Stephen Climax

Stephen Climax is an opera in three acts by Hans Zender, who wrote his own libretto based on James Joyce and Hugo Ball. It was premiered on 15 June 1986 at the Oper Frankfurt, staged by Alfred Kirchner and conducted by Peter Hirsch. The opera was published by Breitkopf & Härtel. A 1990 production at La Monnaie in Brussels was recorded.

Stephen Climax
Opera by Hans Zender
Based on
15 June 1986 (1986-06-15)


Zender wrote his own libretto, based on two literary sources, Hugo Ball's Symeon, der Stylit (Simeon Stylites) from his legends of saints,[1] and the Stephen Dedalus episodes from Ulysses by James Joyce.[2] Zender worked on the opera from 1976 and again from 1984.[3]

Stephen Climax was premiered on 15 June 1986 at the Oper Frankfurt, staged by Alfred Kirchner and conducted by Peter Hirsch. It was the only world premiere at the Oper Frankfurt during the Gielen era.[4] It was also performed at La Monnaie in Brussels in 1990 and the Staatstheater Nürnberg in 1991.[1] The opera was published by Breitkopf & Härtel.[1]


A main character of the opera is St Simeon Stylites, as described in the Acta Sanctorum. Joyce used motifs in his Ulysses which Zender read in the German translation by Hans Wollschläger.[3] His story, as a hermit who lives on a column for decades and is venerated as a saint, is juxtaposed with scenes from the novel by Joyce.[4]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 15 June 1986
Conductor: Peter Hirsch[2][3][5][6]
Simeon, Säulensteher tenor Ian Caley
Antonios bass-baritone Franz Mayer
3 Ratsuchende baritone, bass, youthful baritone William Workman[7]
Simeon's mother soprano June Card
Vorsänger tenor
Tanzlehrer Professor Maginni tenor Alfred Vökt
Stephen youthful baritone Lyndon Terracini
Leopold Bloom bass Joshua Hecht
Lynch bass Barry Mora
Bella Cohen mezzo-soprano Sandra Walker
Zoe soprano Nancy Shade
Kitty mezzo-soprano Ilse Gramatzki
Florry contralto Karen Rambo
Carr tenor William Pell
Compton tenor Bodo Schwanbeck [de]

The action takes place in the Syrian desert and in Dublin at night.[3]


Stephen Climax is scored for soloists, choir, two orchestral groups, stage music and tape playback. The duration is given as 135 minutes,[1] also as 150 minutes.[3][4]


In 1992, academy released a CD set with a live performance of the 1990 Brussels production, with Dale Duesing as Stephen, Ronald Hamilton as Simeon, Isoldé Elchlepp as Bella, and Ellen Shade as Simeon's mother, and conducted by Sylvain Cambreling.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Hans Zender (*1936) / Stephen Climax" (in German). Breitkopf & Härtel. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Griffel, Margaret Ross (2018). "Stephen Climax". Operas in German: A Dictionary. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 458. ISBN 9781442247970.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Zender Hans (*1936) (Komponist) / Stephen Climax". (in German). Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Herbort, Heinz Josef (4 July 1986). "Musiktheater: "Stephen Climax" von Hans Zender in Frankfurt: Dichter, Huren, Mönche". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  5. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Stephen Climax, premiere cast". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  6. ^ Lehn, Mathias (2018). "Hans Zender, Stephen Climax". Opera Collection. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  7. ^ William Workman. Operissimo. Retrieved March 24, 2021.

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