Personalities | Hans Werner Henze | Modern Era | Opera

1926–2012, German

A prolific composer of many moods and changes, Henze was yet another 12-note serialist who nonetheless was influenced by neo-classicism, expressionism and jazz. His first full-length opera, Boulevard Solitude (1952), preceded his move to Italy the following year. There, having finally put distance between himself and the repressive Germany of his youth, Henze’s music became more lush and sensual, and his output included operas such as König Hirsch (1956), Elegy for Young Lovers (1961) and The Bassarids (1966). The latter two, arguably his most important works, are notable for his collaborations with librettists W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman – Elegy for Young Lovers is a chamber opera with a 12-tone score, while one-act, full-length opera The Bassarids, an adaption of Euripides’ The Bacchae, displays the composer’s penchant for naturalistic emotion.

Increasingly dedicated to left-wing views, Henze dramatized class conflict in We Come to the River (1976), while The English Cat (1983) featured a cast dressed either as cats, rats or mice. His 2003 opera L’Upupa oder Der Triumph der Sohnesliebe, commissioned for the Salzburg Festival, afforded him the opportunity to write his very first libretto. He remained an outspoken critic of current affairs until his death.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Major Operas | Elegy for Young Lovers by Hans Werner Henze | Modern Era
Major Operas | The Bassarids by Hans Werner Henze | Modern Era
Personalities | Paul Hindemith | Modern Era | Opera
Techniques | Serialism | Modern Era | Opera
Techniques | Expressionism | Modern Era | Opera


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