Elegie für junge Liebende 16/17 013 © Werner Kmetitsch

Opera in three acts (1961)

Music by Hans Werner Henze                               

Libretto by Wystan Hugh Auden and Chester Simon Kallman

German version by Ludwig Landgraf in collaboration by Werner Schachteli und Hans Werner Henze

In German with German surtitles

Production of Theater an der Wien

Premiere: Tuesday, 2 May 2017, 7 pm until 10 pm (Intermission: 8.30 pm)

Performances: 4 / 7 / 9 / 11 May 2017, 7 pm


Hans Werner Henze and his librettists, the English poets Wystan Hugh Auden and Chester Simon Kallman, dedicated Elegy for Young Lovers, a commissioned work first performed in 1961 at the Schwetzingen Festival, "to the memory of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Austrian, European and master librettist". The work was intended to hover between ironic comedy and tragedy in the spirit of Hofmannsthal. Satirical elements are juxtaposed with melancholy and even harrowing ones. Like a chamber play, a drama about an artist unfolds that is open to many interpretations and was inspired by William Butler Yeats' motto, "The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life or of the work". Henze created a contemporary score to the drama that never forgets its attachment to European operatic tradition. The composition possesses enormous musical diversity, a nuanced, transparent sound pattern that always abides by the primacy of the vocal part and does justice to the libretto's wealth of relationships with classical recitatives and also extends to highly virtuoso solo and ensemble passages.


Despite the fact that he is well looked after by his entourage and his young muse Elisabeth Zimmer, the famous poet Gregor Mittenhofer is suffering from writer's block. Like a parasite, he draws inspiration from the visions of the half-mad Hilda Mack who has been waiting for forty years for her husband who went missing in the mountains. When Toni Reischmann, the son of Mittenhofer's doctor, arrives he and Elisabeth fall in love and decide to go away together. The young woman finds it hard to leave the ageing literary genius, but in the presence of the others he releases her in an act of apparent magnanimity. But once he is alone, he allows his jealousy free rein. In the meantime, the body of Hilda Mack's husband has been found on the glacier. This brings her back to reality, and Mittenhofer fears that his source of inspiration will now run dry. He asks the young couple to fetch him a particular flower from the Hammerhorn to stimulate his poetic mind. No sooner have Elisabeth and Toni set off than a snowstorm breaks out. When the mountain guide asks whether anyone is out on the mountain, Mittenhofer says there is not. The young couple die in the mountains. Some time later, Mittenhofer presents his latest masterpiece, Elegy for Young Lovers, at a gala reading in a Viennese theatre.



Marc Albrecht


Keith Warner

Stage design

Es Devlin

Costume design

Tom Rand

Light design

Wolfgang Göbbel


Luke Halls

Hilda Mack

Laura Aikin

Carolina Gräfin von Kirchstetten

Angelika Kirchschlager

Dr. Wilhelm Reischmann

Martin Winkler

Toni Reischmann

Paul Schweinester

Elisabeth Zimmer

Anna Lucia Richter

Gregor Mittenhofer

Johan Reuter

Josef Mauer

Martin Berger


Wiener Symphoniker


Photos Gallery

Elegie für junge Liebende 16/17

Premiere: May 2nd, 2017
Director: Keith Warner
Conductor:  Marc Albrecht
New production of the Theater an der Wien
Photos: © Werner Kmetitsch