Anti-nazi Till Eulenspiegel opera on stage


This 2018 classical music video says about itself:

Jan van Gilse – Thijl (1940)

Jan Pieter Hendrik van Gilse (Rotterdam, 1881 – Oegstgeest, 1944)

Thijl, dramatic legend in a prologue, three acts and an epilogue on a libretto by Hendrik Lindt (1940)

This summer (2018), a new performance of Thijl is staged in Soest, the Netherlands. For more information, see www.thijl2018.nl.

Parts:

Overture (0:00)
Act I (1:27)
Act II (1:02:43)
Act III (2:00:45)
Epilogue (2:45:49)

Recording of the World Premiere on June 5, 1980 at the Circustheater, Scheveningen (as part of the Holland Festival)

After that first time, the opera would not be on stage again. Until this year. It is said to be the biggest Dutch opera ever written.

Performers:

John Bröcheler – Thijl
Guus Hoekman – Lamme Goedzak
Thea van der Putten – Nele
Peter van der Bilt – De Uil [the owl, symbol of jester/freedom fighter Thijl]/ Balladezanger
Amsterdams Philharmonisch Orkest Nederlands Operakoor
Conductor: Anton Kersjes

Images:

I have included images relating to Van Gilse’s life, and the tropes that underlie this opera (aside from the story of Thijl Uilenspiegel, obviously). The first act contains photographs from the places where Van Gilse lived and worked: Berlin, Utrecht, and Leiden (Oegstgeest). The second act shows scenes from the conquest of Den Briel by the Watergeuzen, a band of marine marauders in the service of the Dutch uprising against the Spanish in the 16th Century, a motive often exploited in the name of Dutch nationalism. The third act and epilogue, finally, illustrates the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War, a strong undercurrent in Van Gilse’s final works (Thijl and the “Rotterdam” cantata).

The hero of this opera is Till Eulenspiegel, a ‘fool‘/jester known from 16th century German stories. Under the 16th century Dutch name Thyl Ulenspiegel (modern Dutch: Tijl Uilenspiegel), 19th century Belgian author Charles De Coster made him famous as a freedom fighter against 16th century Spanish absolute monarchical rule in the Low Countries, born in Damme town.

20th century Belgian author Hugo Claus wrote a theatre play based on De Coster’s Ulenspiegel book. Van Gilse’s opera is based on De Coster’s book as well.

Translated from the site about the 2018 performance of Thijl:

Thijl takes place at the beginning of the Eighty Years’ War. Thijl emerges as an enthusiastic but naive idealist. In an exuberant mood, Thijl sings on the Damme market a satirical song in which he ridicules the Spanish ruler Philip II and the pope. A collaborator betrays him, hoping to claim Thijl’s legacy share as a reward. Thijl escapes, but his father is caught instead.

The execution of his father drives Thijl towards resistance ….

The musical creator of Thijl was an idealist in heart and soul. Just like Thijl, he opposed injustice and unfreedom wherever he could. Jan van Gilse (1881-1944) started his musical career in Germany, but in the Netherlands he became conductor of the Utrechts Stedelijk Orkest and director of the Utrecht conservatory. …

Thijl’s theme can not be seen separately from Jan van Gilse’s personal struggle for free speech and against the intolerant society that the Nazis aimed at. Van Gilse left Germany in 1933, following the election victory of Hitler. When the war broke out in the Netherlands and the Germans took over the government, Van Gilse took the lead in resistance. …

Van Gilse, who had not appeared in public since the 1941 general ban on Jews visiting public places, had to go into hiding. From his hiding addresses he remained one of the leaders of the artists’ resistance, and together with his son Janric set up the resistance magazine De Vrije Kunstenaar, which appeared in a monthly edition of 3,000 copies. Both sons of Van Gilse were executed for their resistance, and Van Gilse did not survive the war either. He died in 1944. …

The opera Thijl was Van Gilse’s last work. He completed it in 1941, and dedicated it to “To the fighters for justice and freedom.” He took the handwritten score with him to all his hiding addresses. Shortly before his death, his wife Ada van Gilse added at his request: “.. and to my boys who lost their lives for this justice”.

This 2017 music video shows a performance in Utrecht city of the song from Thijl ‘Slaet op den Trommele’.

Review of Thijl: here.

New York City exhibit examines the creation of Verdi’s last two operas: here.

2 thoughts on “Anti-nazi Till Eulenspiegel opera on stage

  1. Pingback: Vincent Ehindero Blogger Award, thank you thebibliophilewriter! | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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