401Concerts: Dutch court operas in The Hague 1751-1790

FranseVlag  Traduction française

The roots of Dutch opera in the 18th Century French Theatre of The Hague

On May 13, 2018 (3.30 PM), 401DutchOperas and Dutch Music Institute organize a unique Dutch Baroque Opera concert in DILIGENTIA The Hague with the operas of the Dutch court composers at the French Theatre The Hague. Soloist are mezzo soprano Barbara Kozelj, soprano Elise Caluwaerts, tenor Marcel Reijans, baritone Hans de Vries, violin player Rémy Baudet, oboist Martin Stadler, cellist Saskia van der Wel, harpsichord player/conductor Albert-Jan Roelofs and the young talents of de Muziekschool The Hague coached and directed by Peter le Feber.

TheatreFrancaisWeb390Sunday May 13, 2018
Begins: 3.30 PM
Lange Voorhout 5, Den Haag

Partners: Nederlands Muziek Instituut, Fonds 1818, M.A.O.C. Gravin van Bylandt Stichting, Muziekschool Den Haag, Stichting Vrienden van de Nederlandse Muziek.

According to popular theory the Netherlands never developed a national opera culture because it had no court music tradition. Ever since the late 19th Century that theory explained why there apparently weren’t any successful Dutch opera composers. In the wake of his research for the anthology in progress of 401DutchOperas and much to his own surprise, music critic and concert organiser René Seghers discovered that the opposite was true: although many if not most original scores were lost, there had been a thriving court music and opera practice around stadholders Willem IV en Willem V in 18th Century The Hague. They had court chapels for which they recruted distinct German and Italian maestros. Together with the high nobility of those days (the Bentincks, the Van Wassenaers) they also financed the French Theatre in Casuarie Street. From the production of the intriguing opera Les nôces de Venus in 1751 onwards, a distinct original Dutch opera tradition was established there around such composers as Zingoni, Colizzi (music teacher of princess Louise and the later king Willem I) and Meissner. These original Dutch operas were given in the French language, the official court language in The Hague at the time. Also performed there were original operas by Johann Just and Jan Jacob Obdam van Wassenaer (son of count Unico van Wassenaer, who centuries later became famous as the real composer of the ‘Concerti Armonici’, previously attributed to Pergolesi). Another fascinating forgotten Dutch opera composer of that epoch presented in the concert is baron Gottfried van Swieten, a close friend of Mozart.

Partner: Nederlands Muziek Instituut


Date: Sunday May 13, 2018
Begins: 3.30 PM
Location: Diligentia (Lange Voorhout 5, Den Haag)

Sunday May 13 2018 • Gala Concert Diligentia, Den Haag

Dutc Court operas from the French Theater of The Hague 1751-1793
Barbara Kozelj (mezzosoprano), Elise Caluwearts (soprano), Marcel Reijans (tenor), Hans de Vries (baritone), Albert Jan-Roelofs (harpsichord/conductor/arrangements), Rémy Baudet (violin), Martin Stadler (obo), Saskia van der Wel (cello) & The Hague 401DutchOperas amateur Choir under Peter van der Leeuw.

Highlights from:

Baron Gottfried van Swieten (1733-1803) – Les Talents à la mode [1770]
Zingoni (1720-1811) – Les Passetemps de l’Amour [176?]
Colizzi (1742-1808) – Le Français chez les Hurons [1783]
Philipp Meissner (1748-1816) – L’heureux révolution [1788]
Johann Just – De koopman van Smyrna [1774]
Graaf Jan Jacob van Obdam-Wassenaer – Les nôces de Vénus [1751]
Colizzi – Les dieux au village [1790]
Colizzi – Le droit d'Ainesse [1778]

3.30 PM Warming up with the 401DutchOperas Young Talent ensemble of the Muziekschool Den Haag in adventurous arrangements of music from the Dutch Court Opera The Hague 1751-1793 programme. With soprano Gina de Jong and mezzo-soprano Esmée van Nieuwenhuijzen, who also perfomred the music from their rpogramma in warm up concerts on location in The Hague and Amsterdam. Special guest Hans de Vries will appear in an exciting arrangement of an air from Colizzi's Le droit d'ainesse, set for accordeon (Johan Paap) and electric guitar (Roy Victor Seriese). Musical supervisor and arrangements Peter le Feber. For more details see below.

Barbara Kozelj, Elise Caluwaerts, Marel Reijans & Hans de Vries


For the performance of this concert, a high carat ensemble is currently being formed. The musical direction is placed in the hands of harpsichord player Albert-Jan Roelofs, who also provided the performance arrangements/reconstructions of the scores for harpsichord, cello, violin and flute. Among the instrumental soloists we can already name such distinguished musicians as Rémy Baudet (Concert master Orchestra of the 18th Century), Martin Stadler (1st oboist of the Dutch Bach Society) and cellist Richte van der Meer. Among the vocal soloist we can already mention the internationally renowned mezzo soprano Barbara Kozelj, rising star and Belgian soprano Elise Caluwaerts, the renowned Dutch tenor Marcel Reijans, and baritone Hans de Vries. As usual in the 401Concerts series brief announcements by Seghers place these revived highlights in their proper context: the court culture that gravitated around Willem IV and Anna van Hannover, and then Willem V and the Bentincks, Van Wassenaers, freemasons and their muse of each and every one of these supporters, Rose Baptiste.

Talent of the Music Academy The Hague on location

The young talents of Muziekschool Den Haag will perform on location in the weeks preceding the concert, and they have a place in the concert as well. These fine young boys and girls are coached and directed by music director Peter le Feber. Among the talents are Esmée van Nieuwenhuizen, Gina de Jong, Margreet Schuemie en Heleen Vlietstra (sopranen), Felice Goldbach (fluit), Alwin Farahani (Klarinet), Jasper van Enk (clarinet), Tineke Molenaar (cello).

Saturday 14 April • Dag van de Haagse Geschiedenis, Den Haag
Sunday 15, 22 April & 6 May • Willemsvaart boat tour through The Hague with concerts at various places.
Sunday 29 April  • De Nieuwe KHL Amsterdam (with special guest Hans de Vries!)
Sunday 13 May • From 3.30 PM & during the interval (with special guest Hans de Vries), Diligentia, Den Haag

In a surprise performance in De Nieuwe KHL on April 29 and in the break from the May 13 Diligentia Concert talents of the Music Academy The Hague will also accompany special guest baritone Hans de Vries in an arrangement of an aria from Van Swieten's Les talents à la mode set for electric guitar and bandeon. On all occasions they will perform Mozarts concert aria KV 23 'Conservati Fedele', composed during his stay in The Hague 1765/66.

A lost world rediscovered

Nearly all of the traceable original Dutch opera titles of the period 1751-1790 were lost in time. Nonetheless, research in the Nederlands Muziek Instituut, Koninklijk Huisarchief and foreign archives resulted in four complete surviving scores and nine partially surviving scores by the likes of Just, Zingoni, Colizzi, baron van Swieten and Jan Jacob Obdam van Wassenaer. These operas give a unique insight into the Dutch national opera history, and into the importance of the French Theatre The Hague 1751-1790 in establishing a national operatic culture. Seghers' anthology will reveal that the influence of the French Theatre The Hague did not end with the French revolution. On the contrary: the tradition of the French influence in Dutch opera continued unbroken into the court of Willem I and from there well into the 20th Century; even some contemporary Dutch operas continue the French line in Dutch opera.

A word on the composers

Colizzi, the most important composer in the concert, was a freemason. His opera Les Dieux au Village was performed in 1790 to elebrate the marriage of princess Louise with prince Karl Georg van Bruinswijk Wolfenbüttel. It also inaugurated the new great hall at the Binnenhof (present day Tweede kamer). Meissner's L’Heureux révolution from 1788 was composed on the occasion of the return of stadholder Willem V from his lf-chosen exile the year before. The Leiden born baron Gottfried van Swieten is mostly known today for his correspondence with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, yet he composed no less than three operas himself. In Diligentia we perform fragments from his opera Les talents a la mode from 1770. Johann Just composed the only (in part) preserved Dutch language opera from that centruy: De koopman van Smyrna.

401Concerts and the French Theatre The Hague 1751-1790

Within the context of the 401DutchOperas project, Seghers rediscovered over 400 titles that have been composed in the Netherlands since 1646. Bothered by the lack of details and recordings of any Dutch opera pre 1940, 401DutchOperas started organizing concerts with highlights of the rediscovered scores. Meanwhile over 60 excerpts of Dutch opera’s have thus been performed and recorded. Now including this concert with highlights from all the surviving operas by Van Wassenaer Obdam, Zingoni, Colizzi, Just, baron Van Swieten and Meissner. As is the custom in the 401Concerts seriesSeghers presents the rediscovered highlights in their proper context by means of brief readings into the plots, the background, the composers, the French Theatre The Hague and the musical culture revolving around Willem IV and Anna van Hannover, Willem V and the Bentincks and Van Wassenaers, as well as the muse of the theatre, Rose Baptiste.

The highlights from the rediscovered Dutch 18th Century operas that will be performed during the concert revive this period in Dutch opera in a unique way. Not only will these operas be heard again for the first time since the 18th century, but they will also be made available to a large international audience by means of the audio-visual concert recordings. These will be published on cd and made available through our 401Concerts download series on 401DutchOperas.nl. Seghers: ‘By publishing them, our concerts are not the final result of the research, but the starting point of a second life for these fascinating forgotten Dutch operas from 18th Century The Hague. The concert with Dutch opera highlights from the French Theatre The Hague 1751-1790 is a coproduction with Nederlands Muziek Instituut.

Unique Dutch Freemason operas

Also in the Netherlands the 18e centruy was the age of freemasonry. In 1751 The Hague actually saw the emergence of the oldest documented mixed freemason loge in history, the Loge de juste. It was through this loge that the revolutionary opera Les nôces de Vénus ou les filets de Vulcain was performed, which brings Vénus on stage as a 21st Century like feminist, demanding the right of free sex for herself. Her husband Vulcain has to accept her affair with Mars or suffer the consequences! The male members of the Loge de juste were high nobility, army officers and actors/singers of the french Theatre. The ladies were exlusively actrices/singers of that theatre. It is within the context of the oldest documented mixed freemason loge that 'Les nôces de Vénus ou les filets de Vulcain' was performed there. The opera was so revolutionary and risqué that until far into the 20th Centruy it would not have been possible to perform it. Neither was this possible in the 18th centrury. the work was performed privately within the Loge de Juste, by the French Theatre members for the nobles and military members of the loge ‘of Venus and Mars’. Seghers: ‘Just as Die Zauberflöte the opera integrates and present the initiation rites and the philosophy of this revolutionary mixed freemason loge.’