3-23 June 2021


Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Main Stage

Running time

1:40 hours, no break


Not available

Die ersten Menschen

An erotic mystery

The first two humans on earth were in love. The third man killed the fourth. Die ersten Menschen tells the story of the first family in the biblical history of mankind: Adahm and Chawa and their sons Kajin and Chabel. In Die ersten Menschen, the well-known Bible story of Kajin's murder of his brother is interpreted from a completely different angle.

The story

Die ersten Menschen is set in a vast primeval landscape, where the first family on earth cannot avoid mutual confrontation. Chawa feels estranged from Adahm and longs for their younger years. Sons Kajin and Chabel have very different views on life. Kajin feels close to nature and is filled with sexual desires, while Chabel lives by his religious beliefs and fulfils the role of the perfect son. Kajin finds in his mother the archetypal woman he has been searching for and is jealous of his mother's love for Chabel. The envy drives him to kill his own brother. Left alone, Adahm and Chawa understand what awaits mankind.


The German author Otto Borngräber (1874-1916) gave his libretto, based on a play of his own, the subtitle 'Erotisches Mysterium'. In his symbolic interpretation of the Bible story, he was clearly inspired by the psychoanalysis that celebrated its heyday in his time – Freud is heard in the background. Borngräber shows how the primitive family is torn apart by the tension between the sexual urge and the greedy life on the one hand, and a life dedicated to the spiritual on the other. Two brothers who, in the narrow circle of the family, stand for two completely different views of life. The erotic and incestuous nature of the story caused a great deal of controversy during the performance of the play and led to intervention by the censorship.

Performance information

New production

Musical direction  François-Xavier Roth
Direction  Calixto Bieito
Set design Rebecca Ringst
Costumes  Ingo Krügler
Lighting  Michael Bauer
Video Sarah Derendinger  

Adahm Kyle Ketelsen 
Kajin Leigh Melrose 
Chawa Annette Dasch 
Chabel John Osborn

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Sung in German, with Dutch and English surtitles

Watch the trailer

Die ersten Menschen trailer
Die ersten Menschen
©Ruth Walz
Die ersten Menschen
©Ruth Walz
Die ersten Menschen
©Ruth Walz
Die ersten Menschen
©Ruth Walz

Watch the teaser

Die ersten Menschen teaser
Online reading

Online programme in collaboration with SPUI25

Free lecture

Joep Leerssen reveals the cultural-historical context of this unknown but fascinating, steamy opera. On Thursday 27 May from 5:15 - 6.30 PM (CET), you can watch the livestream of this lecture for free. After the live broadcast, the lecture will remain available online.

Please note: the online programme is in Dutch.

Die ersten Menschen - Podcast

In this two-part (Dutch) podcast you get to know the unknown but impressive opera Die ersten Menschen by Rudi Stephan. In part one, dramatist Luc Joosten sketches the cultural and historical context in which the opera was created, and director Calixto Bieito and conductor François-Xavier Roth also have their say. In part two, a musical journey through the score is made with repetitor Jan-Paul Grijpink at the piano.

Deel 1: 'Die ersten Menschen': een inleiding in een bijzondere opera

By: Jasmijn van Wijnen

Deel 2: 'Die ersten Menschen': een reis door de partituur

By: Jasmijn van Wijnen

Interview with François-Xavier Roth

Do you want to read more about Die ersten Menschen and itsmakers? Then read this interview (in Dutch) with François-Xavier Roth in Trouw!

The Concertgebouw orkest

The Concertgebouw orkest

The Concertgebouworkest was founded in 1888. On the occasion of its 100th anniversary in 1988, the orchestra officially received the appellation ‘Royal’. Based in Amsterdam, the Concertgebouworkest is one of the very best orchestras in the world. Time and time again, critics have lauded its unique sound.

In the media
Raving reviews

Die ersten Menschen has all the ingredients to make you experience to the core of your being what opera is

4 June

It is music of the highest order, from extremely oppressive to magnificently radiant ... It was an unparalleled five-star evening.

6 June

Kyle Ketelsen (Adahm), Annette Dasch (Chawa), John Osborn (Chabel) and Leigh Melrose sing and play their murderously heavy roles splendidly and with terrifying intensity.

4 June

Opera & ballet online

Nooit genoeg van opera? Ontdek meer dan 2.584 uur aan:

  • aria's en operafragmenten

  • achter de schermen video's

  • interviews & artikelen

Opera & Ballet online