Cast & crew
music: Jan-Peter de Graaff
libretto: Yuri Robbers
director: Saskia Bonarius
film and images: Caroline Keman
Kaiser Wilhelm II: Eva Kroon (mezzo-soprano)
station manager: Ginette Puylaert (soprano)
bass clarinet: Vincent Martig
accordion: Wilco Oomkes
percussion: Antonio Pierna García
double bass: Julián Sarmiento Escobar
featuring on violin: Pieter van Loenen
About the performers
Eva Kroon and Ginette Puylaert, who play the two male characters, are highly accomplished singers on their way to the top of the opera world, and both participated in young talent projects at the Dutch National Opera. They are accompanied by violinist Pieter van Loenen (finalist and Audience Prize winner Dutch National Violin Competition 2016) and the ensemble But What About, who together form an active part of the dramaturgy. The ensemble But What About consists of clarinet, accordion, double bass and percussion and won the Grote Kamermuziekprijs 2016 of the conservatories of The Hague and Rotterdam.
The year is 1918: The Great War is nearing its end. The German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, arrives at the Dutch border in exile, seeking asylum in the Netherlands. However, the Dutch government was not notified in advance of the Kaiser’s arrival and takes its time to decide whether the royal visitor is welcome or not.
Pending the government’s decision, the Kaiser (mezzo-soprano Eva Kroon) is stuck at the railway station of Eijsden, a small town at the southern border of the Netherlands. There, he meets the station manager (soprano Ginette Puylaert), a man whose character, lineage and political views are in complete dissonance with that of Kaiser Wilhelm. The two gentlemen have a fiery discussion, but despite all the differences they have one thing in common: a total lack of control over their own situation.
A historical event with a contemporary twist, wrapped into a compact chamber opera: De Grens is an attractive performance of 25 up to 45 minutes that brings new music close to the audience. The length is flexible because the two scenes can be performed separately. Due to its small setup - two singers and five instrumentalists - De Grens can be performed both in concert halls and in less traditional locations, such as industrial buildings or living rooms, and even multiple times a day. The opera makes use of unique film material from 1918, supplemented with new footage.
This opera has been commissioned by Marc & Jonne Zoutendijk. Mr Zoutendijk is the instigator behind the yearly opera route Salone dell’Opera in Vught. To celebrate Salone dell’Opera’s 5th anniversary, he asked Jan-Peter de Graaff to compose a new chamber opera, who gladly took on the chance to continue his collaboration with librettist Yuri Robbers. This commission was facilitated by Donemus’ new initiative Compose4you, which aims to put clients in direct contact with composers.
The resulting 25-minute chamber opera De Grens premiered in Vught on April 22nd and was met with spectacularly enthusiastic responses. The entire cast & crew of this chamber opera agreed that this project was so special - and the suspense with regard to Kaiser Wilhelm’s fate so unbearable - that a second scene will be created, making a full-length performance of De Grens that will last 50 minutes.