— Ignatius and Fairouz’s The New Prince Premieres in Amsterdam —

The New Prince received a standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience at its world premiere last Friday. Set in 2032, it shows Machiavelli revising his book for a new era. Much of the effectiveness of the harmony between libretto and score stems from Ignatius’s skillful use of actual words used by the historical figures. Reviewer Mervyn King raves “Machiavelli would have savoured it.”

Full review by Mervyn King:  Music for Machiavelli: The New Prince in Amsterdam

Amsterdam in spring. A city at peace with its history and its place in the world today. Rulers and ruled share the same cycle paths. What better place, then, to stage the world premiere of an opera that updates Machiavelli to the challenges of the 21st century?

The New Prince received a standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience at its world premiere last Friday at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam. Set in 2032, on the 500th anniversary of the publication of The Prince, it shows us Machiavelli revising his book for a new era.

With a score by the remarkable young Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz and libretto by the brilliant American journalist David Ignatius, The New Prince reveals the insights and surprising freshness of Machiavelli’s analysis of power. The score and libretto are perfectly matched, and Fairouz and Ignatius avoid the temptation of virtuosity for its own sake in favour of a compelling drama made vivid by Lotte de Beer’s staging.

A cast of characters ranging from Alexander and Eliza Hamilton to Bill and Hillary Clinton, and from Osama bin Laden to Dick Cheney, take the stage as Henry Kissinger supervises President Wu Virtu’s education in the exercise of power. The only weak moment of the staging is the rather silly portrayal of Cheney giggling and dancing during the waterboarding scene.

Much of the effectiveness of the harmony between libretto and score stems from Ignatius’s skillful use of actual words used by the historical figures, heard to perfection in the closing aria when Machiavelli sings “When evening comes I return to my study. I enter the courts of the ancients.” The standout singer is Joshua Hopkins as Machiavelli, with Karin Strobos supporting as Fortuna, although it has to be said that the better roles are for male voices.

So hope that the production will one day come to other capitals — or jump on the next plane to Amsterdam to catch one of the half dozen performances in the Stadsschouwburg. Machiavelli would have savoured it.