. The little that we know of his operas today is mainly limited to Die Schneider von Schönau and a few excerpts of Micarême. This is a meager harvest when thinking of the successes of Der Mann im Mond and Traumland. In addition, his last two works, Hero und Leander and Ulysse testify of his ongoing inspiration, which lead him to develop yet another operatic world. The fact that these last operas remained unperformed now makes one curious after the music. This is also the reason that we decided to attempt to eventually perform and record excerpts of all his operas, from the first experiment up until Ulysses'.


Jan Ten Bokum: Jan Brandts Buys 1868-1933 Componist. Een Nederlander in Oostenrijk (Walburg Pers, Zutphen, 2003)

JanBrabdtsBuysTenBokumRené Seghers: 'I fell under the spell of Brandts Buys after hearing the mentioned excerpt of Micarême, “Gott sei gedankt … Madonna sag.” His most famous opera, Die Schneider von Schönau, initially didn’t have much effect on me when I heard it on the radio in the 1991 performance. It wasn’t until I heard the earlier 1952 Dutch radio performance with Aukje Karsemeyer-De Jong that I became mesmerized with the poetic atmosphere of Veronika’s Moon song and the silvery instrumentation that emerged from Paul van Kempen’s conducting. At the time I did not yet know that he had participated in the 1917 performances in Poznán, and that he was therefore an authority with respect to the proper style. I only learned these things from Jan ten Bokums’ biography of Brandts Buys, which was published in 2003. Upon reading this magnificent volume I also realized that it was useless to very much research in terms of sources other than what I had already accomplished, since Ten Bokum had done this already to perfection. Even with notorious opera composers as Julius Röntgen, biographers usually tend to pass over the operas, whereas Ten Bokum made a deep study of each and everyone of them. My text above is therefore not a text after all the mentioned sources, but mainly a text after Ten Bokum’s Brandts Buys biography, which I recommend to anyone who would like to know more about this composer (and who is able to read Dutch, since I’m afraid the book has not yet been translated). The book basically left only one question open, and that was how the music of his other 8 operas sounded? This question then resulted in the decision to make it our quest to include music from all Brandts Buys’ operas in out subsequent 401DutchOperas concerts, which will therefore also include various world premieres!'


Download 401Concerts 1 & 3 with Micarême and Die Schneider von Schönau

401COnc3Logo150The recording of our third 401DutchOperas concert in the Kröller-Müller Museum is downloadable via 401Concerts 3. Apart from highlights of Jan Brandts Buys’ De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau) 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 Richard Hageman's Caponsacchi.

401Concerts 1 brought an extensive selection of Jan Brandts BuysMicarême, with tenor Denzil Delaere, soprano Jolien De Gendt and pianist Pieter Dhoore. This concert is available through 401Concerts 1 download. Apart from the Micarême selection it further includes arias and duets from operas by Andries ten Cate, Johannes Bernardus van Bree, Carl Eckert, Baron Knigge (B. Polak-Daniëls), Jan Rijken, Emile von Brucken-Fock, Gustaaf Francies de Pauw, Ignace LilienHarry Mayer and Flemish composer Karel Miry.