Opera in three acts (2019)

Composer Hans Abrahamsen · Libretto by Hans Abrahamsen and Henrik Engelbrecht Hans Christian Andersen's tale
First performance of the version in English with German and English surtitles | New Production

Saturday, 28. December 2019
07:30 pm – 09:50 pm

Duration est. 2 hours 20 minutes · 1.+2. Akt (est. 07:30 pm - 08:30 pm ) · Interval (est. 08:30 pm - 09:00 pm ) · 3. Akt (est. 09:00 pm - 09:45 pm )

Introductory Event: 06:30 PM

Prices K , € - /- /- /- /- /- /- /10

Premiere at 21. December 2019


This performance will be broadcasted live via the internet as part of Staatsoper.TV.

This production will be broadcast live on BR-KLASSIK

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Hans Abrahamsen
Cornelius Meister
Andreas Kriegenburg
Set Design
Harald B. Thor
Costume Design
Andrea Schraad
Michael Bauer
Zenta Haerter
Stellario Fagone
Malte Krasting

Barbara Hannigan
Rachael Wilson
Kay (Double)
Thomas Gräßle
Grandmother/Old Lady/Finn Woman
Katarina Dalayman
Snow Queen/Reindeer/Clock
Peter Rose
Caroline Wettergreen
Dean Power
Forest Crow
Kevin Conners
Castle Crow
Owen Willetts
  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester
  • Chorus of the Bayerische Staatsoper
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Two children, Gerda and Kay, are intimately connected, as if destined for one another. But something distracts Kay’s heart and eye and suddenly they are estranged, as if they lived in two different worlds. Abducted by the Snow Queen, Kay physically disappears from Gerda’s life. She begins a long search for her friend, until she finds him again in the snow and ice, and cries the diabolical splinter out of him with her tears. With the benefit of so much more experience, both are now ready to become adults. Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen fairy tale is the template for Hans Abrahamsen’s first opera. Following years of examining the “snow” theme and a lifelong analysis of Andersen’s fairy tale the Danish composer wrote it with his own libretto from 2014 to 2018: “There are so many layers in this fairy tale. You can read the text in different ways. It holds many secrets and you can interpret it in many ways.” His music with its finely changing structures and subtly adjusted repetitions give the text depth and lightness at the same time. Just a few weeks after the world premiere in Copenhagen, the Bayerische Staatsoper presents the English version premiere, with soprano Barbara Hannigan, who decisively inspired Abrahamsen to compose the opera, embodying the role of Gerda for the first time. Director Andreas Kriegenburg stages The Snow Queen as the story of adults for an adult audience, as a journey into the inner sanctum of the human soul.

Recommended age: 16 years and older


After many years of shared memories, two people have developed a close bond. Suddenly, one partner pulls away; becomes withdrawn, unreachable. Yet, rather than giving up on the relationship, his partner chooses to hold on. She risks everything to restore the intimacy and regain the connection that time had forged. The burden of responsibility is hers alone to bear. It takes time and energy. The love is strong, but with every passing day exhaustion builds, ultimately leading even to anger and despair. It is an arduous journey with an uncertain outcome.

Act 1

Scene 1
Gerda and her friend Kay listen to the Grandmother telling them of the Snow Queen who flies through dense snow storms. Kay imagines them luring the Snow Queen into their warm room and watching her melt.
Gerda tells Kay of how the devil created a magic mirror which makes beautiful things appear ugly. She explains that the mirror smashed into a million tiny pieces and that anyone getting one of these splinters in their eye or heart would only see the imperfections in things; the coldness causing their hearts to become numb.
Kay is so afraid that he cannot sleep; outside his window he sees the Snow Queen and is terrified.

Scene 2
Gerda and Kay look at the roses in bloom. Suddenly, something pierces Kay in the heart and then in the eye. From this moment on he notices only the blemishes on the flowers, mocks Gerda and tears the petals from the roses. Gerda watches his behaviour in dismay.

Scene 3
Kay wonders at the symmetry of the ice crystals. Instead of playing with Gerda he only wants to play with the other boys, who don’t let him join in their game. The Snow Queen arrives on her sleigh and takes Kay with her.

Scene 4
The Snow Queen flies with Kay to her ice palace. She kisses him on the forehead, causing him to lose his feeling of coldness and forget the world he once knew.

Act 2

Scene 1
Gerda has begun the search for Kay and finds herself in the Old Woman’s garden who wishes to keep her there.

Scene 2
The flowers in the Old Woman’s garden sing Gerda the song of the three dead sisters, but Kay, so they say, is not dead. Gerda leaves the garden and continues her search.

Scene 3
The Forest Crow tells Gerda of the Princess who sought a husband with intelligence to match her own. Gerda believes that this chosen one could be Kay. The Forest Crow takes Gerda to the Prince and Princess’s castle.

Scene 4
The Castle Crow allows Gerda to enter. Sinister shapes, like in a nightmare, scare her.
Standing before the Prince and Princess’s bed Gerda realises her mistake.
The Prince and Princess reward the Crows for their good deed and promise to help Gerda.
Gerda is permitted to sleep in the Prince’s bed. In a dream she sees Kay on his sleigh.

Act 3

Scene 1
The Prince and Princess lend Gerda their golden coach so she can continue her search for Kay. All wish her a good journey.
In the forest the coach is ambushed by robbers. Everyone but Gerda is killed. The Reindeer carries her further into the freezing north until she arrives at the Finn Woman’s house.

Scene 2
The Reindeer tells the Finn Woman of how Gerda was held captive by the robbers. Doves had told her that Kay was with the Snow Queen, and the Robber Girl had set her free. The Finn Woman explains to the Reindeer the reason for Kay’s disappearance. She declines to endow Gerda with special powers, for Gerda is already in possession of all the abilities she needs. She instructs the Reindeer to take Gerda as far as the Snow Queen’s kingdom and then to return.

Scene 3
The Reindeer bids farewell to Gerda, kissing her on the mouth and weeping. Gerda is suffering from the bitter cold. The Snow Queen’s guards threaten her, wanting her to turn back. Gerda’s breath transforms into guardian angels, who drive the spirits away.

Scene 4
In her ice palace the Snow Queen instructs Kay to find the perfect word before leaving the palace. Kay is almost petrified from cold and despair. When Gerda finds him, both begin to weep. His tears cause the mirror splinter to be washed from his eye, while that in his heart melts away. Kay and Gerda discover the word ‘eternity’.

Scene 5
Kay and Gerda return home. At the house, the Grandmother is still reading a picture book, the clock is ticking and the roses are growing in the valley as before. Kay and Gerda have grown up and yet remained children at heart. It is summer again.

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Der dänische Komponist Hans Abrahamsen ist eine der originellsten und eigenständigsten Stimmen der zeitgenössischen Musik. Er begann seine Karriere mit einem Horn- und Kompositionsstudium. Es folgten erste eigene Werke, die bereits internationale Resonanz fanden wie zum Beispiel Winternacht. Während einer mehrjährigen, von ihm „Fermate“ genannten schöpferischen Pause orchestrierte und bearbeitete er Stücke von Johann Sebastian Bach, György Ligeti, Carl Nielsen, Robert Schumann, Arnold Schönberg und Claude Debussy, deren Musik auch seine eigenen Kompositionen beeinflusst. Sein Werk Schnee für Kammerensemble wurde 2008 uraufgeführt. Um dieses Werk kreist ein inhaltlich und motivisch verbundener Zyklus von Kompositionen, der immer weiter wächst. Sein Klavierkonzert für die linke Hand (Left, alone) und das Monodram let me tell you, das er für Barbara Hannigan geschrieben hat und mit dem seine Musik endgültig weltweit bekannt wurde, gehören genauso dazu wie seine erste Oper The Snow Queen nach Hans Christian Andersens gleichnamigem Märchen.

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