Rudi Stephan: The First Humans / An erotic mystery at the Dutch National Opera
The highlight of the Holland Festival 2021 is a rediscovery from the pen of the composer Rudi Stephan (1887–1915). The opera Die ersten Menschen (The First Humans) is about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and humanity’s ur-conflicts. Spanish director Calixto Bieito is taking care of the staging and François-Xavier Roth is to make his debut as conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
The Old Testament’s Creation narrative provides the basis for this “Erotic Mystery” – as the opera is subtitled. After their expulsion from paradise, Adahm and Chawa and their sons Kajin and Chabel live in a vast, sprawling landscape as the only exemplars of their species. Chawa feels alienated from Adahm and longs to return to the Garden of Eden. The sons Kajin and Chabel have very different views on life. While Kajin is driven by sexual desire, Chabel lives for his religious convictions and plays the part of the perfect son. Jealous of his mother’s love for Chabel, Kajin plans to slay his own brother…
Very few works by Rudi Stephan have survived. The composer born in Worms (Germany) in 1887 counted as one of the great musical hopes of his generation, but tragically died in the trenches of the First World War. He was twenty-eight and had only just completed his first and only opera. What few works by Stephan are known to us today – his written legacy was obliterated in a Second World War bombing raid – show the distinctive musical idiom of a young composer at the threshold of Late Romanticism, Modernism and Impressionism.
The most recent staging of The First Humans was in the 1980s. Now the Amsterdam-based Dutch National Opera is to give the work its premiere performance in the Netherlands within the framework of this year’s Holland Festival. Director Calixto Bieito is internationally famous for his uncompromising productions. The French conductor François-Xavier Roth is to conduct the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for the first time. German soprano Annette Dasch is to take the part of Chawa and the American baritone Kyle Ketelsen the role of Adahm.
Photo: © Ruth Walz / Dutch National Opera
Kyle Ketelsen (Adahm)
Leigh Melrose (Cain)
Annette Dasch (Chawa)
John Osborn (Chabel)
Composer : Rudi Stephan
Director : Calixto Bieito
Music director : François-Xavier Roth
Orchestra : Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Libretto : Otto Borngräber
Sets : Rebecca Ringst
Costumes : Ingo Krügler
Lighting : Michael Bauer
Video : Sarah Derendinger
Country : Netherlands
Year : 2021