Henze: Das verratene Meer / Young, Vienna State Opera Orchestra

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‘I find myself increasingly occupied with matters of the human soul, its sublimation and spiritual abyss. Certainly my opera The Ocean Betrayed betrays this preoccupation. This music has been to Hades and back, with Monteverdi and myself.’ Hans-Werner Henze. Henze originated this storyline by following his fascination that he had of the work of the enfant terrible of post-war Japanese literature, Yukio Mishima (1925 - 1970), whose novel “Gogo no Eiko” forms the basis of the opera. This novel, like almost all of the author's creations, sketches a suffocating scenario of hopelessness in which the struggle for normality is doomed to failure. Henzes free-tonal score ties in with musically-dramatic principles of composition following the tradition of Richard Strauss. In symphonic interludes, the luxurious orchestra gives the eponymous hero a voice: the angry “betrayed sea.”


Despite his stylistic adventurousness and position as a political outsider, Henze was the last composer in the German operatic tradition (think of it as Late, Late German Romanticism), and his score beautifully exploits the lush forces of the Vienna Philharmonic. Since, as he noted, “Mishima’s novel is teeming with references to all things French”, he adopts a French musical style, mixed with Japanese elements of rhythm and exotic percussion. The vocal lines are compelling, and conductor Simone Young reveals both the work’s dense beauty and the sustained, gut-wrenching brutality of the final scenes.

Josh Lovell’s sweetly smooth lyric tenor establishes a chilling contrast between Noboru’s youth and his malevolent nature and explains Ryuji’s easy affinity with the boy. Erik Van Heyningen’s powerful bass voice is a bit mature for the gang leader (“Number One”), but Henze’s writing demands it, and his vocal authority reflects his power over the others. Vera-Lotte Boecker is a magnificent singing actress; her lean and supple sound is perfect for the sensuous Fusako, and she glides effortlessly through the coloratura of the 13th scene, as Fusako imagines a happy future for the newly formed family. Bo Skovhus shouts a bit on fortes, but his singing in the gentler sections is appropriately ingratiating.

-- American Record Guide

Product Description:

  • Release Date: October 01, 2021

  • Catalog Number: C5460

  • UPC: 845221054605

  • Label: Capriccio

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Hans Werner Henze

  • Conductor: Simone Young

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Vienna State Opera Orchestra

  • Performer: Bo Skovhus, Erik Van Heyningen, Jörg Schneider, Josh Lovell, Kangmin Justin Kim, Martin Häßler, Stefan Astakhov, Vera-Lotte Boecker


  1. Das verratene Meer (The Betrayed Sea)

    Composer: Hans Werner Henze

    Ensemble: Vienna State Opera Orchestra

    Performer: Josh Lovell (Tenor), Vera-Lotte Boecker (Soprano), Bo Skovhus (Baritone), Eric Van Heyningen (Baritone), Kangmin Justin Kim (Countertenor), Stefan Astakhov (Baritone), Martin Häßler (Baritone), Jörg Schneider (Tenor)

    Conductor: Simone Young