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Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: Der Prinz von Homburg

A new production of Hans Werner Henze’s opera, Der Prinz von Homburg, opens on 17 March 2019 at Staatsoper Stuttgart for a series of five performances. The production is directed by Stephan Kimmig and will be conducted by music director, Cornelius Meister.

Hans Werner Henze wrote more than 20 operas including Elegy for Young Lovers, The Bassarids, and Der junge Lord. The initial impetus for Henze’s Der Prinz von Homburg came from Italian director, Luchino Visconti, with whom the composer had worked with on the ballet Maratona di Danza in 1957. Henze asked Ingeborg Bachmann to adapt the libretto from Heinrich von Kleist’s play, Prinz Friedrich von Homburg oder die Schlacht bei Fehrbellin and the opera was premiered in Hamburg in 1960.

The opera begins with the eponymous Prince of Homburg who, having been distracted by a daydream before a major battle, misses the field marshal’s briefing and risks the army’s victory when he leads his troops into the fight. The battle is won nonetheless, but the prince is sentenced to death for disregarding orders. Der Prinz von Homburg explores the prince’s struggle with guilt and reconciliation, as well as the justice or injustice of his sentence.

Hans Werner Henze: Der Prinz von Homburg – Musical drama dealing with guilt and reconciliation

By moving between free tonality and serial techniques, Henze sets the drama in a way that immerses listeners into the apparent binaries of the opera’s major themes: dreams and reality, war and peace, freedom and captivity.

“The ‘Prince of Homburg’ focuses on the glorification of a dreamer, the destruction of the traditional concept of a classical hero: the essence is the blind and unimaginative application of laws and the glorification of human benevolence whose comprehension also strays into more profound and complex areas than would be ‘normal’ and permits a man to find his place in the world despite being a dreamer and sentimentalist, or maybe precisely because of this.”
Hans Werner Henze

There will be a number of other opportunities to hear Henze’s operas in 2019: On 23 May, Der junge Lord begins at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich, and from 23 July, a new production of the Elegy for Young Lovers will open at Theater Aachen.



Photo: Theater an der Wien / Wilfried Hösl