Opera from Suriname

On 15 February we will perform Het pand der goden, a music drama by the Surinamese composer Johannes Nicolaas Helstone (1853-1927). These performances are made possible in part by the Helstone Fonds, founded by the composer's great-grandniece Astrid Helstone and her husband Diederik Burgersdijk.
Johannes Nicolaas Helstone, image: Collectie John Helstone, Allard Pierson, Universiteit van Amsterdam.
Johannes Nicolaas Helstone, image: Collectie John Helstone, Allard Pierson, Universiteit van Amsterdam.
Astrid Helstone en Diederik Burgersdijk (foto: Milagro Elstak)

The Helstone Fonds (Helstone Fund) was established by Astrid Helstone and Diederik Burgersdijk. Its aim is to finance the performance of works by the Surinamese writer, composer and musician Johannes N. Helstone, his students and other composers from the former Dutch colonies, and to increase public awareness of them.

learn more about the Helstone Fonds

Johannes Nicolaas Helstone

Johannes Nicolaas Helstone was born in the Hernhutters missionary post Berg en Dal on the Surinam River. A talented youth, Helstone was trained as a teacher, but devoted himself more and more to music. An opportunity arose to study at the conservatory in Leipzig; he graduated in 1894 and was a professional organist, pianist and composer, giving concerts in Berlin, Paris and Vienna.

Instead of further expanding his international career, he opted to return to his native land in order to help Surinamese culture develop further. He taught and was the organist of the Lutheran church and founder of the local Hernhutter Committee. He also wrote essays and studied Sranantongo, Surinam’s most widely spoken language, for which he created a grammar. In 1948 a monument to him was erected in Paramaribo.

Plantage Berg en Dal ca. 1910, Collectie John Helstone, Allard Pierson, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Enriching the repertoire

The Concertgebouw Orchestra takes pleasure in finding new pieces with which to enrich the orchestral repertoire. There are many unknown and forgotten jewels that deserve to be performed and heard alongside the familiar standard repertoire.

The performance of Het pand der goden is not an isolated event. In future the orchestra will be highlighting more music by composers from, or with a background in, the former colonial territories.

The concert will be broadcast on NPO Klassiek via AVROTROS on Sunday,  18 February at 2 p.m. 

learn more about the Helstone Fonds