25 June - 25 December


Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Online

Running time

1:40 hours, no break



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.

Please note: this performance is a livestream.

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.

Theateraffiche uit 1908 voor een uitvoering van het oorspronkelijke toneelstuk Die ersten Menschen

Free online reading

Online programme in collaboration with SPUI25

Joep Leerssen reveals the cultural-historical context of this unknown but fascinating and steamy opera.

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 
Kaijn Leigh Melrose 
Chawa Annette Dasch 
Chabel John Osborn

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Sung in German, with Dutch and English surtitles

Watch the teaser

Die ersten Menschen thumbnail

Receive the free programme

Click on the link below to receive the online programme. This PDF programme is available in Dutch and English. With wonderful images and information about the music and the cast. 

From Thursday 3 June, you can also purchase an extensive, printed (Dutch) programme booklet, which will provide you with extra information about the opera and both the German libretto and its Dutch translation.

Online reading

Online programme in collaboration with SPUI25

Joep Leerssen reveals the cultural-historical context of this unknown but fascinating and steamy opera. On Thursday 27 May from 5:15 - 6:30 PM (CET) you can watch the livestream of this reading for free. After the live broadcast, the reading will remain available online. 

Please note: the reading 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

Order tickets

Die ersten Menschen will be streamed for free via the European culture TV channel ARTE and on this webpage on Friday 25 June at 20:00. The performance will remain available for six months after that. 

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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.

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