Jan Brandts Buys - Micarême

JanBrandtsBuysMicaremeJan Brandts Buys did not compose Micarême 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, after the conventions of this genre. 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.

Text: René Seghers with help from jan ten Bokum.

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, 2perfumed0 it was given in the Stadsschouwburg Arnhem (The Netherlands). Micarême was paired there with Johan Wagenaars’ 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

On April 26, 2015 we performed the Waltz, the Song of the Joker, and  the duet at our first 401NederlandseOperas concert in Hoog-Keppel (Netherlands). Soprano Jolien De Gendt sings 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/October 2018 we recorded the complete  Micarême with René Rakier (piano), Julia Bronkhorst (Junge Frau), Hendrik Vonk (Der Narr), Hans de Vries (Alte Herr) and the 401DutchOperas choir conducted by Frits Muusse (released on compact disc in the first half of 2018).

Download 401Concerts 1, 3 & 4 met Micarême en De Kleermakers van Marken

401COnc3Logo150401Concerts 1 en 401Concerts 4 bracht een grote selectie uit Jan Brandts BuysMicarême met respecievelijk  Jolien De Gendt (s), Denzil Delaere (t) en Pieter Dhoore (p) 

De opname van 401Concerts 3 bevat Veronika's 'En sluipt de liefde om het huis' uit Brandts Buys’ De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau) vertolkt door met Jolien De Gendt, Denzil Delaere, Pieter Dhoore en Ann Vancoillie. Op 401Concerts 4 vertolken Barbara Schilstra (s), Wolter Willemsen (p) en Anna Hiemstra (v) hetzelffde fragment.


The work starts with a prologue in praise of Carnival:

Der große Sünder,
der lustverkunder,
Karneval steht selbst vor euch,
mein Reiches überstrahlt die ganze Erde

Fresh out of an opera performance, the bored young wife of an old gentleman tricks her way out of having to sleep with him by feigning a headache. She needs ‘space.’ This need is not accidental, since she has received a letter from a suitor, which she wants to read undisturbed. The old man wishes her goodnight, and they both withdraw to their rooms. This induced the first absolute highlight of the score, the recitative and waltz, “Gott sei gedankt… Madonna sag”:

Gott sei gedankt
Dich wunsche ich zu allen Chinesen,
Nu hab ich ein weilchen Zeit den Brief in aller Ruhe zu lesen.
Was mag der Freche schreiben?

Madonna sag, wie lange lässt du mich noch leiden?
Wie lange noch,
Lässt du mich Bettler sein?
Heut ist die Nacht erfüllt von Tausend Freuden
Madonna, heute Nacht, o laß mich ein!
Heut singt sein heißes Abschiedslied, Prinz Karneval
Doch eh’ noch zerscheilt sein Diadem,
Erlöse mich von meiner Liebesqual,
Denn Morgen dräut uns Micarême, Micarême, Micarême,
Madonna unter deinem Fenster wil ich stehen
Um Mitternacht, um Mitternacht
Madonna o erhöre meine Sehnsucht Flehen,
Unm Mitternacht, um Mitternacht!
Den Schlussel von der Gartenpforte wirf mir zu,
Dann sind vereint in Seligkeiten ich und du,
Um Mitternacht, um Mitternacht!
Das ist u viel!
Was unterfangt er zich?
Er glaubt ich bin wie alle andern,
O nein, mein Herr,
Ich weiß, was ich mir Schuldig bin,
Der Unverschämte!

This waltz perfectly demonstrates the Hungarian gypsy sauce with an edge of Viennese delight, such as Léhar would later exploit to perfection (Léhar quoted Brandts Buys in some of his works). This irresistible melody is the upbeat to a whirlpool of melodic splendor, such as Brandts Buys would never again toss out with such abundance. In the waltz the Young Woman recals her encounter with the anonymous suitor, who asked her to spend the night with him, sine at Carnival the marital limitations are not valid. Pondering on whether to toss the key out o the window, as he required, she falls asleep. That leads to her dream, in which Prince Carnival appears, dressed as a joker, and surrounded by Amorettes. In his song ‘Mein liebes Lied, schweb’ hold empor…,’ he urges to throw the key out of the window. He then falls himself in love with her, which leads to a magic love duet, perhaps the most beautiful one Brandts Buys ever wrote, ‘Heut ist die Nacht erfüllt von tausend Freuden’. She gives in to his charms and eventually also throws the key out of her window. Then the clock strikes Midnight. Prince Carnival sinks into the ground. She wakes up from the dream, yet sees his Joker attire on the chair next to the bed… A masked figure appears, and carries her off. The old man arrives home, and passes by her room, since he doesn’t want to disturb her in her sleep.