3 Der König Kandaules

Der König Kandaules

Der König Kandaules (King Kandaules) is an opera in three acts by the Austrian composer Alexander von Zemlinsky. Its libretto was adapted by the composer from Franz Blei's German translation of the play Le roi Candaule by French author André Gide.


Composition history

Zemlinsky completed the short score of the opera in 1935, but the orchestration remained unfinished when the composer, due to his Jewish ancestry, fled the Nazis into exile in the United States in 1938. Zemlinsky hoped for a production at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but when the principal conductor Artur Bodanzky (a former pupil of Zemlinsky's), told him that a nude scene in the second act would make the opera unstageable there, Zemlinsky abandoned the project. He began work on a new opera, Circe, but only the short score of the first act was completed by the time of his death in 1942.

In 1990, the British conductor and musicologist Antony Beaumont discovered that is was possible to complete the orchestration of Der König Kandaules without additional composition. He did so after receiving an official commission from the Hamburg State Opera in 1991.[1]

Performance history

Thus, the work had its belated premiere on 6 October 1996 at the Hamburg State Opera, conducted by Gerd Albrecht. It has enjoyed several productions since, becoming Zemlinsky's third most performed stage-work, statistically ranking only behind his two one-act operas Eine florentinische Tragödie and Der Zwerg.

The opera has been given in various opera houses in Europe and South America:


Role Voice type Premiere Cast[8][9]
6 October 1996
(Conductor: Gerd Albrecht)
The King tenor James O'Neal
Nyssia, his wife soprano Nina Warren
Gyges, a fisherman baritone Monte Pederson
Phedros baritone Klaus Häger
Syphax bass Peter Galliard
Nicomedes baritone Mariusz Kwiecien
Pharnaces tenor Kurt Gysen
Philebos bass Simon Yang
Sebas tenor Ferdinand Seiler
Archelaos bass Guido Jentjens


The opera is set in Lydia, in ancient times.

Act 1

During the preparations for a feast, the Lydian king Kandaules announces that he wants to show his wife Nyssia unveiled to his favourites for the first time. When a magic ring (that makes whoever wears it invisible) is found in the belly of a fish, the king summons the fisherman Gyges. At first, the fisherman is indifferent, but when it is revealed that his wife Trydo has been unfaithful to him, he kills her in front of all the guests. Kandaules is fascinated and invites Gyges to his castle.

Act 2

Kandaules wants to share his immense wealth, including his beautiful wife, with all his friends. He convinces Gyges to use the magic ring in order to behold the naked Nyssia. Events turn against the king, when the invisible Gyges spends the night with Nyssia, who mistakes the fisherman for Kandaules.

Act 3

Gyges reveals his true identity to Nyssia and expects to be executed. Nyssia however feels humiliated and betrayed by her husband, and orders Gyges to kill the king. She then crowns Gyges the new king of Lydia.



  1. ^ a b Christian Wildhagen (2002). "Unveiled Artefact". Friends' Magazine for Friends and Patrons of the Salzburg Festival. http://www.festspielfreunde.at/english/frames/200112/ef_200112_02.htm. Retrieved 15 August 2010. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Opera Reviews". The Opera Critic. November 2004. http://theoperacritic.com/reviewsa.php?schedid=vvokonig1104. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  3. ^ "Opera Reviews". The Opera Critic. September 2005. http://theoperacritic.com/reviewsa.php?schedid=buekonig0905. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "Opera Reviews". The Opera Critic. January 2006. http://theoperacritic.com/reviewsa.php?&schedid=orwkonig0106. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Frits van der Waa (26 November 2007). "Drie formidable zangers in zwanenzang Von Zemlinsky" (in Dutch). De Volkskrant. http://www.xs4all.nl/~fvdwaa/art/vk1986.htm. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  6. ^ Dieter Lintz (March 2009). "Kaiserslautern, Zemlinsky: König Kandaules" (in German). Kultuniversum/Opernwelt. http://www.kultiversum.de/Oper-Opernwelt/Panorama-Zeichenhafte-Klarheit.html. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  7. ^ Anke Groenewold (21 June 2010). "Umjubelte Premiere der Zemlinsky-Oper Der König Kandaules" (in German). Neue Westfälische. http://www.nw-news.de/owl/kultur/3610728_Umjubelte_Premiere_der_Zemlinsky-Oper_Der_Koenig_Kandaules.html. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "Musical events 6 October 1996". Italy: AmadeusOnline. http://www.amadeusonline.net/almanacco.php?Start=0&Giorno=6&Mese=10&Anno=1996&Giornata=&Testo=&Parola=Stringa. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "Alexander von Zemlinsky: Der König Kandaules (2cd)". Germany: JPC. http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/lang/en/currency/EUR/hnum/8056528/art_hex/416c6578616e6465722d766f6e2d5a656d6c696e736b792d4465722d4bf66e69672d4b616e6461756c6573. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  10. ^ Christopher Webber (December 2004). "Zemlinsky Der König Kandaules". MusicWeb International. http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Dec04/Zemlinsky_Kandaules.htm. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 


  • András Batta: Opera - Komponisten, Werke, Interpreten (Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2000, Dutch translation)

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