Universal Edition - Ernst Krenek – The Secret Kingdom

Ernst Krenek
The Secret Kingdom

Opus: op. 50
Year of composition: 1926-1927
Year of arrangement: 2002
Subtitle: Märchenoper in 1 Akt
Scored for: for chamber orchestra
Composer: Ernst Krenek
Arranger: Rainer Schottstädt
Librettist: Ernst Krenek
Original Language: Deutsch
Parts: Der König, Bariton
Die Königin, Koloratursopran
Der Narr, Bariton
Der Rebell, Tenor
Die drei singenden Damen: Sopran, Mezzosopran, Alt
Erster Revolutionär, Tenorbuffo
Zweiter Revolutionär, Baßbuffo
Ein Wächter, Tenor
Choir: SATB
Instrumentation: 1 1 1 1 - 1 0 0 0 - perc(2), pno, str(1 1 1 1 1)
Instrumentation details:
clarinet in B
horn in F
perc(2): tubular bells, wood drum, ratchet, cymbal, triangle, tam-tam, snare drum, tambourine, tenor drum, bass drum
violin I(1)
violin II(1)
Scenery: 2
Duration: 55′
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Work Introduction

Reducing the orchestra of Krenek’s one-act opera and making it accessible to children by changing some of the libretto was the idea of Christian Schuller who, apart from his work as a stage-director, also led the series of operas for children at the Cologne Opera. In his opinion, it was scarcely possible to find works for the musical theatre created specifically for children which they would take seriously. Therefore he set out to find operas with music which would appeal to the younger generation and had the scores reduced so the orchestras would fit in tiny pits. Schuller himself undertook the necessary changes to the texts; that is the background of this version of Krenek’s fairy-tale opera.

After an initial series of very successful performances in Cologne, it was played in Erfurt and Hamburg before it appeared again in Cologne.

Excerpt from the Cologne programme booklet:

Like the king in Krenek’s operas The Secret Kingdom and Karl V, Lear has renounced his power. When his daughters repulse him, only the Fool (who has already foreseen the calamity, although no one has listened to him) remains at his side.

Lear himself becomes a fool in the drama’s pivotal moment, the stormy night on the heath. It is only after this experience that he can be cured of his bitterness and his pain. Krenek’s King cannot find himself until after his external transformation into a fool in Nature.

While in the first scene of The Secret Kingdom the Fool is a wise admonisher who sees through the workings of the world and society more clearly than anyone else, his kinship with the sprite Puck in Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream also becomes apparent in Scene Two. The Fool is in close contact with Nature and knows its secret power. He is the one who, like Puck, ultimately restores order among the sleeping people, who entrusts them with Nature’s healing powers and who speaks the epilogue at the end. But during the piece he is already moving between the levels of fairy tale and reality, slipping into the role of commentator, becoming the only one to make direct contact with the audience.

View the full score

2 Ensembles that have played this work:

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