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This article is about the opera by Henze. For other uses see The Prince of Homburg

Der Prinz von Homburg ("The Prince of Homburg") is a German-language opera in three acts by Hans Werner Henze with a libretto by Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1973). It was completed in 1958 but premiered on May 22 1960 in Hamburgmarker.


The text is based on the 1811 play, Prinz Friedrich von Homburg by Heinrich von Kleist. Frederick Bridgham prepared an English-language translation for the English National Opera/Schott 1996 production in London. Perhaps this opera shows Henze's personal dislike of German militarism.

In a 1996 lecture, extracted and translated in the programme to the ENO 1996 production, Henze mentions the Leipzig tradition from Bach to Max Reger, Hermann Grabner and Wolfgang Fortner, the Viennese classical tradition and the Second Viennese School, in particular Beethoven and Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler and Stravinsky as influences. He describes how he contrasts "the beautiful old harmonies of yesterday" used to represent the Prince's dreamworld with "serially organized military music, with a predominance of fanfare-like fourths and fifths in the twelve-note row" used for the waking world.

Performance and recording history

There have been at least two multi-national productions of the opera. The premier production was toured to London in 1962.

A revised production, by Nikolaus Lehnhoff, was debuted in the Cuvilliés Theatremarker, Munichmarker in 1992 and brought to London by the English National Opera(ENO) in 1996. A DVD of this production, recorded in Munich in 1994 by Bavarian State Opera, has been released with Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting and with a cast including François Le Roux in the title role, MariAnne Häggander as Natalie and William Cochran and Helga Dernesch as the Elector and Electress.

Elgar Howarth won a 1997 Laurence Olivier Award for conducting ENO's Die Soldaten / The Prince of Homburg at the London Coliseummarker.[296487]

Nicholas Williams in his review of the above production for The Independent says that the opera is "a popular repertoire piece on the continent."


  • Friedrich Wilhelm, Elector from Brandenburgmarker (tenor)
  • The Electress, his wife (contralto)
  • Princess Natalie of Orange, her niece (soprano)
  • Field Marshal Dörfling (baritone)
  • Friedrich Artur Prince of Homburg (high baritone)
  • Colonel Obrist Kottwitz, in the Prince's regiment (bass)
  • Count Hohenzollern, attached to the Elector (lyric tenor)
  • Four officers (tenor, baritone, bass, tenor)
  • Three ladies-in-Waiting (soprano, mezzo-soprano, mezzo-soprano)
  • Sergeant (baritone)
  • First and second orderlies (tenor, baritone)
  • Count Reuss (non-singing part)
  • Manservant (non-singing part)


The opera is set in Fehrbellinmarker in Brandenburgmarker during the Prusso-Swedish Wars in the seventeenth century, immediately around the Swedish defeat at the battle of Fehrbellin in 1675

Prince Friedrich and Princess Natalie are in love, and she is promised to him by the Elector. Field Marshal Dörfling outlines the plan of battle, but the Prince day-dreams about the princess. During the battle, not having listened to the orders he was given, he attacks prematurely, endangering the outcome by sending his cavalry after retreating Swedes. Nevertheless, the attack was successful. The Elector orders the arrest of the disobedient officer. The Prince is imprisoned, and the Elector is expected to ratify the sentence of death. The Prince appeals through Princess Natalie, but she is told that the Prince must agree with the legitimacy of the sentence. Natalie uses her Dragoons to free the Prince. Meanwhile, the Elector, knowing that he has taught the Prince his lesson, decides to pardon him. Blindfolded, the Prince is led towards his execution, but when the blindfold is removed, the Elector gives him the hand of the Princess.


  1. Headington, C. Westbrook, R. & Barfoot, T. (1991) Opera:A History, London, Arrow.
  2. Programme to ENO production 1996.
  3. Programme to ENO production.
  4. Search of Amazon and other retailer websites, 24 May 1997
  5. Different sources vary on the number of officers present. The current list has been taken from the programme to the ENO production in 1996.


  1. Early versions of this article were based on the equivalent German-language wikipedia article (retrieved June 1, 2006).
  2. Information about the opera, including synopsis and character list
  3. "The Prince of Homburg," Andrew Porter, The Musical Times, Vol. 103, No. 1435 (Sep., 1962), pp. 604-605.
  4. Clements, Andrew: 'Prinz von Homburg, Der', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed June 1, 2006), Grove Music.
  5. English National Opera: 'The Prince of Homburg', programme for production June 22-July 5 1996.

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