Estonian National Opera
Georg Ots, Tiit Kuusik …
Opera by Villem Kapp in 4 acts and 5 scenes. Double CD, archive recording from 1960ties. Released on Sep 16th, 2011.
Lembitu, the elder of Sakala County – Tiit Kuusik
Meelis, his son – Georg Ots
Kaupo, the elder of Livonians – Teo Maiste
Mare, his daughter – Aino Külvand
Folkvin, master of the order – Georg Taleš
Alobrand, pater – Ervin Kärvet
Manivald, a young soldier – Heino Otto
Hendrik, a monk – Ants Aasmaa
Niilo, an elder – August Sepp
A guard in Toreida – Artur Linnamägi
Albert, a knight – Heino Raudam
Bernhard, a knight – Harald Kard
Estonian National Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Conductor: Kirill Raudsepp
Recorded in 1966 by Asta Kuivjõgi
From the archives of ERR and Melodija
Restored and produced by Jüri Kruus, mastered by Marika Scheer
Photos from the archives of Estonian National Opera
Liner notes by Jüri Kruus and Inna Kivi
Booklet compiled by Liina Viru
Designed by Stella Tillo
Co-produced by Peeter Vähi
Total time 60:58 + 50:17
Score published by Eres Edition
Licensed from ERR and Jüri Kruus
The libretto of Villem Kapp’s (1913–1964) opera Lembitu is based on Juhan Sütiste’s play Ristikoerad (Lembitu), bringing the heroic moments of the ancient Estonian fight for independence against the supremacy of German crusaders in the 13th century to contemporary opera stage. The libretto was finished in 1959 in cooperation with Astrid Pirn, the actress of Pärnu Drama Theatre. The piano score was ready in 1961, soon followed by the 600-page full score.
The première of Lembitu, staged by Udo Väljaots, took place at the Estonian National Opera on August 23rd, 1961. The high artistic level of our top soloists was a great contribution to its success. Lembitu was sung by Tiit Kuusik, Meelis by Georg Ots, Mare by Aino Külvand and Kaupo by Ott Raukas or Teo Maiste. Other characters, carved by the quill of the composer’s fantasy, add captivating scenes to the opera in contrasting colours, turning the audio-picture of Udo Väljaots’ staging into an interesting and exciting event. The opera was conducted by Kirill Raudsepp. The open-air performances of Lembitu at the Lehola fortress in Suure-Jaani on July 8th, 1962 and on the Chapel Hill of Pirita on July 2nd, 1966, became the highlights of Estonian music life of the time and are remembered even today.
People have gathered around a pyre to mourn their heroes killed in war. The victims include Lembvald, son of Lembitu.
Priest Alobrand and monk Hendrik, sent as envoys by the Livonian chief Kaupo, arrive at Lehola stronghold – the men are also collaborators of the order master Folkvin and spies. The monks tell Lembitu that his other son called Meelis, also thought to be dead, is actually alive and imprisoned by Kaupo. On behalf of Kaupo, they want to trade Lembitu’s son for Kaupo’s daughter Mare who, in turn, is held in prison by Lembitu.
Lembitu is all for the exchange and decides to travel all the way to Toreida on this occasion.
Mare is happy to return home, yet sad to say farewell: she is reluctant to leave Lehola where Lembitu treated her like his own daughter.
Knights are revelling at Toreida castle. Priest Alobrand returns from Sakala and tells the order master about the outcome of his trip, and mentions that Lembitu had made a military pact with the Prince of Novgorod. Folkvin is excited about the news.
Several defeats by Estonians have made the order master cautious. The knights need more troops. Kaupo is summoned – he is given a message by the Pope and declared the King of Livonia. Kaupo’s ambitions are fulfilled and he promises to give three thousand men, though he is not sure about their willingness to help because he knows that he has lost people’s trust. The order master and knights are happy to see that “simple-minded” Kaupo has become their obedient servant. A message is delivered that Lembitu himself has arrived in Toreida, and Mare is with him. Bewildered by Lembitu’s courage, the knights want to kill him. The order master, however, is more cunning: “Why should we kill Lembitu? This is not a clever thing to do. Let Kaupo influence the guest.” Kaupo, however, fails to talk Lembitu into betraying his people. Lembitu gets his son back. Over the past six years, Meelis has been trained as a monk who has estranged even from his own father. When Meelis is about to leave Toreida, Alobrand follows the command by the order master and gives Meelis a dagger for killing Lembitu. The priest persuades Meelis that it would please the church if he killed his pagan father, and takes an oath from him.
The stronghold is being reinforced in Lehola. Manivald who accompanied Lembitu on his trip to Toreida is telling the builders amusing stories about life abroad. Meelis, clad in his monk’s attire, is tormented by his promise, given to the church, to kill his father. Gripped by religious frenzy, he is about to attack Lembitu but at the last moment realises the atrocity of his intentions. He asks for his father’s forgiveness and declares himself Lembitu’s son again. The people and their leader are happy for Meelis. Everybody’s high spirits are cut short by Mare’s arrival. She has escaped from Toreida and delivers a message that large troops of the order have crossed Sakala’s border. Men are preparing for the battle.
An autumn night at Lembitu’s war camp. Everybody is in suspense. Lembitu is deeply concerned about the next day. He recalls an old battle song… Meelis and Mare who have fallen in love with each other meet again. The young lovers are very happy, but…The dawn is already breaking, there is the sound of a war horn, and Meelis joins the troops heading to the battle.
Kaupo is deadly wounded. Before dying he realises that it was a grave mistake to trust his knights. Alobrand who is sneaking past robs the dying Kaupo of his money. Meelis catches him red-handed and kills him. Mustering his last strength, the seriously wounded Lembitu returns from the battlefield, supported and helped by his companions. The dying leader persuades his people to fight for their freedom.
Almost for a century and a half, the Kapp dynasty has played an important role in the history of Estonian culture and music. The roots of the Kapp family are known to date back to the 18th century. The youngest of the family was Villem Kapp.
He was born on September 7th, 1913 as the oldest son of the family of Hans Kapp, a local sacristan and organist, a teacher and the head of the parish school in Suure-Jaani, a prominent Estonian cultural centre at that time, and was christened as William, a name which was later turned into Estonian-like Villem. Following a family tradition, Villem got the basic musical knowledge from his father. Soon after, Villem, who showed an early musical talent, was sent to the classes of the local music teacher E. Göbel. The path of education of the future composer lead him from Suure-Jaani Elementary School to the Viljandi County Gymnasium for Boys (Viljandi Maakonna Poeglaste Gümnaasium) (he continued to take piano lessons with M. Siimonson, an alumnus of the Conservatory of Leipzig and a piano teacher in Viljandi) and thereafter to the Tallinn Conservatory, which Villem Kapp graduated from in the class of August Topman in 1938 receiving a degree as an organist and then again in 1944 as a composer under the tutoring of Artur Kapp and, later on, Heino Eller.
After graduating from the Conservatory, Villem Kapp became a teacher at the Tallinn Music School. From 1945 until his death in 1964, he worked as a teacher at the Tallinn Conservatory where he held the position of the Head of Composition Department in 1957–1964. All through his life, he maintained his ties with Suure-Jaani. Whenever he had some time to spare, he visited Suure-Jaani, where he completed or started most of his musical pieces. Villem Kapp died on March 24th, 1964 of lung disease at the age of 51, when his creative career was in its prime. He was buried at Suure-Jaani cemetery, where many famous Estonian cultural figures rest, including artist Johann Köler, composers Artur Kapp and Mart Saar.
A humble man, inquisitive and frequently questioning his creative powers, Villem Kapp was somewhat left in the shade by his attractive uncle Artur Kapp (1878–1952) and his socially active cousin Eugen Kapp (1908–1996) during his life. The most valuable of his works are his sophisticated songs for choir and solo voice, which suited best for the deeply emotional and romantic nature of the composer. Besides, Villem Kapp considered most important the mood of the text and matching the rhythm of words to the music – a topic he knowingly and continuously explored. The best examples of his work that measure up to the world’s best are a song for solo voice written for the superb text by Juhan Sütiste Kui lõpeb suvepäeva viimne vine (When the Summer Day Ends) (1950) and a poem for male voice choir Põhjarannik (The Northern Coast) (1958) written for the lyrics by Kersti Merilaas as well as a lot of other songs for choir and solo voice.
Villem Kapp’s passion for nature and the way he used nature as his greatest source of inspiration for his works is reflected in his song titles such as Nõmm (The Heath), Pilvele (To The Cloud), Sina kena tammekene (You, Sweet Oak-tree), Kevadlaul (Spring Song), Kuldhommik (A Golden Morning), Rannal (On The Shore), Lumehelbeke (Snowflake) etc.
There is one other aspect that distinguishes Villem Kapp from his famous relatives. When Eugen Kapp and sometimes even Artur Kapp were ready to make compromises in their works due to the ideological pressure of the Soviet rule then Villem Kapp, a determined man with great integrity, tried to avoid such situations. When the pressure became too strong, he preferred to escape to Suure-Jaani.
… a sense of nationality that was born and had grown together with the man and the artist, a synthesis of twists, intonations and rhythm elements in the Estonian folk songs and the cheerful spurts of joy that are pressed into the framework of masculine austerity, subdued lyrics and moderateness reflecting the Nordic nature and people was the musical ground based on which Villem Kapp shaped his pieces. /…/ His works of music have more heart than intellectuality in them, they create a strong impression and the intensity of feelings that reach almost dramatic levels of his works is comprehensible and understandable already during the first hearing, their form is classically clear and mostly symmetric, and the rhythmic pattern is much stricter, clearer and more traditional compared to the modern active energy and flexibility. The same characterises the way how Villem Kapp treated harmony and melody – we rarely find here a search for novel expressions and creative experiments. /…/ The music of Villem Kapp entails quite strong motifs of the Nordic later Romanticism that somewhat divert him from the modern rhythm of life and means of expression… – summarises Helga Tõnson her book on Villem Kapp.
Villem Kapp composed in many genres. Other noteworthy pieces of music besides his songs for choir and solo voice are his Symphony No 2 (1955), Wind Quintet (1957) and opera Lembitu (1961). The composer considered the last piece his opus magnum.
The Estonian National Opera, established in the year 1906, is a historic organisation with vital traditions and manifold functions.
The EsNO’s season, lasting 10 months from Sep until Jun, contains a varied repertoire of opera, ballet, operetta, musicals and children’ pieces. Around 250 performances of up to 30 different works are presented annually, including the cream of classical opera and operetta as well as contemporary masterpieces. On the top of that, the best works of Estonian origin are also shown on the stage!
The Estonian National Opera is the home of the symphony orchestra, the opera choir and the ballet. The orchestra was founded in 1907 and it now employs almost a 100 musicians. In addition to its theatre assignments, the orchestra regularly performs symphonic works and records world classics as well as the best of Estonian music. The 54-strong opera choir, besides participating in stage productions, consistently gives concerts on its own as well. The EsNO employs as many as 25-30 soloists. As a compliment to that, it welcomes guest singers on a regular basis. The EsNO ballet, existing within the framework of the opera company and employing approximately 60 dancers, is the country’s largest ballet troupe. Young choreographers are constantly enriching its repertoire of standard favourites with contemporary pieces and occasional avant-garde projects. In order to stay open to new ideas and fresh approaches, The EsNO always makes space and time in its working schedule for joint projects of multifarious nature, and for individual guest artists. For the latter to bring their unique experience onto our stage; for the Estonian audience, to partake of a different artistic vision.
Symbolically speaking, the EsNO’s location in the heart of Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn, is a reflection of the company’s artistic position – at the centre of Estonian culture.
Other records of Estonian National Opera produced by ERP: Cyrano de Bergerac, Verdi Wagner 200, DVD Wallenberg, DVD Faust, Estonia – 100, Artist Chagall, CD + bonus DVD Voices of the Estonian National Opera / Estonia ooperihääled, DVD Georg Udukübara aaria
See also: Estonian National Opera at Glasperlenspiel Festival
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