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The Standard Operaglass - Detailed Plots of One Hundred and Fifty-one Celebrated Operas
by Charles Annesley
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After a sign from the King Mujko consents to give the brunette to Czobor.

Then comes Verona's turn and Augustin claims her as his already affianced bride.

The black haired lady being the last one left, Mujko begins to count, when Magdalen slowly approaches the King, singing softly: "Take my life, take my all, I will greet thee as my lady, thou, a King's Consort."

Now the King recognises at last his lost lady love. Pushing back Verona, whom Mujko has presented to him he cries: "I choose the black haired one!" and throwing off his disguise he embraces Magdalen.—

The bells of the royal chapel now begin to ring, and the priests receive and bless the three happy bridal couples.

As they leave the chapel they are met by the Paladin, ready to marry his niece to the King.

But Matthias, seizing Magdalen's hand, proclaims her his Consort, and all hail her as Hungary's Queen.



TIEFLAND.

(THE LOWLANDS.)

A musical Drama in two acts and a Prelude by EUGENE D'ALBERT.

Text after A. Guivera by RUDOLPH LOTHAR.

With this work the gifted composer has gained a footing, which promises to be permanent in the musical world, for the opera has been accepted by {507} all the leading theatres in Germany and Austria, and its performances in Berlin, in Prague, in Dresden and in Vienna have found uniform appreciation.

D'Albert's strongest point is his orchestration, which is admirably adapted to the text. His music, if lacking a personal note is always noble, harmonious and perfectly clear and agreeable to the ear.

The Prelude is on the whole the finest part of the drama. The broad flowing motive of the shepherd's pipe is the incarnation of peace and pure nature, the musical transition from the Prelude to act I is one, of the best things, that D'Albert ever did, and the peasant scenes, the trio of the three mocking village lasses are of the most enlivening freshness.

The text is ultra realistic, almost brutal.

The name "Tiefland" has a double meaning; this we learn from the Prelude.—

The plot is laid in the Pyrenees. Pedro, the shepherd lives alone in the high and clear mountain air. His one wish is to have a companion, a wife. This desire is realised by the arrival of Sebastiano, supposed to be a wealthy landowner, who offers Pedro a mill and a bride in the person of Marta.

The girl is Sebastiano's mistress, but financial difficulties compel him to get rid of her, in order to avoid scandal and to obtain a rich bride.

The simple and unsuspecting Pedro accepts the unexpected gifts with delight, not heeding Marta's reluctance, and so he leaves the clear physical and moral atmosphere of the mountains and descends {508} into "Tiefland", the low valley with its human passions and human tragedies.

The first act takes place in the mill, where three village girls gossip about Marta's wedding, which is to take place on the very same day.

Nuri, a little girl and Marta's friend, has heard from Tommaso, an octogenarian, that their rich and mighty master Sebastiano has found a husband for Marta, and that the latter, being the master's property like everything else around, has to obey his orders.

Marta herself is in despair; she despises Pedro, her future husband, suspecting him to have been bribed to consent to this shameful bargain by her lover and tyrant Sebastiano.

But Pedro is quite ignorant of the true facts as is old Tommaso, who is only now enlightened by Moruccio, the miller's man, as to Marta's actual position.

Horrified at having helped to bring about this sinful marriage, Tommaso tries to dissuade Sebastiano from his evil designs, but the landowner drives him away and orders the clergyman to marry the young couple at once.

Pedro is in high glee, but vainly tries to win a smile or a kind word from his unhappy bride. While the village lads lead him away to be dressed for the wedding, Sebastiano, taking Marta aside, once more impresses upon her, that she is still and always will be his, and that he will come to her chamber on the bridal night.

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Marta shrinks from him in horror, but when Petro returns to fetch her, she instinctively turns from him to her old master.

Petro has disdained to put on the fine clothes offered him, and goes to church with his bride in his own old jacket.

When they are gone, Tommaso calls the land-owner once more to account about Marta, and learns, that everything Moruccio told him is true, for the young man repeats the story in his master's presence.

Tommaso hastens away, to stop the marriage, but already the church bells are ringing and the bridal procession returns.

Pedro sends his guests away, and when alone with his wife tries to win her love by his simple arts and wiles. He shows her the first hard earned silver coin he gained by killing a wolf, which had made havoc amongst the master's herds. The coin is still red with Pedro's own blood.

But Marta, though somewhat softened and interested in spite of herself only points to the room opposite her own, and is about to leave him, when suddenly a light is seen in her own room. Marta shrinks back frightened and this awakens Pedro's suspicions.

He too has seen the light, but Marta succeeds in quieting him for the moment, as the light has disappeared.

Slowly a change is coming over Marta. As she perceives, that Pedro is quite ignorant of her {510} true position, her heart goes out to him, but she gives no sign of the love, that has taken possession of her. She resolves to stay all night in this outer hall and sinks down near the hearth, while Pedro stretches himself on the floor at her feet and soon falls asleep.—

The second act still finds them in the same position. Marta, seeing Pedro asleep, gets up quietly in the early dawn, to attend to her household cares.

When she is out of the hall or kitchen, Nuri comes in and awakes Pedro. The poor lad's suspicions return and are intensified tenfold by Nuri's remarks about the village people, who laugh at and pity the young husband, and she wonders, what the reason of this can be.

Marta, finding the two together, drives the girl away. Her love for Pedro is awakened and with it jealousy. But Pedro, without looking at his young wife, takes Nuri by the hand and leads her away.

Old Tommaso, who now comes in, reproaches Marta for her evil life. With bitter tears she tells him her whole story. How she lived in Barcelona with her mother, a beggar, having never known her father;—how her mother died after years of misery, and how the old lame man, who lived with them, took her abroad, and made her dance and beg for him.

Having one day reached this village, the pretty girl of thirteen pleased the rich landowner Sebastiano, and he made her his mistress, after giving her old {511} foster-father this mill by way of renumeration for his connivance.—She was often about to drown herself, but her courage failed her, and so her life was passed in misery until the day of this marriage, into which she was forced by her master.

Tommaso advises her, to confess everything to her husband, and to ask his forgiveness.

In the next scene the village girls come to visit the young couple; they drive Pedro almost mad with their taunts and innuendos, telling him to ask Marta about their meaning.

When they are gone and Marta brings him the soup for his breakfast, he refuses to touch it, and abruptly tells her, that he is going back to the mountains alone.

Full of despair Marta defiantly owns, that she has belonged to another, and recklessly goads him to such fury, that he seizes a knife and wounds her in the arm.

She implores him to kill her, but seeing her blood flow, his love gets the better of him; he presses her to his heart, and persuades her to fly with him from the baleful air of the plain to the pure heights of the mountains.

But the door is barred by a crowd of peasants and by Sebastiano himself, who enters triumphantly and bids Marta dance for him. Pedro forbids this and the master strikes him.

Still Pedro's respect holds him in check, till Marta whispers to him, that Sebastiano is the man, who has brought her to shame.

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On this Pedro flies at the scoundrel. He is however prevented from attacking him by being forcibly removed by the peasants at Sebastiano's command.

Marta sinks back in a swoon.

At this moment old Tommaso returns, and tells Sebastiano, that having denounced his villany to the rich bride's father, the daughter is now lost to him.

Recklessly Sebastiano turns to Marta, who, having revived, finds herself alone with her old tyrant.

She struggles against him, calling to Pedro, who suddenly returns through another door, and bidding the scoundrel defend himself rushes upon him with his knife. But Sebastiano has no weapon, Pedro therefore throws down his knife and says they can wrestle then, and so be on equal terms.

After a short and desperate struggle Pedro succeeds in strangling Sebastiano, who falls dead to the ground.

Pedro then calls the villain's servants, and taking his wife into his arms, rushes away from the "Tiefland" to find peace and happiness in the mountains.



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MADAME BUTTERFLY.

Tragedy of a Japanese woman in three acts after John L. Long and David Belasco by L. ILLICA and G. GIACOSA.

Music by GIACOMO PUCCINI.

Though Puccini has not reached the musical heights of "Boheme" and "Tosca" in this opera, it has nevertheless a certain value for its true local colouring, united to the grace and the broad, flowing cantilene peculiar to the Italian composer.

These are most prominent in the love duet.

In the second act the little flower scene, which seems redolent with the delicate perfume of cherry blossoms, and the shimmering atmosphere, steeped in a peculiar shifting haze, gives score to the best musical effects of this famous composer.

The scene is laid in Nagasaki in our own time.

The first act takes place on a hill, from which there is a grand view of the ocean and of the town below.

Goro ("Nakodo"=matchmaker) shows his new Japanese house to an American lieutenant, Linkerton, who has purchased it in Japanese fashion for 999 years, with the right of giving monthly notice.—He is waiting for his bride Cho-Cho-San, named Butterfly, whom he is about to wed under the same queer conditions for one hundred yens (a yen about four shillings).

Butterfly's maid Suzuki and his two servants are presented to him, but he is impatient to embrace his sweetheart, with whom he is very much in love.

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Sharpless, the American Consul, who tells him much good of the little bride, warns him, not to bruise the wings of the delicate butterfly, but Linkerton only laughs at his remonstrances.

At last Butterfly appears with her companions. At her bidding, they all shut their umbrellas and kneel to their friend's future husband, of whom the girl is very proud.

Questioned by the Consul about her family, she tells him, that they are of good origin, but that, her father having died, she had to support herself and her mother as Geisha. She is but fifteen and very sweet and tender hearted.—

When the procession of her relations come up, they all do obeisance to Linkerton. They are all jealous of Butterfly's good luck and prophesy an evil end, but the girl perfectly trusts and believes in her lover and even confides to him, that she has left her own gods, to pray henceforth to the God of her husband.

When the latter begins to show her their house, she produces from her sleeve her few precious belongings; these are some silken scarfs, a little brooch, a looking glass and a fan; also a long knife, which she at once hides in a corner of the house. Goro tells Linkerton, that it is the weapon, with which her father performed "Harakiri" (killed himself). The last things she shows her lover are some little figures, "the Ottoken", which represent the souls of her ancestors.—

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When the whole assembly is ready, they are married by the commissary.

Linkerton treats his relations to champagne, but soon the festival is interrupted by the dismal howls of Butterfly's uncle, the Bonze, who climbs the hill and tells the relations, that the wretched bride has denied her faith, and has been to the mission-house, to adopt her husband's religion.

All turn from her with horror and curse her. But Linkerton consoles his weeping wife and the act closes with a charming love duet.

The second act shows Butterfly alone.—Linkerton has left her, and she sits dreamily with her faithful maid Suzuki, who vainly invokes her gods, to bring back the faithless husband.

The young wife, who has been waiting three long years for his return, still firmly believes his promise, to come back when the robin-redbreast should build its nest.

She refuses a proposal of marriage from prince Yamadori, who has loved her for years, and now tries again to win the forsaken wife. She answers him with quiet dignity, that, though by Japanese law a wife is considered free, as soon as her husband has left her, she considers herself bound by the laws of her husband's country, and Yamadori leaves her.

Sharpless now enters with a letter he has received from Linkerton. Not daring, to let her know its contents at once, he warns her, that her {516} husband will never return and advises her to accept prince Yamadori's offer.

Butterfly is at first startled and alarmed, but soon she recovers herself, and beckoning to Suzuki, she shows Sharpless her little fair haired, blue eyed boy, begging the Consul to write and tell her husband, that his child is awaiting him.

Sharpless takes leave of her deeply touched and without having shown the letter, when Suzuki enters screaming and accusing Goro, who has goaded her to fury, by spreading a report in the town, that the child's father is not known.

"You lie, you coward!" cries Butterfly, seizing a knife to kill the wretch. But suppressing her wrath she throws away the weapon and kicks him from her in disgust.

Suddenly a cannon shot is heard. Running on to the terrace Butterfly perceives a war-ship in the harbour, bearing the name "Abraham Linkerton."

All her troubles are forgotten; she bids her maid gather all the flowers in the garden; these she scatters around in profusion. Then she fetches her boy and bids Suzuki comb her hair, while she herself rouges her pale cheeks and those of her child.—Then they sit down behind a partition, in which they have made holes, through which they may watch the ship and await Linkerton's arrival.

The third act finds them in the same position. Suzuki and the child have fallen asleep, while Butterfly, sleepless, gazes through the "Shosy". Suzuki waking sees, that it is morning and implores her {517} mistress to take some rest, on which Butterfly, taking her child in her arms, retires into the inner room.

A loud knock causes Suzuki to open the "Shosy", and she finds herself in the presence of Sharpless and Linkerton. The latter signs to her, not to waken Butterfly. She is showing him the room adorned with flowers for his arrival, when she suddenly perceives a lady walking in the garden and hears, that she is Linkerton's lawful American wife.

Sharpless, taking the maid aside, begs her to prepare her mistress for the coming blow and tells her, that the foreign lady desires to adopt her husband's little boy.

Linkerton himself is deeply touched by the signs of Butterfly's undying love; full of remorse he entreats Sharpless to comfort her as best he can, and weeping leaves the scene of his first love dream.

His wife Kate returning to the foot of the terrace, sweetly repeats her wish to adopt the little boy, when Butterfly, emerging from the inner room, comes to look for her long lost husband, whose presence she feels with the divination of love.

Seeing Sharpless standing by a foreign lady and Suzuki in tears the truth suddenly bursts upon her. "Is he alive?" she asks, and when Suzuki answers "yes", she knows that he has forsaken her.—

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Turned to stone she listens to Kate's humble apologies and to her offer to take the child.—By a supreme effort she controls herself.

"I will give up my child to him only; let him come and take him; I shall by ready in half an hour," she answers brokenly.

When Sharpless and Kate have left her, Butterfly sends Suzuki into another room with the child. Then seizing her father's long knife she takes her white veil, throwing it over the folding screen. Kissing the blade she reads its inscription. "Honourably he dies, who no longer lives in honour," and raises it to her throat.

At this moment the door opens and her child runs up to his mother with outstretched arms. Snatching him to her bosom she devours him with kisses, then sends him into the garden.

Seizing the knife once more Butterfly disappears behind the screen and shortly afterward the knife is heard to fall.

When Linkerton's call "Butterfly" is heard, she emerges once more from the background and drags herself to the door; but there her strength fails her and she sinks dead to the ground.—



ACTE.

Music-Drama in four Acts. Text and Music by JOAN MANEN.

It is only a few years since the young Spanish composer has begun to be known beyond his own country.

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He was an infant prodigy, whose musical genius revealed itself in his earliest childhood. He began to play the piano at the age of three, and at seven he knew twenty-four of Bach's fugues by heart.

His fame began to be spoken of during his tours in Spain and all over America, where he appeared not only as virtuoso on the piano and on the violin, but also as director in difficult orchestral pieces.—When he was thirteen he devoted himself entirely to the violin and to composition, both of which studies occupied his early years completely.

Acte was produced at Barcelona in 1903, and its first performance out of Spain took place in Dresden on January 24th 1908.

It was received with general approval, due, it must be confessed, not so much to its dramatic effect as to its gorgeous and artistic staging. Though the opera shows great talent, fine orchestration, a distinct sense of local colour and some beautiful melodies, it lacks depth and dramatic power.—

It is more like one of those old stage operas of Verdi and Bellini, though it does not imitate them and contains, Wagner like, a number of leading motives. The same want is also to be found in the libretto, which fails to show us Nero, the many-sided; depicting him almost exclusively as a lover.—But considering the composer's youth, (he was just nineteen, when he wrote Acte), it promises much and is well worth hearing—and seeing.

The scene is laid in Rome during the reign of Nero.

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The first Act takes place in the Palatine, where Agrippina, Nero's mother, is haunted by evil forebodings, suggested by the story of Clytemnestra's fate, sung by a chorus of her attendants.

Nero appears, and seeing his mother restless and uneasy, tries to soothe her with assurances of his filial devotion. Agrippina reminds him of all she has done for him, and how she has committed crimes to pave his way to the throne.—To reassure her, he begs her to ask any favour she desires. On this she demands his separation from the Greek slave Acte, whom he has freed, and whom he loves to distraction, Acte being in fact the only woman he ever loved.

Nero of course indignantly refuses to make this sacrifice.—Agrippina persists in her demands and carried away by her violent temper and her contempt for her false and treacherous son she commands him, either to give up Acte, or to give back the imperial power to his mother, as she alone made him, what he is.—Nero enraged shows himself as the ruler and the despot and so terrifies her, that she tries to retract her evil words and begs his pardon.

Tigellinus, Nero's friend and confidant, has heard her last words. He excites his master's hatred against his false mother still more, and they decide to take vengeance on her at some favourable time.

Hearing Acte singing in the vestibule Tigellinus leaves Nero, who receives his lady with open arms. A charming love-duet closes the first Act.—

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In the second Act Marcus, an old Christian Patriarch, meets Acte in the gardens of the Palatine at night and wins her over to his faith. She promises to join the Christians, and to this purpose calls her slave Parthos, whom she persuades to guide her to the cave of Marcus.—After having given him a ring, Nero's love-token, to deliver to Caesar, she bribes Parthos, to swear, not to betray her secret, by making over to him all her worldly goods.—

Unfortunately this interview has been witnessed by Agrippina from her hiding place in the bushes, and she decides to make use of her discovery against her son.

When day breaks a grand festival takes place in the gardens. Agrippina hails her son, and seeing him alone she sweetly asks where his faithful companion Acte is.—Nero at once sends Tigellinus in search of her.

A beautiful ballet is now danced, and afterwards Caesar himself takes his lute and sings a hymn in praise of Venus, the Goddess of love.—He has hardly ended, when Tigellinus rushes in and exclaims that Acte is not to be found.

Nero storms and Agrippina, pretending to know nothing, suggests that Parthos should be questioned. The poor slave is dragged forward; he denies any knowledge of Acte's whereabouts, but her ring is found upon him. This he tremblingly gives to Nero, declaring that Acte gave it to him to return to Caesar.—Tigellinus says, that the slave evidently {522} knows more than this, and Nero orders him to be tortured. While the wretched Parthos is being led away Agrippina declares defiantly, that she alone knows where Acte is, and offers to tell Nero on the condition, that he will restore to her the imperial power, that she covets. Nero, enraged beyond measure orders Tigellinus to keep his mother as a prisoner, until she reveals Acte's hiding-place.

He then turns to the frightened spectators and with the words "My will is law, I am Caesar and will remain so for ever" the Act closes.

In the third Act Nero accompanied by Tigellinus leads his Pretorian guards to the hiding-place of the Christians.—This he has found out from the confessions of Parthos.—Nero hears Acte's voice singing a Miserere, but commands his guards to conceal themselves.—

The Christians, among them Acte and Marcus, believing themselves safe in the stormy night, at last emerge from the mountain caves, and at a sign from Nero are surrounded by the Pretorian guards.

Nero seizes Acte and tries to win back her love, but Acte remains firm, and she so infuriates her royal lover, that he threatens her with his dagger.—Old Marcus stepping between, only rouses the Emperor's anger to a higher pitch, while Tigellinus denounces the old man as Nero's rival and the cause of Acte's flight. Both are led away as captives with their Christian brethren to Rome.

The last Act takes place on the terrace of the Palatine.

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Lovely dances beguile the weary hours for Nero, lying on his couch, a prey to love and hatred. Tigellinus tries to rouse his pride by relating to him the last interview between Marcus and Acte overheard by him.

He describes the old man's exhortations and glowing promises of a better life, and Acte's calm courage and deep faith, and Nero cries: "She must be mine, or she dies!"—At this moment the Christians are heard, greeting Caesar as they pass the palace on their way to death.—Acte is not with them, she is now brought before Nero with Marcus, for whom she implores Nero's pardon.—But it is in vain; Nero falls upon the originator of his woes, and kills him with his own hands.—

In this moment flames are seen leaping up in the streets of Rome.

Tigellinus hurries in, exclaiming that the people accuse their Emperor of having set the city on fire, and already their furious cry is heard: "Death to the red Caesar!"

Beside himself with rage and fear Nero seizes Acte, and throwing her down from the terrace amongst the people, he accuses the Christians of having set fire to the town. Acte perishes a victim to the fury of the people, while Nero cries out: "Burn O Rome, burn, Nero greets Thee!"



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EUGENE ONEGIN.

Lyric Scenes in three acts by P. J. TSCHAIKOWSKY.

Text after Puschkin's poem of the same name.

Tschaikowsky's opera, long known and so intensely popular throughout Russia, that many of its melodies have become household-properties, has taken a long time to penetrate into other countries. But wherever it has been represented, its success was great and its impression upon the public deep and lasting.

At the Dresden Opera House it was first given October 20th, 1908, though the composer wrote it fully 29 years ago. It was the most brilliant success of the season.

Tschaikowsky is the classic amongst the Russian composers; his concert music is well known and greatly esteemed in Germany.

Of the eleven operas, which he wrote, Eugene Onegin is the best.

The libretto lacks dramatic force, although it is taken from Puschkin's masterpiece, a poem, which in Russia is equalled to Goethe's Faust, but the music is strikingly original and full of exquisite music and harmony. The hearer's attention may be drawn especially to the fine duet between Olga and Tatiana, and to the latter's love letter, a supreme hymn of love in the first act.

In the second act there are some charming dances, a quaint old-fashioned waltz, an original Mazurka and in the third act a brilliant polonaise {525} and a delightful waltz, interwoven with the passionate love duet between Onegin and Tatiana.

The text is adapted for the stage by Tschaikowsky's brother Modeste.

The scene is laid in Russia. The first and second acts take place in the country-house of Madame Larina, the third act in the house of Prince Gremin at St. Petersburg.

In the first scene Madame Larina is sitting in the garden with the nurse Philipyewna, talking of old times and listening to the pretty songs of her two daughters. Olga, a light-hearted merry girl, is engaged to Lenski, a somewhat jealous youth. Tatiana, the younger sister, is thoughtful and sensitive and possesses all the sentimentality of sweet eighteen.

While they are talking the peasants of the village enter, bringing presents of fruit and corn to their landlady. After having performed their pretty dances, they are treated to wine and food by the nurse.—

When they have left Lenski, Olga's betrothed is announced. He introduces his friend Eugene Onegin to the family, and Tatiana promptly falls in love with the interesting stranger, who seems also attracted by the charming girl. Lenski has only eyes for his bride Olga, who soon grows somewhat tired of her passionate and exacting lover.—

In the evening, when Tatiana has retired to her bedroom, she writes a long letter to Onegin, telling him, that she has seen his face in her dreams, and believes him to be her good genius and her {526} guardian angel. She declares in the most touching terms, that she loves him, but being ashamed of herself and hardly knowing, what she is doing in her newly awakened love-fever, she writes again and again, destroying each letter. Towards morning she begins to write once more and at last seals the letter just when her nurse enters to waken her. To this faithful servant she entrusts the precious document, imploring her to deliver it to Onegin.

In the third scene Tatiana is waiting for him. He cruelly undeceives her about his own feelings, telling her, that although touched by her confidence he cannot return her affection. He warns her to restrain her feelings in future, leaving her in an agony of shame.

The second act opens with a dance given in honour of Tatiana's birthday. Onegin feels bored and out of sheer ennui he begins to flirt with Olga. The thoughtless girl willingly yields to the young man's attentions and promises to dance the cotillion with him, in order to punish her lover for his jealousy.—This tactless behaviour enrages Lenski to such a degree, that he challenges Onegin to a duel. The whole assembly is terrified, Tatiana is most indignant and mortified, while Olga vainly tries to pacify her lover. Onegin recognizes at last, that he has gone too far, having not only given pain to a sweet and innocent maiden, but having also deeply wounded his dearest friend. In vain he tries to remonstrate with Lenski. The duel is arranged, and Lenski, feeling that he may not see {527} the following morning, takes a last farewell of his weeping bride.

In the next scene Lenski, finding himself the first on the spot and being left discreetly alone by his second, takes a touching farewell from life, after which Onegin comes up and the duel follows. Lenski is shot and Onegin leaves the place, horror-struck at his own deed.

The third act takes place some years later at a ball in St. Petersburg, in the house of Prince Gremin. Here we find Onegin, who is a friend and relative of the Prince. After long and aimless wanderings about the world he has come back to Russia utterly weary of life. The memory of his friend Lenski, whose premature death he caused, haunts him. In this melancholy state of mind he sees Tatiana again. The Prince enters the ballroom, leading a lady, whom Onegin recognizes as Tatiana. Then the Prince introduces her as his wife. She has grown far lovelier, then when he saw her last on the eve of Lenski's death. Onegin's passionate heart suddenly awakes to life again.—Tatiana bows coldly, concealing her emotion. Onegin explains to the Prince, that he has just returned from his travels.—He tries to talk with Tatiana; she however turns to her husband, pleading fatigue, and leaves the ball-room with him.

Onegin, torn by jealousy and love, decides, to recover her affection at any cost.

In the final scene he implores Tatiana, to be his own. The young wife resists, reminding him {528} of the past, when he spurned the simple country maiden's blind love. At last she grows weak and confesses, that her love for him is not dead. His wooing growing more passionate, Tatiana declares, that she means to remain true to her husband, and refuses to elope with him, but feeling that she cannot resist him much longer, she flees, while Onegin rushes away, cursing himself and his whole life.



ELEKTRA.

Tragedy in one act by HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL.

Music by RICHARD STRAUSS.

The first production of Strauss' Elektra took place in Dresden January 25th, 1909. It met with immense applause from one part, with trenchant criticism from the Philistines.

Certainly Strauss is neither Wagnerian nor academical, and certain it is, that his new work is interesting enough, to necessitate its admission in the Standard Operaglass.

The instrumentation is marvellous; orchestral impossibilities are unknown to Strauss. Although he depicts with predilection the weird and ghastly, following closely the libretto, often sacrificing beauty of expression to realistic truth, yet he also finds motives of deep feeling. These are for instance the melodious songs of Chrysothemis, the sisters' first duet and the recognition of Orestes by Elektra.

The legend of Orestes has occupied the poets of all times. Its greatest interpreter was Sophokles, who first chose Elektra for the heroine of his drama. {529} But while classic grandeur prevails in the old poet's drama, while he makes Elektra the tool of destiny decreed by the gods, the Viennese poet goes back to the original myth, depriving his heroine of every human feeling. She lets herself be guided only by her thirst for vengeance, and by her own savage and unprincipled instincts, and appears in striking contrast to her sister Chrisothemis, whose gentle nature is the one redeeming feature in the drama.

The scene is laid in Mykene.

In the opening scene five maids are talking about Elektra, who enters haggard and in rags, shunning them and disappearing again like a hunted animal. Day by day she mourns for her father Agamemnon, who has been murdered by her mother's lover Aegisthos.

The maids find fault with Elektra's strange behaviour and haughtiness. They believe her to be dangerous and suggest, that her mother should lock her up safely. One maid reproves them however. She respects in Elektra the dead King's cherished daughter, who, though in rags and brought so low by her unnatural mother, that she is compelled to eat with the servants, yet bears herself more queenly than Clytemnestra herself. The others beat their companion for her allegiance to Elektra, who appears again, moaning for Agamemnon. His poor murdered body seems to arise fresh before her every day. Her one aim in life is vengeance on his murderers, and her only hope is her brother Orestes, who has disappeared.

{530}

She is joined by her sister Chrysothemis, who implores her to abandon her vindictive thoughts, the cause of their common captivity. She further reveals to her, that their mother means to imprison her, but Elektra laughs at her terror.—Chrysothemis longs for freedom, the love of a husband and children, and is utterly alien to her sister's dark thoughts. Hearing her mother's step she entreats Elektra to go away, Clytemnestra having had evil dreams about her son's coming home and killing her. Elektra, regardless of her prayers meets her mother with a cruel stare. The latter is in her darkest mood, which grows worse at her hated daughter's appearance. But Elektra, accosting her as a goddess for once quiets her suspicions. Clytemnestra dismisses her servants, who tries to warn her against her daughter. When they are alone, the Queen complains bitterly of the frightful dreams that haunt her, and wants to know, what she can do to banish them.

Elektra answers enigmatically, that a woman must be sacrificed, and that a man, but not Aegisthos the coward, must do it.

Clytemnestra, vainly guessing at his name, is reminded of her son Orestes, whom the mother has made to disappear, while he was a child. Her troubled looks convince Elektra that Orestes is living, and casting off her disguised mood, she sternly tells her mother, that she herself is to be the sacrifice.—In a long wild monologue she reproaches her for all her treachery, ending by {531} depicting the awful fate that awaits her, and rejoicing over it.

Clytemnestra's terror is appeased by the appearance of her attendants, one of whom whispers to her the welcome news of Orestes' death.

Wildly triumphant she leaves her daughter, who hears the bad news from Chrysothemis. Elektra will not believe it until she hears it from another servant, who is sent into the fields, to inform Aegisthos about it. Then she implores her sister's help in killing her mother and her lover, while they are asleep.—She has hidden the axe, with which her father was slain, yet being physically weaker than her younger sister she requires assistance. But although she promises her all the good things on earth and is ready to serve her like a slave, Chrysothemis turns from her shuddering and finally escapes. Elektra wildly curses her and resolves to carry out her design alone.

For this purpose she unearths the axe, but is disturbed by the arrival of a stranger, who takes her for one of the maids. He replies to her angry questions, that he has come to announce Orestes' death, which he has witnessed. Flashing with anger Elektra reproaches him for not having died in his stead. Her bearing convinces him, that she is superior to what she seems. Then she tells him, that she is Elektra, to which he replies in a whisper: "Orestes lives."—At this moment an old family servants enters, bringing three others, who, falling at the stranger's feet, hail him as their master. {532} Then Elektra recognizes her brother and greets him with passionate joy, though she is ashamed of her own miserable appearance. Orestes at once agrees to help her in her vengeance and enters the house with his old servant, locking the door behind him. Elektra, standing erect on the threshold, hears Clytemnestra's scream and exclaims: "Hit her once more!" Those screams bring on Clytemnestra's servants together with Chrysothemis, all trying to open the closed door. But when they see Aegisthos returning they vanish.

The king calls for lights. Elektra taking up a torch, bows low to him, and motions him to go on. When he recognizes her, he asks where the men are, who brought the news of Orestes' death.—Elektra, silently advancing with the torch, opens the door and lets him pass into the house. Then she stands like one transfixed, listening to the frightful cries inside the house.—Chrysothemis appearing in a transport of joy shouts to her, that Orestes has come, and has avenged them by slaying the guilty pair.—All his enemies are dead thanks to those servants, who had remained faithful to him. Orestes is brought out on their shoulders, and while Chrysothemis joins her brother, Elektra sings a weird hymn of exultation. Slowly descending from the steps of the threshold she begins to dance triumphantly. The crowd looks on spellbound; her dance grows wilder and more triumphant until she sinks to the ground lifeless.

{533}

VERSIEGELT.

(SEALED.)

Comic Opera in one act by RICHARD BATKA and PORDES-MILO, adapted from Rauppach's "Der versiegelte Buergermeister".

Music by LEO BLECH.

The popularity of this work, the composer's first real success, is due not only to the sparkling and easy flow of melody, but also in large measure to the skill with which the librettists have adapted Rauppach's old-fashioned comedy.

We are transported to the age of chokers and kneebreeches, and the easy-going and good-humoured spirit of the times is well caught, and combined with the more delicate touches of feeling.

Blech is no mere imitator, but has a distinct individuality.

The chorus of the "Schuetzen", the dainty and touching little song of the widow Gertrude, and the first love duet are effective and characteristic, while the garrulous Lampe's songs are full of merriment.

The scene is laid in a small provincial town in the year 1830. Frau Willmers, a worthy matron, asks permission of her neighbour, a sprightly young widow, to deposit in her house an heirloom, in the shape of a handsome old cupboard, her reason being that the Burgomaster who bears her a grudge owing to an ancient dispute with her husband, threatens her with distraint for non-payment of taxes. Gertrude readily consents to have the cupboard placed in her room. Meanwhile Frau Willmers' son, Bertel, the Recorder, appears with Elsa, the {534} daughter of the Burgomaster. Bertel has asked the Burgomaster for Elsa's hand, and been refused. Elsa declares that she will marry Bertel and no one but Bertel. The latter begs Gertrude, who has long possessed the Burgomaster's affections, to soften the father's heart. Gertrude promises to do her best, with which consolation the couple together with Frau Willmers take their departure. In a humorous monologue Gertrude decides to accept the Burgomaster. She is interrupted in her soliloquy by Lampe, the Beadle, who is a regular old Paul Pry, and boasts to the widow of his smartness and sagacity. According to himself he can ferret out anything, or any one, from a defrauder of the revenue to a thief, an anarchist or a murderer. Then he goes on to say that he intended to serve notice of distraint on Frau Willmers, but had found her door locked. Suddenly he catches sight of the cupboard which seems familiar to him, whereupon he hurriedly leaves to convince himself that the valuable piece of furniture has been removed from Frau Willmers'. Meanwhile the Burgomaster arrives to ask for Gertrude's hand. He first tells her of Bertel's suit, and is rather taken aback upon the widow advising him to accept Bertel as a son-in-law. Gertrude listens somewhat impatiently to his proposal, and just as he is about to kiss her, Lampe appears at the door with Frau Willmers. Gertrude hastily conceals the Burgomaster in the cupboard. Lampe having compelled the unfortunate Frau Willmers to admit the ownership of the cupboard, {535} promptly affixes the official seal, thus unconsciously seizing the Burgomaster as well as the cupboard. The key is not to be found, and Lampe looking through a hole sees something moving. He suspects a gallant to be inside and leaves the house to fetch the Burgomaster. No sooner has he left than Bertel and Elsa reappear, and are told by Gertrude of what has happened. They resolve to turn the Burgomaster's involuntary imprisonment to their advantage. While Gertrude and Frau Willmers go in search of witnesses, the pair of lovers enact a regular comedy in front of the cupboard. Bertel protests to his sweetheart that his loyalty to, and regard for, her father prevent him from being a party to any deception. He declares that he will rather die than marry the daughter against her father's wishes, whereupon Elsa takes tragic leave of her lover. The Burgomaster, deeply affected, reveals his presence and promises everything if Bertel will only release him. Bertel demands Elsa's hand in return, and the latter hastily draws up a marriage contract in virtue of which she is to be allowed to marry in a fortnight, and is to receive into the bargain from her father 500 dollars in gold, a house and garden, with the customary livestock, to wit, cows, goats, ducks, hens, etc. The document is passed into the cupboard by Bertel and signed by the prisoner. He is then set at liberty, and gives the couple his blessing. But to punish them for their sins, the Burgomaster now locks them up in the cupboard, {536} seals it lightly [Transcriber's note: tightly?], and hides himself in the alcove. Hereupon Gertrude appears, accompanied by a merry throng, whom she has brought from the fair to witness the release of her lover. An inspiriting chorus is sung, the door of the cupboard flies open, but instead of the Burgomaster, out steps the betrothed couple. At the same moment the Burgomaster appears with stern mien. In reply to his question as to how the couple had got into the cupboard, Gertrude artfully declares that she had shut them up in order to unite them in spite of the father's harshness. For a moment all are disappointed at the unexpected turn things are taking. But good humour gains the upper hand, and then increases on the appearance of Lampe who is slightly intoxicated and imagines that Bertel has killed his master, as he has been unable to find him. He wants to lock Gertrude up in the cupboard for having broken the official seal, but eventually is forced into the cupboard himself, and carried off amidst the shouts and jeers of all present. While Bertel and Elsa disappear into the alcove, the Burgomaster makes for Gertrude and as a punishment for the trick she has played him, makes her his wife and seals the compact in the usual manner.



Albanus' Printing Office, Dresden.

THE END

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