Evening Prayer (“Abendsegen”)

Evening Prayer (“Abendsegen”)

Work Name: Evening Prayer (“Abendsegen”) Act 2, Scene 2 from ‘Hansel and Gretel’
Composer/Origin: Engelbert Humperdinck
Composed/Published/1st Appeared:  Composed in 1891 and 1892, Premiered in 1893
Piece Style/Time Period: Aria (duet)
Genesis: The genesis of this opera was unusual and more than a little fortuitous. Humperdinck‘s sister wanted to put on a show for a family children’s party and hit on the idea of dramatizing the Grimm Brothers’ tale of Hänsel and Gretel. She asked her brother if he would write a little music for her project, and he happily provided some musical numbers. The entertainment went off so well that the composer decided to expand what he had written into a three-act opera.

He was fortunate also that he sent the completed score to Richard Strauss, who immediately recognized its excellence. Strauss conducted the work’s premiere, and it vaulted instantly into fame; within a year there was scarcely an opera house in the entire German-speaking world that had not performed it. The opera was also produced in English in London, and the English company took their production across the Atlantic to New York as early as October 1895.

Technically, the work is an intriguing construction according to Wagnerian music drama principles. There are plenty of harmonic and orchestral devices inspired by Wagner, yet Hänsel und Gretel does not make an impression of being at all Wagnerian in terms of solemnity, seriousness, or excessive length. The familiar tale fits well with the musical universe originally developed by the colossus of the Ring cycle to represent a supernatural world. Though the story is elaborated with a few additional characters, it is clearly comprehensible even to young people with no prior exposure to opera. Hänsel und Gretel is regarded as the leading children’s opera in the repertoire.

Lyrics:
Abends, will ich schlafen gehn,
Vierzehn Engel um mich stehn:
Zwei zu meinen Häupten,
Zwei zu meinen Füßen,
Zwei zu meiner Rechten,
Zwei zu meiner Linken,
Zweie, die mich decken,
Zweie, die mich wecken,
Zweie, die mich weisen,
Zu Himmels-Paradeisen.

Work Example(s): 

Opera Setting Boys Choir of the Choir Academy 2 Sopranos
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