The shepherd Simplicissimus, that »most simpleminded of men«, flees the brutality of war to throw in his lot with a forest hermit. After the latter’s death, he comes into contact with the governor, attracted by the naïve truthfulness of the young man. As court jester Simplicissimus points out the evil deeds of the great and the good to their general merriment until death arrives in the form of a plot for revenge from which only our hero is spared.
The music of Karl Amadeus Hartmann was suppressed by the Nazi authorities as »degenerate«. The composer himself claimed his work to be a form of »self-disclosure«. With the chamber opera »Simplicius Simplicissimus«, he created an ageless plea against violence and evil. In the original picaresque novel »Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch« from 1669, Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen examined that devastating trauma of 17th-century Germany, the Thirty Years’ War. In the mid-1930s, in the wake of the First World War and in the shadow of the dehumanizing catastrophes to come, Hartmann discerned the relevance of the material and its timeless allegorical truth. In 1949, following the world premiere of the work in Cologne and one year before its first performance in Dresden, the »Welt« newspaper noted that: »Hartmann’s music declaims the ideals of freedom and social justice; it sings of goodness and humanity with the tongues of angels.«
Three scenes of his youth after Hans Jakob Christoph by Grimmelshausen. By Hermann Scherchen, Wolfgang Petzet and Karl Amadeus Hartmann. Performed in German.
Running time 1 hour 25 minutes
Premiere 21 Oct 2011