Egon Wellesz: Die Opferung des Gefangenen
The Sacrifice of the Prisoner, Op. 40
Capriccio C5423

Wolfgang Koch, Robert Brooks, Ivan Urbas, Hoe-Seung Hwang, Patricia Dewey
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Konzertchor
Friedrich Cerha
Oct 2020 (Live)
World Premiere Recording
Total time 56'07


  1. Prelude 3:14
  2. Heil dir, König! 2:27
  3. Tapferer Krieger 4:18
  4. Jetzt wird er zahlen für seine Taten! 4:55
  5. Abschied genommen hast du von deinen Bergen  4:55
  6. Dance No. 1 (Dance of the Six Goblets)  2:10
  7. In Wahrheit, da ist nichts 2:47
  8. Dance No. 2 (Dance with the Garments, King's Dance)  6:05
  9. O König Hobtoh! 1:04
  10. Wie? Was ersehnst du 2:18
  11. Dance No. 3 (Dance by the Princess)  4:17
  12. O, König, sieh hier das Pfand 2:51
  13. Dance No. 4 (War Dance by the Eagles and Jaguars)  2:54
  14. So lautet die Rede des Prinzen 4:14
  15. Dance No. 5 (Farewell from the Mountains and Valleys of Home)  2:23
  16. Laments 1:45
  17. Death of the Captured Prince, Ritual Sacrifice 1:20
  18. Apotheosis 0:47
  19. Ehre dir Tapferer! 1:15

Wolfgang Koch gives the Field Commander’s declamatory pronouncements grandeur…
The orchestral playing is impeccable and there are strongly-voiced interventions from the choir as the initially hostile populace.
The conductor Friedrich Cerha proves a determined advocate for this obscure piece.

Opéra Mai 2021

In musical terms, Die Opferung des Gefangenen shows Egon Wellesz at the height of his creativity, aesthetically emancipated from his mentor Schoenberg as he continued to evolve his own, unmistakable musical voice.
The events of 12 March 1938 put a sudden end to this highly successful career: as a Jew, monarchist and writer of ‘degenerate music’.
The 53-year-old musician was immediately removed from all of his posts and pursued by the police after ‘the seizure of power’.
Following a long illness, Wellesz died in Oxford in 1974.


“This West Indian tragedy has remained the sole dramatic work of a heroic world in pre-Columbian times that, after a flourishing heyday, was abruptly terminated by foreign violence” (Egon Wellesz in 1925).
Die Opferung des Gefangenen what exactly is it supposed to be?: it is both opera and ballet and at the same time it is neither an opera nor a ballet. It’s a hybrid, and an extremely interesting one indeed! Wellesz was always deeply invested in developing his own style, so that almost all his compositions speak a different ‘language’. He was trained by Schönberg who, in addition to the twelve-tone technique, also taught him to use a large dose of expressionism.
Die Opferung des Gefangenen the subtitle ‘Ein Kultisches Drama für Tanz, Sologesang und Chor’ and it was composed on a libretto by Eduard Stücken after the Mayan play ‘Rabinal Achi’. It is about a conflict between the Quiché and the Rabinal Indian tribes, at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The premiere took place on 2 April 1926 in Cologne, and it was conducted by Eugen Szenkar.

  • After the Anschluss in 1938, Wellesz (Jewish and author of ‘Entartete Musik’) fled to Oxford where he died in 1974. Nowadays we rarely hear his music.
  • The recording that Capriccio has now (re?) released on CD is from 1995 and it is an absolutely good one, for which I am very grateful. But how I would love to experience this work live, because on CD you miss half of it, namely the ballet!

    Basia con Fuoco April 2021