Offenbach is frequently considered to be a composer merely of operettas and other light musicals who produced only one truly serious piece: Les contes d’Hoffmann. The French composer, however, composed more than 650 works altogether, including chamber music, symphonies and church music. His first opera, Die Rheinnixen, was commissioned by Vienna’s Hofoper. The piece depicts a country shattered by internal warfare through an unusual love story in which poetry and politics combine with dreams and reality, and the supernatural and the realistic.
Offenbach, who made use of his earlier musical output in this first opera of his, also reached back to this very piece when composing his most famous opera: one of the main themes of Die Rheinnixen was turned into the famous barcarolle in Les contes d’Hoffmann. At the 1864 premiere, due to the illness of the tenor, the opera was performed in a shortened form that was more truncated than it was abridged. Though a huge success in the Austrian capital, critics in the Wagnerian camp sniffed, and the work fell into oblivion for the next 138 years.
This is the first time Die Rheinnixen is being performed at the Hungarian State Opera. It has been included in the “Around the Ring” season on the grounds that Wagner’s Das Rheingold had been completed a decade earlier and would have been familiar (at least in terms of its subject matter) to both Offenbach and the general public. Die Rheinnixen is being given its Hungarian premiere in a production by artistic director Ferenc Anger.
Venue: Erkel Theatre
Premiere: 24 February 2018
Further performances: 25 February, 1 & 2 March 2018