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Hans Werner Henze

Composer

Biography

The German composer Hans Werner Henze (1926–2012) wrote some forty operas, music theatre works and dramatic works. His operas include Boulevard Solitude, Der Prinz von Homburg, Elegy for Young Lovers, The Bassarids, We Come to the River, The English Cat and Phaedra. He wrote the music for Frederick Ashton’s Ondine, given its premiere in 1958 by The Royal Ballet. The Royal Opera gave the world premiere of We Come to the River in 1976, and performed Boulevard Solitude in 2001. In the 2018/19 Season The Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists stage Phaedra in the Linbury Theatre.

Henze studied at Braunschweig’s state music school, and at Heidelberg University and the Darmstadt New Music Summer School. He moved to Italy in the mid-1950s, during which period he abandoned the twelve-tone technique he had used in early compositions. In the 1960s he taught masterclasses in composition at the Salzburg Mozarteum. In 1976 he founded the Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte in Montepulciano for the promotion of new music. He taught composition at Cologne Music School from 1980 until 1991, and in 1988 founded the Munich Biennale. His honorary positions and awards included an Honorary Doctorate from the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich, and an Honourary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music. The English version of his autobiography, Bohemian Fifths, was published in 1998.

Henze’s vast body of music embraces styles including neoclassicism, atonalism, jazz, the twelve-note technique, and has also incorporated rock, popular and folk music. Along with his opera and music theatre works his compositions include ten symphonies, concertos for violin, piano and double bass, several ballets, orchestral and choral works, chamber music and songs. His commitment to socialist politics is highlighted in works including Voices, for mezzo-soprano, tenor, electronics and 15 instrumentalists, which includes songs to texts by Bertolt Brecht and Ho Chi Minh.

News and features

How The Royal Opera has kept opera looking forward for more than three hundred years

25 May 2017
How The Royal Opera has kept opera looking forward for more than three hundred years

The ROH has been home to major opera premieres dating all the way back to our first resident composer Handel – as material from ROH Collections shows.

Operatic Pacifism

30 January 2014
Operatic Pacifism

In preparation for English Touring Opera's production of King Priam, we look at how pacifist ideals have influenced opera in the last century.

Hans Werner Henze dies aged 86

29 October 2012
Hans Werner Henze dies aged 86

The German composer's work with the ROH included the ballet Ondine and opera Boulevard Solitude.

Photos

Michael Mofidian as Minotaur and Filipe Manu as Hippolyt in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Filipe Manu as Hippolyt in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu as Phaedra in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Michael Mofidian as Minotaur in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Patrick Terry as Artemis in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu as Phaedra in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Jacquelyn Stucker in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Michael Mofidian in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu and Filipe Manu in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Filipe Manu as Hippolyt and Hongni Wu as Phaedra in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Filipe Manu as Hippolyt in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Jacquelyn Stucker as Aphrodite, Hongni Wu as Phaedra and Filipe Manu as Hippolyt in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu as Phaedra, Filipe Manu as Hippolyt, Patrick Terry as Artemis and Jacquelyn Stucker as Aphrodite in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu as Phaedra and Filipe Manu as Hippolyt in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Filipe Manu as Hippolyt in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu as Phaedra in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Patrick Terry in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Noa Naamat and Filipe Manu in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Production photo of Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Jacquelyn Stucker as Aphrodite and Hongni Wu as Phaedra in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Patrick Milne and Edmund Whitehead in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Filipe Manu in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu and Filipe Manu in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Production photo of Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Patrick Terry as Artemis and Filipe Manu as Hippolyt in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu as Phaedra in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Filipe Manu as Hippolyt and Hongni Wu as Phaedra in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu as Phaedra, Filipe Manu as Hippolyt and Jacquelyn Stucker as Aphrodite in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Filipe Manu as Hippolyt and Hongni Wu as Phaedra in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hongni Wu as Phaedra in Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Michael Mofidian and Hongni Wu in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Michael Mofidian and Hongni Wu in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Filipe Manu in rehearsal for Phaedra, The Royal Opera

Hans Werner Henze