Rembrandt was famous for his portraits: rosy cheeks, smiling women, luscious naked curves.
He lived with his wife, Saskia, in love and luxury. Hers is the plump face that smiles out of so many of his works.
But as an old man, Rembrandt did not paint laughing women. He died alone, destitute. The women he loved — his wife, his mistress, and his last muse — were gone. One to consumption, one to the plague, one confined without cause to an insane asylum at his own bidding.
Discover this extraordinary story in the first revival of this 2009 chamber opera by Andrew Ford and Sue Smith.
For decades, Andrew Ford has championed music in cars and living rooms as host of the ABC’s Music Show. Now you can hear one of his own works, with a poignant libretto by playwright and screenwriter Sue Smith (Saving Mr Banks, Hydra).
Warwick Stengards conducts this lyrical work featuring a nine-piece ensemble. Richard Anderson is the embattled painter. Taryn Fiebig performs as Saskia and as Rembrandt’s maid and muse, Hendrickje. Agnes Sarkis performs as his mistress, Geertje.
A new production by director Tabatha McFadyen invites you into the Opera Australia scenery workshop, where vast sets and ingenious props take shape.
How I yearned to be good — how
I tried. But all that was good in me
died with a girl in a summer hat.
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Set & Costume Designer
Rembrandt van Rijn
Saskia van Uylenburgh / Hendrickje Stoffels
Govert Flinck / Torquinius / Judge / Councillor
Running time: approximately 75 minutes, with no interval.
Sung in English.
Rembrandt was a famous, lauded painter. His works were prized across Holland and Europe.
But Rembrandt died destitute and alone. He was rejected by the art world, the church and his friends.
His beloved wife and two mistresses were dead.
This is the story of his extraordinary fall from grace.
It is the darkest time in the life of Rembrandt van Rijn. His beloved wife, Saskia, has recently died, leaving him to raise their only child, Titus, alone. Haunted by visions of Saskia, Rembrandt seeks solace by beginning an affair with his son’s nurse, Geertje Dircx.
But Geertje is soon replaced in both Rembrandt’s affections — and his bed — by the young housemaid, Hendrickje Stoffels, who will become his greatest muse.
The rejected Geertje takes revenge by suing Rembrandt for a broken engagement. In his turn, in collusion with Geertje’s family, Rembrandt has her committed to an institution. But, it seems, cosmic justice demands retribution: Rembrandt’s work begins to fall from fashion. Others are overtaking him as the fashionable “stars” of the Dutch art scene. And he has lived extravagantly, way beyond his means.
Bankrupt, morally tarnished by his adulterous relationship with Hendrickje, and facing utter destitution, Rembrandt is forced to make a heartbreaking choice — he sells the only thing he has left of any real value: the exquisitely engraved marble headstone he bought, in more prosperous times, to sit atop Saskia’s grave. And, with it, the grave itself. Saskia’s bones are dug up and discarded to make room for the grave’s next occupant. Destitute, disgraced but unbowed, Rembrandt vows to defy fashion, convention and orthodox morality: he will concede nothing to the expectations of the outside world. He will go to his own grave as he has lived: paintbrush in hand.