Een Tanthologie

Een Tanthologie (An Aunthology) (1986/87)
with financial support of the Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst
first performance: November 6-1987, Koninklijk Conservatorium, Den Haag

  • Jan Derksen (tenore) – nephew
  • Ans van Dam (alto) – aunt
  • Charles van Tassel (baritone) – notary
  • Lieuwe Visser (bass) – doctor
  • Klein Omroep Koor
  • Radio Kamer Orkest
  • conductor: David Porcelijn


The opera is based on a collection of short stories ‘Die Psychologie der Erbtante – Eine Tanthologie aus 25 Einzeldarstellungen als Beitrag zur Lösung der Unsterblichkeitsfrage’ by the German author Erich Mühsam (1878-1934).
Twenty-five short stories in which the score is settled with the  petty bourgeois at the beginning of the 20th century in a very ironical way.
Each story has the same pattern: a nephew is trying to get the inheritance of his aunt, but in the end he doesn’t succeed. The libretto, written by Fer Bank, has the same pattern.
It consists of two acts, the first one divided into a prologue and an epilogue, and in between a second act called: Looking back.


Aunt Zerlinde is dead. Her nephew is mourning beside the coffin. The prospects of a considerable inheritance are favourable. Nevertheless, he doesn’t trust them. Because he himself and many other nephews and nieces hoping for a large inheritance were greatly disappointed in the past. To illustrate this, he tells what happened to him and his aunt Henriëtte.

This aunt was rich and … in love with her nephew. After the doctor had ascertained that she was as good as dead, she made her will with the help of a notary.  Her nephew would be the sole heir on one condition: he had to say only ‘yes’ to her proposal of marriage. The nephew, being unaware of this condition, speeded up her death by luring her into a wild dance. She died of exhaustion without his ‘I will’. He inherited nothing.

The nephew is still mourning beside the coffin of aunt Zerlinde. Again he studies the facts and comes to the following conclusion: aunts will die, like everybody else, but for nephews and nieces, who are only after their money, they are immortal.  That’s why they will never inherit anything from rich aunts.
Zerlinde’s will is opened and her dog inherits everything. Besides, she is rising to her feet again from the coffin. She is immortal! The nephew’s conclusion has been proved. The notary and doctor certify him insane and stay behind with unpaid bills.