La Piccola Cubana


Music by

Hans Werner Henze,  Arrangement for
chamber ensemble by Jobst Liebrecht

Text by

Hans Magnus Enzensberger after motifs from the novel
»Canción de Rachel« by Miguel Barnet

»La piccola Cubana« tells the turbulent story of the vaudeville singer Rachel against the backdrop of social upheavals in pre-revolutionary Cuba. Long after the premiere in 1974, Hans Werner Henze and Hans Magnus Enzensberger discussed a chamber music version of their television opera »La Cubana«, which was inspired by elements of songspiel and performed in an arrangement by Jobst Liebrecht.

In 1969 the writer Miguel Barnet published his testimonial novel »Rachel’s Song«, a fictional »eye-witness account« of shifting social conditions in Cuba. Tivoli and circus stages form the settings for Rachel’s narratives, combining memory and illusion. For the composer Hans Werner Henze, who travelled to Cuba, the island was a place of longing that inspired him politically and artistically, even years afterwards. In the early 1970s together with Hans Magnus Enzensberger, he conceived the opera »La Cubana oder ein Leben für die Kunst« (La Cubana or a Life for Art). Its classification as »vaudeville« refers to a multifaceted structure in the scenes and music that combine songspiel and music-theatrical grotesque. A libretto revision entitled »La piccola Cubana« and the concertante »Lieder und Tänze aus der Operette La Cubana« (Songs and Dances from the Operetta La Cubana) were produced as counterparts to the large-scale production of »La Cubana«. These represent the textual and instrumental basis for the arrangement that Henze was no longer able to finish before his death in 2012.