The peasant farce De bruiloft van Kloris en Roosje (The Wedding of Kloris and Roosje) was one of the most frequently performed music theatre pieces in Dutch history. From 1707 on, it was performed at almost every turn of the year, as an afterpiece to the famous tragedy Gijsbrecht van Aemstel by Joost van den Vondel. This tradition lasted more than two centuries and a half. It extinguished as late as the sixties of the twentieth century.
The original music for De bruiloft is thought to have been lost in 1772, when the Amsterdam City Theatre burned down. In this article I will investigate to what extent the original music can be reconstructed. After the fire, the musical director of the Theatre, Bartholomeus Ruloffs, composed new music. In the second part of this article (to be published in the next issue of this journal) I will investigate Ruloffs’ music.
The text of De bruiloft is attributed to Dirck Buysero (1644-1708) and Jacob van Rijndorp (1663-1720). Buysero probably wrote the first part and Van Rijndorp the second part. In the first part, which comprises three scenes, we witness how the young peasant Krelis is courting Elsje. An analysis of formal aspects of the text reveals that most of this episode must have been sung. Buysero probably had his text set to music by a composer. I could trace the melody of just one of the songs in a contemporary song book, thanks to the Dutch Song Database of the Meertens Institute.
The second part of the play seems to have been basically spoken. It shows the preparation of the wedding by Tomas and Pieternel, the parents of the groom. They welcome the guests, including Krelis and Elsje, who arrive in the last scene. The party can then start. There is a wedding meal, Krelis and Elsje sing songs, several couples dance and the newly married couple are offered presents by the guests. Krelis accompanies his gift with a short, scrabrous stanza sung by him. At the end, there are a common song and a common contradance. Note that the singers Krelis and Elsje have more important roles than the wedding couple Kloris and Roosje after whom the farce is named.
I was able to trace the melodies of three of the four songs from the last scene. Moreover it became clear that three songs were taken over from existing songs, slightly adapted to the situation, or, in the case of Krelis’ stanza, provided with new text. It remains unclear whether the concluding song, sung by all, was taken over from another source or written especially for the play. Anyway, it was added to the text as late as 1730.
In the last scene, a dance is indicated four or five times, either by mixed couples or by two girls or, at the end, by all attendants. Contemporary sources of instrumental popular music yielded the melodies of four dances from De bruiloft.
In performing research into the musical aspects of the play I also got a better insight into the genesis of De bruiloft. The first printed edition appeared in The Hague in 1706, followed by similar editions in Rotterdam (c. 1712) and Leiden (1727). In the title, the farce is announced as a ‘Boeren-Operaatje’ (Little Peasant Opera). Alongside this tradition in the South of Holland, where the presumed authors where active, an Amsterdam printing tradition began in 1707 and continued on into the twentieth century. In the Amsterdam editions the piece is called ‘kluchtspel met zang en dans’ (farcical play with singing and dancing). These editions have a different version of the text, which was rewritten by the actor Thomas van Malsem. Essentially, he kept the first, sung part as it was but rewrote the dialogues of the second part. Nevertheless he closely followed the structure of the dialogues, and he did not change the texts of the songs.
Two plays prior to De bruiloft should be mentioned here. De vryadje van Cloris en Roosje (The Courtship of Cloris and Roosje, 1688), probably written by Buysero with music composed by Servaas de Koning, is a pastorale in which the shepherd Cloris succeeds in winning Roosje’s hand. The play may be regarded as a predecessor of De bruiloft, in which the wedding of Cloris en Roosje is celebrated, although in De bruiloft they become Dutch peasants. The music of De vryadje has been lost, but I found one melody back in the Dutch Songs Database. Also the music of Het Boere-Opera, of Kloris en Roosje (The Peasant Opera, or Kloris and Roosje, 1700) has been lost, but again I could trace one melody. This ‘Peasant Opera’ consists of the entire first part of De bruiloft, i.e. the courtship of Krelis and Elsje, followed by a pastoral part in which a shepherd called Thirsis, left alone by his girl-friend Cloris (!), finds comfort in wine. Roosje does not appear at all. This poorly composed pastiche shows that Buysero must have started work at De bruiloft at least seven years before its first publication in 1706.