Hans Werner Henze – Labyrinth (1951)

The London Sinfonietta
Hans Werner Henze

In 1951, when I was artistic director of a small ballet company attached to the National Theatre of Wiesbaden, I wrote this psycho-chamber-jazz ballet for it. It was never staged because the company dissolved before we could put it on. I conducted the score in a concert on the Darmstadt-Frankfurt a.M. Music Festival on May 29th, 1952.

The ballet tells the story of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur, in a condensed, anagogical and anagrammatical fashion. It is, as a subject, quite similar to Gozzi’s “The King Stag” which I composed as an opera three years later. –Hans Werner Henze

I. Permanent Menace: Adolescents of Knossos under the threat to be fed to the Minotaur.
II. Cantus choralis: Plea to Theseus to kill the monster.
lll. Conflict: Ariadne tries to prevent Theseus from facing the dangers involved by going into the Labyrinth and challenging the Minotaur. But Theseus is adamant.
IV. Variation: She invents the device of the thread stuck to Theseus, made to pull him back out of the Labyrinth in case he would get lost in it.
V. Minotaurus Blues: Theseus in the Labyrinth fights the Minotaur and kills him.
VI. Fantasy in Rose: Theseus and Ariadne happily reunited among the people of Crete who are grateful to be liberated from their nightmare.

Art by Jeffrey Smart


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