De ondergeschoven Koningin

De ondergeschoven Koningin (The illegitimate Queen) (2005)

with financial support of the Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst
first performance:  16-11-2006, Plantagedok Theater, Amsterdam
Het Nederlands Zangtheater
Miny Dekkers/Geleijn van der Ham – accordions
Anneloes Meier/Niels Meliefste/Frank Wienk – percussion
design: Neel Staats
director: Pepijn Cladder
conductor: Anthony Zielhorst

It is a choir opera, so everything is done by members of the choir, the tutti passages as well as the rather short soli. Even the role of the speaking voice may be played by the whole choir or members of the choir.
It is based on Libretto voor een gewezen Koningin (Libretto for a former Queen) by the Dutch writer A.Alberts, who died in 1995.
Different from what one would expect judging by the title, this is not a libretto in great detail but only a sketchy description of what a libretto about the life of the 17th century Polish queen Marie Kazimira could look like.
Nevertheless, Alberts’ text is used as a libretto for this choir opera with only a few very small changes. What was meant as just a sketch, is upgraded to a full-grown textbook.
At the end Alberts complains that the opera De ondergeschoven Koningin (The illegitimate Queen) hasn’t been written yet.  At last this gap has been filled now.


A search for a suitable title for the opera about the life of Marie Kazimira Sobieska (1641-1716) is going on. She was a woman of French descent, who had been queen of Poland as long as her husband, Jan Sobieski, had been king.
After his death she was forced to go to Rome where she turned out to be a benefactress of the arts.

It is 1645. Marie is four years old. She is just about to leave for Poland together with her mother, who is also called Marie and married by proxy with the king of Poland. But not until Louis XIV, at that moment seven years old and rather fat, has said goodbye. He dances with the four years old Marie a slow courante. Then they leave Paris, given a send-off by cardinal Mazarin.

The sleeping room of the king of Poland. A messenger announces that Marie and her daughter are on the way to Poland. He also mentions the rumour that the little Marie is an illegitimate child. The king refuses to believe this and cheerfully starts his dinner, which has just been brought in. Then he falls asleep.

In the meanwhile the little Marie has grown up. She has found shelter in a nunnery. While the nuns are singing a ‘kyrie eleison’ in a low voice, Jan Kazimir Sobieski enters the stage. He confesses to  his love for Marie and it is requited. The nuns don’t agree at all, but both lovers are undaunted. And in case he would be king of Poland, she would be the queen, in spite of the doubts about her descent.

The Polish parliament. A noisy affair! Uproar is reigning. There are hot discussions about the question who should be the successor of the deceased king. Various candidates present themselves, among them Jan Sobieski. He sees his chances multiplied when a group of Turks enter the stage and declare war in name of the sultan. Jan Sobieski calls for a horse and hurries to the battlefield near Vienna.

Jan Sobieski defeats the Turks. Christian civilization has been saved! By way of thanks he is crowned king. So Marie becomes a queen.

Jan Sobieski dies. His widow has to leave the country. She goes to Rome. As patroness of the arts she commissions Domenico Scarlatti to write an opera. After some discussion about the subject, he writes Tolemeo ed Alessandro.  But no doubt, an opera about her own life would have been more interesting. And, at last, this opera has been written now!