Siegfried Matthus (1934–2021) Kronprinz Friedrich
Eine Erinnerung – eine Klaustrophobie (Chamber Opera) 1999/2000 Duration: 80' Text: Thomas Höft
World premiere of the 1st version: Rheinsberg, 1999
World premiere of the 2nd version: Radebeul, 2000
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Characters: Friedrich (mezzo-soprano) - Katte (mezzo-soprano) - Friedrich Wilhelm; Father (bassbariton) - Sophia Dorothea, Mother (alto) - Wilhelmine, Friedrich’s Sister (soprano) - Dorothea RITTER (soprano) - Parish Priest (baritone) - Judge (bass) - Watchsoldier (tenor) - 2 Gravediggers (tenor, bass) - 4 Soldiers (tenors, baritone, bass)
In their opera “Crown Prince Frederic” Siegfried Matthus and Thomas Höft lead us back to an authentic episode of German 18th century history. The eighteen year old Frederic, later King Frederic “the Great”, is forced by his father, King Frederic William, into a strong and cruel military career. The king’s violence is notorious. Wife and children are often beaten up by him in public. The boy interested and gifted in arts, especially music and poetry, puts up resistance against his father’s despotic orders. He falls in love with his young military confidant lieutenant Katte and persuades him to plan to escape to Britain where his uncle reigns. But the secret is discovered, Frederic is arrested and his father forced him to watch the execution of Katte whose head is cut off in front of the crown prince’s prison. Frederic bows to the king’s will and changes into a cold and lifelong broken character.
“Don’t expect an historic opera”, Götz Friedrich, director of the “Deutsche Oper Berlin”, (who gave the idea and staged the première performance as his last new theatre work before he died) wrote about “Crown Prince Frederic”. In a chamber musical and intimate style young people are singing and playing the longings and distresses of young people. In ancient times as well as nowadays.”
The opera works in style of a scenic collage. In his prison Frederic remembers different situations of his life. Like in dreams people appear, his mother, his sister, his friend, speaking to him, leading his fantasy beyond the walls. Like in an ancient Greek theatre play a small chorus explains situations, combines scenes and makes comments about emotions of the main characters. But as in a nightmare, the father forced his son back to reality.
The father-son-conflict is the main theme of this work. Not as depiction in black and white: The “soldier king” Frederic William himself is a victim of the aristocratic system. Deeply pietistic Lutheran he believes in controlling emotions. Fighting against his own hidden homosexual attraction by his soldiers, his choleric character, his own weakness, he puts all aggressions on his family especially his eldest son, “to make him a better man as I could ever be”.
“In this way”, Götz Friedrich wrotes, “the concrete historic episode steps back behind the bigger question, if there is today a similar situation between fathers and sons. Is the death of love – the freezing of hearts – necessary also in today’s societies, if someone wants to be successful in politics or business? The fate of Frederic is a case of alarm also in modern times, where violence takes place in schools and young people are in permanent danger: by hate, arrogance and fanatism. The pitilessness of fathers seems not to be the right answer.”