I have been working on the 401DutchOperas anthology in five volumes since 2008. These are divided in:
Volume I ‘Baroque era’
Volume II ‘19th Century’
Volume III ‘Fin de siècle and interbellum’
Volume IV ‘Post war era’
Volume V ‘Flemish Opera’.
These books feature a plenitude of synopsises and characterizations of the operas concerned, along with biographical information on their composers. Surprisingly, more than 400 Dutch operas have been composed since the mid 17th Century, which explain the title of the book and website: 401DutchOperas. VOlume I is now finished and ready for print.
Renaissance of Dutch and Flemish operas
The ultimate goal of 401DutchOperas.nl is to spark a renaissance of Dutch and Flemish operas. My journey brought results that I could not have foreseen in 2008, such as the discovery that Dutch composers produced over 70 internationally performed operas since the 1770’s. Dutch operas have been successful from Berlin to Paris, from London to New York, from Budapest to Naples, from Weimar to Basel and from Prague to Vienna – among others. Any other country of the size of the Netherlands would have been proud of such an accomplishment in the international operatic arena. While they are currently forgotten to the point where not even the titles or the names of the composers are remembered, the book will document these names and titles. From the publication onwards, there will be a point of reference.
Admittedly,writing about forgotten operas is not very productive if interested readers can’t hear a note of all these titles. Therefore, in 2015, we started the 401Concerts series,w hcih brings highlights of as many operas from the five volumes of the book as possible. These are public performances, but the prime goal is to record them and ublish them through downloads or on CD. Thus, readers of the books will be able to also hear something of all those forgotten woks, and find out how many hidden beauty there is to discover among the magical world of 40DutchOperas. Till so far we published 4 CD’s in 3 albums:
‘The Jan Brandts Buys Festival 2018 inccluding his complete opera ‘Micarême’ (Promo CD, gatefold)
Jolien De Gendt, Barbara Schilstra, Julia Bronkhorst (soprano), Denzil Delaere, Hendrik Vonk (tenor), Hans de Vries (baritone), René Raker, Wolter Willemsen, Jan ten Bokum (piano), Ann Vancoillie (violin)
In order to promote our Jan Brandts Buys Festival Zutphen 2018 we released this promo cd with highlights from the composer’s oeuvre. These include a studio recording of his opera Micarême and highlights of the operas Kleermakers van Marken and Hero und Leander. In addiion there are songs and recordings of his music for piano by Jan ten Bokum.
‘Dutch heldentenor arias Vol I 1850-1940’ (1CD, hardcover, 62 page booklet)
Barbara Schilstra (soprano), Hendrik Vonk (Heldentenor), Wolter Willemsen (piano), Anna Hiemstra (violin).
This lavishly printed album includes arias and duets from Gerard and Emile von Brucken Fock (Jozal en Seleneia), Charles van der Does (Le roi de boheme), MC van de Rovaart (Verwunchene Prinz), Cornelis Dopper (De blinde van Casteel Cuille, William Ratcliff), Carel Oberstadt (De Scheveningers), Ernest Mulder (Dafne), Robert Vorstman (Seelenkampf). All of these recordings are recording premieres. A good number of them are world premieres as such, since these operas have ever been performed.
The 401Concerts series currently has over 25 performances, which produced recordings of around 200 Dutch operatic highlights 1685-1950. You an find all 401Concerts by clicking on this 40Concerts link.
The challenge that I faced and continue to face for the next years is easily sketched: digitalizing the entire Dutch opera legacy. This alone encompassed years of scanning. With over 75% of the Dutch operatic heritage digitalized and Volume I ready for print, this part of the project is in relatively calm waters. Organizing and especially financing the concerts and the five volume publication remains a vast challenge for the future.