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

THE CRICKET ON THE HEARTH.

Opera in three acts by CARL GOLDMARK.

Text after Dickens' tale by M. WILLNER.

With this opera Goldmark has entered a novel way in composing. He has renounced all sensational effects and has produced an opera, which is full of charming melodies, but which lacks the high dramatic verve to which we are accustomed from this composer; there are however remarkably fine pieces in the whole, the best of them being Dot's dancing song in the second act, the quintette at the end of {373} it, and the prelude in the third act, into which Goldmark has interwoven the popular song "Weisst Du, wie viel Sternlein stehen."

The story is soon told, as everybody is supposed to know its contents from Dickens' famous fairy-tale. That it is less pretty than the original, is not Mr. Willner's fault, who did his best to endue it with dramatic strength, and to make it more effective, an elevation to which the tale never aspired, its poetic simplicity being its great charm.

The scene is laid in an English village.

The cricket, a little fairy, lives with a postilion John and his wife Dot. They are a happy couple, the only thing wanting to their complete happiness being children, and even this ardent wish Dot knows will be fulfilled before long.

A young doll-maker May visits Dot to unburden her heavy heart. The young girl is to marry her old and rich employer Tackleton, in order to save her foster-father from want, but she cannot forget her old sweetheart, a sailor named Eduard, who left her years ago, never to come back. Dot tries to console her, and gives her food for her old father. When May has taken leave, Dot's husband John enters, bringing a strange guest with him.

It is Eduard, who has however so disguised himself, that nobody recognizes him. Dot receives him hospitably, and while he follows her in another room, a very lively scene ensues, all the village people flocking in to receive their letters and parcels at John's hands.

{374}

In the second act John rests from his labour in his garden, while Dot, who finds her husband, who is considerably older than herself, somewhat too self-confident and phlegmatic, tries to make him appreciate her more by arousing his jealousy. While they thus talk and jest May enters, followed by her old suitor, who has already chosen the wedding-ring for her. Eduard listens to his wooing with ill concealed anxiety, and Tackleton, not pleased to find a stranger in his friend's house, gruffly asks his name. The strange sailor tells him, that he left his father and his sweetheart to seek his fortune elsewhere, and that he has come back rich and independent, only to find his father dead and his sweetheart lost to him. His voice moves May strangely, but Tackleton wants to see his riches. Eduard shows them some fine jewels, which so delight Dot, that she begins to adorn herself with them and to dance about the room. Eduard presents her with a beautiful cross, and seizes the opportunity to reveal to her his identity, entreating her not to betray him. Then he turns to May, begging her to chose one of the trinkets, but Tackleton interferes, saying that his promised bride does not need any jewels from strange people. Dot is greatly embarrassed, and Tackleton, mistaking her agitation, believes, that she has fallen in love with the sailor, and insinuates as much to her husband, whom he invites to have a glass of beer with him.

This unusual generosity on the part of the avaricious old man excites the clever little wife's {375} suspicion. May having withdrawn, she greets the friend of her youth with great ostentation (knowing herself secretly watched by John and Tackleton), and promises to help him to regain his sweetheart. John and his friend, who suddenly return, see them together, and poor old John gets wildly jealous. But when he is alone, he falls asleep and the faithful cricket prophetically shows him his wife fast asleep in a dream, while a little boy in miniature postilion's dress plays merrily in the background.

In the third act Dot adorns May with the bridal wreath, but the girl is in a very sad mood. All at once she hears the sailor sing; Dot steals away, and May vividly reminded of her old love by the song, decides to refuse old Tackleton at the last moment, and to remain true to Eduard until the end of her life. The sailor, hearing her resolve, rushes in tearing off his false grey beard, and catches May, who at last recognizes him, in his arms. Meanwhile Tackleton arrives gorgeously attired; he brings a necklace of false pearls and invites May to drive with him to the wedding ceremony in the church at once. A whole chorus of people interrupt this scene however; they greet him, saying they are his wedding guests, exciting the miser's wrath. At last May, who had retired to put on her bridal attire, re-appears, but instead of taking Tackleton's arm she walks up to Eduard, who courteously thanking the old lover for the carriage standing at the door, suddenly disappears with May. The {376} chorus detains the furious old Tackleton until the lovers are well out of the way.

Meanwhile Dot has explained her behaviour to John, and whispering her sweet secret into his ear, makes him the happiest man on earth.—The cricket, the good fairy of the house, chirps sweetly and the last scene shows once more a picture of faithfulness and love.



THE EVANGELIMANN.

A Musical Drama in two acts.

With Text and Music by WILHELM KIENZL.

The author has learnt a great deal since the days, in which he composed Urvasi. His music has become more original and more independant of great models. The new opera, while not so poetical is eminently touching and true; the text, founded on fact, runs smoothly and is cleverly done, the verses being well adapted to the music. Like Verga's Cavalleria the subject is such as to be impressive even without music.

It is necessary to explain the title of this opera, which signifies a man who goes about reciting biblical verse after the fashion of street singers. This means of earning a livelihood is unknown in Germany, but forms a speciality in Austria.

The music of the first act puts one in mind of the Meistersingers; as a whole it is very captivating, fresh and drastic, especially during the nine-pin scene. The orchestra predominates, but there are truly poetic airs, which will linger as much in {377} the heart as in the ear of the hearer. Such is: "O sweet days of my youth," and in the last act: "Blessed are they who are persecuted," from Christ's Sermon on the Mount. Another charming bit of music is the children's waltz, in which the composer has paraphrased one of Lanner's well-known waltz-motives.

The first scene is laid in the village of St. Othmar in Austria, or rather in the court of the convent of the Benedictines of that place. Mathias, a young clerk of the convent has an interview with Martha, the niece and ward of Frederic Engel, the rich warden of the convent. John, Mathias' elder brother and the village-schoolmaster sees them together. Being in love with the girl himself he warns her uncle of his brother's courtship and excites his wrath against the lovers, so that Engel, coming across the young people, gruffly tells Mathias, that he has already chosen a rich bridegroom for his ward. In vain, the lovers beseech the old man's pity, for his anger only waxes stronger, and he goes so far, as to discharge Mathias, warning him to leave the place altogether. Martha left alone bemourns her guardian's hardness, and John, thinking to profit by the occasion approaches her and asks for her hand. But he is so decidedly rejected by Martha, that he swears to have his revenge.

Meanwhile the evening approaches, and the country-folk come to the inn next to the convent, to play their game of ninepins.—During this very animated scene Mathias finds Magdalen, his sweetheart's friend, whom he entreats to take a message {378} to Martha, asking her to meet him at eleven o'clock in the bower near the skittleground for a last farewell. John hears this and when night sets in and the gates of the convent are closed, he remains outside alone, hiding behind the barn-floor. When the clock strikes eleven Martha and Mathias approach the bower. They swear to remain true to each other, come what may. Their tender words excite John's jealousy to the utmost, and while the lovers are engrossed with their sorrow and make plans for the future, he sets fire to the barn-floor. Soon the flames leap up to the sky, but the lovers are oblivious of everything, till they hear the watchman's cry of fire. Mathias persuades Martha to hide herself; so he is found alone on the place and seized by the crowd and brought before the warden. Engel at once jumps to the conclusion, that he has been the incendiary, to revenge himself for Engel's hard-heartedness, and despite his protestations of innocence Mathias is put in chains and carried away, while Martha, who comes out from her hiding-place falls back in a swoon after proclaiming his innocence.

The second act takes place thirty years later in Vienna. Magdalen sits under a lime-tree in the court of an old house and muses sadly over days gone by. After long, lonely years she has found the school-master John sick unto death, and now finds comfort in nursing him. Nothing has ever been heard of Mathias again, and she wonders sadly what has become of him. Children throng into the court, they dance around the lime-tree, while an {379} old organ-grinder plays pretty waltz-tunes to their steps.—While they are dancing, an Evangelimann comes into the court. He reads and sings to the children the verses from Christ's Sermon on the Mount, and teaches them to repeat the melody. When they are able to sing it faultlessly, he faintly asks for a drink of water, which Magdalen brings him. She asks him, whence he comes, and when he tells her, that his father's house stood in St. Othmar, she recognizes in him her old friend Mathias. Then he relates his sad story, how he lay imprisoned for twenty years, the real incendiary having never been discovered. When he was set free, he returned home, only to find that his bride had drowned herself. All his efforts to earn a livelihood were fruitless; nobody would employ the convict, until he was at last obliged to become an Evangelimann, and wandered from place to place, preaching the gospel to the poor, and getting such small bounties they could afford to give.—Exhausted by hunger and overcome by sad remembrances Mathias sinks down on the bench half fainting, but is revived by bread and broth brought to him by Magdalen, who earnestly entreats him to return soon, and to bring comfort to the sick man she is nursing.

The last scene takes place a day later in John's sick-room. He is lying on a couch, a prey to bitter thoughts and pangs of conscience, when his brother's voice reaches his ear from below, and dimly awakens sweet memories in him. He bids Magdalen to fetch the singer, and when the latter enters, he feels so {380} drawn to him without recognizing his brother, that he begs leave, to unburden his soul to him.

Mathias soon recognizing his brother is about to fold him in his arms, but John despairingly shrinks from him, while confessing his guilt in broken words and beseeching his forgiveness. The unfortunate Mathias, whose life has been so utterly ruined by his brother, battles fiercely with his natural feelings. But when he sees the wretched John on his knees before him, so broken down and exhausted he finally forgives him. With a last faint gasp of thanks John falls back and dies, while Magdalen prays "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us." Outside the children's voices are heard once more: "Blessed are they, that are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."



ODYSSEUS' RETURN.

A Musical Tragedy in three acts with a Prelude by AUGUST BUNGERT.

A musical drama of the highest interest, one which may be considered equal to Wagner's great Nibelung series, has been created at last.

"Odysseus' Return" is the third of four parts of a cyclus, called the Odyssey, and its success since its first representation in Dresden on December 12th 1896 has been so absolute, that one may hope to hear the other parts before long. It must be admitted here, that this is due partly to {381} its splendid rendering under Schuch's genial conductorship, and to the interpreters of the two principal roles in the drama. Frau Wittich as Penelope is the very incarnation of womanliness and queenliness, and no singer could be a truer and nobler Odysseus than Karl Scheidemantel. Whosoever had the advantage of hearing these two great singers in these roles, must for ever identify them with the grand characters of ancient Greece.

Bungert is happy in having found a subject so noble and so sympathetic, and his music does full justice to these sentiments.

The orchestration is simple in character, sometimes of classic naivete, and though the composer keeps to measures without caesura (destitute of rythm) which are peculiar to Wagner, he differs from him inasmuch as the orchestra is always merely the accompaniment of the voice and never drowns it.

All the characters are most life-like, and they thrill with those never changing emotions, which are the same to-day as they were a thousand years ago.

The plot treats of Homer's Odyssey with a poetic licence.

In the Prelude Pallas Athene appears, conveying the impression of a statue and forthwith producing the right frame of mind in the hearer, by the original song of thirty measures all in c.—After her disappearance Penelope's suitors assemble and form a plot to destroy Telemachus, the queen's son, of whom they are afraid. Hyperion, Telemachus' intimate friend tries to frustrate their plans, but in {382} vain. When left alone he reproaches himself bitterly for his treachery to his friend and decides to warn him. Hyperion too is in love with the queen, but he is at the same time deeply attached to her noble son, who at this juncture is seen arriving in a vessel, in which he is setting out in quest of his father Odysseus.—Hyperion entreats Telemachus to let him accompany him on this dangerous voyage, but the latter begs him to remain with his lonely mother and embarks after taking a tender leave of Hyperion.

Then the scenery changes. The first act takes place in a bay of the isle of Ithaca, in which Odysseus has landed after many years of fruitless wandering. He has fallen asleep near a grotto, which is the abode of nymphs; beside him lie the gifts of the Phaeaces. On the heights the hut of old Eumaeus, Odysseus' steward is seen. He sits on a bench beside the aged Laertes, Odysseus' father, awaiting his master. Shepherds, dancing and frolicking past him laugh and mock at the faithful servant's belief in Odysseus' return.

By and by Odysseus half awakes from the deep slumber, into which the gods have thrown him; the whole country seems to be enveloped in mist and he does not recognize it, although the songs of the peasants fill him with thoughts of his youth and his home. Dreamily he sinks back on his couch, while Pallas appears attired in beggar's garb, which she throws off and is seen clad fantastically in the costume of a royal shepherdess. She {383} waves her hand, and the mist clears away when the whole country is seen bathed in moonlight and Odysseus opening his eyes recognizes mount Neriton and his own beloved island. Blinded with tears he kisses the sacred soil, and returns thanks to the gods, who have at last led him back to his home.

Suddenly he hears Eumaeus' voice, and finding the beggar's cloak, which the goddess has left him, he wraps himself in it, and hides his weapons and the treasures of the Phaeaces in the grotto. Eumaeus loudly bewails Penelope's fate, and curses the wicked suitors. At the same time the sound of oars is heard and Telemachus' vessel passes by, pursued by the suitors. Eumaeus, too weak to render aid, continues to wail, when suddenly Odysseus rises up before him saying; "The gods will conquer." The old man, not recognizing his king continues to accuse the Fates, and tells the stranger, how badly things have fared since the king's absence.—"And Penelope, my friend?" asks Odysseus. "Penelope is faithful," answers the servant. Then "Be it known to you friend, that Oydsseus will return" quoth the stranger. Struck by a dim foreboding of the truth Eumaeus promises to lead the stranger into the queen's palace this very night.

While they converse, Telemachus calls upon Eumaeus for help, and when the vessels come into sight the prince is seen fighting against his pursuers. He slays one of them, but their number far exceeds that of his own followers. Odysseus, who has {384} vainly looked for the boat which the suitors have stolen, throws his club at them, and springs into his son's vessel just in time to rescue the lad, whose sword has been broken, but who continues to fight, nothing daunted. Odysseus kills some of his foes and pushes their vessel far off, after which they escape, while the father carries his fainting son on shore. At this moment Eumaeus recognizes his mighty guest. Telemachus still half unconscious, calls for another sword. When he at last opens his eyes he stares in wonder at the mysterious stranger whom he deems a god in beggar's garb. Eumaeus informs him, that the stranger brings news of their long lost king, which fills the son's heart with joy. At this point the low songs of the nymphs are heard, welcoming the hero to Ithaca while Laertes, slowly descending from the heights, prophesies Odysseus' return as one in a dream. Odysseus can hardly restrain his tears at seeing his father looking so old and so woebegone. He meets him humbly, and all their voices mingle in a chorus of triumph and welcome, while Odysseus stepping forward, vows that he will annihilate the suitors.

The second act opens in Penelope's room.

She sits at her loom, looking out over the far stretching sea and bewailing her lot. Behind the scene the evoes and drunken cries of the suitors are heard and with bitter tears she prays to the gods to help her, and to protect her son, whom she knows to be on the treacherous waves.—Suddenly {385} Hyperion rushes in and prostrating himself at her feet offers her a bunch of orange blossoms, and pays homage to her in sentimental poetic language. Penelope quietly congratulates him on having escaped from the nets of his paramour Despoina and the lover, taking this as a favourable sign, breaks out into passionate words, but is at once checked by the queen. He then reveals to her the shameful plot of the suitors, and Penelope becomes speechless with horror. Before she recovers her selfpossession the suitors rush into the apartment, insolently reminding her of her promise to choose one of them, as soon as the garment, which she has been weaving for so many years for Laertes shall be completed, and wildly upbraiding her with undoing her work during the night Penelope tries to hold them in check, but they only grow more shameless, and at last Antinous tries to embrace her. Quick as thought she draws her dagger, and when it is wrenched from her she snatches his own sword and directs it against him. But Eurymachus, another suitor comes forward, and attacking Hyperion, pierces him with his sword, then turns to the queen, swearing to kill Telemachus as well, should she not yield to their demands. The queen wavers, when renewed acclamations are heard, and Telemachus enters with Eumaeus and Odysseus, the latter still wearing his disguise. The mother rushes forward to embrace her son, but he is seized by the suitors who peremptorily require the queen's oath. "Save thy son o queen", says {386} the stranger, and Penelope at last swears to give her hand to him who shall be victorious in the contest held on Apollo's festival on the following day. Thereupon the suitors promise to protect Telemachus and retire leaving mother and son together.

Not until then does Telemachus recognize in the prostrate form his friend Hyperion, who dying tells him, that he has betrayed his friend and loved his mother. Terrified though he is the tender-hearted youth forgives him and entreats his mother to do the same. But the queen stands as one turned to stone not heeding the stranger, who likewise bids her say a word to the man, who is dying for her, and who is now in his last moments raving of his unholy love. Telemachus at last seizes his friend's hand and closes his dim eyes with a kiss, while the queen, with a last despairing cry for Odysseus sinks back senseless and is carried away by her son and her nurse Eurycleia.—Left alone, Odysseus remains a prey to doubt and jealousy.—When Penelope recovering hears the news of her lost husband, Odysseus promises her the speedy return of the latter, answering her excited questions with: "I know him as I know myself." The queen fears he will be too late, and when the stranger insinuates to her that the king will perhaps kill the suitors whom he has discovered in the queen's apartments and cunningly asks, wether she wants their protection, her long pent up rage against her pursuers finds vent in a terrible cry for vengeance {387} and for the annihilation of all her enemies, and falling on her knees before the beggar she beseeches him to hasten Odysseus' return. The latter, being at last sure of his wife's faithfullness, reassures her and tells her to confide in the gods.

The third act opens with Apollo's festival. The statue of the god is carried before the people, adorned with roses and ivy. The suitors banquet in the palace, while the true master sits aloof on the steps of the temple and is mocked at by the crowd, however remains quiet, only invoking the god to direct his fate.—Trumpets announce the arrival of the queen, who is loudly hailed by the crowd. She carries her husband's own bow, and promises to marry whomsoever shall succeed in bending it, and in shooting the arrow through a series of twelve rings.—Telemachus is the first to try his luck, hoping to redeem his beloved mother. But alas, his strength fails him, and he has to hand the bow on to the suitors, who so goad and taunt him, that the boy draws his sword. But they are stronger, Telemachus stumbles and the beggar catches him in his arms, and unfolds his mantle to protect him whispering: "Telemachus my son, I am thy father." The youth sinks on his knees, but Odysseus enjoins silence upon him and warns him to be ready for battle.

Meanwhile the boy is derided by the crowd, and the queen bitterly disappointed turns to the beggar whispering: "Thy words old man were false!" But Odysseus replies: "The gods will prove {388} victorious", and kisses the queen's hand so fervently, that she stares at him as one in a trance, until he, recovering himself, kisses it again in due humility. Her eyes once more grow dim, and she leaves the grounds in dull despair. During this time the bow has passed from hand to hand, but none can bend it, and the augur Theoclymenus, who hears Jupiter's thunder and sees the ravens fly over the temple prophesies their destruction.

Eurymachus at last proposes to throw the bow into the fire, when the beggar advances and asks leave to try his strength at bending it, which, though indignantly refused by the suitors, is immediately granted by Telemachus, who owns the bow. Odysseus bends it and shoots through all the rings.

During this scene Pallas appears in the air, holding her shield aloft. Horror seizes the wooers, when they recognize the mighty arm, which alone can bend the bow, and Odysseus, flinging his cloak from him and standing erect in his shining armour, slays his enemies aided by his son and those of his servants who have remained true to him and to their queen. The latter, walking slowly over the peristyle all at once sees Odysseus and recognizes her lord, who folds her to his heart. When the palace is cleared of the dead, the people press in to hail their king and Athene appears once more, holding her shield over the happy crowd and blessing the faithful spouse.



{389}

BEARSKIN.

(DER BAeRENHAeUTER).

An Opera in three acts by SIEGFRIED WAGNER.

In the beginning of the year 1899 a great sensation thrilled through the musical world; Siegfried Wagner had written his first musical drama. Some call him the small son of a great father; others consider him to be the true heir of his father's greatness; I, for my part think that the truth, as usual, lies between these two extremes.

The drama was first performed in January 1899 on the Munich Stage, and a few days later Leipzig followed suit. The effect the work produced was much greater than the opponents of the young composer thought possible, and no doubt the "Baerenhaeuter" will soon appear on all stages of importance, including that of Bayreuth, whose fanatical adherents have noised abroad young Siegfried's fame perhaps too loudly and too early for his advantage. That his work shows talent nobody will deny after having heard this drama, which is however not free from imitation of the works of greater masters. The manner of instrumentation, the musical declamation are his father's, but the orchestration is much simpler, and, unlike his father, he produces his greatest and best effects by means of simple melodies, but he fails when he seeks to become pathetic or dramatic. Like most modern composers he has written his libretto himself, and he has chosen a most original subject from one of {390} Grimm's old fairy tales. The story is well told though at rather too great a length, and both libretto and music are very effective, full of action, fascinating the hearer and heightening his interest from act to act. In the second act, especially in the dialogues between Luise and Hans Kraft, are sufficient proofs of Siegfried's genius, and the conclusion is truly grand.

The scene is laid in Bavaria, in the country around Bayreuth, during the time of the Thirty Years war.

The first act takes place in a village in the Hummelgau. The soldiers are first returning after a long period of war to their native village, and are received enthusiastically by the inhabitants. Hans Kraft, the hero of the drama, looks in vain for his old mother and at last learns that sorrow and anxiety about her absent son have caused her death three years ago; she is already forgotten, and so is her son, who find himself alone and forsaken. He is rudely repulsed by the peasants who will not even give him a night's lodging in their cottages. Full of wrath and despair he turns into the forest where he is accosted by a wild looking being who laughs at his impotent rage and offers his help. Hans, perceiving the cloven hoof and the horns, at once recognizes the Devil in this queer fellow, and is at first unwilling to follow his advice; but the Devil is artful and insinuating, and at last Hans is induced to make an agreement with him by which he engages himself as Stoker {391} in the infernal regions; he has to keep the fire burning under the caldron in which poor lost souls are being roasted. When he has served the devil for one year Hans will be free to go wherever he likes. In the next scene Hans has already arrived at his new quarters—hell—and, after having explained to Hans his new duties, the Devil leaves him. Hans now begins to stir the fire, but is soon arrested by a wailing voice which he recognizes as that of the old sergeant who so often tormented him on earth, and who now vainly entreats him to let him escape.

While Hans is gaily feeding the flames, a Stranger enters; his name is Peter the doorkeeper, (of course St. Peter,) who skilfully entices him to play at dice. He proposes that Hans should stake some years of his own life. Hans refuses to do so. The Stranger next proposes that Hans should stake the salvation of his soul, but without success. At last it is agreed that Hans shall win ten Florins if he throws the highest cast, and the Stranger shall win two souls out of the caldron if he wins. They play, and Hans loses time after time, and at last stakes all the souls in the caldron—and loses. St. Peter has delivered all the poor souls from the pains of hell and Hallelujas are heard from the heights above. Hans, who had at first thrown himself upon the Stranger to bind him, is held back by a superior power, a glory shines about St. Peter's head and Hans falls back struck with awe. The glory dies away and the Stranger {392} resuming his former manner thanks Hans for his good deed in delivering the lost souls, and, as a reward he warns him not to put himself again in the power of the Devil, and kindly advises him to bear with patience and courage the punishment that will surely fall upon him for his foolish, thoughtless compact with the evil one. Bidding Hans remember that he has a friend who will not forget him, the Stranger departs.

The punishment is not long delayed, for the Devil returning in a rage takes vengeance upon Hans for his disobedience by covering him with black soot that cannot be washed off, and hanging a bearskin round him. To supply his needs the Devil gives him a magic scrip from which he can always take money. The only way in which he may be released from this hideous disguise is through the faithful love of a woman who will love him in spite of his repulsive appearance. Hans in vain rebels against this cruel sentence, the Devil reminds him of his contract. He gives Hans a ring and tells him that if he finds a maiden who truly loves him he is to split the ring in two and giving her one half he is to go away and leave her for three years. At the end of that time he may come back and claim her, and if the gold of the ring is pure and bright, it will be a proof that she is true to him and Hans will then be free. In that case the Devil promises to fulfil any three wishes that Hans may name. These arrangements made, Hans is at last flung out of hell and back to earth a pitiful object of loathing and ridicule.

{393}

The second act is laid in a village inn near Kulmbach. The assembled peasants are all talking of the Devil whom they declare they have seen in person. While they are talking a rap is heard at the door, and Hans stands outside clad in his bearskin, asking for food and shelter. In their terror they all refuse to let him in believing him to be the devil himself, until the Burgomaster suggests that the man in this hideous disguise should be made to show his feet. When this is done and the peasants see that the stranger has no cloven hoof but human feet they are satisfied that all is right. While they are still deliberating Hans breaks open the window and springs into the room. The peasants eye him with amazed curiosity, and the host at first refuses to give a night's lodging to such a suspicious looking object, but a piece of gold out of Hans' never empty sack makes him change his mind. He sets the bar maid on to sound the queer fellow and she draws from Hans that he is a relation of the Emperor of Marocco, and other nonsense, which makes all think he is insane but harmless. Presently the Burgomaster falls asleep but is rudely awakened by the host who reminds him of a debt of 60 Florins which he had promised to pay. The Burgomaster not being able to pay a quarrel takes place, which is ended by Hans paying down the money himself and sending the innkeeper to bed. Left alone with the bewildered Burgomaster, Hans questions him about his family and circumstances and learns {394} that the good man has three daughters whom he anxiously wishes to see married. Hans, without more ado, offers himself as a suitor for one of them, in the hope that this is an opportunity for his deliverance from his unhappy plight by the true love of a woman. The Burgomaster accepts his offer, believing Hans to be some grandee under a spell, or bewitched and supposing that when he claims his bride he will be restored to his proper form. Hans however assures him the lady will have to accept him as he is, unkempt and unwashed. After wishing the Burgomaster good night, Hans retires to his chamber, leaving his knapsack in the outer room. The innkeeper on the watch, waits till all is still and comes noiselessly in to steal the money from the sack. He puts in his hand and draws out—not gold—but scorpions, mice, frogs and other vermin which fly about and torment him till at his cries Hans comes to the rescue and the goblin creatures disappear.

In the next scene it is early morning; the servants come in and adorn the inn with boughs of birch as is the custom at the festival of Whitsuntide.

The Burgomaster appears with his three daughters; he first presents to Hans his eldest, Line, but when she sees him she turns away in horror at the appearance of the suitor, and calling the second sister Gunda both mock the poor fellow, and laughing turn homewards. The youngest girl, {395} Luise, her father's favourite, not knowing what was going on, comes in to look for her father, and seeing Hans standing there in tears, at once checks the laughter that was provoked by his droll appearance, and moved to pity asks what ails him. At first he is unwilling to answer, but, when she presses him to speak, he shows her the ring and tells her that if she were willing to wear it for three years, always thinking kindly of him, the gold would remain bright, and at the end of that time the bann would be taken off him. Luise promises never to forget him, and though Hans hesitates to give her the ring, fearing the trial will be too heavy for the sweet child to whom his heart goes out in love, she draws the ring from him, passes a ribbon through it and hangs it round her neck.

In the meanwhile, the peasants, led by the revengeful innkeeper, make an attack upon Hans and try to take away his sack. Hans relates how the innkeeper tried to rob him, and forces him to show the 60 Florins the latter had received for the Burgomaster's debt. In rage the innkeeper throws the pieces on the ground; a flame leaps up from the spot. This convinces the peasants that Hans is in league with the Devil; they are about to kill him when Luise calls for aid and her courage so astonishes the assailants that they let Hans go.

The third act takes place three years later.

Hans is discovered lying in a dense forest fast asleep. The Devil has summoned a number of his little imps who are busily engaged in washing, {396} combing and dressing the sleeper. Satan is in a very bad temper, but he does not give up his battle for a soul with Heaven yet, and intends to make a last effort to get Hans into his clutches. The lad's hand, on which is the fateful ring, hangs close to the water of the brook near which he lies, and Satan calls the water nymphs to take it from him. But at this moment Hans wakes and his first thought is for the ring which he looks at with rapture, seeing that its gold shines undimmed. The Devil, (who appears not to be such a bad fellow after all,) greets him in a friendly manner, and Hans, delighted to find himself free from the spell, requires at once the fulfilment of the three wishes the devil has promised to grant. His first wish, to become what he was before, is already fulfilled. His second wish, to keep the sack, but free from magic gold and charm, is also granted. His third wish is, that for the future the Devil will let him alone and never cross his path again. This also the Devil agrees to and mockingly bestows upon him the bearskin into the bargain. Hans now recognises it as the skin of a bear he had once killed himself. Hans' one thought now is for his betrothed bride. On his way to her St. Peter appears to him once more. He tells that the Plassenburg is about to be stormed, and urges him to save it from the enemy.

The next scene opens again in the hero's native village. A crowd of people is assembled before the Burgomaster's house; they are looking towards the Plassenburg which they fear is already in the {397} enemy's hand. No sound is heard from the fortress; its defenders seem to be in deep sleep. Suddenly the trumpets sound and in breathless anxiety men and women watch the battle that now begins.

At last a man comes running up in hot haste shouting that victory is theirs. He relates how that believing Wallenstein to be far away all the garrison went to sleep when they were suddenly awakened by a loud knocking, and the cry "the Friedlander is at the gates!"

The commander Kuensberg sprang out, and at his side, fighting like a lion, a stranger in whom they presently recognized their fellow soldier, Hans Kraft, who had served in the same army years ago; to him they now owe the victory. Everybody begins to praise the deliverer and to ask where he is, for he had gone away and had not been heard of again.

The Burgomaster advances to greet the victors accompanied by his two elder daughters, but Luise cannot be induced to leave home. Alone she thinks sadly of the man to whom all this time she has remained faithful and who fails to come and let her know if he is free from the terrible spell. While she is praying that her lover's sorrows may be ended, Hans comes up, and seeing the maiden so sad he greets her shyly and begs her to bandage a wound he received in the fight. While she brings some linen and fills a cup with water for the thirsty soldier Hans lets his half of the split {398} ring fall into the cup; she recognizes it, then Hans makes himself known and with tears of joy, he folds her to his heart. Thus they are found by the peasants who enthusiastically greet Hans and tell Luise that her lover is Hans Kraft who has saved them all. The Burgomaster of course rejoices in his darling's happiness, while the sisters are mad with envy. Hans now bestows the famous sack upon the innkeeper who recoils from the present with terror; and the peasants at last recognizing in the hero poor Bearskin, whom they almost killed in their frenzy, humbly beg his pardon and express their grateful thanks. Hans declines all honours that are offered him and thanks God for his lovely bride who has been sent as his good angel. All join in praise to God for his goodness to the happy couple.



THE CID.

A Lyric Drama in three acts.

Text and Music by PETER CORNELIUS.

After an interval of more than thirty years the Dresden Opera has paid a debt of honour to the dead composer and gave his finest and best opera for the first time on January 17th 1899.

This opera had hitherto only been performed in Munich and Weimar. Though its music is perhaps less fresh and piquant than that of the Barber of Bagdad by the same composer, yet it has the true ring of genius and its noble charm {399} ranks high above the ordinary opera of the present day.

We find in it many leading motives, which would seem to rank Cornelius amongst Wagner's imitators, but he is very far from being one of these. All his melodies are original and one of the finest, the Cid-motive, which accompanies every entrance of this hero, is perfectly entrancing. The loveliest pearls in the string of music are the funeral march and Chimene's wail in the first act, her prayer in the second, and the avowal of her love and the duet that follows in the last act.

The libretto written by Cornelius himself is also far above the average; its language is uncommonly beautiful and poetic.

The scene is laid in Burgos in Castile in the year 1064. The first act opens with a large concourse of people, assembled to celebrate Ruy Diaz' victory over the Moors.

In the midst of their rejoicings a funeral march announces Chimene, Countess of Lozan, whose father has been slain by Diaz. While she wildly invokes the King's help against the hero the latter enters, enthusiastically greeted by the people, who adore in him their deliverer from the sword of the infidels.

He justifies himself before King Fernando, relating with quiet dignity, how he killed Count Lozan in open duel to avenge his old father, whose honour the Count had grossly attacked. Nevertheless he is ready to defend himself against anybody, who {400} is willing to fight for Donna Chimene, and for this purpose he throws down his glove, which is taken up by Alvar Farnez, his friend and companion in arms, who is madly in love with Chimene.—While they are preparing for the duel the Bishop Luyn Calvo, an uncle of Diaz, intervenes, entreating his nephew to desist from further bloodshed and to surrender his sword Tizona into his the priest's hands. After a hard struggle with himself the hero, who secretly loves Chimene, yields, and hands his sword to Calvo, who at once offers it to Chimene, thereby giving the defenceless hero into her hands.

Exultingly she swears to take vengeance on Diaz, who stands motionless, looking down with mournful dignity on the woman whom he loves and who seems to hate him so bitterly.

In the midst of this scene the war cry is heard. The enemy has again broken into the country and has already taken and burnt the fortress of Belforad. All crowd round Diaz, beseeching him to save them. While he stands mute and deprived of his invincible sword, Chimene, mastering her own grief at the sight of her country's distress, lays down Tizona at Fernando's feet. Ruy Diaz now receives his sword back from the hands of the King, and brandishing it high above his head he leads the warriors forth to freedom or death.

The second act takes place in Chimene's castle. Her women try to beguile their mistress's sorrow by songs, and when they see her soothed to quiet, they retire noiselessly. But hardly does she find {401} herself alone than pain and grief overcome her again. She longs to avenge her father's death on Diaz, and yet deep in her heart there is a feeling of great admiration for him. In vain she wrestles with her feelings, invoking the Allmighty's help to do what is right. In this mood Alvar finds her and once more assures her of his devotion and repeats that he will fight with Diaz as soon as the country is freed from the enemy. He leaves her and night sets in and in the darkness Diaz steals in, for he cannot resist his heart's desire to see Chimene once more before the battle. In the uncertain rays of the moonlight she at first mistakes him for her father's ghost, but when he pronounces her name she recognizes him, and violently motions him away, but he falls on his knee and pours out his hopeless love. At last his passion overcomes all obstacles; she forgives him and at his entreaty she calls him by his name, saying: "Ruy Diaz be victorious!" Full of joy he blesses her and goes to join his men who are heard in the distance calling him to lead them to battle.

The third act is played once more in Burgos.

Diaz has been victorious; the whole army of captives defiles before the throne and a rejoicing assemblage of nobles and peoples does homage to the King. Even the Moorish Kings bend the knee voluntarily; they have been unfortunate, but they have been conquered by the greatest hero of the world; they are conquered by "the Cid!" When the King asks them what the name means {402} they tell him that its signification is "Master"; full of enthusiasm all around adopt this name for their hero. The Cid will be Diaz' title henceforth, immortal as his glorious star!

The people loudly call for Diaz to appear, but are told that immediately after the battle Alvar had sent the hero a challenge. At the same time Alvar enters unhurt, and Chimene who stands near the King with her women ready to greet the victor, grows white and faint, believing that Diaz has been killed by Alvar. She impetuously interrupts the latter, who begins to relate the events, and unable to control her feelings any longer she pours out her long pent up love for Diaz, at the same time bewailing the slain hero and swearing faithfulness to his memory unto death.—"He lives" cries Alvar, and at this moment the Cid, as we must now call him appears, stormily hailed by great and small.

Deeply moved he lays down his victorious sword at the feet of his King, who embraces him pronouncing him Sire of Saldaja, Cardenja and Belforad. Then he leads him to his lady who sinks into his arms supremely happy. The Bishop blesses the noble pair and all join in his prayer, that love may guide them through life and death.

{403}

KIRKE (CIRCE).

A Music-Tragedy in a Prologue and three acts by AUGUST BUNGERT.

Kirke, the first part of Bungert's Odyssey was given for the first time in Dresden January 29th 1898. It had the same immense success as Odysseus' Return. Nevertheless it is weaker in many parts, which is perhaps due in part to the less congenial subject of its heroine. All the sweet parts of the tragedy, like the chorus of the Oceanides in the Prologue, the quartetti of the four nymphs and Periander's song of Ithaka are perfect in melody and expression. The strong and violent parts are Bungert's weakness they are often rather more noisy and wild than powerful, and they remind strongly of Wagner. Nevertheless the building up of the whole is grand and dramatic, and the hearer's interest never flags.

Prologue. "Polyphemus."

From the sea rises in the form of a chain of mountains the figure of Gaea in blue-green moonlight. Her song, sung by bass voices behind the scene, is about her children, the elect, the conquerors of the world, a race of men steeled by suffering, that struggle from darkness to light; who, lost and wandering during life, with vehement longings, yet remain blind, till in death their eyes are opened—but too late!

Then Eos, as conqueror of the world swings in a galop on his lion to Olympus, singing to his {404} lyre in praise of Love, the Conqueror, to whom men and Gods bow. Olympus appears beyond the clouds. There the Gods are assembled in council to decide the fate of Odysseus. Athene and Hermes plead for the sorely-tried hero. Zeus answers that the immortal Gods know and have determined every step of man's life. He gives his sanction to Athene and Hermes to watch over and defend Odysseus. Again clouds hide the scene. When they part we find ourselves in Sicily before the cavern of Polyphemus the Cyclops. Here Odysseus carries out the cunning plan he has made to free his companions from certain death at the hands of the giant. He blinds the Cyclops with a red-hot stake, and escapes with his friends by clinging to the long fleece of the sheep of Polyphemus, who unsuspectingly lets them out in the morning to graze. Polyphemus, finding himself outwitted by Odysseus,—who makes himself known when at a safe distance,—curses the hero and vows vengeance upon him, calling his father Poseidon to pursue Odysseus with his fury at sea. Friendly sea-nymphs, and Eos (the Dawn) hover round the heroes' ship and speed them in safety on their way.

Act I.

When the curtain rises the kingdom of Kirke, daughter of the sun-god Helios, lies before us, bathed in glowing sunshine. The foreground is a luxurious garden whose groves of palms and fantastic southern trees extend in deepening shade into the background. {405} A colossal sphinx crouches at the gates of Kirke's palace on the left. Springs of water, represented by four attendant nymphs sing to their queen in melodious harmony. But Kirke—a lovely vision in soft flowing robes of yellow hue, with masses of red-gold hair, crowned with sun flowers—cannot be cheered by their sweet songs. She lies on her leopard-skin couch sunk in melancholy; she despairs of ever finding a hero worthy of her love. In wildest grief she bewails her hard lot; many suitors have presented themselves, all have proved low and ignoble in their aims and intentions. She has by her magic given them the outward form that corresponds with their inner nature; the grunting of swine is heard in the distance mingled with the wails and laments of human voices; Kirke listens with rage and contempt; she flings herself back on her couch; she hates the glaring light of day and longs for darkness. The maidens close the gates of the palace. Night comes on and the moon rises.

Odysseus, waiting vainly for the return of his companions, hears from his brother-in-law, Periander who has escaped, that the rest have been changed into swine, after having drunk of the enchantress' cup. Odysseus has set out to seek and rescue them; he is seen wandering in the background among the trees. The friendly God Hermes, invisible, whispers good counsel to Odysseus, and puts into his hand a magic herb which will counteract the enchantment of Kirke's cup. Full of hope and {406} courage, Odysseus knocks for admittance with his sword on the palace gates; they open, and suddenly in dazzling light, Kirke stands before him in all her dangerous beauty and charm. For a moment the hero is overcome with amazement and admiration. Kirke is radiant with joy; here is the world-famed hero at her feet. But again the grunting of swine and cries of grief are heard. Odysseus springs up; drawing his sword he commands Kirke to free her victims; she vainly tries to resist; she offers him her fatal cup. Odysseus takes it, but unobserved he drops the magic herb of Hermes into it, then drinks the now harmless draught. Kirke, swaying her magic wand looks to see Odysseus immediately transformed as his companions were; but he remains unchanged, and commands her to free his friends. Kirke, vanquished, obeys. One by one the men rush out of the palace in their natural forms and warmly thank and praise their deliverer. But Odysseus has himself fallen into the power of the enchantress; a wild passion has taken possession of him; he forgets his duty, his wife and child. Hastily dismissing his companions he falls into Kirke's arms.

Wondering and distressed Periander returns singing Penelope's song; he approaches and endeavours to rouse Odysseus to a sense of his duty; he reminds him of home and wife and child, but in vain; the infatuated hero, under the influence of this unholy passion, so far forgets himself as in furious rage to attack Periander with his spear. {407} Periander in grief and despair turns to depart, and is mortally wounded by the spear of Odysseus which the latter hurls at him in his flight.

In the distance the song of Gaea is heard.

Act II

The scene takes place on the sea-shore of the coast of Kirke's island Aea.

Many of the companions of Odysseus are lying about sick or dying of a plague caused by the cruel rays of the sun and the poisonous air of the island. Helios is thus revenging himself upon the mortals that have offended him.

Periander, dying of the fatal spear wound, is being tended by two or three friends not yet struck down by the pestilence.

Odysseus has heard of their distress; he tears himself from the arms of Kirke and comes to reassure and comfort his friends; but all turn from him with horror, and curse him as the author of their woes.

All but Periander, who with a last, supreme effort implores Odysseus to fly from the enchantress and return with his companions to his faithful wife Penelope and take her her brother's dying greeting. Deeply touched Odysseus promises to do so; the spell that bound him to Kirke is broken; Periander consoled dies in his arms.

With his old energy Odysseus sets to work with the companions still in health to prepare the ship for sailing away at once; when Helios appears {408} in his dazzling chariot. Stricken with terror all fall to the earth. Helios is about to aim his fatal arrow at Odysseus, when Kirke rushes upon the scene to protect her beloved hero. Helios warns his daughter that like all mortals Odysseus is false and fickle; but she will not believe her father's warnings, and he drives sadly away.

Odysseus still lies on a couch unconscious as when first struck down. Hermes appears to him in a vision and tells him his mother Antikleia died the very day, Odysseus was ensnared by Kirke. In agony he cries out in his delirious sleep; he longs for darkness, only this can cure him. Kirke bids him descend to the underworld; the couch sinks with him and the scene gradually changes to the realm of Hades.

When the darkness clears away Odysseus is seen with two of his companions in the mournful land of Hades; they offer sacrifices and refresh the shades in the underworld with draughts of blood. Antikleia, the mother of Odysseus approaches and touchingly pleads the cause of Penelopeia with him. Teiresias, the Seer prophecies the future fate of Odysseus, who listens with awe. Periander passes by with his gaping wound. Agamemnon, Ajax and other great heroes of Troy approach; all mourn and bewail their sad doom to wander as shades in the changeless gloom of the underworld; they eagerly struggle to seize and quaff the cup offered to them by the attendants at the altar. Achilles rushes forward and accuses Odysseus of {409} cowardice; he has fatally wounded his friend in the back; he is the slave of Kirke! Odysseus draws his sword, the living and the dead heroes fight; the other shadows press forward with wild yells upon Odysseus, who, overpowered, falls senseless to the ground. With vivid lightning and pealing thunder the scene is quickly shrouded in darkness and the curtain falls.

Act III.

The scene changes again to Kirke's enchanted garden. On the steps of the palace Odysseus lies sleeping with his head resting on Kirke's knee. He murmurs names in his dreams. Kirke listens, hoping to hear her own name, but only hears that of Penelopeia. Enraged, the enchantress roughly wakens him. The hero is himself again. He exclaims: "Away to my native land! to my wife! to my hearth and home!" A wild struggle begins between the two. Kirke strives with all her arts and blandishments to enchain him, to keep him. Odysseus resists; he has gained the victory over himself, he is no longer in the power of the syren; his will is inflexible. All in vain does she strive to charm him by the delights of her garden; the songs and dances of her maidens; her sweetest caresses. He turns from her with loathing, he curses her. At last Kirke's love turns to fierce hatred; she changes her garden into a desert; she calls upon Helios to come and slay her recreant lover. The sun god appears indeed, but says Zeus has forbidden him to injure Odysseus. In mad {410} frenzy Kirke tears his bow and arrow from Helios; she will kill her false lover herself; but her heart misgives her, the arrow sinks from her hand. At the same moment, Hermes, as messenger of the Gods appears and cries: "Set the hero of Ilium free!" Kirke, subdued, requires Odysseus to unsay the curse he had spoken against her. "Be it so!" he solemnly says; and he is free.

He is now joined by his remaining companions, they have found their arms; they arm Odysseus; the ship is ready to sail; they all hasten away. Helios remains to console Kirke; he foretells that she shall have a son; a heroic child; she sinks smiling on a flower covered couch; Helios lulls her to sleep. In the distance is seen the ship with the heroes sailing joyously away.

The song of Gaea is heard once more.

The curtain falls.



ERNANI.

A melodramatic Opera in four parts.

Taken from VICTOR HUGO'S Drama of the same name.

Text by F. MARIA PIAVE.

Music by GIUSEPPE VERDI.

Verdi wrote this opera in 1844 when in his thirtieth year. One cannot help being struck by the improvement shown in it, as compared with Verdi's first operas Nabukadnezar and the Lombardi, and through Ernani the composer at once became one of the most popular musicians in Italy.

The opera did not however at first find favour {411} in France and Germany, and Verdi's fame was only established in these countries by his later operas, Rigoletto and Il Trovatore. But of late Ernani has been revived and duly appreciated wherever his fine melodies are heard, and its passionnate verve is felt, which is mostly due to its highly dramatic subject.

Here is a brief outline of the libretto:—

Ernani, an Italian rebel of obscure parentage is the accepted lover of Donna Elvira, the high-born niece of Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, Grandee of Spain.

Donna Elvira is also coveted by Don Carlos, King of Spain, and by her old uncle Silva, who is about to wed her, much against her will.

Ernani comes to Silva's castle in the garb of a pilgrim, and finds the King in Donna Elvira's room, trying to lure her away. Here they are surprised by de Silva, who, failing to recognize his sovereign challenges both men to mortal combat.—When he recognizes the King in one of his foes, he is in despair and humbly craves his pardon, which is granted to him.—At the same time Don Carlos sends Ernani away on a distant errand, hoping to rid himself of him once for all; but Donna Elvira vows to kill herself rather than belong either to the King or to her uncle, and promises unwavering constancy to her lover Ernani.

Nevertheless the second Act shows Elvira on the eve of her wedding with her uncle de Silva.

Ernani, once more proclaimed an outlaw seeks {412} refuge in de Silva's castle, again disguised as a pilgrim. But when Ernani hears of Donna Elvira's approaching marriage with de Silva, he reveals his identity and offers his head to the old man, telling him that his life is forfeited and that a reward is offered for his capture. De Silva is too generous to betray his rival; he orders the gates of the castle to be barred at once.—While this is being done, Ernani violently reproaches Elvira for having played him false. She answers, that she has been led to believe him dead, and dissolved in tears they embrace tenderly. Thus they are surprised by de Silva who, though for the time being bound by the laws of hospitality swears to destroy Ernani, wherever he may find him.

For the moment however he conceals his foe so well, that Don Carlos' followers cannot find him. Though the King threatens to take the old man's life, the nobleman remains true to his word and even makes the greatest sacrifice by delivering Elvira as a hostage into the King's hands.

Left alone he opens Ernani's hiding-place and challenges him to fight, but when the latter proves to him, that Don Carlos is his rival and wants to seduce Elvira, de Silva's wrath turns against the King.

He accepts Ernani's offer to help him in frustrating the King's designs, but at the same time he reminds him that his life is forfeited.—Ernani declares himself satisfied and gives de Silva a bugle, the sound of which is to proclaim, that the hour of reckoning between the two foes has come.

{413}

The third Act takes place at Aix-la-Chapelle.

The King has heard of the conspiracy against his life. While the conspirators assemble in the imperial vaults, he is concealed behind the monument of Charlemagne and frustrates their designs by advancing from his hiding-place and proclaiming himself Emperor.—

At the same moment the people rush in and do homage to Charles the Fifth.—Ernani surrenders to his foes, but Elvira implores the Emperor's pardon, which is granted, and Charles crowns his gracious act by uniting the lovers and creating Ernani Duke of Segorbia.

Both Elvira and Ernani go to Seville to celebrate their nuptials. But in the midst of their bliss Ernani hears the sound of his bugle and de Silva appears and claims his rival's life. In vain the lovers implore his mercy, de Silva is inexorable and relentlessly gives Ernani the choice between a poisoned draught and a dagger. Seizing the latter Ernani stabs himself, while Donna Elvira sinks senseless beside his corpse, leaving the aged de Silva to enjoy his revenge alone.



WERTHER.

A Lyric Drama lu three Acts by J. MASSENET.

Text from GOETHE by BLAU, MILLIET and HARTMANN.

German Translation by MAX KALBECK.

The subject of this opera is Goethe's famous novel of the same name.

Though the text is not to be compared with {414} that of the novel, the music to which Massenet has set it is so marvellously adapted to its lyric and idyllic qualities, that one is inclined to forget its deficiencies while listening to the melodious strains.

The scene is laid in Wetzlar in the year 1772.

The first Act takes place in the house of Lotte's father, who is a bailiff in his native city. He has assembled his younger children to teach them a new Christmas song. While they are practising two friends of the bailiff enter and invite him to take supper with them at the neighbouring inn, he declines however and sits down in his arm chair, while the smaller children climbing on to his knees begin their interrupted song once more. During this pretty scene Werther approaches. He sees Lotte coming out of the house, becomingly attired for a country-ball. She is duly admired by her father and the children. Then she acquits herself most charmingly of her household duties by distributing bread to the children. Werther meanwhile is cordially welcomed by her father.—Other visitors come in and Lotte goes to attend the ball, escorted by Werther.

Sophia the second daughter persuades her father to join his friends at the inn and promises to look after the children.—

He is hardly gone, when Albert, Lotte's affianced husband, who has been on a journey returns.

On hearing that Lotte is not at home, he leaves the house again.—When night comes on {415} Lotte returns with Werther. The latter is deeply in love with her, and she listens to his sweet words like one in a dream, but when her father informs her that Albert has returned she comes to her senses. In answer to Werther's questions she tells him, that she promised her dying mother to wed Albert, which confession leaves Werther a prey to gloom and despair.

The second Act takes place in the autumn of the same year. Lotte is married to Albert. She has conquered her sentimental fancy for Werther and is sitting quietly with her husband, enjoying a peaceful Sabbath day, and the celebration of the village clergyman's golden wedding. Werther is a jealous witness of her happiness; but when Albert welcomes him as a friend, he cannot but accept his overtures.—

Sophia enters with a large bouquet for the clergyman, she is in love with Werther, but the unhappy young man has eyes for her sister only, who receives him coldly and bids him leave the village.

On seeing Werther so cast-down, Lotte repents of her harshness and invites him to celebrate Christmas with her and her husband. But Werther refuses to be consoled and hurries away notwithstanding Sophia's entreaties, vowing never to return.

The third Act takes place in Lotte's drawing-room. She is sitting alone in deep thought. Werther's frequent and passionnate letters have {416} reawakened her dormant love for him and her sister, coming in laden with Christmas parcels, finds her in tears. Unable to console Lotte, Sophia takes her leave after inviting her to spend Christmas Eve at her old home.—

Hardly has she gone when Werther appears. Unable to keep away from Lotte any longer he reminds her of her invitation for Christmas, and seeing his letters spread out on the table he guesses that Lotte returns his love.—An impassioned love-scene follows.—Half unconscious Lotte sinks into his arms, but the first kiss of her lover brings her to herself. Tearing herself from his embrace she flees into her room and bolts the door. After vain remonstrations Werther rushes out half-crazed.

Albert returning home finds no one in and calls Lotte. She appears pale and distressed, and her husband perceives that something is wrong. Before she can reply to his questions a servant brings in a note from Werther, asking Albert for his pistol. The husband forces his unhappy wife to hand the weapon to the servant herself. As soon as Albert has gone Lotte seizes her hat and cloak and hastens out to prevent the impending calamity. Alas! she comes too late.—The last scene shows Werther's room, which is dimly lighted by the moon. The Christmas-bells are tolling when Lotte enters, calling her lover by name.—She discovers him lying on the floor mortally wounded.—Now that he is lost to her for ever she pours out all her love and for a brief space calls him back {417} to life and sweetens his last moments by a first kiss. He expires in her arms while from the opposite house the children's voices are heard singing their Christmas song.



THE DEPARTURE.

Comic Opera in one Act.

Libretto by A. VON STEIGENTESCH (end of 18th century).

Arranged by FERDINAND COUNT SPORCK.

With Music by EUGENE D'ALBERT.

By this opera the young composer, whose previous dramatic efforts were to a certain extent unsuccessful, has proved that his forte lies in comic opera.

The Departure was given in Dresden in October 1900, and was a complete success.

The whole opera teems with bright and merry melodies, wrought-in with consumate art, and the text, though somewhat frivolous is artistically adapted to the music.

The principal motive is the love-motive, its strains which run through the whole opera are not only charming but original. The orchestration is in the style at present in vogue, which subordinates the voices more or less to the music.

The following is a short synopsis of the libretto.

The husband Gilfen rather neglects his pretty wife Louise, while his friend Trott pays court to her.

In the first scene we find Gilfen undecided, whether to set out on a journey, or not.

{418}

Trott desiring his absence offers to do everything in his power to hasten his friend's departure, of course all for friendship's sake. Gilfen puts him to the test by pretending to need all sorts of things. He begs Trott to fetch a parcel lying at the custom-house, and weighing forty pounds; a letter from the post-office, a rose-tree for Louise, and a travelling-map, which was only to be had at a stationer's shop at a considerable distance.

Before leaving the house Trott finds an opportunity to tell Louise that he does all this for her sake only. Gilfen, finding him with his wife, sends him on his errands and then leaves Louise to herself. She is filled with sadness by her husband's indifference and sings a pretty song about a youth, who makes love to a maiden, and a man, who neglects his wife. Gilfen returns, attracted by the song, and guessing that his wife still loves him as before he decides to stay at home.

Louise leaves him and Trott returns out of breath and laden with parcels. The husband thanks him, but explains that there is still a letter to be written, for which an important document is needed, and is to be found in a chest on the next floor. Trott is hastening away, when Gilfen implies, that he must have the chest itself. Seeing the carriage, waiting outside Trott rushes away, determined to do his utmost for friendship's sake. Then Gilfen appears before his wife in travelling costume.—In the interview, which ensues, Louise shows him clearly, that her heart is still his, but that she longs {419} for more tenderness and love. They are interrupted by Trott's entrance, dragging in the heavy chest. Gilfen declares that he has now everything he wants, and takes an affectionate farewell of his wife and his friend.

Left alone, the latter loses no time in making love to Louise, but all he gains is a friendly handshake. Mistaking her coolness for timidity, he becomes bolder. At this moment Gilfen re-enters, telling them, that his carriage has broken down. Trott hastens out, to see to its repair and leaves husband and wife alone.

Now Gilfen owns that the carriage is intact and that he only come back, because he felt, that he had left the best thing behind him. "What is it, that would keep you at home?" asks Louise. "A wife, who would plead with a smile: do not go," he answers.—

A pretty duet follows, in which they indulge in sweet reminiscences of the past, and at last discover, that they still love each other as fondly as ever. Embracing her husband Louise whispers smilingly: "Do not go!"

When Trott returns Gilfen astonishes him by telling him that he has decided to stay at home. Trott perceives at last that it is his turn to go. While he still lingers, he receives a note from Louise, showing him unmistakeably, that he is not wanted in their house. He retires crestfallen, while Louise and Gilfen gaily wave their hands to the departing friend.



{420}

DELILA.

An Opera in three Acts by FERDINAND LEMAIRE.

With Music by CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS.

German translation by RICHARD POHL.

The first performance of this opera in Dresden on November 13th 1900 proved a great success.

This opera which was written almost thirty years ago did not meet with a favourable reception either in France or in any other country. In the year 1877 it was however given in Weimar through Liszt's influence, but fell flat.

At last it was performed in Rouen in 1890, and in November 1892 the Grand Opera in Paris followed suit. Since that time it has been one of the standard operas in Paris.

Its performance in Dresden has shown, that it well deserves its place.—

The vivid contrast between the simple yet stirring choruses of the Israelites and the pompous and warlike ones of the Philistines, the exquisite love-song of Samson and Delila, and last but not least the charming ballet-music, with its truly Eastern character entitle the opera to rank amongst the very best of the past century.—

The libretto is a biblical one; the scene is laid in Gaza, in Palestine, 1150 years before Christ.

In the first Act the Israelites, groaning under the yoke of the Philistines, pray to God for deliverance. They are derided and insulted by Abi {421} Melech, satrap of Gaza but Samson, unable longer to endure the blasphemy hurled by the Heathen against the God of Israel, rises up in mighty wrath, and so inspires his brethren that they suddenly take up arms, and precipitating themselves on their unsuspecting oppressors, first slay Abi Melech and then rout the whole army of the Philistines.

The high-priest of the heathen god Dagon finding his friend slain, vows to be avenged upon the Israelites, but he is deserted by all his companions who flee before Samson's wrath.

In the next scene the Israelites return victorious and are greeted with triumphant songs and offerings of flowers. Even the Philistine Delila, the rose of Sharon receives them with her maidens, and pays homage to the hero Samson.

Delila had enthralled him once before, and again her beauty causes him very nearly to forget his people and his duty; but an aged Israelite implores him not to listen any more to the arts and wiles of the enchantress.

In the second Act Delila has an interview with the high-priest, whom she promises to avenge her people by winning Samson's love once more.

She proudly refuses the reward which the high-priest offers her, for it is her bitter hatred against the hero, who once loved and then forsook her, which prompts her to ruin him and to force from him by every means in her power the secret of his strength.

When the high-priest has left her, Samson {422} comes down the steep mountain path, drawn to Delila's house against his will. She receives him with the greatest tenderness, and once more her beauty and her tears assert their power over him, so that he sinks at her feet and falters out his love for her. But in vain she tries to lure his secret from him. At last she leaves with words of contempt and scorn and enters the house. This proves his undoing. Goaded beyond earthly power he rushes after her and seals his fate. After a while the Philistines surround the house and Delila herself delivers her unfortunate lover, whom she has deprived of his strength by cutting off his locks, into the hands of his foes.—

In the third Act we find Samson in prison. Bereft of his eye-sight he has to turn the heavy mill. From the outside the wailings and reproaches of his Israelite brethren are heard, who have again been subjugated by their foes. Bitterly repentant Samson implores God to take his life as the price of his people's deliverance.

In the last scene he is led away to Dagon's temple there to be present at the festival of the Philistines, celebrated with great pomp in honour of their victory.

On the conclusion, after an exquisite ballet, Delila presents a golden cup to the blind hero, and insults and jeers at him for having been fool enough to believe in her love for him, the enemy of her country. Samson maintains silence, but when they order him to sacrifice {423} at Dagon's shrine, he whispers to the child, who is guiding him, to lead him to the pillars of the temple.

This being done he loudly invokes the God of Israel, and seizing the pillars tears them down with mighty crash, burying the Philistines under the ruins of the temple.



NAUSIKAA.

Second Part of the Tetralogy: The Odyssey.

Musical Tragedy in three acts and a Prologue by AUGUST BUNGERT.

The first representation of Nausikaa took place in Dresden on March 20th 1901.—The reception was much warmer than that given to Kirke. Naturally the charming episode of the Phaeakean Princess is far better adapted to the composer's lyric genuis.

Though the whole music is polyphoneous the easy flow of its melodies is hardly ever interrupted except in the highly dramatic moments.

There are real pearls of lyric melody in this tragedy, which, totally different from Kirke's selfish passion glorifies Nausikaa's pure love for Odysseus, her death of sacrifice and the hero's resignation;—it might be called a hymn of renunciation.

The sirens' songs in the Prologue are most enticing, the choruses of Nausikaa's companions treading their dances are lovely; also Odysseus' "home motive" which expresses his longing for {424} hearth and home, is very expressive, but Nausikaa's "love motives" surpass all the other parts in sweetness.

The contents of the libretto are as follows:

Prologue.

Across the calm blue sea in the distance a ship passes. In it can be seen the figures of Odysseus and his companions. They can be heard lamenting their long absence from home and praying the gods to send them favourable winds and a speedy return to their native land.

In the foreground is the rocky coast of an island. Partly hidden by the high cliffs, sirens may presently be seen looking out for their prey. Brilliant, many coloured lights cast a lurid glare over their hideous den that is full of dead men's bones, out of which roses, poppies and other flowers have sprung into bloom. The sirens try to attract Odysseus and his companions by singing sweetly, and playing enticing music on weird instruments made out of the bones of their victims.

Odysseus, however, is on his guard. He causes his men to stop their ears with wax, and to bind him fast to the mast of his ship. The attempt to lure them is unsuccessful. Though Persephoneia herself rises from the depths to aid the sirens, Odysseus' ship sails safely past and the sirens and their rocks sink into the sea.

But the hostile god Poseidon pursues Odysseus in rage. Seated in his cart drawn by sea-horses {425} he strikes the ship with his trident, and it goes down in the now stormy sea.

Zeus and the friendly gods now interpose. Poseidon is forced to withdraw, and, though his companions perish and the ship is wrecked, the nymph Leukothea brings a magic veil which ensures the hero's safety and he swims to the shore.

Act I.

Odysseus has landed in the country of the Pheacians. In the first part of this act he is lying asleep hidden among the shrubs and trees in the background.

Nausikaa, the King's daughter has come at the bidding of Athene with her companions to wash the linen and garments of her family. While the clothes are drying in the sun the maidens dance and play at ball. Their voices and laughter awake Odysseus who rises and shows himself through the foliage. Seeing a nearly naked man the girls run away screaming; only Nausikaa stands still and asks the stranger fearlessly who he is. Odysseus tells her his piteous story and his cruel fate. Nausikaa calls to her maidens to bring raiment for the hero whose name however she has not yet heard. A sudden and tender love fills her heart for the outcast wanderer. Odysseus too feels drawn towards the noble maiden, for a moment he forgets his wife and child at home. Nausikaa invites him to follow her to her father's court and promises him a kindly reception there.

{426}

As the procession is starting, the sound of horns is heard and King Alkinous and his followers come up. Among them are his son Leodamus, and Prince Euryalos, a would-be suitor of Nausikaa. The King welcomes the stranger kindly and invites him to come and stay in his palace. Euryalos, however, regards Odysseus with suspicion and hostility; he sees in him at once a favoured rival. With songs of welcome Odysseus is greeted by the men and maidens and by the King's side he moves towards the palace.

Act II.

This scene takes place in front of the palace of King Alkinous. The gardens and terraces extend downwards to the shore of the sea that forms the background. It is evening. Youths and maidens are busy decking pillars and statues with garlands of flowers and making wreaths to crown the victors in the next day's games.

Odysseus comes out of the palace; he cannot sleep; he thinks of his home, his father, his wife and child. He sees a temple to Athene on the right and resolves to spend the night there praying to the gods to restore him to his home. He passes across the stage and goes into the temple.

Nausikaa now comes out of the palace with some of her companions. She presently dismisses them and remains alone in the moonlight. She prays to Aphrodite to deliver her from the {427} importunate wooing of Euryalos and to grant her the love of the stranger.

The vision of Aphrodite appears; with a threatening gesture she seems to refuse Nausikaa's request. While Nausikaa sinks fainting on the steps of the terrace the voice of Euryalos is heard in the background singing a love song, and soon after he comes forward and stormily declares his love to Nausikaa who rushes away from him with a cry into the temple of Athene. As the bold youth is about to follow Odysseus appears at the door of the temple and forces Euryalos to retire. The baffled suitor rushes upon Odysseus with his drawn sword in blind rage; but Odysseus instantly disarms him, breaks the sword, and Euryalos vowing vengeance goes into the palace.

Though deeply moved by Nausikaa's passionate gratitude and affection for her protector, Odysseus remains faithful to the memory of his wife and child and prays the gods to help him to be strong.

Act III.

In a great court in front of the gymnasium where games and wrestling matches are going on a procession of priests and young boys enter singing; they offer prayers and burn incense before the altars of the gods, particularly before that of Poseidon the special patron of the Phaeakens. Girls and matrons follow in a like procession and deck the statue and altar of Athene with flowers. The shouts of the people in the gymnasium greeting the victors in the games are heard at intervals.

{428}

Among the maidens is Nausikaa. Her brother Leodamus enters soon afterwards in great excitement and begs his sister to come and witness the feats of Euryalos who is victor in all the games. But she coldly asks if the stranger has entered into competition with him, and hearing he has not done so she refuses to go into the gymnasium.

Queen Arete enters and Nausikaa throws herself into her mother's arms. Arete guesses the truth that her daughter loves the stranger; she tenderly warns Nausikaa that life is full of disappointments—of sacrifices.

The King now enters from the gymnasium; beside him walks Odysseus who had at last been persuaded to wrestle with Euryalos and had entirely vanquished him. The people hail Odysseus as victor. Nausikaa hastens to him and crowns him with the victor's wreath; she shows her preference for him in such a marked manner that Euryalos is beside himself with rage and draws his sword upon Odysseus who in selfdefence wounds Euryalos severely.

Odysseus then turns to the King and implores him to give him a ship that he may go back to his own country and family. These words fall like a knell upon the heart of Nausikaa; she is led out fainting by her mother.

The aged poet Homer now enters. All hail him with joy; the King bids him sing them a song about Troy. The blind poet sings the tragic story—the people join in the chorus. Odysseus listens; {429} at last he can keep quiet no longer. Springing up he goes on with the story giving his own share in it with such vividness that Nausikaa, who has stolen back again, rushes forward and cries: "Thou art Odysseus himself!" He acknowledges with tears that he is that unhappy man. The people greet him with joy and wonder; the King embraces him warmly. Odysseus relates his sorrows, his wanderings; he speaks of his wife and child; he implores the King to give him a ship that he may return home. The King readily promises his help, he gives orders that a ship shall immediately be prepared and filled with costly gifts.

But the priests see in Odysseus the enemy of their god Poseidon; they press the King to slay Odysseus—but the King sternly refuses to do so and orders the High Priest to be bound till Odysseus is safely gone.

Nausikaa's hopes are dashed to the ground; heartbroken she murmurs to herself her mother's words: "Each human life is a sacrifice, a death for the dearest in the world." She slowly goes away and is seen later standing on a high wall of Athene's temple overlooking the sea.

In the meantime all is ready, the King, Queen and Laodamus accompany Odysseus to the ship and take leave of him; he goes on board and the ship moves off. At this moment the sky is overcast and Poseidon appears in his car and threatens Odysseus with his trident.

Nausikaa calls to Poseidon to take her for a {430} victim and with a cry springs into the sea. The nymphs bear her dead body to Poseidon. Zeus suddenly appears and drives Poseidon away, while Athene hovers over Odysseus with shield and lance. He sails away in safety.



MANRU.

Opera in three acts by J. PADEREWSKI.

Text by ALFRED NOSSIG.

Dresden claims the honour of having first represented the celebrated Polish pianist's opera.

The performance took place on May 29th 1901, and a closely packed house showed its approbation in the most enthusiastic manner.

Those who will look out for reminiscences in every new piece of music find of course that Paderewski is an imitator of Wagner, but though Manru would probably not have been written without the composer's intimate knowledge of the Ring of Nibelungen, the melodies and rythm are entirely his own. The music is true gypsy music with very much movement and highly phantastic colouring, reminding us sometimes of Liszt and Bizet.

The best parts of the opera are the choruses of the village maidens in the first act, the charming cradle song, the violin solo and the love-duet in the second and the splendid gipsy music in the last act.

Nossig's libretto is very inferior to the music; its rhymes are often absolutely trivial. The scene is laid in the Hungarian Tatra mountain district.

{431}

Manru a wandering gipsy has fallen in love with a peasant girl Ulana and has married her against her mother's wishes.

In the first act mother Hedwig laments her daughter's loss. While the village lasses are dancing and frolicking Ulana returns to her mother to ask her forgiveness; she is encouraged by a hunchback Urok, who is devoted to her, and who persuades the mother to forgive her child, on condition that she shall leave her husband. As Ulana refuses, though she is in dire need of bread, Hedwig sternly shuts her door upon her daughter. Ulana turns to Urok, who does his best to persuade her to leave her husband.

Urok is a philosopher; he warns the poor woman, that gipsy blood is never faithful, and that the time will come, when Manru will leave wife and child.

Ulana is frightened and finally obtains from Urok a love potion, by which she hopes to secure her husband's constancy.

When she tries to turn back into the mountains she is surrounded by the returning villagers, who tease and torment her and the hunchback, until Manru comes to their rescue. But his arrival only awakes the villagers' wrath, they fall upon him and are about to kill him, when mother Hedwig comes out and warns them not to touch the outlaws on whom her curse has fallen.

The second act takes place in Manru's hiding place in the mountains. The gipsy is tired of the {432} idyll. He longs for freedom and quarrels with his wife, whose sweetness bores him. She patiently rocks her child's cradle and sings him to rest. Suddenly Manru hears the tones of a gipsy fiddle in the distance; he follows the sound and soon returns with an old gipsy who does his best to lure him back to his tribe. But once more love and duty prevail; and when Ulana sweetly presents him the love-philtre he drains it at one draught, and immediately feeling the fire of the strong and potent drug, he becomes cheerful and receives his wife, who has adorned herself with a wreath of flowers with open arms.

In the third act Manru rushes out of the small, close hut. His intoxication is gone; he gasps for air and freedom. Wearily he stretches himself on the ground and falls asleep. The full moon, shining on him, throws him into a trance, during which he rises to follow the gipsy tribe whose songs he hears. In this state he is found by Asa, the gipsy queen, who loves him and at once claims him as her own.

But the tribe refuses to receive the apostate, and their chief Oros pronounces a terrible anathema against him. However Asa prevails with her tribe to pardon Manru.

Oros in anger flings down his staff of office and departs, and Manru is elected chief in his place.

Once more he hesitates, but Asa's beauty triumphs; he follows her and his own people.

At this moment Ulana appears. Seeing that {433} her husband has forsaken her, she implores Urok, who has been present during the whole scene to bring Manru back to her.—Alas, it is in vain. When Ulana sees Manru climbing the mountain path arm in arm with Asa, she drowns herself in the lake.

But Manru does not enjoy his treachery; Oros, hidden behind the rocks is on the watch for him and tearing Asa from him, he precipitates his rival from the rocks into the lake.



FEUERSNOT

(THE PLAGUE OF DARKNESS).

A Lyric Poem (Singgedicht) in one act by ERNST VON WOLZOGEN.

Music by RICHARD STRAUSS.

The new Opera of the highly gifted young Bavarian composer was represented for the first time in Dresden on November 21st 1901.

This absolutely original composition was received with acclamation, and it deserves it. The musical part is so difficult, that it can only be performed on a few very first rate stages, and it wants many hearings to take in all its charm of instrumentation and its eminently modern harmonies and intervals.

The text is very witty and very clever, and quite worthy of the music. The story is taken from an old Dutch legend of rather free conception. The scene is laid in Munich; it takes place at the summer solstice in the far away middle-ages, or, as the author calls it "fabulous no-time."

{434}

The title has a double meaning as the explanation of the plot will show.

A band of merry children wanders from house to house, singing and demanding wood for the bonfires of the summer solstice. After having got a plentiful supply at the burgomaster's house, they cross over to the opposite house, an old decayed building, called the Wizard's house. Its inmate at first takes no notice of the children's noisy summons; at last he appears at the door.

He, Kunrad, is a young dreamer, who has forgotten the outside world over his books and studies. But the merry songs wake him suddenly to life and sunshine. He gives up his whole house to the uproarious band, beginning himself to tear down the battered shutters. The children set to work to carry off every piece of wood, that is not too firmly riveted, and Kunrad helps them full of glee.

Suddenly he perceives, Diemuth, the burgomaster's lovely daughter. His hitherto perfectly untouched heart catches fire, and all at once he steps up to her, presses her to his heart and kissing her he passionately explains: "I will leap through the fire; wilt thou leap after me?!"

Diemuth, who has all the time been gazing at the stranger like one in a trance wakes up and turns from him with a cry of shame and indignation.

Kunrad is now attacked on all sides for his impertinence and Diemuth, turning to her maiden friends, who secretly envy her for the adoration, {435} the noble stranger has shown her, whispers into their ears, that she will revenge herself for the disgrace he has brought upon her.

While the evening is setting in the citizens begin to wander out of town to see the bonfires.

The burgomaster is obliged to walk away alone, after having vainly tried to persuade his daughter to accompany him.

Diemuth steps into the house, and soon appears on the balcony, combing her heir. Kunrad standing at his battered house-door renews his protestations of love and begs her in passionate terms to let him in. At first she refuses tartly but by and by she seems to relent, and pointing to the large basket in which the wood had been let down to the children she invites him to get into it and says that she will draw him up.—Kunrad complies with her wish.

While she slowly winds the basket up her three companions peep round the corner and perceive with delight, that Diemuth's trick is successful, and that the bird is caught. The tercet of the maidens is one of the loveliest pieces of music ever written.

Before the basket reaches the balcony, Diemuth pretends that her strength is failing. At his entreaties she loosens and lets down her long hair, but when he tries to grasp it she jerks it back with a cry of pain and rates him harshly.—At last he perceives, that she has been fooling him all the time. He is helplessly caught in the trap and the returning citizens seeing him hanging between {436} heaven and earth deride him, congratulating Diemuth on having caught such a fine bird.

Then Kunrad rises in a towering rage. Loudly invoking the help of his friend and master, the mighty sorcerer, he suddenly plunges the whole town into utter darkness. When the good citizens of Munich find themselves deprived of fire and light, they break out into loud lamentation; the frightened children wail and the head officials of the town vow to hang Kunrad for his insolence and his witchcraft.

At this moment the moon shining through the clouds throws her light upon Kunrad, who has swung himself on to the balcony, and smiling down upon the people he pronounces a powerful oration upon their narrowmindedness.

He reminds them, that the owner of his house, whom they drove out of the town, Richard Wagner was one of the greatest masters the world had ever seen and who would have brought them fame and greatness, if they had not rejected him. He, Kunrad (Richard Strauss) claims to be his successor, who is to carry on the great work nothing daunted, and in spite of all the small minds of the world.

For his helpmate he has chosen Diemuth, but she too has failed to understand, that love is higher than even virtue and morality, and for this reason he has extinguished their lights and fire, to show them, that all light comes, from love, and that without love the world is dark and cold.

{437}

As soon as he has ended, Diemuth softly opens her door and draws Kunrad in. The citizens, convinced by his burning words begin to praise him and acknowledge his high courage and good words. Meanwhile the windows of Diemuth's chamber begin to gleam faintly; Diemuth and Kunrad have fulfilled the law of love and all at once, the flames of the bonfires leap up and the windows and streets are again aglow with the light, that is given back to the city.



HOFFMANN'S TALES.

A phantastic Opera in three acts by JULES BARBIER.

Music by JACQUES OFFENBACH.

In this opera the composer far surpasses all his other compositions. It is his swan's song, for he composed it in the summer of 1880 and he died in October of the same year after having given his best to the world, a true work of genius, so full of grace, of delicate feeling and of phantastic loveliness, that nobody can hear it without being captivated by its sweetness.

The libretto is taken from three different tales of E. Th. A. Hoffmann, who was not only an author and a poet, but a musician and composer worthy of note.

His weird tales were much read in the beginning of the last century.

The first scene, a prologue, is laid in Luther's famous wine-cellar in Nuremberg.

{438}

The hero of the opera, Hoffmann himself is there, drinking with a number of gay young students, his friends. He is in a despondent mood and when urged by his companions to tell them the reason of his depression, he declares himself ready to relate the story of his three love adventures, while his friends sit round a bowl of flaming strong punch.

Now the scene changes and the curtain rises on the first act. We find Hoffmann in Spalanzani's house. This man is a famous physiologist, and Hoffmann has entered his house as his pupil in order to make the acquaintance of the professor's beautiful daughter Olympia, whom he has seen at a distance.

This daughter is nothing more than an automaton, that has been manufactured by Spalanzani and his friend, the wizard Coppelius. This doll can sing, dance and speak like a human being. Spalanzani hopes to become rich by means of this clever work of art. As half of Olympia (this is the doll's name), belongs to Coppelius, Spalanzani buys her from him, paying him by a draft on the Jew Elias, though he knows him to be bankrupt.—Hoffmann has been persuaded by Coppelius to purchase a pair of spectacles, through which he looks at Olympia, and taking her for a lovely living maiden falls violently in love with her.

Spalanzani now gives a grand entertainment, at which he presents his daughter Olympia, (the Automaton), who surprises everybody by her {439} loveliness and her fine singing.—Hoffmann is completely bewitched and as soon as he finds himself alone with her, he makes her an ardent declaration of love and is not at all discouraged by her sitting stock still and only answering from time to time a dry little "ja, ja". At last he tries to embrace her, but as soon as he touches her she rises and trips away.

Hoffmann's friend Niklas finds him in the seventh heaven of rapture and vainly endeavours to enlighten him as to the reason of the beauty's stiffness and heartlessness.

When the dancing begins Hoffmann engages Olympia, and they dance on, always faster and faster, until Hoffmann sinks down in a swoon, his spectacles being broken by the fall. Olympia spins on alone as fast as ever and presently dances out of the room, Cochenille vainly trying to stop her. Coppelius now enters in a fury having found out that Spalanzani's draft on Elias is worthless. He rushes to the room, into which Olympia has vanished and when Hoffmann revives he hears a frightful sound of breaking and smashing, and Spalanzani bursts in with the news that Coppelius has broken his valuable automaton. Thus Hoffmann learns that he has been in love with a senseless doll. The guests, who now enter shout with laughter at his confusion, while Spalanzani and Coppelius load each other with abuse.

The second act takes place in Giulietta's palace in Venice. Everything breathes joy and love.—Both Niklas and Hoffmann are courting the beautiful lady. {440} Niklas warns his friend against her, but Hoffmann only laughs at the idea that he is likely to love a courtezan. The latter is entirely in the hand of the wizard Dapertutto, who acts towards Hoffmann as an evil spirit under three different names in each of his three love affairs. Giulietta has already stolen for him the shadow of her former lover Schlemihl; now Dapertutto wounds her vanity, by telling her, that Hoffmann has spoken disdainfully of her, and makes her promise to win the young man's love and by that means to make him give her his reflection from a looking-glass.

She succeeds easily, and there ensues a charming love-duet, during which they are surprised by the jealous Schlemihl. Giulietta tells Hoffmann, that her former lover has the key of her apartments in his pocket, she then departs leaving the two lovers and Dapertutto alone. When Hoffmann peremptorily demands the key from Schlemihl the latter refuses to give it up. The result is a duel, for which Dapertutto offers Hoffmann his sword.—

After a few passes Schlemihl is killed and Dapertutto disappears. A few moments afterwards Giulietta's gondola passes before the balcony and Hoffmann sees her leaning on Dapertutto's arm, singing a mocking farewell to the poor deserted lover.

The third act takes place in Rath Krespel's house. His daughter Antonia has inherited her mother's gift of a beautiful voice, but alas, also her tendency to consumption. The greatest joy of her {441} life is singing, which however her father has forbidden, knowing this exertion to be fatal to his darling.

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