THE MAD KING at Koninklijke Schouwburg, The Hague and on tour

20th January – 14th March.

Maniacal Musical Theatre presented by OPERA2DAY & New European Ensemble in collaboration with Museum Speelklok with music by Peter Maxwell Davies, Georg Friedrich Händel and Brendan Faegre


During the lockdown, OPERA2DAY keeps an eye on the future, in which the halls will hopefully be full again. For now, we adapt to the circumstances and, with the New European Ensemble and in collaboration with Museum Speelklok, are bringing a fully-fledged new traveling production in corona format: The Mad King. An immersive and colorful theater experience, with music by Peter Maxwell Davies, Georg Friedrich Händel and Brendan Faegre, which we can perform entirely in accordance with the RIVM measures applicable at the time of play.

Surrounded by his strange bird collection, a powerful man in isolation fights his delusions. He cranks his barrel organ and becomes inspired by the sound and color of remarkable mechanical instruments: everything to stifle the cackling voices in his head. But then a strange guest flies in. It is a migratory bird from Asia, which takes up residence in one of the cages, thus posing a threat to the magnificent songbirds. The beginning of a free fall, which forces him to face his fears, beliefs and habits.

Embedded in the performance are the legendary Eight Songs for a Mad King by composer Peter Maxwell Davies, which have their roots in history. He was inspired by George III of England, the monarch who, in addition to the American colonies, also lost his mind. For example, the king used the tunes from a mechanical organ to teach his collection of bullfinches to sing. In 1969 Maxwell Davies converted these melodies into a range of musical styles that form a poignant theatrical account of madness and insanity. The eccentric songs are the ultimate challenge for a baritone, who has to use his voice from frighteningly high to heart-sagging low, and who demand extreme expressiveness.

In The Mad King by OPERA2DAY and the New European Ensemble, the eight songs are played amidst the wondrous fantasies of the isolated man. The music of Georg Friedrich Händel, the court composer of George III, plays a leading role in this. The music from his operas and oratorios, also full of bird song and folk music, joins this story in a wonderful way – arranged for a range of instruments (conventional and mechanical) that together make the universe of The Mad King sound.

The Italian Stefano Simone Pintor directs the performance. He previously wrote the libretto for the very successful Vivaldi-Dangerous Liaisons for OPERA2DAY. The baritones Charles Johnston (UK) and Wiebe Pier Cnossen (NL) alternate as the maniacal man – surrounded by six caged musicians from the New European Ensemble. The musical direction is in the hands of Hernán Schvartzman; the musical universe is designed by composer and arranger Brendan Faegre. A special mention is the collaboration with Museum Speelklok – the specialist in the field of mechanical organs and musical instruments.

Click here for the full artistic team and cast. The Mad King will premiere twice on Wednesday, 20th January 2021 – at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM – in the Koninklijke Schouwburg in The Hague. Tour from 10th January to 14th March 2021.