Opera Scotland

Creation The Creation; Die Schöpfung

Music

Franz Joseph Haydn (born Rohrau, 31 March 1732; died Vienna, 31 May 1809)

Text

Gottfried van Swieten

Source

Anonymous, from Books of Genesis and Psalms, and the epic poem Paradise Lost (Milton).

 

Premieres

First Performance: Vienna, 19 March 1799.

First Performance in UK;

First Performance in Scotland: tbc.

 

Background

During his visits to London, Haydn came to know and admire the works of Handel, especially the great oratorios. During his years at Eszterhazy he had only composed one work in the form, Il ritorno di Tobia. In his last years he turned again to oratorio, inspired largely by English literary subjects, which became The Creation and The Seasons.

The English text was given to Haydn by the impresario Solomon, who had organized those London visits. It is believed that the text had been compiled some years earlier for Handel to set, but this was never done. In Vienna, to help him with the composition, Haydn had it shortened and translated into German by Baron Gottfried van Swieten. He was an educated and scholarly man, but when required to retranslate that German text back into English that fitted Haudn's musical line, his lack of idiomatic English rather let him down. This published version has always been criticized, and attempts have been made to produce a more acceptable English text, without much success. Many musicians insist on only using the German version. However, despite, or perhaps because of, these infelicities, the traditional version is widely loved and enjoyed, and continues to be the version favoured in performance, in Britain at least.

 

Characters

Gabriel , an archangel (soprano)

Uriel, an archangel (tenor)

Raphael, an archangel (bass)

Eve (soprano)

Adam (bass)

 

Plot Summary

The orchestral introduction is an advanced-sounding Representation of Chaos, after which the six days of creation are described. The phases include the creation of the Earth itself, the coming of Light, stars, seas, rainfall and the development of plants. The second sequence shows the development of animal life - fish (including whales), lions and tigers, deer, insects and even earthworms. Eventually man appears, and the final sequence shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, blissfully unaware of the fate that awaits them.

The Cast

Adam
 
Eve
 
Gabriel
 an archangel
Raphael
 an archangel
Uriel
 an archangel

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