|Elegy for Young Lovers|
Elegie für junge Liebende
|Opera by Hans Werner Henze|
The composer in 1960
20 May 1961
Elegy for Young Lovers (in German, Elegie für junge Liebende) is an opera in three acts by Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
The opera was first performed in a German translation by Louis, Prince of Hesse and by Rhine at the Schlosstheater Schwetzingen at the Schwetzingen Festival on 20 May 1961, conducted by Heinrich Bender. The first performance using the original English text was in Glyndebourne, also in 1961. The Juilliard Opera Theater produced the opera in New York City in 1965, with the composer conducting.Henze revised the opera in 1987, and this revised version received its first performance on 28 October 1988 at the La Fenice Theatre, Venice, with Markus Stenz conducting.
According to Ann Saddlemyer in her book "Becoming George", the poet is partially based on W. B. Yeats, and his wife "George" (Georgie Hyde-Lees) was the inspiration for both the secretary and the woman with visions. David Anderson has noted that the poet also portrays Auden as well.Robert Henderson has summarised the thesis of the opera as follows:
Elegy for Young Lovers....is a bitter indictment of the Romantic notion of the artist as hero, feeding remorselessly on those around him both in the name of art and to satisfy his own monstrous and inhumanely egotistical appetites.
Auden and Kallman described this opera as their equivalent of Richard Strauss' opera Arabella .The dedication of the opera is to the memory of Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
Henze quoted material from the aria My own, my own in his Fifth Symphony, completed in 1962.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 20 May 1961 |
(Conductor: Heinrich Bender)
|Hilde Mack, a widow||coloratura soprano||Eva Maria Rogner|
|Elizabeth Zimmer||soprano||Ingeborg Bremert|
|Carolina, Countess of Kirchstätten, secretary to Mittenhofer||contralto||Lilian Benningsen|
|Toni Reischmann||tenor||Friedrich Lenz|
|Gregor Mittenhofer, a poet||baritone||Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau|
|Dr. Wilhelm Reischmann, a physician||bass||Karl-Christian Kohn|
|Josef Mauer, a mountain climb leader||spoken||Hubert Hilten|
The opera is set in an inn called Der Schwarze Adler in the Austrian Alps in 1910. The plot is centred on a poet, Gregor Mittenhofer, who manipulates the people in the inn to provide inspiration to his work, his faithful secretary, his doctor, his young "muse" Elisabeth and a hysterical woman who lost her husband to the mountains decades before and has visions.When a young man arrives who attracts Elisabeth, Mittenhofer lets her go but doesn't act to prevent the young lovers' death in a snowstorm in the mountains, using the tragedy as the inspiration for a final "Elegie" of pure music, sung without words.
Wystan Hugh Auden was an English-American poet. Auden's poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form and content. He is best known for love poems such as "Funeral Blues"; poems on political and social themes such as "September 1, 1939" and "The Shield of Achilles"; poems on cultural and psychological themes such as The Age of Anxiety; and poems on religious themes such as "For the Time Being" and "Horae Canonicae".
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for collaborating with W. H. Auden on opera librettos for Igor Stravinsky and other composers.
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The Duino Elegies are a collection of ten elegies written by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926). Rilke, who is "widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets", began writing the elegies in 1912 while a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis (1855–1934) at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. The poems, 859 lines long in total, were dedicated to the Princess upon their publication in 1923. During this ten-year period, the elegies languished incomplete for long stretches of time as Rilke suffered frequently from severe depression—some of which was caused by the events of World War I and being conscripted into military service. Aside from brief episodes of writing in 1913 and 1915, Rilke did not return to the work until a few years after the war ended. With a sudden, renewed inspiration—writing in a frantic pace he described as a "boundless storm, a hurricane of the spirit"—he completed the collection in February 1922 while staying at Château de Muzot in Veyras, in Switzerland's Rhone Valley. After their publication in 1923 and Rilke's death in 1926, the Duino Elegies were quickly recognized by critics and scholars as his most important work.
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Since July 2015 he is the artistic director of the Tino Pattiera Opera Arias Festival in Dubrovnik, Croatia and from 2016 the Principal Guest Conductor of the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra
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Schlosstheater Schwetzingen is a court theater in Schwetzingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The historic building, opened in 1753, is part of Schloss Schwetzingen and since 1952 the principal venue of the Schwetzingen Festival. It is also called Hoftheater, Hofoper, and Comoedienhaus. The frequently applied name Rokokotheater is misleading, because it shows also neoclassical elements, added in 1762.
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Caroline Stein is a German operatic coloratura soprano and an academic voice teacher. She has appeared internationally, including contemporary opera, creating the Angel in Dusapin's Faustus, the Last Night at the Berlin State Opera.
Catherine Gayer is an American coloratura soprano, violinist, musicologist, and academic voice teacher. She made a career in Germany. A member of the Deutsche Oper Berlin for more than four decades, she is known for her performance in premieres of contemporary operas, such as Luigi Nono's Intolleranza 1960 at La Fenice in Venice, the title role in Aribert Reimann's Melusine at the Schwetzingen Festival, and Josef Tal's Die Versuchung at the Bavarian State Opera.
Lilian Benningsen was an Austrian operatic mezzo-soprano and contralto. She made an international career based at the Bavarian State Opera for decades, where she first appeared as Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlos. She created several roles, such as Carolina in Henze's Elegie für junge Liebende at the 1961 Schwetzingen Festival. Her recordings include both operas and concerts.