Pass notes No 1839: Hans Werner Henze

Hans Werner Henze
Age: 75 in July.

Happy birthday, Hans: Indeed. The Royal Opera House is marking the occasion by putting on one of his early operas, starting next Tuesday.

Marvellous. What's it called? Boulevard Solitude.

Oh yes, the one he wrote with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Er, no, you're thinking of Sunset Boulevard.

Well, I'd like to see it anyway. Any problem getting tickets? How many thousand do you want?

It's not proving popular? Covent Garden has only sold 30% of the tickets for the six scheduled performances, and is now giving them away to opera-loving celebs such as Esther Rantzen and Joanna Lumley.

Why not Anthea Turner? Her taste is for Gregorian chant, apparently.

What's the problem with Henze? Modern, German, fondness for atonal music. Is that enough?

I think I'll stay in and wash my hair. Then you'll miss the free oysters and champagne Covent Garden is offering punters brave enough to book.

What's the opera about? Sex, drugs, death - the usual stuff. It's a reworking of Manon Lescaut.

Sounds great. Unfortunately for Henze, Puccini and Massenet got in first with tune-filled versions..

Poor Hans. He must be terribly depressed. Unlikely. As a left-wing gay man who has spent a lifetime of self-imposed exile in Italy trying to come to terms with his father's role in the Nazi party, he has had more pressing concerns than the Covent Garden audience's inability to stomach anything more challenging than Tosca.

Not to be confused with: Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Do say: "It's only 75 minutes long. What a shame they didn't do König Hirsch. In the original five-hour version, of course."

Don't say: "Couldn't we go to Pavarotti in the Park instead?"

The GuardianTramp

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