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George P. (George Putnam) Upton.

The standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers online

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they meet two knights preceding a litter upon which the
wounded Amfortas, King of the Grail, is carried. In
the subsequent dialogue Gurnemanz tells the story of
the King's mishap. He is suffering from a wound which
refuses to close, and which has been inflicted by the sacred
spear, — the spear, according to the legend, with which
our Saviour's side was pierced. Klingsor, a magician, had
aspired to become a Knight of the Grail, but his application
was refused ; for only those of holy lives could watch the
sacred vessel and perform its ministrations. In revenge,
Klingsor studied the magic arts and created for himself a
fairy palace, which he peopled with beautiful women,
whose sole duty it was to seduce the Knights of the Grail.
One of these women, a mysterious creature of wonderful
fascinations, Kundry by name, had beguiled Amfortas, who
thus fell into the power of Klingsor. He lost his spear,
and received from it a wound which will never heal so
long as it remains in the hands of the magician. In a
vision he has been told to wait for the one who has been
appointed to cure him. A voice from the Grail tells him
the following mystery :

" Durch Mitleid wissend,
Der reine Thor,
Harre sein'

Den ich erkor." 1

1 "Let a guileless fool only, knowing by compassion, await him whom
I have chosen."



WAGNER 433

Meanwhile, as the shield-bearers are carrying Amfortas
towards the lake, the savage, mysterious Kundry is seen
flying over the fields. She overtakes Gurnemanz and
gives him a balm, saying that if it will not help the King,
nothing in Arabia can, and then, refusing to accept thanks
or reveal her identity, sinks to the ground in weariness.
The King takes the drug with gratitude ; but she scorns
thanks, and sneers at those about her with savage irony.
Gurnemanz's companions are about to seize her, but the
old knight warns them that she is living incarnate to
expiate the sins of a former life, and that in serving the
Order of the Grail she is purchasing back her own re-
demption. As Gurnemanz concludes, cries are heard in
the wood, and two knights, approaching, announce that a
swan, the bird sacred to the Grail, which was winging its
way over the lake, and which the King had hailed as a
happy omen, has been shot. Parsifal, the murderer,
is dragged in, and when questioned by Gurnemanz, is
unaware that he has committed any offence. To every
question he only answers he does not know. When asked
who is his mother, Kundry answers for him : " His mother
brought him an orphan into the world, and kept him like
a fool in the forest, a stranger to arms, so that he should
escape a premature death ; but he fled from her and
followed the wild life of nature. Her grief is over, for she
is dead." Whereupon Parsifal flies at her and seizes her
by the throat ; but Gurnemanz holds him back, and
Kundry sinks down exhausted. Parsifal answers to the
" Thor," but it remains to be seen whether he is the
" reine Thor." Gurnemanz conducts him to the temple
where the holy rites of the Grail are to be performed,
hoping he is the redeemer whom the Grail will disclose
when the love-feast of the Saviour is celebrated.

The scene changes to the great hall of the castle and
the celebration of the feast of the Grail. The scene is

28'



434 THE STANDARD OPERAS

introduced with a solemn march by full orchestra, includ-
ing trombones on the stage, accompanied by the clanging
of bells as the knights enter in stately procession. They
sing a pious chant in unison, the march theme still sound-
ing. As the younger squires and pages enter, a new
melody is taken in three-part harmony, and finally an
unseen chorus of boys from the extreme height of the
dome sing the chorale from the introduction, without
accompaniment, in imitation of angel voices. The
shield-bearers bring in Amfortas upon his litter, when
suddenly from a vaulted niche is heard the voice of Titurel,
Amfortas's aged father, and the founder of Monsalvat, now
too feeble to perform the holy offices, bidding the Grail to
be uncovered. Amfortas, mourning that he, the unholiest
of them, should be called, opens a golden shrine and takes
out the crystal vessel. Darkness falls upon the hall, but
the Grail is illuminated with constantly increasing bril-
liancy, while from the dome the children's voices sing,
" Take My blood in the name of our love, and take My
body in remembrance of Me." Parsifal watches the scene
with bewildered eyes, but upon saying in reply that he
does not understand the holy rite, he is contemptuously
ejected from the place.

The second act reveals Klingsor's enchanted palace.
The magician, gazing into a mirror, sees Parsifal approach-
ing, and knows he is the redeemer who has been prom-
ised. He summons Kundry before him, and commands
her to tempt him with her spells. She struggles against
the task, for in her soul the powers of good and evil are
always contending for the mastery. She longs for eternal
sleep, and rest from her evil passions, but Klingsor holds
her in his power. Parsifal enters, and the scene changes
to a delightful garden filled with girls of ravishing beauty
in garments of flowers. They crowd about him, and by
their fascinating blandishments seek to gain his love, but



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WAGNER



435



in vain. He is still the " guileless fool." Then Kundry
appears in all her loveliness, and calls him by name, — the
name he had heard his mother speak. He sorrowfully sinks
at Kundry's feet. The enchantress bends over him, ap-
peals to him through his longing for his mother, and kisses
him. Instantly he comprehends all that he has seen, and
he cries, " The wound burns in my heart, oh, torment of
love ! " Then, quickly rising, he spurns her from him.
He has gained the world-knowledge. She flies to him
again, and passionately exclaims, " The gift of my love
would make thee divine. If this hour has made thee the
redeemer, let me suffer forever, but give me thy love."
He spurns her again, and cries, "To all eternity thou
wouldst be damned with me, if for one hour I should for-
get my mission," but says he will save her too, and demands
to know the way to Amfortas. In rage she declares he shall
never find it, and summons the help of Klingsor, who hurls
the sacred lance at Parsifal. The weapon remains sus-
pended over his head. He seizes it and makes the sign
of the cross. The gardens and castle disappear. Parsifal
and Kundry are alone in a desert. She sinks to the ground
with a mournful cry, and turning from her, his last words
are, " Thou knowest where only thou canst see me again."
In the third act we are again in the land of the Grail.
Parsifal has wandered for years trying to find Monsalvat,
and at last encounters Gurnemanz, now a very old man,
living as a hermit near a forest spring, and the saddened
Kundry is serving him. It is the Good Friday morning,
and forests and fields are bright with flowers and the ver-
dure of spring. Gurnemanz recognizes him, and in reply
to his question what makes the world so beautiful, the
aged knight makes answer :

" The sad repentant tears of sinners
Have here with holy rain
Besprinkled field and plain,
And made them glow with beauty.



436 THE STANDARD OPERAS

All earthly creatures in delight

At the Redeemer's trace so bright,
Uplift their prayers of duty.
And now perceive each blade and meadow flower,
That mortal foot to-day it need not dread."

Kundry washes " the dust of his long wanderings " from
his feet, and looks up at him with earnest and beseeching
gaze. Gurnemanz recognizes the sacred spear, hails him
as the King of the Grail, and offers to conduct him to the
great hall where the holy rites are once more to be per-
formed. Before they leave, Parsifal's first act' as the re-
deemer is to baptize Kundry with water from the spring.
The sound of tolling bells in the distance announces the
funeral of Titurel, and the scene changes to the hall where
the knights are carrying the litter upon which Amfortas
lies, awaiting the funeral procession approaching to the
strains of a solemn march. The knights demand he shall
again uncover the Grail, but he refuses, and calls upon
them to destroy him, and then the Grail will shine brightly
for them again. Unobserved by them, Parsifal steps for-
ward, touches the King's wound with the spear, and it is
immediately healed. Then he proclaims himself King of
the Grail, and orders it to be uncovered. As Amfortas
and Gurnemanz kneel to do him homage, Kundry dies at
his feet in the joy of repentance. Titurel rises from his
coffin and bestows a benediction. Parsifal ascends to the
altar and raises the Grail in all its resplendent beauty. A
white dove flies down from the dome of the hall and hovers
over his head, while the knights chant their praise to God,
reechoed by the singers in the dome, whose strains sound
like celestial voices :

" Miracle of supreme blessing,
Redemption to the Redeemer."




Olive Fremstad as Kundry

Copyright, A ime Dupont



WAGNER (SIEGFRIED)

SIEGFRIED WAGNER, son of Richard Wagner, was
born at Triebscheu, near Lucerne, June 6, 1869. He
was first intended for an architect, went to a polytechnic
school, and made several meritorious plans for churches.
After travelling about the world for a time, however, he
decided to devote himself to music, and began its study
in his twenty-third year with Kniese and Humperdinck.
He made his debut as a conductor August 5, 1893, upon
which occasion he directed two acts of " Der Freisclnitz "
and the overture to " RienzL" After this he travelled as a
concert conductor through many continental countries,
and also appeared in England with much success. He
also conducted the performances of the Nibelung Ring
at Baireuth in 1896 and 1899. His compositions include
a symphonic poem, " Sehnsucht " ; and the operas, " Der
Barenhauter" (1899); " Herzog Wildfang " (1901) ; and
"Der Kobold " (1904). As the success of these operas
is still problematical, brief outlines of two of them only
are presented. They are mainly interesting as the work
of the son of a great composer.

Der Barenhauter

" Der Barenhauter," romantic opera in three acts, text
by the composer, was first produced at the Hof Theatre,
Munich, January 22, 1899, with the following cast :

Hans Herr Knote.

The Devil Herr Sieglitz.

The Stranger Herr Bertram.

Louise ' Frl. Hofmann.



438 THE STANDARD OPERAS

The libretto is based upon Grimm's story of the
Idler, "Bearskin," with some features added from a
story by Wilhelm Herz, called "Saint Peter and the
Stroller." The " everlasting bonfire " scene in the first
act, and the military finale to the third are of the com-
poser's own invention. Wagner himself calls his work a
" Volks Oper," though it does not by any means con-
tain folk music. He may have used the term to dis-
tinguish the character of his work from his father's
semi- mythological subjects.

The " Barenhauter " is Hans Kraft, a young soldier.
He returns from the Thirty Years' War to find his mother
dead, and himself a stranger in his native village. While in
distressful mood he meets an engaging fellow, the Devil,
who offers him an easy job at good pay, which he accepts.
His work is to keep a certain number of kettles hot in the
lower region. He is much pleased with his task, espe-
cially when he finds the soul of a corporal, who had
abused him, simmering in a cauldron. He does his work
so faithfully that the Devil leaves him to pursue it undis-
turbed. One day a visitor in priestly attire, described as
"The Stranger," but in reality Saint Peter, enters, and
knowing Hans's weak side, proposes to throw dice for the
souls he is looking after. Hans accepts and loses all of
them. The Devil in a rage devises a novel form of
penalty. He transforms Hans into a loathsome figure
with claws and covered with a bearskin, smeared with
mire and filth. He dooms him to wear this without
washing until he can find a maiden who will love him
faithfully for three years. Louise, the youngest daughter
of the burgomaster, loves him, gives him a ring, and at
the end of the three years Hans is restored. The Devil
then sends nixies to tempt him. They try in vain to get
the ring which Louise has given him. Both are faithful.
The Stranger blesses them. Hans goes back to the wars,



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WAGNER (SIEGFRIED) 439

returns covered with laurels for his prowess and claims
the happy Louise for his bride.

The music of Siegfried Wagner unmistakably shows the
influence of the music of Richard Wagner in its themes,
several of which recall motifs in the Nibelung Ring. It
bears still more the impress of Weber and of Humper-
dinck. Its melodies are simple and rhythmical, but never
very striking. His strongest effects are orchestral, like
the symphonic intermezzo in the second act and the music
describing sunrise. The fact, however, that the interest
in this opera as well as in the others is dying away in
Germany, and that they have not been heard outside of
that country would seem to indicate that their life is short
and that their interest has been due principally to the
curiosity to know whether the mantle of the father had
descended to the son.

Der Kobold

" Der Kobold " (The Goblin), opera in three acts, text
by the composer, was first produced at the Stadt Theatre,
Hamburg, in January, 1904. At the opening of the first
act, Seelschen, a goblin, begs Vevena, the sleeping hero-
ine, to redeem him, throws a precious stone, a talisman,
into her lap, and then disappears. She is aroused by her
attendant Eckhart, and tells him of a dream as well as of
her love for Friedrich, a wandering actor. Vevena's
mother is opposed to the match, and Friedrich is caught
in the toils of a countess who has stolen Vevena's talis-
man in hopes to win his love. At the close of the act the
Count invites Friedrich and his troupe to appear at the
castle.

The second act opens with their performance. Vevena,
as a nymph, is saved from the fauns by Friedrich, who
personifies Eros. The Count, enamored of her, seeks to
win her with money, and when he uses force she wounds



440 THE STANDARD OPERAS

him with her dagger. To save Vevena, Trutz, a member
of the company, accuses himself of the act, and while
escaping throws the talisman, which he has secured, into
the lake, A small figure dives into the water and floats
with the stone into the air. At the same instant the
goblin appears lamenting.

In the last act Eckhart tells about the souls of small
children who cannot die because they cannot find rest.
The Count's followers seek Trutz, but not daring to attack
him openly, set fire to the actors' quarters. A fight en-
sues, and when Friedrich is in immediate danger, Vevena
springs between the combatants and receives the fatal
blow. By her death the goblin is released.

The story is incoherent and sometimes unintelligible, and
is not well adapted for strong dramatic expression. As in
" Der Barenhauter," the orchestral parts are the strongest.



WALLACE

WILLIAM VINCENT WALLACE was born at Water-
ford, Ireland, in 1815. He first studied music with
his father, a band- leader, who afterwards sent him to Dub-
lin, where he speedily became an excellent performer on
the clarinet, violin, and piano. At the early age of fifteen
he was appointed organist at the Cathedral of Thurles,
and soon afterwards was engaged as a theatre director
and concert conductor. At the age of eighteen he had
a fit of sickness, and upon his recovery went to Australia
for his health, and thence to Van Diemen's Land and New
Zealand. He passed some time in the latter country, and
then began a long series of wanderings, in the course of
which he visited the East and West Indies, Mexico, —
where he conducted Italian opera, — and the United
States. He remained in New York a considerable period,
and gave concerts which were very remunerative. In

1846 he returned to Europe, and shortly afterwards his
pretty little opera "Maritana" appeared, and made quite
a sensation among the admirers of English opera. In

1847 "Matilda of Hungary" was produced, and met with
success. Thirteen years of silence elapsed, and at last, in
i860, he produced his legendary opera, " Lurline," at
Covent Garden. It gave great satisfaction at the time,
but is now rarely performed. Besides his operas he also
wrote many waltzes, nocturnes, studies, and other light
works for the piano. After the production of " Lurline "
he went to Paris for the purpose of bringing out some of
his operas, and while in that city also composed the first
act of an opera for London, but his health was too delicate



442 THE STANDARD OPERAS

to admit of its completion. He died at Chateau de Bayen,
October 12, 1865.

Maritana

" Maritana," romantic opera in three acts, words by
Fitzball, founded upon the well-known play of " Don
Caesar de Bazan," was first produced at Drury Lane,
London, November 15, 1845, and in New York, May 4,
1848. The original cast was as follows :

Maritana Miss Romer.

Don Ccesar Mr. Harrison.

Lazanllo Miss Poole.

Don Jose Mr. Borrain.

King Mr. Phillips.

The text follows that of the drama. The first act opens
in a public square of Madrid, where a band of gypsies are
singing to the populace, among them Maritana, a young
girl of more than ordinary beauty and vocal accomplish-
ments. Among the spectators is the young King Charles,
who after listening to her is smitten with her charms. Don
Jose, his minister, to carry out certain ambitious plans of
his own, resolves to encourage the fascinations which have
so attracted the King. He extols her beauty and arouses
hopes in her breast of future grandeur and prosperity. At
this juncture Don Csesar de Bazan, a reckless, rollicking
cavalier, comes reeling out of a tavern where he has just
parted with the last of his money to gamblers. In spite of
his shabby costume and dissipated appearance he bears
the marks of high breeding. In better days he had been
a friend of Don Jos6. While he is relating the story of
his downward career to the minister, Lazarillo, a forlorn
young lad who has just attempted to destroy himself^
accosts Don Csesar, and tells him a piteous tale of his
wrongs. Don Csesar befriends him, and in consequence
becomes involved in a duel, which leads to his arrest ; for
it is Holy Week, and duelling during that time has been



WALLACE 443

forbidden on pain of death. While Don Caesar is on his
way to prison, Don Jose" delights Maritana by promising
her wealth, a splendid marriage, and an introduction to the
court on the morrow.

The second act opens in the prison, and discovers Don
Caesar asleep, with his faithful little friend watching by him.
It is five o'clock when he wakes, and at seven he must die.
Only two hours of life remain for him, but the prospect
does not disturb him. On the other hand he is gayer than
usual, and rallies Lazarillo with playful mirth. In the midst
of his gayety the crafty Don Jose enters and professes
strong friendship for him. When Don Caesar declares that
he has but one last wish, and that is to die a soldier's death
instead of being ignominiously hanged, Don Jose* says it
shall be gratified upon condition that he will marry. The
prisoner has but an hour and three quarters to live, but he
consents. He is provided with wedding apparel, and a
banquet is spread in honor of the occasion. During the
feast Lazarillo brings in a paper to Don Jose* containing
the King's pardon for Don Caesar, but the minister promptly
conceals it. Maritana, her features disguised by a veil, is
introduced, and as the nuptial rites are performed the sol-
diers prepare to execute the penalty. At the expiration of
the hour Don Caesar is led out to meet his fate, but Laza-
rillo has managed to extract the balls from the guns. The
soldiers perform their duty, and Don Caesar feigns death ;
but as soon as the opportunity occurs, he leaves the prison
and hurries to a grand ball given by the Marquis and
Marchioness de Montefiori at their palace, while the Mar-
quis, who has his instructions from Don Jose to recog-
nize Maritana as his long-lost niece, is introducing her as
such. Don Caesar enters and demands his bride. The
astonished Don Jos£, perceiving that his scheme to intro-
duce Maritana at court is liable to be frustrated, offers the
Marquis a rich appointment if he will induce his wife to



444 THE STANDARD OPERAS

play the part he shall suggest. The scheme is soon
arranged, and the Marchioness, closely veiled, is pre-
sented to Don Caesar as the Countess de Bazan. Dis-
gusted at "the precious piece of antiquity," as he terms
her, and fancying that he has been duped, he is about to
sign a paper relinquishing his bride, when he suddenly hears
Maritana's voice. He recognizes it as the same he had
heard during the marriage rites. He rushes forward to
claim her, but she is quickly carried away, and he is pre-
vented from following.

The last act opens in a palace belonging to the King,
where Maritana is surrounded with luxury, though she is as
yet unaware that she is in the royal apartments. Don Jose,
fancying that Don Caesar will not dare to make his appear-
ance, as he does not know of his pardon, carries out his
plot by introducing the King to her as her husband. She
at first rejects him, and as he presses his suit Don Caesar
breaks into the apartment. The King in a rage demands
to know his errand. He replies that he is in quest of the
Countess de Bazan, and with equal rage inquires who he
(the King) is. The King in confusion answers that
he is Don Caesar, whereupon the latter promptly replies,
"Then I am the King of Spain." Before further expla-
nation can be made, a messenger arrives from the Queen
with the announcement that she awaits the King. After
his departure Don Caesar and Maritana mutually recognize
each other, and upon her advice he resolves to appeal to
the Queen to save her. He waits for her Majesty in the
palace garden, and while concealed, overhears Don Jose
informing her that the King will meet his mistress that
night. He springs out, and denouncing him as a traitor
to his king slays him, and then returning to Maritana's
apartment finds the King there again, and tells him what
has occurred. He has saved the King's honor ; will the
King destroy his? The monarch, overcome with Don



WALLACE 445

Caesar's gallantry and loyalty, consigns Maritana to him
and appoints him Governor of Granada. The appoint-
ment does not suit Don Caesar, for Granada is too near his
creditors. The King, laughing, changes it to Valencia, a
hundred leagues away, and thither Don Caesar conducts
his happy bride.

The drama is one which is well adapted to bright, cheer-
ful, melodious music, and the opportunity has been well
improved, for " Maritana " is one of the sprightliest and
brightest of all the English operas, and contains several
ballads which for beauty and expressiveness may well
challenge any that Balfe has written. The principal num-
bers in the first act are Maritana's opening song in the
public square (" It was a Knight of princely Mien ") ; the
romanza which she subsequently sings for Don Jose (" I
hear it again, 't is the Harp in the Air"), which is one of
the sweetest and most delicate songs in any of the lighter
operas ; the duet between Maritana and Don Jose (" Of
fairy Wand had I the Power") ; Don Caesar's rollicking
drinking-song (" All the World over, to love, to drink, to
fight, I delight ") ; and the tripping chorus (" Pretty Gitana,
tell us what the Fates decree "), leading up to the stirring
ensemble in the finale, when Don Caesar is arrested. The
first scene of the second act is the richest in popular num-
bers, containing an aria for alto, Lazarillo's song (" Alas !
those Chimes so sweetly pealing") ; a charming trio for
Don Caesar, Lazarillo, and Don Jose" ("Turn on, old Time,
thine Hour-glass ") ; Don Caesar's stirring martial song
(" Yes, let me like a Soldier fall ") ; the serious ballad (" In
happy Moments, Day by Day"), written by Alfred Bunn,
who wrote so many of the Balfe ballads ; and the quartet
and chorus closing the scene (" Health" to the Lady, the
lovely Bride ! "). The second scene opens with a pretty
chorus in waltz time ("Ah, what Pleasure ! the soft Gui-
tar"), followed by an aria sung by the King ("The



446 THE STANDARD OPERAS

Mariner in his Bark"), and introduced by an attractive
violin prelude. The finale is a very dramatic ensemble,
quintet, and chorus ("What Mystery must now control").
The last act falls off in musical interest, though it is very



Online LibraryGeorge P. (George Putnam) UptonThe standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers → online text (page 32 of 37)