HotFreeBooks.com
The Standard Operaglass - Detailed Plots of One Hundred and Fifty-one Celebrated Operas
by Charles Annesley
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

In the forest they are overtaken, but Hueon and Scherasmin, who has come after his master with Fatima, put the pursuers to flight.

Oberon now appears to the lovers, and makes them promise upon oath that they will remain faithful to each other under every temptation. He immediately after transports them to the port of Ascalon, from which they are to sail homeward. Oberon now puts their constancy to the proof. Puck conjures up the nymphs and the spirits of the air, who raise an awful tempest. Hueon's ship sinks; the lovers are shipwrecked. While Hueon seeks for {247} help, Rezia is captured by the pirates, and Hueon, returning to save her, is wounded and left senseless on the beach. Oberon now causes him to fall into a magic sleep, which is to last seven days.

In the third act we find Scherasmin and his bride, Fatima in Tunis dressed as poor gardeners.

A corsair has saved the shipwrecked and sold them as slaves to the Emir of Tunis. Though poor and in captivity they do not lose courage and are happy that they are permitted to bear their hard lot together.

Meanwhile the seven days of Hueon's sleep have passed. Awaking, he finds himself to his astonishment in Tunis, in the Emir's garden, with his servant beside him, who is not less astonished at finding his master.

Fatima, coming back, relates that she has discovered Rezia in the Emir's harem. Hueon, who finds a nosegay with a message, which bids him come to the myrtle-bower during the night, believes that it comes from Rezia and is full of joy at the idea of meeting his bride. Great is his terror, when the lady puts aside her veil, and he sees Roschana, the Emir's wife. She has fallen in love with the noble knight, whom she saw in the garden, but all her desires are in vain; he loathes her and is about to escape, when the Emir enters, captures and sentences him to be consumed by fire. Roschana is to be drowned. Rezia, hearing of her lover's fate, implores the Emir to pardon him. But she has already offended him by her {248} unwillingness to listen to his protestations of love, and when he hears that Hueon is her husband, he condemns them to be burnt together. Their trials however are nearing their end. Scherasmin has regained his long-lost horn, by means of which he casts a spell on everybody, until, blowing it with all his might, he calls Oberon to their aid. The Elfin-King appears accompanied by Queen Titania, who is now happily reconciled to him and thanking the lovers for their constancy, he brings them safely back to Paris, where Charlemagne holds his court. The Emperor's wrath is now gone and he warmly welcomes Sir Hueon with his lovely bride, promising them honor and glory for their future days.



ORFEO E EURYDICE.

Opera in three acts by GLUCK.

Text by RANIERO DI CALZABIGI.

This opera is the oldest of all we possess in our repertoire. Gluck had already written more than forty operas, of which we do not even know the names now, when he composed his Orfeo, breaking with the old Italian traditions and showing a new and more natural taste. All the charm of Italian melody is still to be found in this composition, but it is blent with real feeling, united to great strength of expression and its value is enhanced by a total absence of all those superfluous warbles and artificial ornaments, which filled the Italian operas of that time. The libretto, taken from the old and beautiful Greek tragedy, is as effective as the music.

{249}

Orpheus, the celebrated Greek musician and singer has lost his wife Eurydice. His mournful songs fill the groves where he laments, and with them he touches the hearts not only of his friends but of the gods. On his wife's grave Amor appears to him, and bids him descend into Hades, where he is to move the Furies and the Elysian shadows with his sweet melodies, and win back from them his lost wife.

He is to recover her on a condition, which is, that he never casts a look on her on their return to earth, for if he fail in this, Eurydice will be for ever lost to him.

Taking his lyre and casque Orpheus promises obedience and with renewed hope sallies forth on his mission. The second act represents the gates of Erebus, from which flames arise. Orpheus is surrounded by furies and demons, who try to frighten him; but he, nothing daunted, mollifies them by his sweet strains, and they set free the passage to Elysium, where Orpheus has to win the happy shadows. He beholds Eurydice among them, veiled, the happy shadows readily surrender her to him, escorting the pair to the gates of their happy vale.

The third act beholds the spouses on their way back to earth. Orpheus holds Eurydice by the hand, drawing the reluctant wife on, but without raising his eyes to her face, on and on through the winding and obscure paths, which lead out of the infernal regions. Notwithstanding his protestations {250} of love and his urgent demands to her to follow him, Eurydice never ceases to implore him to cast a single look on her, threatening him with her death, should he not fulfil her wish. Orpheus, forbidden to tell her the reason of his strange behaviour, long remains deaf to her cruel complaints, but at last he yields, and looks back, only to see her expire under his gaze. Overwhelmed by grief and despair Orpheus draws his sword to destroy himself, when Amor appears, and stays the fatal stroke.

In pity for Orpheus' love and constancy he reanimates Eurydice (contrary however to the letter of the Greek tragedy) and the act closes with a beautiful chorus sung in Amor's praise.



OTHELLO.

Opera in four acts by GIUSEPPE VERDI.

Text by ARRIGO BOITO, translated into the German by MAX KALBECK.

In his seventy-third year the Maestro has given to his time an opera, which surpasses his former compositions in many respects. It proves, that Verdi's genius has remained admirably fresh and that the new views and revelations, which Wagner opened to the musical world have been fully understood by the Italian. He has now broken with the unnatural traditions of the Italian opera, and has in Othello given us a work, which secures to him an honored place among the best dramatic composers.

{251}

It must not be omitted, that Verdi had a splendid second in the person of Boito, the high-minded and capable composer of "Mefistofele". He omits in his action all that is incidental, and as a consequence the force of thought and expression is the more powerful. It is written strictly after Shakespeare's original.

The opera was put on the stage in Munich in the summer of 1888 with great success.

The first scene represents the people, following excitedly the course of Othello's ship, which battles with the waves. After he has landed and informed the assembly of his victory over the Turks, shouts of joy and exultation rend the air.

Then follows a convivial chat between Cassio, Rodrigo and Jago, in the course of which the latter makes Cassio drunk. Jago's demoniacal nature is masterfully depicted here, where he soon succeeds in ruining Cassio, who loses his rank as captain.

In the third scene we see Desdemona with her husband, both rejoicing in the felicity of their mutual love.

In the second act Jago proceeds to carry out his evil intents, by sending Cassio to Desdemona, who is to intercede for him with Othello. Jago then calls Othello's attention to the retiring Cassio and by making vile insinuations inflames his deadly jealousy. Desdemona appears, surrounded by women and children, who offer her flowers and presents. She comes forward to plead for Cassio, and Othello suspiciously refuses.—She takes out her {252} handkerchief to cool her husband's aching forehead with it, but he throws it down and Emilia, Jago's wife, picks it up. Jago wrenches it from her and hides it.

In the next scene Jago's villainous insinuations work upon Othello, who becomes wildly suspicious. Jago relates a dream of Cassio's, in which he reveals his love for Desdemona, then he hints that he has seen Othello's first love-token, her lace-handkerchief in Cassio's hands, and both swear to avenge Desdemona's infidelity.

In the third act Othello pretending to have a head-ache, asks for Desdemona's lace-handkerchief. She has lost it, she tells him, but he is incredulous and charges her with infidelity. All her protests are useless, and at length he forces her to retire. Meanwhile Jago has brought Cassio and urges Othello to hide himself. Cassio has a lady-love named Bianca, and of her they speak, but Jago dexterously turns the dialogue so as to make Othello believe that they are speaking of his wife. His jealousy reaches its climax, when Cassio draws forth Desdemona's handkerchief which Jago has deposited in Cassio's house. All his doubts now seem to be confirmed. A cannon-shot announcing the arrival of a galley interrupts the conversation and Cassio quickly leaves.

In the following scene Jago advises Othello to strangle his wife. Othello consents and gives Jago a captaincy.

Lodovico, an Ambassador of Venice, arrives {253} with other nobles to greet their liberator Othello. Desdemona once more asks pardon for Cassio, but is roughly rebuked by her husband. The latter reads the order, which has been brought to him, and tells Cassio, that he is to be General in his stead by will of the Doge of Venice, but while Cassio is confounded by this sudden change of fortune, Jago secretly vows his death, instigating his rival Rodrigo to kill him. At last Othello faints, overcome by conflicting emotions.

In the fourth act Desdemona filled with sad forebodings takes a touching farewell of Emilia. When she has ended her fervent prayer (one of the most beautiful things in the opera), she falls into a peaceful slumber. Othello awakes her with a kiss, and tells her immediately thereafter that she must die. She protests her innocence, but in vain, for Othello telling her that Cassio can speak no more, smothers her. Hardly has he completed his ghastly work than Emilia comes up, announcing that Rodrigo has been killed by Cassio. Desdemona with her dying breath once more asserts her innocence, while Emilia loudly screams for help. When the others appear, Emilia discovers her husband's villany. Jago flies, and Othello stabs himself at the feet of his innocent spouse.



{254}

PAGLIACCI.

(MERRY ANDREW.)

Musical Drama in two acts and a Prologue.

Music and Text by R. LEONCAVALLO.

Translated into the German by LUDWIG HARTMANN.

In the summer of the year 1892 a rumour was going through the musical world, that Mascagni had found his equal, nay his superior in the person of another young Italian composer. When the "Pagliacci" by Leoncavallo was executed in Italy, it excited a transport of enthusiasm almost surpassing that of "Cavalleria", so that Berlin and Leipsic brought the opera on the stage as quickly as possible, and Dresden followed their example on January 22nd 1893, with the same great success.

The opera is indeed eminently qualified to produce an impression. Though less condensed in its tragic depths than Cavalleria, the music is nobler without being less realistic. In Leoncavallo the feeling of artistic form is more developed. Though of southern temper he never lets passion get the better of the beautiful and true harmony, also he is Mascagni's senior by four years.

Leoncavallo's excellent musical education is as unmistakable as the influence of Wagner's music on his genius.—He, too, introduces the "Leading Motives", but he is far from imitating his great predecessor. Like Wagner he did his text himself, and it must be owned, that it is very good. The idea was suggested to him by an event, which {255} he witnessed at Montalto in Calabria during the summer 1865, and which impressed him deeply.

In the Prologue, a wonderful piece of music, Tonio the Fool announces to the public the deep tragic sense which often is hidden behind a farce, and prepares them for the sad end of the lovers in this comedy.

The introduction with its wonderful Largo is like a mournful lamentation; then the curtain opens, showing the entry of a troop of wandering actors, so common in southern Italy. They are received with high glee by the peasants, and Canio, the owner of the troop, invites them all to the evening's play. Canio looks somewhat gloomy, and he very much resents the taunts of the peasants, who court his beautiful wife Nedda, and make remarks about the Fool's attentions to her. Nevertheless Canio gives way to his friends' invitation for a glass of Chianti wine, and he takes leave of his wife with a kiss, which however does not quite restore her peace of mind, Nedda's conscience being somewhat disturbed. But soon she casts aside all evil forebodings and vies with the birds in warbling pretty songs, which, though reminding the hearer of Wagner's Siegfried are of surpassing harmony and sweetness. Tonio the Fool, spying the moment to find Nedda alone, approaches her with a declaration of love, but she haughtily turns from him, and as he only grows more obtrusive and even tries to embrace her she seizes a whip and slaps him in the face. Provoked to fury he swears to {256} avenge himself. Hardly has he turned away when the peasant Silvio appears on the wall. He is Nedda's lover, and having seen Canio sitting in the tavern, he entreats her to separate herself from the husband she never loved and take flight with him. Nedda hesitates between duty and passion, and at last the latter prevails, and she sinks into his arms. This love-duet is wonderful in style and harmony. Tonio unfortunately has spied out the lovers and returns with Canio. But on perceiving the latter's approach Silvio has leapt over the wall, his sweetheart's body covering his own person, so that Canio is unable to recognize his rival; he once more reminds Nedda to be ready that night and than takes flight. With an inarticulate cry Canio rushes after him and Nedda falls on her knees to pray for her lover's escape, while Tonio the Fool triumphs over her misery. The husband however returns defeated; panting he claims the lover's name, and Nedda's lips remaining sealed, he is about to stab his wife, when Beppo the Harlequin intervenes, and, wrenching the dagger from his unfortunate master's hands intimates, that it is time to prepare for the play. While Nedda retires, Canio breaks out into a bitter wail of his hard lot, which compels him to take part in the farce, which for him is bitter reality. With this air the tragic height of the opera is reached.

In the second act the spectators throng before the small stage, each of them eager to get the best seat. Nedda appears, dressed as Colombine, {257} and while she is collecting the money, she finds time to warn Silvio of her husband's wrath. The curtain opens, and Nedda is seen alone on the stage, listening to the sentimental songs of Arlequin, her lover in the play. Before she has given him the sign to enter, Tonio, in the play called Taddeo the Fool enters, bringing the food which his mistress has ordered for herself and Arlequin. Just as it really happened in the morning, the poor Fool now makes love to her in play; but when scornfully repulsed he humbly retires, swearing to the goodness and pureness of his lady-love. Arlequin entering through the window, the two begin to dine merrily, but Taddeo reenters in mocking fright, to announce the arrival of the husband Bajazzo (Canio). The latter however is in terrible earnest, and when he hoarsely exacts the lover's name, the lookers-on, who hitherto have heartily applauded every scene, begin to feel the awful tragedy hidden behind the comedy. Nedda remains outwardly calm and mockingly she names innocent Arlequin as the one who had dined with her. Then Bajazzo begins by reminding her, how he found her in the street a poor waif and stray, whom he nursed, petted and loved, and Nedda remaining cold, his wrath rises to fury and he wildly curses her, shrieking "the name, I will know his name!" But Nedda, though false is no traitress. "Should it cost my life, I will never betray him" she cries, at the same time trying to save her life, by hurrying from the stage amongst the spectators. Too late alas; Canio {258} already has reached and stabbed her, and Silvio, who rushes forward, also receives his death-stroke from the hands of the deceived husband, who has heard his name slip from the dying lips of his wife. All around stand petrified, nobody dares to touch the avenger of his honor, who stands by his wife's corpse limp and brokenhearted: "Go", says he, "go, the farce is ended."



PARSIFAL.

A festival Drama by RICHARD WAGNER.

Though Parsifal is never to be given on any stage except in Baireuth (by Wagner's express wish), it must find its place here, by dint of being the master's last and most perfect composition.

In Parsifal the heavenly greatness of the Christian idea of God, which is at the foundation of the legend of the holy Grail, finds grand expression. There scarcely exists another composition of such lofty and religious spirit, as finds expression in the Communion-scene. It is not possible to imagine a more vivid contrast than that between the saintly melodies and those of the fascinating fairies, which latter, glowing with poetry and ravishing music captivate all senses.

The contents are those of the ancient German legend. The first scene is laid in a forest on the grounds of the keepers of the Grail near Castle Monsalvat. Old Gurnemanz awakes two young Squires for their morning prayer, and bids two {259} Knights prepare a bath for the sick King Amfortas who suffers cruelly from a wound, dealt him by the sorcerer Klingsor, the deadly foe of the holy Grail. The Grail is a sacred cup, from which Christ drank at the last Passover and which also received his holy blood. Titurel, Amfortas' father has built the castle to shield it, and appointed holy men for its service. While Gurnemanz speaks with the Knights about their poor master's sufferings, in rushes Kundry, a sorceress in Klingsor's service, condemned to laugh eternally as a punishment for having derided Christ, while he was suffering on the cross. She it was who with her beauty seduced Amfortas, and deprived him of his holy strength, so that Klingsor was enabled to wring from the King his holy spear Longinus, with which he afterwards wounded him. Kundry is in the garb of a servant of the Grail; she brings balm for the King, who is carried on to the stage in a litter, but it avails him not: "a guileless fool" with a child's pure heart; who will bring back the holy spear and touch him with it, can alone heal his wound.

Suddenly a dying swan sinks to the ground, and Parsifal, a young knight, appears. Gurnemanz reproaches him severely for having shot the bird, but he appears to be quite ignorant of the fact that it was wrong, and, when questioned, proves to know nothing about his own origin. He only knows his mother's name "Herzeleid", (heart's affliction), and Kundry, who recognizes him, relates, that his father Gamuret perished in battle, and that {260} his mother reared him, a guileless fool, in the desert. When Kundry mentions that his mother is dead, and has sent her last blessing to her son, Parsifal is almost stunned by this, his first grief. Gurnemanz conducts him to the castle, where the Knights of the Grail are assembled in a lofty hall. Amfortas is laid on a raised couch, and from behind, Titurel's voice is heard, imploring his son to efface his guilt in godly works. Amfortas, writhing with pain, is comforted by the prophesy:

"By pity lightened, the guileless fool"— "Wait for him,—my chosen tool."

The Grail is uncovered, the blessing given, and the repast of love begins. Amfortas' hope revives, but towards the end his wound bursts out afresh. Parsifal, on hearing Amfortas' cry of agony clutches at his heart, without however understanding his own feelings.

The second act reveals Klingsor's magic castle.

Kundry, not as a demon now, but as a woman of imperious beauty, is awakened by Klingsor to seduce Parsifal. She yearns for pardon, for sleep and death, but she struggles in vain against the fiendish Klingsor.

The tower gradually sinks; a beautiful garden rises, into which Parsifal gazes with rapture and astonishment. Lovely maidens rush towards him, accusing him of having destroyed their lovers. Parsival surprised answers, that he slew them, because they checked his approach to their charms. But when their tenderness waxes hotter, he gently {261} repulses the damsels and at last tries to escape. He is detained however by Kundry, who tells him again of his beloved mother, and when Parsifal is sorrow-stricken at having forgotten her in his thoughtless rambles, she consoles him, pressing his lips with a fervent kiss. This rouses the dreamy youth, he awakes to his duty, he feels the King's spear-wound burning; the unconscious fool is a fool no longer, but conscious of his mission and distinguishing right from wrong. He calls to the Saviour to save him from a guilty passion, and at last he starts up, spurning Kundry. She tells him of her own crime, of Amfortas' fall and curses all paths and ways, which would lead him from her. Klingsor, appearing at her cry, flings the holy spear at Parsifal, but it remains floating over his head, and the youth, grasping it, destroys the magic by the sign of the cross.

In the third act Gurnemanz awakes Kundry from a death-like sleep, and is astonished to find her changed. She is penitent and serves the Grail. Parsifal enters from the woods. Gurnemanz recognizes and greets him, after his wanderings in search of the Grail which have extended over long years. Kundry washes his feet and dries them with her own hair. Parsifal, seeing her so humble, baptizes her with some water from the spring, and the dreadful laugh is taken from her; then she weeps bitterly. Parsifal, conducted to the King, touches his side with the holy spear and the wound is closed. Old Titurel, brought on the stage in his {262} coffin, revives once more a moment, raising his hands in benediction. The Grail is revealed, pouring a halo of glory over all. Kundry, with her eyes fixed on Parsival, sinks dead to the ground, while Amfortas and Gurnemanz render homage to their new King.



PHILEMON AND BAUCIS.

Opera in two acts by CHARLES GOUNOD.

Text by JULES BARBIER and MICHEL CARRE, with an intermezzo.

This is a truly delightful musical composition and though unpretending and not on the level of Gounod's "Margaretha", it does not deserve to be forgotten.

The libretto is founded on the well-known legend.

In the first act Jupiter comes to Philemon's hut, accompanied by Vulkan to seek refuge from a storm, which the god himself has caused. He has come to earth to verify Mercury's tale of the people's badness, and finding the news only too true, besides being uncourteously received by the people around, he is glad to meet with a kindly welcome at Philemon's door.

This worthy old man lives in poverty, but in perfect content with his wife Baucis, to whom he has been united in bonds of love for sixty long years. Jupiter, seeing at once, that the old couple form an exception to the evil rule, resolves to spare them, and to punish only the bad folks. The gods partake of the kind people's simple meal, and {263} Jupiter, changing the milk into wine, is recognized by Baucis, who is much awed by the discovery. But Jupiter reassures her and promises to grant her only wish, which is, to be young again with her husband, and to live the same life. The god sends them to sleep, and then begins the intermezzo.

Phrygians are seen reposing after a festival, bacchants rush in and the wild orgies begin afresh. The divine is mocked and pleasure praised as the only god. Vulcan comes, sent by Jupiter to warn them, but as they only laugh at him, mocking Olympus and the gods, Jupiter himself appears to punish the sinners. An awful tempest arises, sending everything to rack and ruin.—

In the second act Philemon's hut is changed into a palace; he awakes to find himself and his wife young again. Jupiter, seeing Baucis' beauty, orders Vulkan to keep Philemon apart, while he courts her. Baucis though determined to remain faithful to her Philemon, feels nevertheless flattered at the god's condescension, and dares not refuse him a kiss. Philemon, appearing on the threshold sees it, and violently reproaches her and his guest, and though Baucis suggests who the latter is, the husband does not feel in the least inclined to share his wife's love even with a god. The first quarrel takes place between the couple, and Vulkan hearing it, consoles himself with the reflection that he is not the only one, to whom a fickle wife causes sorrow. Philemon bitterly curses Jupiter's gift; he wishes his wrinkles back, and with them his {264} peace of mind. Throwing down Jupiter's statue, he leaves his wife to the god. Baucis, replacing the image, which happily is made of bronze, sorely repents her behaviour towards her beloved husband. Jupiter finds her weeping, and praying that the gods may turn their wrath upon herself alone. The god promises to pardon both, if she is willing to listen to his love. She agrees to the bargain on the condition namely that Jupiter shall grant her a favor. He consents, and she entreats him to make her old again. Philemon, listening behind the door, rushes forward to embrace the true wife and joins his entreaties to hers. Jupiter, seeing himself caught, would fain be angry, but their love conquers his wrath. He does not recall his gift, but giving them his benediction, he promises never more to cross their happiness.



THE THREE PINTOS.

Comic Opera in three acts by C. M. v. WEBER.

After WEBER'S manuscripts and designs, and TH. HELL'S textbook. The musical part completed by GUSTAV MAHLER, the dramatic part by CARL VON WEBER.

Thanks to the incessant endeavours of Weber's grandson and of Gustav Mahler, the gifted disciple of Weber, a real treasure in German music has been disinterred from the fragments of the past, thus long after its composer's death. It is a striking illustration of the universality of Weber's genius that aught like this should prove to have been written by him, for his manuscript is a fragment {265} of a comic opera of the best kind. Although only seven parts were completed by the composer himself, Mahler took the remaining ten mostly from Weber's other manuscripts. He completed them himself so adroitly, that the best musicians cannot distinguish Weber from Mahler. We owe a debt of gratitude to both composer and poet, who have performed this act of piety towards the great deceased and at the same time have preserved us real musical pearls. The text is well done, though not important enough for three acts; two would have been quite sufficient.

The first scene takes us into a little village in Spain, where a student, Don Gaston Piratos bids farewell to his fellows. He is a gay and gallant youth, whose money dwindles to a paltry sum before mine host's long account. But this cunning host has a charming daughter Ines, and light-hearted Gaston flirts with the damsel, his servant Ambrosio valiantly assisting him.

The Kater-romance sung by Ines is as gracefull as it is droll and effective.

Don Pinto de Fonseca now arrives on horseback. He is so corpulent, that he is scarcely able to dismount, and he excites the curiosity and amusement of all. Having called for food and drink, he tells Gaston, that he comes to marry a rich and noble lady, Donna Clarissa de Pacheco. Fonseca's father has once rendered a great service to Don Pantaleone Roiz de Pacheco, and in reward he destined his only child Clarissa for Fonseca's {266} son. This promising young knight has a letter of recommendation from his father. He is in perplexity as to his behaviour towards such a young lady and Gaston offers to instruct him therein. Ambrosio acts as bride, Gaston shows how she is to be courted and Don Pinto gawkishly imitates his teacher's gestures. This scene is most irresistibly comic. When wine and food are brought by Ines and her servants, Don Pinto so entirely absorbs himself in satisfying his hunger and thirst, that at last the wine gets the better of him. He falls asleep and Gaston, thinking it an injury to a noble lady to be wooed by such a clown, takes away old Fonseca's letter and departs with Ambrosio. Don Pinto is carried into the house on a grass-covered litter.

In the second act Don Pantaleone's servants are assembled in the ancestral hall, where their master announces to them the approaching arrival of Don Pinto, his daughter's future bridegroom. Donna Clarissa, who already loves Don Gomez Freiros, a knight of wealth, noble birth and bearing is in despair, as is also her lover, but Laura, her pretty maid promises to find ways and means to avert the dreaded marriage.

In the third act Laura and the servants are decorating the hall with flowers. The majordomo sends them away, proclaiming Don Pinto's arrival. All go except Laura, who hides behind a bosquet. Gaston, entering with Ambrosio sees all those preparations with wonder. Ambrosio detects Laura and according to his wont begins to court her. {267} Gaston warns the damsel, and she entering into the joke mockingly quits them. Gay Ambrosio is consoling himself in a charming song of which the burden is girls' fickleness, when Don Gomez enters and touches Gaston's kind heart by the description of his love for Clarissa. Gaston tenders him Fonseca's letter, counselling Gomez to play the part of Don Pinto, for Don Pantaleone has never seen either of them. Gomez accepts the letter gratefully from the supposed Don Pinto and presents it to Don Pantaleone, who has entered with his daughter and his whole suite. Of course the father, struck by the knight's noble bearing, gives his consent to the union with his daughter and adds his benediction. But their joy is disturbed by the entrance of the real Don Pinto, who at once begins wooing in the manner he has practised with Don Gaston.

The ridiculous fellow is thought mad and is about to be turned out, when catching sight of Gaston, he loudly accuses him of treachery. Gaston however draws his sword and menaces Don Pinto, upon which the poor swain cries for mercy and is thereafter removed from the hall amidst the laughter of the whole chorus.

Imagine the assistant's astonishment, when Gaston declares, that they have turned out the true Don Pinto. Gomez believing himself betrayed challenges Gaston, and the father rages against the two pretenders. But Clarissa pleads and Gaston quietly shows to Don Pantaleone the contrast {268} between the two suitors, while Gomez is obliged to acknowledge gratefully that he owes his lovely bride solely to Don Gaston's joke. So the lovers are united.



THE PIPER OF HAMELN.

Opera in five acts by VICTOR NESSLER.

Text by FR. HOFMANN from JULIUS WOLFF'S legend of the same name.

Without any preliminary introduction to the musical world Nessler wrote this opera and at once became, not only known, but a universal favorite; so much so that there is scarcely a theatre in Germany, in which this work of his is not now given.

The subject of the libretto is a most favorable one, like that of Nessler's later composition, "the Trumpeter of Saekkingen"; the principal personage Singuf, being particularly well suited for a first-rate stage hero.

Then Wolff's poetical songs are music in themselves, and it was therefore not difficult to work out interesting melodies, of which as a matter of fact we find many in this opera.

The scene of the following events is the old town of Hameln on the Weser in the year 1284. The citizens are assembled to hold council, as to how the rat-plague of the town is to be got rid of. No one is able to suggest a remedy when suddenly the clerk of the senate, Ethelerus, announces a stranger, who offers to destroy all the rats and mice in the place, solely by the might of his pipe. {269} Hunold Singuf, a wandering Bohemian, enters and repeats his offer, asking one hundred Marks in silver as his reward and forbidding anybody listen or to be present, while he works his charm.

The senators comply with his request, promising him in addition a drink from the town-cellar, when the last rat shall have disappeared, which is to be when the moon is full.

In the following scene the Burgomaster's daughter Regina is with her old cousin Dorothea. She expects her bridegroom, the architect of the town and son of the chief magistrate, Heribert Sunneborn, who has just returned home from a long stay abroad. While the lovers greet each other, Ethelerus, who has wooed Regina in vain, stands aside greatly mortified.

The second act opens in an inn, where Hunold makes the people dance and sing to his wonderful melodies. There he first sees the maid, who has appeared to him in his dreams. She is Gertrud, a fishermaiden and: To look is to love—they are attracted to each other as by a magic spell. Wulf, the smith, who loves Gertrud, sees it with distrust, but Hunold begins to sing his finest songs. In the evening the lovers meet before Gertrud's hut, and full of anxious forebodings, she tries to turn him from his designs and is only half-quieted, when he assures her that no fiendish craft is at work and that he will do it for the last time.

In the third act Ethelerus holds council with magister Rhynperg as to the means, by which they {270} can best succeed in teasing and provoking the proud Sunneborn. Hunold enters, and agreeable to an invitation of theirs, sits down to drink a bottle of wine. They make him drink and sing a good deal, and he boasts of being able to make the maidens all fall in love with him, if he chooses. Rhynperg suggests that he must omit the Burgomaster's daughter Regina, and he succeeds in making Hunold accept a wager, that he will obtain a kiss from her before his departure.

The following night Hunold accomplishes the exorcism of the rats, which may be seen running towards him from every part of the town and precipitating themselves into the river. Unhappily, Wulf, standing in a recess, has seen and heard all and coming forward to threaten Hunold, the latter hurls his dagger after him, upon which Wulf takes flight.

In the fourth act the whole town is assembled to rejoice in its deliverance from the awful plague, but when Hunold asks for his reward, the Burgomaster tells him, that a so-called rat-king, a beast with five heads, has been seen in his (the Burgomaster's) cellar, to which complaint Hunold replies, that it is the smith's fault, who listened against his express prohibition. He promises to destroy the rat-king on the same day and once more claims his due, together with the promised parting gift, which he begs to be, not a drink of wine, but a kiss from Regina's lips. Of course everybody is astounded at his insolence, and the angry {271} Burgomaster bids him leave the town at once, without his money. But Hunold, nothing daunted, begins to sing so beautifully that the hearts of all the women yearn towards him, he continues still more passionately, addressing himself directly to Regina, and never stops, till the maiden, carried away by a passion unconquerable, offers her lips for a kiss, swearing to be his own for ever. A great tumult arises and Hunold is taken to prison, notwithstanding the remonstrances of Ethelerus, who bitterly repents having had anything to do with Rhynperg's bad joke.

The fifth act takes us to the banks of the Weser, where Gertrud sits in despair. She deems herself betrayed by Hunold, but resolves nevertheless to save his life.

Hunold is brought before the judges and condemned to be burnt alive as a sorcerer, when Gertrud steps forth, claiming his life. In pursuance of an old privilege, Hunold is free when a maid of the town claims him, but he is banished from the country and Gertrud with him.

Hunold promises never to return, but Gertrud throws herself into the river.

Then Hunold swears to avenge the death of his bride. While the citizens are in church, he lures away their children by playing on his pipe; all follow him, both great and small. When he has led them safely over the bridge, he calls the people from church. All gather on the banks of the stream, but they are only just in time to see {272} the bridge fall into the river, while the mountain opposite opens, swallowing up Hunold and the children for ever.



THE POACHER

or

"THE VOICE OF NATURE"

by LORTZING.

Text after a comedy by KOTZEBUE.

The music of this opera is so fresh, so full of gaiety and of charming melodies, that it might be compared with Lortzing's "Czar and Zimmermann", if only the text were as well done. Unhappily it lacks all the advantages which characterize the opera just named, as it is frivolous, without possessing the grace and "esprit", which distinguish French composition of a similar kind.

Nevertheless the good music prevails over the bad text, and the opera holds its own with success in every German theatre.

The contents of the libretto are the following:

A schoolmaster, Baculus by name, has had the misfortune unintentionally to shoot a roe-buck, belonging to the forest of his master, Count of Eberbach. Baculus, who is on the eve of his wedding with a young girl, named Gretchen, is much afraid, when the consequences of his unlucky shot show themselves in the shape of a summons to the castle, where he is looked on as a poacher, and is in danger of losing his position. His bride offers to entreat the Count to pardon him, but the jealous {273} old schoolmaster will not allow it. In this embarrassing position the Baroness Freimann, a young widow appears, disguised in the suit of a student, and accompanied by her chambermaid Nanette, who is dressed as her famulus or valet. Hearing of the schoolmaster's misfortune, she proposes to put on Gretchen's clothes and to crave the Count's pardon under the bride's name. Baculus gladly accepts the student's proposal and accompanies him to the castle. Everybody is charmed by the graces and naivete of the country-girl. The Count tries to make love to her, while Baron Kronthal, who is present, is so much enamoured, that he thinks of marrying her despite her low birth. Kronthal is the Countess of Eberbach's brother, but she does not know him as such, though she feels herself greatly attracted by him. In order to save the girl from persecution, the Countess takes her with her into her room. Meanwhile the Count offers the sum of 5000 thalers to Baculus for the renunciation of his bride. The silly schoolmaster accepts the offer, thinking that the Count wishes to win the real Gretchen. By waking the latter's vanity, he succeeds in turning her affection to the Count, but great is his perplexity, when the Count rejects his bride and scornfully asks for the other Gretchen. Baculus avows at last, that the latter is a disguised student. Baron Kronthal, full of wrath, asks for satisfaction, the student having passed the night in his sister's room. On this occasion the others for the first time hear that the Countess is {274} the Baron's sister. He demands an explanation and then it is discovered that the student is the Baroness Freimann, sister of the Count of Eberbach. Everybody is content, for the Count, who was detected in the act of kissing the country-girl, declares, that with him it was the voice of nature that spoke, and the Countess, to whom he now presents Kronthal as her brother, makes a like statement. The unhappy Baculus receives full pardon from the Count, on condition that he will, henceforth teach the children of the village, instead of shooting game.



THE POSTILION OF LONGJUMEAU.

Comic Opera in three acts by ADOLPHE ADAM.

Text by LEUVEN and BRUNSWICK.

This charming little opera is well worthy of being named among the best of its kind, both on account of its delightful music and because the text is so entertaining and funny as entirely to captivate the hearer's interest.

The whole opera is essentially French in the best sense of the word and we scarce can find a more graceful and witty composition. Its subject, written originally in good French verse is as follows:

Chapelou, stage-driver at Longjumeau is about to celebrate his marriage with the young hostess of the post-house, Madelaine. The wedding has taken place and the young bride is led away by her friends, according to an old custom, while her bridegroom is held back by his comrades, who {275} compel him to sing. He begins the romance of a young postilion, who had the luck to be carried away by a Princess, having touched her heart by his beautiful playing on the cornet. Chapelou has such a fine voice, that the Superintendent of the Grand Opera at Paris, the Marquis de Corcy, who hears him, is enchanted, and being in search of a good tenor, succeeds in winning over Chapelou, who consents to leave his young wife in order to follow the Marquis' call to glory and fortune. He begs his friend Bijou, a smith, to console Madeleine, by telling her that he will soon return to her. While Madeleine calls for him in tenderest accents, he drives away with his protectors and Bijou delivers his message, determined to try his fortune in a similar way. The desperate Madeleine resolves to fly from the unhappy spot, where everything recalls to her her faithless husband.

In the second act we find Madeleine under the assumed name of Madame de Latour. She has inherited a fortune from an old aunt, and makes her appearance in Paris as a rich and noble lady, with the intention of punishing her husband, whom she however still loves. During these six years, that have passed since their wedding-day, Chapelou has won his laurels under the name of St. Phar and is now the first tenor of the Grand Opera and everybody's spoilt favorite. Bijou is with him as leader of the chorus, and is called Alcindor. We presently witness a comical rehearsal in which the principal singers are determined to do as badly as possible. {276} They all seem hoarse and instead of singing, produce the most lamentable sounds. The Marquis de Corcy is desperate, having promised this representation to Mme. Latour, at whose country-seat near Fontainebleau he is at present staying. As soon as St. Phar hears the name of this lady, his hoarseness is gone and all sing their best. We gather from this scene, that Mme. Latour has succeeded in enthralling St. Phar; he has an interview with her, and, won by his protestations of love, she consents to marry him.

St. Phar, not wishing to commit bigamy, begs his friend Bijou to perform the marriage-ceremony in a priest's garb, but Mme. Latour locks him in her room, along with Bourdon, the second leader of the chorus, while a real priest unites the pair for the second time.

St. Phar enters the room in high spirits, when his companions, beside themselves with fear, tell him that he has committed bigamy. While they are in mortal terror of being hanged, Mme. Latour enters in her former shape as Madeleine, and blowing out the candle, torments St. Phar, assuming now the voice of Mme. Latour, now that of Madeleine.—After having sent her fickle husband into an abyss of unhappiness and fear, the Marquis de Corcy, who had himself hoped to wed the charming widow, appears with the police to imprison the luckless St. Phar, who already considers himself as good as hanged, and in imagination sees his first wife Madeleine rejoicing over his punishment. But he {277} has been made to suffer enough and at the last moment Madelaine explains everything, and Chapelou obtains her pardon.



PRECIOSA.

A Drama in four acts by ALEXANDER WOLFF.

Musical accompaniment by CHARLES MARIA VON WEBER.

Though Preciosa is not an opera, we may feel justified in admitting it into our collection, as the music, which Weber wrote to it has alone given celebrity to Wolff's drama, which would otherwise have long been forgotten.

This musical composition is justly called one of the German nation's jewels, and it shows all the best qualities of Weber's rich music. It was written after the Freischuetz and done in the incredibly short space of nine days, and owed its success principally to the really national coloring of melody, which has made some of its songs so popular.

The libretto is well done, the subject both attracting and interesting to the hearer. The scene is laid in Spain. The first act introduces us to Madrid and takes us into the house of a noble Spaniard, named Don Francesco de Carcano. His son, Don Alonzo has fallen violently in love with a Bohemian girl, called Preciosa, whose beauty, virtue and charms are on everybody's lips. The father, wishing to know her, calls her before him and she comes with her people, enchanting the old nobleman as {278} well as his son by her noble bearing and her exquisite songs.

The second act represents a forest with the gipsies' camp. Alonzo, who has told his father that he followed the army, but has in reality been seeking Preciosa, at length finds her out and tries to win her. But though she, returns his love, she is yet unwilling to follow him, and he resolves to link his fate with that of the Bohemians, in order to prove to Preciosa that his love is real and true. Dressed as a common hunter he follows his new friend, and the gipsies, who are all governed by Preciosa's will swear, never to betray him.

The third act introduces us into the castle of Don Azevedo in Valencia, a friend of Don Francesco's. The former is about to celebrate his silver-wedding. Eugenio, his son, hearing that Preciosa is in the neighborhood, resolves to win her for his father's festival having heard of the latter's delight at seeing the gipsy-girl in his friend's house at Madrid. Eugenio rouses the jealousy of Alonzo, who begins a quarrel which ends by Alonzo's being sent to prison.

The chief of the Bohemians and old mother Viarda who see too late, that they have come into dangerous grounds, break up their camp, but Preciosa, anxious about her lover, takes flight.

She is caught by the chief, but, seizing Alonzo's gun, which was left lying under a tree and threatening to fire if he does not obey her, she forces him to follow her into the castle.

{279}

The last act takes place in Azevedo's castle, where his wife, Donna Clara, touched by Preciosa's loveliness, is willing to assist her in liberating her lover. Meanwhile mother Viarda comes with the other gipsies to betray Alonzo's secret, asking one thousand scudi and her chief's liberty. At this moment the youth's father, Don Francesco, comes to offer his congratulations at the silver-wedding of his friend. He finds his son, whom he pardons, Preciosa having for his sake agreed to renounce her bridegroom. While bidding her hosts a sad farewell, Preciosa is so overcome by her feelings, that Donna Clara entreats her husband to buy the girl, whom she believes to be a stolen child. Don Fernando explains to the Bohemians, that he has the right to liberate Preciosa, who has been taken in his grounds, if they should be unable to prove her gipsy-descent. Old Viarda, finding that her schemes have fallen through, shows by a mark on Preciosa's shoulder, that the girl is Donna Clara's own daughter, who was robbed many years ago and was believed by her desolate parents to be drowned. In consideration of Preciosa's entreaties the gipsies are pardoned and only ordered to leave the country for ever. Preciosa is of course united to her faithful lover Alonzo.



LE PROPHETE.

Opera in five acts by GIACOMO MEYERBEER.

Text by SCRIBE.

Though Meyerbeer never again attained the high standard of his Huguenots, the "Prophet" is {280} not without both striking and powerful passages; it is even said, that motherly love never spoke in accents more touching than in this opera. The text is again historical, but though done by Scribe, it is astonishingly weak and uninteresting.

The scene is laid in Holland at the time of the wars with the Anabaptists.

Fides, mother of the hero, John von Leyden, keeps an inn near Dortrecht. She has just betrothed a young peasant-girl to her son, but Bertha is a vassal, of the Count of Oberthal and dares not marry without his permission.

As they set about getting his consent to the marriage, three Anabaptists, Jonas, Mathisen and Zacharias appear, exciting the people with their speeches and false promises. While they are preaching, Oberthal enters, but smitten with Bertha's charms he refuses his consent to her marriage and carries her off, with Fides as companion.

In the second act we find John, waiting for his bride; as she delays, the Anabaptists try to win him for their cause, they prophesy him a crown, but as yet he is not ambitious, and life with Bertha looks sweeter to him than the greatest honors. As the night comes on, Bertha rushes in to seek refuge from her pursuer, from whom she has fled.—Hardly has she hidden herself, when Oberthal enters to claim her. John refuses his assistance, but when Oberthal threatens to kill his mother, he gives up Bertha to the Count, while his mother, whose life he has saved at such a price, asks God's {281} benediction on his head. Then she retires for the night, and the Anabaptists appear once more, again trying to win John over. This time they succeed. Without a farewell to his sleeping mother, John follows the Anabaptists, to be henceforth their leader, their Prophet, their Messiah.

In the third act we see the Anabaptists' camp, their soldiers have captured a party of noblemen, who are to pay ransom. They all make merry and the famous ballet on the ice forms part of the amusements. In the back-ground we see Muenster, which town is in the hands of Count Oberthal's father, who refuses to surrender it to the enemy. They resolve to storm it, a resolution which is heard by young Oberthal, who has come disguised to the Anabaptists' camp in order to save his father and the town.

But as a light is struck, he is recognized and is about to be killed, when John hears from him that Bertha has escaped. She sprang out of the window to save her honor, and falling into the stream, was saved. When John learns this, he bids the soldiers spare Oberthal's life, that he may be judged by Bertha herself.

John has already endured great pangs of conscience at seeing his party so wild and bloodthirsty. He refuses to go further, but hearing, that an army of soldiers has broken out of Muenster to destroy the Anabaptists, he rallies. Praying fervently to God for help and victory, inspiration comes over him and is communicated to all his adherents, so that {282} they resolve to storm Muenster. They succeed and in the fourth act we are in the midst of this town, where we find Fides, who, knowing that her son has turned Anabaptist, though not aware of his being their Prophet, is receiving alms to save his soul by masses. She meets Bertha, disguised in a pilgrim's garb. Both vehemently curse the Prophet, when this latter appears, to be crowned in state.

His mother recognizes him, but he disowns her, declaring her mad, and by strength of will he compels the poor mother to renounce him. Fides, in order to save his life, avows that she was mistaken and she is led to prison.

In the last act we find the three Anabaptists, Mathisen, Jonas and Zacharias together. The Emperor is near the gates of Muenster, and they resolve to deliver their Prophet into his hands in order to save their lives.

Fides has been brought into a dungeon, where John visits her to ask her pardon and to save her. She curses him, but his repentance moves her so, that she pardons him when he promises to leave his party. At this moment Bertha enters. She has sworn to kill the false Prophet, and she comes to the dungeon to set fire to the gunpowder, hidden beneath it. Fides detains her, but when she recognizes that her bridegroom and the Prophet are one and the same person, she wildly denounces him for his bloody deeds and stabs herself in his presence. Then John decides to die also and after {283} the soldiers have led his mother away, he himself sets fire to the vault.

Then he appears at the coronation-banquet, where he knows that he is to be taken prisoner. When Oberthal, the Bishop and all his treacherous friends are assembled, he bids two of his faithful soldiers close the gates and fly. This done, the castle is blown into the air with all its inhabitants. At the last moment Fides rushes in to share her son's fate, and all are thus buried under the ruins.



THE QUEEN OF SHEBA.

(DIE KOeNIGIN VON SABA.)

Grand Opera in four acts by CHARLES GOLDMARK.

Text by MOSENTHAL.

Charles Goldmark was born in Hungary in 1852. He received his musical education in Vienna.

The well-known name of Mosenthal is in itself a warrant that the libretto is excellently suited to the music. The opera is considered one of the best and finest of our modern compositions.

It is noble, original and full of brilliant orchestral effects, which, united to a grand, not to say gorgeous mise en scene, captivate our senses.

The contents are these:

A magnificent wedding is to be celebrated in King Solomon's palace at Jerusalem. The High-priest's daughter, Sulamith, is to marry Assad, King Solomon's favorite. But the lover, who has in a foreign country seen a most beautiful and haughty woman bathing in a forest-well, is now in {284} love with the stranger and has forgotten his destined bride.

Returning home Assad confesses his error to the wise King and Solomon bids him wed Sulamith and forget the heathen. Assad gives his promise, praying to God to restore peace to his breast.

Then enters the Queen of Sheba in all her glory, followed by a procession of slaves and suitors. Next to her litter walks her principal slave, Astaroth.

The Queen comes to offer her homage to the great Solomon with all the gifts of her rich kingdom.

She is veiled, and nobody has seen her yet, as only before the King will she unveil herself.

When she draws back the veil, shining in all her perfect beauty, Assad starts forward; he recognizes her; she is his nymph of the forest. But the proud Queen seems to know him not, she ignores him altogether. Solomon and Sulamith try to reassure themselves, to console Assad, and the Queen hears Solomon's words: "To-morrow shall find you united to your bride!" She starts and casts a passionate look on the unfortunate Assad.

The Queen is full of raging jealousy of the young bride. But though she claims Assad's love for herself, she is yet too proud to resign her crown, and so, hesitating between love and pride, she swears vengeance on her rival. Under the shade of night her slave-woman, Astaroth, allures Assad to the fountain, where he finds the Queen, {285} who employs all her arts again to captivate him, succeeding alas, only too well.

Morning dawns and with it the day of Assad's marriage with Sulamith. Solomon and the High-priest conduct the youth to the altar, but just as he is taking the ring, offered to him by the bride's father, the Queen of Sheba appears, bringing as wedding-gift a golden cup, filled with pearls.

Assad, again overcome by the Queen's dazzling beauty, throws the ring away and precipitates himself at her feet. The Levites detain him, but Solomon guessing at the truth, implores the Queen to speak. Assad invokes all the sweet memories of their past, the Queen hesitates, but her pride conquers. For the second time she disowns him.—Now everybody believes Assad possessed by an evil spirit, and the priests at once begin to exorcise it; it is all but done, when one word of the Queen's, who sweetly calls him "Assad", spoils everything. He is in her hands: falling on his knees before her, he prays to her as to his goddess. Wrathful at this blasphemy in the temple, the priests demand his death.

Assad asks no better, Sulamith despairs and the Queen repents having gone so far. In the great tumult Solomon alone is unmoved. He detains the priests with dignity, for he alone will judge Assad.

There now follows a charming ballet, given in honor of the Queen of Sheba. At the end of the meal, the Queen demands Assad's pardon from Solomon. He refuses her request. She now tries {286} to ensnare the King with her charms, as she did Assad, but in vain. Solomon sees her in her true light and treats her with cold politeness. Almost beside herself with rage, the Queen threatens to take vengeance on the King and to free Assad at any risk.

Solomon, well understanding the vile tricks of the eastern Queen, has changed the verdict of death into that of exile. Sulamith, faithful and gentle, entreats for her lover, and has only one wish: to sweeten life to her Assad, or to die with him.

We find Assad in the desert. He is broken down and deeply repents his folly, when, lo, the Queen appears once more, hoping to lure him with soft words and tears. But this time her beauty is lost upon him: he has at last recognized her false soul; with noble pride he scorns her, prefering to expiate his follies, by dying in the desert. He curses her, praying to God to save him from the temptress.—Henceforth he thinks only of Sulamith and invokes Heaven's benediction on her. He is dying in the dreadful heat of the desert, when Sulamith appears, the faithful one who without resting has sought her bridegroom till now. But alas, in vain she kneels beside him couching his head on her bosom; his life is fast ebbing away.—Heaven has granted his last wish; he sees Sulamith before his death and with the sigh: "Liberation!", he sinks back and expires.



{287}

THE NIBELUNGEN RING.

A Festival-Play in three days and a fore-evening by RICHARD WAGNER.

THE RHINEGOLD.

The grand dramatic work, which cannot any longer with justice be called an opera, differing as it does so considerably from the ordinary style of these, is the result of many years of study and hard work.

Wagner took the subject from the German mythology, the oldest representative of which is found in the Edda.

We have first to do with the fore-evening, called the "Rhinegold."

The first scene is laid in the very depths of the Rhine, where we see three nymphs, frolicking in the water. They are the guardians of the Rhinegold which glimmers on a rock.

Alberich, a Nibelung, highly charmed by their grace and beauty, tries to make love to each one of them alternately. As he is an ugly dwarf, they at first allure and then deride him, gliding away as soon as he comes near and laughing at him.—Discovering their mockery at last, he swears vengeance. He sees the Rhinegold shining brightly, and asks the nymphs what it means. They tell him of its wonderful qualities, which would render the owner all-powerful, if he should form it into a ring and forswear love.

{288}

Alberich, listening attentively, all at once climbs the rock, and before the frightened nymphs can cry for help, has grasped the treasure and disappeared. Darkness comes on; the scene changes into an open district on mountain-heights. In the back-ground we see a grand castle, which the rising sun illumines. Wotan, the father of the gods, and Fricka, his wife, are slumbering on the ground. Awakening, their eyes fall on the castle for the first time. It is the "Walhalla", the palace, which the giants have built for them at Wotan's bidding. As a reward for their services they are to obtain Freia, the goddess of youth; but already Wotan repents of his promise and forms plans with his wife, to save her lovely sister. The giants Fafner and Fasold enter to claim their reward. While they negociate, Loge, the god of fire, comes up, relates the history of Alberich's theft of the Rhinegold and tells Wotan of the gold's power. Wotan decides to rob the dwarf, promising the treasure to the giants, who consent to accept it in Freia's stead. But they distrust the gods and take Freia with them as a pledge. As soon as she disappears, the beautiful gods seem old and grey and wrinkled, for the golden apples to which Freia attends and of which the gods partake daily to be forever youthful, wither as soon as she is gone. Then Wotan without any further delay starts for Nibelheim with Loge, justifying his intention by saying that the gold is stolen property. They disappear in a cleft and we find ourselves in a subterranean cavern, the abode of the Nibelungs.

{289}

Alberich has forced his brother Mime to forge a "Tarnhelm" for him, which renders its wearer invisible. Mime vainly tries to keep it for himself; Alberich, the possessor of the all-powerful ring, which he himself formed, takes it by force and making himself invisible, strikes Mime with a whip, until the latter is half dead. Wotan and Loge, hearing his complaints, promise to help him. Alberich, coming forth again, is greatly flattered by Wotan and dexterously led on to show his might. He first changes himself into an enormous snake and then into a toad. Wotan quickly puts his foot on it, while Loge seizes the Tarnhelm. Alberich becoming suddenly visible in his real shape, is bound and led away captive. The gods return to the mountain-heights of the second scene, where Alberich is compelled to part with all his treasures, which are brought by the dwarfs. He is even obliged to leave the ring, which Wotan intends to keep for himself. With a dreadful curse upon the possessor of the ring Alberich flies.

When the giants reappear with Freia, the treasures are heaped before her; they are to cover her entirely, so it is decided, and not before, will she be free. When all the gold has been piled up, and even the Tarnhelm thrown on the hoard, Fasold still sees Freia's eye shine through it and at last Wotan, who is most unwilling to part with the ring, is induced to do so by Erda, goddess of the earth, who appears to him and warns him. Now the pledge is kept and Freia is released. The {290} giants quarrel over the possession of the ring and Fafner kills Fasold, thereby fulfilling Alberich's curse. With lightened hearts the gods cross the rainbow-bridge and enter Walhalla, while the songs and wailings of the Rhine-nymphs are heard, imploring the restitution of their lost treasure.



RIENZI, THE LAST OF THE TRIBUNES.

Grand tragic Opera in five acts by RICHARD WAGNER.

In this first opera of Wagner's one hardly recognizes the great master of later times.—But though Wagner himself disowned this early child of his muse, there is a grand energy in it, which preserves it from triviality. The orchestration is brilliant, the brass instruments predominating, and here and there one may find traces of the peculiar power which led up to the greatness of after-years, and which sometimes make one think of Tannhaeuser.

The libretto, taken by Wagner from Bulwer's novel, is attractive and powerful.

The hero, a pontifical notary, is a man of lofty ambition, dreaming in the midst of the depravity of the 14th century of reerecting the old Roma, and making her once more the Sovereign of the world. He receives help and encouragement from the church; Cardinal Raimondo even bids him try all means, in order to attain his end. The clergy {291} as well as the people are oppressed by the almighty and insolent nobles.

In the first scene we witness an act of brutality, directed against Rienzi's sister Irene, who is however liberated by Adriano, son of the noble Colonna. A Colonna it was, who murdered Rienzi's little brother in sheer wantonness.—Rienzi has sworn vengeance, but, seeing Adriano good and brave and in love with his sister, he wins him to his cause.

The nobles having left Rome to fight out a quarrel, which had been started among them, are forbidden to reenter the town.—Rienzi calls the people to arms and is victorious. The strongholds of the nobles are burnt, and they are only admitted into Rome, on promising submission to the new laws, made and represented by Rienzi, who has been created Tribune of Rome.

The hostile parties of Colonna and Orsini then join to destroy the hated plebeian. In the midst of the festivity in the Capitol, Orsini makes an attempt to murder Rienzi, but the latter wears a shirt of mail under his garments and besides he is warned by Adriano, who has overheard the conspiracy. The whole plot fails and the nobles who have taken part in it are unanimously condemned to death. But Adriano full of remorse on account of his treason against his own father, implores Rienzi to save their lives, and as Irene joins her prayers to those of her lover, the culprits are pardoned and obliged to renew their oath of fidelity. {292} From this time on Rienzi's star begins to pale. The nobles do not adhere to their oath; in the third act they again give battle, and though Rienzi is again victorious, it is only at the cost of severe sacrifices. The nobles are slain, and now Adriano, who had in vain begged for peace, turns against Rienzi.

In the fourth act Adriano denounces him as a traitor; the people easily misled, begin to mistrust him, and when even the church, which has assisted him up to this time anathematises him on account of his last bloody deed, all desert him. Irene alone clings to her brother and repulses her lover scornfully, when he tries to take her from Rienzi's side. Both brother and sister retire into the Capitol, where Adriano once more vainly implores Irene to fly with him. For the last time Rienzi attempts to reassert his power, but his words are drowned in the general uproar. They are greeted by a hail of stones, the Capitol is set on fire, and they perish like heroes in the flames, through which Adriano makes his way at the last moment and thus finds a common grave with his bride and her brother, the last of the Tribunes.



RIGOLETTO.

Opera in three acts by VERDI.

Text by PIAVE from VICTOR HUGO'S drama: "Le roi s'amuse".

No opera has become popular in so short a time as Rigoletto in Italy. The music is very {293} winning and is, like all that Verdi has written, full of exquisite melodies.

In Germany it has not met with the same favor, which is due in great part to its awful libretto, which is a faithful copy of Hugo's drama, and developed in a truly dramatic manner. The subject is however rather disgusting. Excepting Gilda, we do not meet with one noble character.

The Duke of Mantua, a wild and debauched youth, covets every girl or woman he sees, and is assisted in his vile purposes by his jester, Rigoletto an ugly, hump-backed man. We meet him first helping the Duke to seduce the wife of Count Ceprano, and afterwards the wife of Count Monterone. Both husbands curse the vile Rigoletto and swear to be avenged. Monterone especially, appearing like a ghost in the midst of a festival, hurls such a fearful curse at them, that Rigoletto shudders.

This bad man has one tender point, it is his blind love for his beautiful daughter Gilda, whom he brings up carefully, keeping her hidden from the world and shielding her from all wickedness.

But the cunning Duke discovers her and gains her love under the assumed name of a student, named Gualtier Malde.

Gilda is finally carried off by Ceprano and two other courtiers, aided by her own father, who holds the ladder believing that Count Ceprano's wife is to be the victim.—A mask blinds Rigoletto and he discovers, too late, by Gilda's cries that he {294} has been duped. Gilda is brought to the Duke's palace.—Rigoletto appears in the midst of the courtiers to claim Gilda, and then they hear that she, whom they believed to be his mistress, is his daughter, for whose honor he is willing to sacrifice everything.—Gilda enters and though she sees that she has been deceived, she implores her father to pardon the Duke, whom she still loves. But Rigoletto vows vengeance, and engages Sparafucile to stab the Duke. Sparafucile decoys him into his inn, where his sister Maddalena awaits him. She too is enamoured of the Duke, who makes love to her, as to all young females, and she entreats her brother to have mercy on him. Sparafucile declares that he will wait until midnight, and will spare him, if another victim should turn up before then. Meanwhile Rigoletto persuades his daughter to fly from the Duke's pursuit, but before he takes her away, he wants to show her lover's fickleness, in order to cure her of her love.

She comes to the inn in masculine attire, and hearing the discourse between Sparafucile and his sister, resolves to save her lover. She enters the inn and is instantly put to death, placed in a sack and given to Rigoletto, who proceeds to the river to dispose of the corpse. At this instant he hears the voice of the Duke, who passes by, singing a frivolous tune. Terrified, Rigoletto opens the sack, and recognizes his daughter, who is yet able to tell him, that she gave her life for that of her seducer and then expires. With an awful cry, the {295} unhappy father sinks upon the corpse. Count Monterone's curse has been fulfilled.



ROBERT LE DIABLE.

Opera in five acts by MEYERBEER.

Text by SCRIBE and DELAVIGNE.

Though the text, which embodies the well-known story of Robert the Devil, Duke of Normandy, is often weak and involved, Meyerbeer has understood in masterly fashion how to adapt his music to it, infusing into it dramatic strength and taking his hearer captive from beginning to end. The instrumentation is brilliant, and the splendid parts for the human voice deserve like praise. The famous Cavatina "Air of grace", as it is called, where the bugle has such a fine part, and the duet in the fourth act between Robert and the Princess Isabella, in which the harp fairly rouses us to wonder whether we are not listening to celestial music—are but two of the enchanting features of an opera in which such passages abound.

The following are the contents of the libretto:

Robert, Duke of Normandy, has a friend of gloomy exterior, named Bertram, with whom he travels, but to whose evil influence he owes much trouble and sorrow. Without knowing it himself, Robert is the son of this erring knight, who is an inhabitant of hell. During his wanderings on earth he seduced Bertha, daughter of the Duke of Normandy, whose offspring Robert is. This youth is {296} very wild and has therefore been banished from his country.

Arriving in Sicily, Isabella the King's daughter and he fall mutually in love.

In the first act we find Robert in Palermo, surrounded by other knights, to whom a young countryman of his, Raimbaut, tells the story of "Robert le Diable" and his fiendish father; warning everybody against them. Robert, giving his name, is about to deliver the unhappy Raimbaut to the hangman, when the peasant is saved by his bride Alice, Robert's foster-sister. She has come to Palermo by order of Robert's deceased mother, who sends her last will to her son, in case he should change his bad habits and prove himself worthy. Robert, feeling that he is not likely to do this, begs Alice to keep it for him. He confides in the innocent maiden, and she promises to reason with Isabella, whom Robert has irritated by his jealousy, and who has banished him from her presence.

As a recompense for her service Alice asks Robert's permission to marry Raimbaut. Seeing Robert's friend, Bertram, she recognizes the latter's likeness to Satan, whom she saw in a picture, and instinctively shrinks from him. When she leaves her master, Bertram induces his friend to try his fortune with the dice and he loses all.

In the second act we are introduced into the palace of Isabella, who laments Robert's inconstancy. Alice enters bringing Robert's letter and the latter instantly follows to crave his mistress' {297} pardon. She presents him with a new suit of armor, and he consents to meet the Prince of Granada in mortal combat. But Bertram lures him away by deceiving him with a phantom. Robert vainly seeks the Prince in the forest, and the Prince of Granada is in his absence victorious in the tournament and obtains Isabella's hand.

The third act opens with a view of the rocks of St. Irene, where Alice hopes to be united with Raimbaut. The peasant expects his bride, but meets Bertram instead, who makes him forget Alice, by giving him gold and dangerous advice. Raimbaut goes away to spend the money, while Bertram descends to the evil spirits in the deep. When Alice comes, Raimbaut is gone, and she hears the demons calling for Bertram. Bertram extracts a promise from her not to betray the dreadful secret of the cavern. She clings to the Saviour's cross for protection, and is about to be destroyed by Bertram, when Robert approaches, to whom she decides to reveal all. But Bertram's renewed threats at last oblige her to leave them.

Bertram now profits by Robert's rage and despair at the loss of his bride, his wealth and his honor, to draw him on to entire destruction. He tells Robert that his rival used magic arts, and suggests that he should try the same expedient. Then he leads him to a ruined cloister, where he resuscitates the guilty nuns. They try to seduce Robert first by drink, then by gambling, and last of all by love. In the last, Helena, the most {298} beautiful of the nuns, succeeds and makes him remove the cypress-branch, a talisman, by which in the fourth act he enters Isabella's apartment unseen. He awakes his bride out of her magic sleep, to carry her off, but overcome by her tears and her appeal to his honor, he breaks the talisman, and is seized by the now awakened soldiers; but Bertram appears, and takes him under his protection.

The fifth act opens with a chorus sung by monks, which is followed by a prayer for mercy. Robert, concealed in the vestibule of the cathedral, hears it full of contrition. But Bertram is with him, and, his term on earth being short, he confides to Robert the secret of his birth and appeals to him as his father.

He almost succeeds, when Alice comes up, bringing the news that the Prince of Granada renounces Isabella's hand, being unable to pass the threshold of the church. Bertram urges Robert all the more vehemently to become one with him, suggesting that Isabella is likewise lost to him, who has transgressed the laws of the church, when in the last extremity Alice produces his mother's will, in which she warns him against Bertram, entreating him to save his soul. Then at last his good angel is victorious, his demon-father vanishes into the earth and Robert, united by prayer to the others, is restored to a life of peace and goodness.

{299}

LE ROI L'A DIT.

(THE KING HAS SAID IT.)

Comic Opera in three acts by LEON DELIBES.

Text by EDMOND GONDINET.

It is impossible to imagine music more charming or more full of grace and piquancy, than that which we find in this delightful opera. Every part abounds in exquisite harmonies, which no words can give any idea of. On hearing them one is compelled to the conclusion, that all the graces have stood godmother to this lovely child of their muse.

The libretto though on the whole somewhat insipid, is flavored with naive and goodnatured coquetry, which lends a certain charm to it.

The Marquis de Moncontour has long wished to be presented to the King Louis XIV., and as he has been fortunate enough to catch the escaped paroquet of Mme. de Maintenon, he is at last to have his wish accomplished. By way of preparation for his audience he tries to learn the latest mode of bowing, his own being somewhat antiquated and the Marquise and her four lovely daughters and even Javotte, the nice little ladies'-maid, assist him. After many failures the old gentleman succeeds in making his bow to his own satisfaction, and he is put into a litter, and born off, followed by his people's benedictions. When they are gone, Benoit, a young peasant comes to see Javotte, who is his sweetheart. He wishes to enter the Marquis' {300} service. Javotte thinks him too awkward, but she promises to intercede in his favor with Miton, a dancing-master, who enters just as Benoit disappears. He has instructed the graceful Javotte in all the arts and graces of the noble world, and when he rehearses the steps and all the nice little tricks of his art with her, he is so delighted with his pupil, that he pronounces her manners worthy of a Princess; but when Javotte tells him that she loves a peasant, he is filled with disgust and orders her away. His real pupils, the four lovely daughters of the Marquis now enter and while the lesson goes on, Miton hands a billet-doux from some lover to each of them. The two elder, Agatha and Chimene, are just in the act of reading theirs, when they hear a serenade outside, and shortly afterwards the two lovers are standing in the room, having taken their way through the window. The Marquis Flarembel and his friend, the Marquis de la Bluette are just making a most ardent declaration of love, when Mme. la Marquise enters to present to her elder daughters the two bridegrooms she has chosen for them. The young men hide behind the ample dresses of the young ladies, and all begin to sing with great zeal, Miton beating the measure, so that some time elapses, before the Marquise is able to state her errand. Of course her words excite great terror, the girls flying to the other side of the room with their lovers and receiving the two elderly suitors, Baron de Merlussac and Gautru, a rich old financier, with great coolness and a refusal of their {301} costly gifts. When the suitors are gone, the two young strangers are detected and the angry mother decides at once to send her daughters to a convent, from which they shall only issue on their wedding-day.

When they have departed in a most crest-fallen condition, the old Marquis returns from his audience with the King and relates its astounding results. His Majesty had been so peremptory in his questioning about the Marquis' son and heir, that the Marquis, losing his presence of mind, promised to present his son at Court on the King's demand. The only question now is where to find a son to adopt, as the Marquis has only four daughters. Miton, the ever-useful, at once presents Benoit to the parents, engaging himself to drill the peasant into a nice cavalier in ten lessons. Benoit takes readily to his new position; he is fitted out at once and when the merchants come, offering their best in cloth and finery, he treats them with an insolence, worthy of the proudest Seigneur. He even turns from his sweet-heart Javotte.

In the second act Benoit, dressed like the finest cavalier, gives a masked ball in his father's gardens. Half Versailles is invited, but having taken the Court Almanac to his aid, he has made the mistake of inviting many people who have long been dead. Those who do appear, seem to him to be very insipid, and wanting some friends with whom he can enjoy himself, the useful Miton presents the Marquis de la Bluette and de Flarembel, who are {302} delighted to make the acquaintance of their sweethearts' brother.

Benoit hears from them, that he has four charming sisters, who have been sent to a convent and he at once promises to assist his new friends. Meanwhile Javotte appears in the mask of an oriental Queen and Benoit makes love to her, but he is very much stupified when she takes off her mask, and he recognizes Javotte. She laughingly turns away from him, when the good-for-nothing youth's new parents appear, to reproach him with his levity. But Benoit, nothing daunted rushes away, telling the Marquis that he intends to visit his sisters in the convent. Miton tries in vain to recall him. Then the two old suitors of Agathe and Chimene appear, to complain that their deceased wife and grand-mother were invited, and while the Marquis explains his son's mistake, the four daughters rush in, having been liberated by their lovers and their unknown brother, whom they greet with a fondness very shocking to the old Marchioness. The elderly suitors withdraw, swearing to take vengeance on the inopportune brother.

In the last act Benoit appears in his father's house in a somewhat dilapidated state. He has spent the night amongst gay companions and met Gautru and de Merlussac successively, who have both fought him and believe they have killed him, Benoit having feigned to be dead on the spot.

When the old Marquis enters, he is very much astonished at receiving two letters of condolence {303} from his daughter's suitors. Miton appears in mourning, explaining that Mme. de Maintenon's visit being expected, they must all wear dark colors as she prefers these. Meanwhile Benoit has had an interview with Javotte, in which he declares his love to be undiminished, and he at once asks his father to give him Javotte as his wife, threatening to reveal the Marquis' deceit to the King, if his request is not granted. In this dilemma help comes in the persons of the two young Marquises, who present their King's condolences to old Moncontour. This gentleman hears to his great relief, that his son is supposed to have fallen in a duel, and so he is disposed of. Nobody is happier than Javotte, who now claims Benoit for her own, while the Marquis, who receives a Duke's title from the King in compensation for his loss, gladly gives his two elder daughters to their young and noble lovers.

The girls, well aware, that they owe their happiness to their adopted brother, are glad to provide him with ample means for his marriage with Javotte, and the affair ends to everybody's satisfaction.



ROMEO E GIULIETTA.

Grand Opera in five acts by CH. GOUNOD.

Text by BARBIER and CARRE.

This highly favored opera by Gounod presents much that is worthy of admiration, though it does not rise to the high level of his Marguerite (Faust). {304 The libretto follows Shakespeare's version pretty accurately.

The first act opens with the masked ball in Capuletti's palace, where the first meeting between the lovers takes place, Romeo being disguised as a pilgrim. They fall in love with each other, and Tybalt, Capulet's nephew, recognizing Romeo, reveals, but too late, their true names and swears to take revenge on his foe, who has thus entered the Capulet's house uninvited.

The second act represents the famous scene on the balcony between Juliet and her lover.

In the third act Romeo visits Friar Lorenzo's cell, to get advice from him. There he meets Juliet. Lorenzo unites the lovers, hoping hereby to reconciliate the hostile houses of the Montagus and the Capulets.

The following scene represents the street before Capulet's palace, where the rivals meet; there ensues the double duel, first between Tybalt and Romeo's friend Mercutio, who falls and then between Romeo, who burns to avenge his comrade, and Tybalt. Tybalt is killed and Romeo is obliged to fly, all the Capulets being after him.

In the fourth act Romeo sees Juliet in her room, but when the morning dawns he is obliged to leave, while Juliet's father comes to remind her of his last promise to the dying Tybalt, which was to marry Juliet to Count Paris.—

Juliet in great perplexity turns to Friar Lorenzo for help.—He gives her a draught {305} which will cause her to fall into a deep swoon, and after being laid in her ancestor's tomb, she is to be awakened by Romeo and carried away into security.

In the fifth act Romeo, after having taken poison enters the tomb to bid farewell to Juliet, whom he by a fatal misunderstanding believes to be dead.—She awakes, and seeing her bridegroom die before her eyes, she stabs herself, to be united with her lover in death, if not in life.



IL SERAGLIO.

Opera in three acts by MOZART.

Text after BRETZNER by G. STEPHANIE.

Mozart modestly called this opera a Vaudeville (in German: Singspiel). They were the fashion towards the end of the last century, but "Il Seraglio" ranks much higher, and may be justly called a comic opera of the most pleasing kind. The music is really charming, both fresh and original.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse