1. Humperdinck’s unknown fairy tale
Hänsel und Gretel is Engelbert Humperdinck’s claim to fame. This much-beloved opera – meant for all ages – is a staple of the December programming of German theatres. The opposite is true for Humperdinck’s opera Königskinder, which is a much less popular title in the repertoire of opera houses. This opera was last performed in the Netherlands in 1912. Like Hänsel und Gretel, it’s a fairy-tale opera, but it has a sad ending: mankind’s cruelty prevails over compassion.
2. The music
What’s next after Richard Wagner? That’s a question Engelbert Humperdinck must have asked himself from time to time. He was deeply familiar with Wagner’s musical parlance: he even assisted ‘the Master’ in Bayreuth to help him prepare for the world premiere of Parsifal (1882) and served as music tutor to his son Siegfried Wagner. It looks like Humperdinck only felt some degree of creative freedom in the genre of fairy-tale opera: while we can hear Wagner's influences in Hänsel und Gretel and Königskinder, these works definitely bear his own signature; they have a certain playfulness and lightness. Tenor Daniel Behle, who sings the role of the king’s son, describes his role as ‘Tamino-plus’.
3. The return of Marc Albrecht
The performance of Königskinder marks the return of Marc Albrecht, who served as chief conductor of DNO and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra between 2011 and 2020. During his time as chief conductor, he delivered exceptional performances of Wagner’s operas and repertoire from the late Romantic era, including Hänsel und Gretel in the season 2015-2016. Albrecht was named ‘Conductor of the Year’ at the International Opera Awards in 2019.
4. The return of Christof Loy
In his opera stagings, German director Christof Loy manages to get to the psychological and emotional heart of each work. He often draws inspiration from film. His main source of inspiration for this production of Königskinder is Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, a black-and-white firm situated in a German village in the years prior to World War I, where tensions between generations and world views are simmering under the surface. Loy previously worked with DNO when he directed Les vêpres siciliennes, Arabella, Chovansjtsjina, La forza del destino and Tannhäuser (with Marc Albrecht as the conductor). This autumn will see the premiere of his debut film Springtime in Amsterdam, which he shot in Amsterdam in the midst of the pandemic.
5. The debut of Edward Ananian-Cooper
Königskinder marks the start of a new era for DNO’s Chorus: Edward Ananian-Cooper, the newly appointed chorus master, will debut in his new role. In 2021, Ching-Lien Wu, his predecessor, left Amsterdam for Paris. After an extensive search for the right candidate and an in-depth auditioning process, Ananian-Cooper was offered the job.
- Königskinder will run from 6 to 22 October 2022 at Dutch National Opera.