Laci Boldemann: Svart är vitt - sa Kejsaren (Black is White - said the Emperor)
A Fairytale opera in a prelude and two acts.
The Opera takes place in the orient at the beginning of the Christian era, that is around the time when the three wise men went out in search of a star.
Black is White, said the Emperor was performed successfully at the Swedish Royal Opera in the mid nineteen sixties. It is a complete opera for children and families, which came to stay on the repertoire for three whole years. The libretto is the biggest piece of writing for the stage by the Swedish author and renowned poet Lennart Hellsing.
It is a fairy tale opera for both children and adults and as such an odd phenomenon on the Swedish opera stage, as well as internationally. Along with Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, which is also intended for an entire opera evening, Black is White, said the Emperor is one of very few existing real family operas. It consists of two acts with intermission and was composed for an orchestra of 27 musicians, a choir, a ballet corps and ten soloists. In other words it is a real opera without the economical compromises that so often follow suit when a musical performance is intended for younger listeners.
The present recording of Black is White, said the Emperor is the only complete recording known to exist. It was made at the Royal Opera House at the very first performance on 1 January 1965.
Laci Boldemann was born in Helsinki in Finland. His grandfather on his mother’s side was the writer Arvid Järnefelt, whose brother Armas was Court Conductor at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. Their sister Aino was married to Jean Sibelius and Laci met them all. His grandfather on his father’s side was a friend of Sibelius and the song Den första kyssen (The First Kiss) was dedicated to him.
The music is easily accessible, tonal and with catchy tunes, often with a simple folksong flavour. It was written for an orchestra of 31 players and the score is colourful, rhythmical and the chorus have a lot to do. The scene with the Emperor and the Court, opening the first act, immediately after the prelude, could just as well have been culled from a Broadway musical. Solo arias are mostly short and beautiful. The boy, who is the hero of the tale, has several solos. The Princess has a couple of lovely solos as well, the first act ends with a beautiful quintet. In act 2, which is more coherent, there is an oriental dance and in the finale the Prince and the Princess sing a love duet. Boldemann utilises leitmotifs very effectively and there is even some electronic music.