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Title: The Complete Opera Book
       The Stories of the Operas, together with 400 of the Leading
              Airs and Motives in Musical Notation

Author: Gustav Kobbé

Release Date: August 19, 2012 [EBook #40540]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Charlene Taylor, Linda Cantoni, and the Online
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Transcriber's Notes

The Complete Opera Book has been an important opera reference work since its first publication in 1919. It has been revised and updated a number of times, most famously by George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood, and most recently in 1997.

This e-book was prepared from the 1919 first edition. Gustav Kobbé was killed in a sailing accident in 1918 and apparently did not have the opportunity to make corrections before the book was published. There are consequently numerous typographical, spelling, and formatting errors and inconsistencies in the first edition, the most obvious of which have been corrected without note in this e-book. Ambiguous errors are marked with red dotted underlining in the HTML version; hover the mouse over the underlined text to see a pop-up Transcriber's Note. A Transcriber's Errata List of these notes is also provided at the end of this file. The author's deliberate interchanges of foreign words or names and their equivalents in English or other languages have been preserved as they appear in the original. Misplaced Table of Contents and index entries have been moved to their proper places.

Photograph illustrations have been moved so as not to break up the flow of the text and may not appear on the page indicated in the List of Illustrations, which in this e-book contains links to the illustrations themselves, rather than to the pages.

Click on the [Listen] link to download and hear a midi file (or MP3 file, where noted) of the music. Obvious errors in the music notation have been corrected in the sound files, and the corrections are noted in the titles of the corresponding music images. If you are reading this e-book in any format other than HTML, you will not be able to hear the music.



By Gustav Kobbé

All-of-a-Sudden Carmen
The Complete Opera Book


Copyright photo by Mishkin

Mary Garden as Sapho

Complete Opera Book

The Stories of the Operas, together with
400 of the Leading Airs and Motives
in Musical Notation

Gustav Kobbé

Author of “Wagner’s Music-Dramas Analysed,”
“All-of-a-Sudden Carmen,” etc.

Illustrated with One Hundred Portraits in Costume and
Scenes from Opera

G.P. Putnam’s Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press

Copyright, 1919

The Knickerbocker Press, New York


Copyright photo by Pirie MacDonald




Through the thoughtfulness of William J. Henderson I was asked to supply material for The Complete Opera Book, which was missing at the time of Mr. Kobbé's death.

In performing my share of the work it has been my endeavor to confine myself to facts, rather than to intrude with personal opinions upon a work which should stand as a monument to Mr. Kobbé's musical knowledge and convictions.

Katharine Wright.

New York, 1919.



Schools of Opera1
Opera before Gluck4
Christoph Willibald Gluck, 1714-1787
Orpheus and Eurydice
Iphigenia in Tauris
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791
Marriage of Figaro
Don Giovanni
Magic Flute
Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827
Carl Maria von Weber, 1786-1826
Why Some Operas are rarely given77
From Weber to Wagner79
Richard Wagner, 1813-1883
Flying Dutchman
Ring of the Nibelung
Tristan and Isolde
Gioachino Antonio Rossini, 1792-1868
Barber of Seville
William Tell
Vincenzo Bellini, 1802-1835
Gaetano Donizetti, 1797-1848
Elisire d'Amore
Lucrezia Borgia
Lucia di Lammermoor
Daughter of the Regiment
Linda di Chamounix
Don Pasquale
Giuseppe Verdi, 1813-1901
Ballo in Maschera
Before and After “Ballo in Maschera”
Luisa Miller
Sicilian Vespers
Force of Destiny
Don Carlos
Arrigo Boïto, 1842-
Amilcare Ponchielli, 1834-1886
French Opera493
Méhul to Meyerbeer495
Étienne Nicholas Méhul, 1763-1817
François Adrien Boieldieu, 1775-1834
Caliph of Bagdad
Jean de Paris
Dame Blanche
Daniel François Esprit Auber, 1782-1871
Fra Diavolo
Louis J.F. Hérold, 1791-1833
Adolphe Charles Adam, 1802-1856
Postillion of Longumeau
Jacques François Fromental Élie Halévy, 1799-1862
Giacomo Meyerbeer, 1791-1864
Robert le Diable
Star of the North
Hector Berlioz, 1803-1869
Benvenuto Cellini
Beatrice and Benedict
Damnation of Faust
Friedrich von Flotow, 1812-1883
Charles François Gounod, 1818-1893
Romeo and Juliet
Ambroise Thomas, 1811-1896
Georges Bizet
Pearl Fishers
Italian Opera Since Verdi607
Pietro Mascagni, 1863-
Cavalleria Rusticana
Friend Fritz
Ruggiero Leoncavallo, 1858-
Giacomo Puccini, 1858-
Manon Lescaut
Madam Butterfly
Girl of the Golden West
Sister Angelica
Gianni Schicchi
Riccardo Zandonai
Francesca da Rimini
Franco Leoni, 1864-
Rip Van Winkle
Raggio di Luna
Ib and Little Christina
Italo Montemezzi, 1875-
Love of Three Kings
Giovanni Gallurese
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, 1876-
Jewels of the Madonna
Donne Curiose
Secret of Suzanne
Doctor Cupid
Umberto Giordano, 1867-
Madame Sans-Gêne
André Chénier
Modern Italian Opera715
Luigi Mancinelli
Ero e Leandro
Riccardo Zandonai
Alberto Franchetti
Cristoforo Colombo-x-
Luigi and Federico Ricci
Crispino e la Comare
Alfred Catalani
Umberto Giordano
Alberto Franchetti
Modern French Opera723
Jacques Offenbach
Tales of Hoffmann
Samson et Dalila
Roi d'Ys
Le Cid
Don Quichotte
Jongleur de Nôtre Dame
Gustave Charpentier
Pelléas and Mélisande
Pierre Louÿs
Alfred Bruneau
Attack on the Mill
Paul Dukas
Ariadne and Blue-Beard
Henri Février
Monna Vanna
Henri Rabaud
Sylvio Lazzari
Xavier Leroux
Queen Fiammette
Raoul Gunsbourg
Old Eagle
Modern German and Bohemian Opera
St. Elizabeth
Peter Cornelius
Barber of Bagdad-xii-
Herman Goetz
Taming of the Shrew
Karl Goldmark
Queen of Sheba
Cricket on the Hearth
Engelbert Humperdinck
Hänsel and Gretel
Golden Cross
Sealed In
Viktor E. Nessler
Trumpeter of Säkkingen
Wilhelm Kienzl
Ludwig Thuille
Hugo Wolf
Richard Strauss, 1864-
Fire Famine
Ariadne on Naxos
Friedrich Smetana
Bartered Bride-xiii-
Russian Opera818
Michael Ivanovich Glinka
Russlan and Ludmilla
Prince Igor
Boris Godounoff
Peter Ilitsch Tschaikowsky
Eugen Onegin
Coq d'Or
Ignace Jan Paderewski
American Opera832
Frederick Shepherd Converse
Pipe of Desire
Charles Wakefield Cadman
John Adams Hugo
Temple Dancer
Joseph Breil
Victor Herbert
Horatio Parker
Walter Damrosch
Reginald de Koven
Canterbury Pilgrims
Spanish Opera849
Enrique Granados, 1867-1916



Mary Garden as SaphoFrontispiece
Louise Homer as Orpheus in "Orpheus and Eurydice"10
Hempel (Susanna), Matzenauer (The Countess), and Farrar (Cherubino) in "Le Nozze di Figaro"26
Scotti as Don Giovanni34
Sembrich as Zerlina in "Don Giovanni"35
Scotti as Don Giovanni42
Alten and Goritz as Papagena and Papageno in "The Magic Flute"43
Matzenauer as Fidelio56
Farrar as Elizabeth in "Tannhäuser"108
"Tannhäuser," Finale, Act II. Tannhäuser (Maclennan), Elizabeth (Fornia), Wolfram (Dean), The Landgrave (Cranston)109
Sembach as Lohengrin122
Schumann-Heink as Ortrud in "Lohengrin"123
Emma Eames as Elsa in "Lohengrin"128
Louise Homer as Fricka in "The Ring of the Nibelung"129
Lilli Lehmann as Brünnhilde in "Die Walküre"166
"The Valkyr" Act I. Hunding (Parker), Sieglinde (Rennyson), and Siegmund (Maclennan)167-xvi-
Fremstad as Brünnhilde in "Die Walküre"172
Fremstad as Sieglinde in "Die Walküre"173
Weil as Wotan in "Die Walküre"178
"Die Walküre" Act III. Brünnhilde (Margaret Crawford)179
Édouard de Reszke as Hagen in "Götterdämmerung"210
Jean de Reszke as Siegfried in "Götterdämmerung"211
Nordica as Isolde228
Lilli Lehmann as Isolde236
Jean de Reszke as Tristan237
Gadski as Isolde242
Ternina as Isolde243
Emil Fischer as Hans Sachs in "Die Meistersinger"248
Weil and Goritz as Hans Sachs and Beckmesser in "Die Meistersinger"249
The Grail-Bearer272
Winckelmann and Materna as Parsifal and Kundry273
Scaria as Gurnemanz273
Sammarco as Figaro in "The Barber of Seville"298
Galli-Curci as Rosina in "The Barber of Seville"302
Sembrich as Rosina in "The Barber of Seville"303
Hempel (Adina) and Caruso (Nemorino) in "L'Elisir d'Amore"336
Caruso as Edgardo in "Lucia di Lammermoor"348
Galli-Curci as Lucia in "Lucia di Lammermoor"349
Galli-Curci as Gilda in "Rigoletto"392
Caruso as the Duke in "Rigoletto"393-xvii-
The Quartet in "Rigoletto." The Duke (Sheehan), Maddalena (Albright), Gilda (Easton), Rigoletto (Goff)400
Riccardo Martin as Manrico in "Il Trovatore"401
Schumann-Heink as Azucena in "Il Trovatore"410
Galli-Curci as Violetta in "La Traviata"411
Farrar as Violetta in "La Traviata"420
Scotti as Germont in "La Traviata"421
Emma Eames as Aïda442
Saléza as Rhadames in "Aïda"443
Louise Homer as Amneris in "Aïda"448
Rosina Galli in the Ballet of "Aïda"449
Alda as Desdemona in "Otello"460
Amato as Barnaba in "La Gioconda"461
Caruso as Enzo in "La Gioconda"488
Louise Homer as Laura in "La Gioconda"489
Plançon as Saint Bris in "The Huguenots"508
Jean de Reszke as Raoul in "The Huguenots"509
Ober and De Luca; Caruso and Hempel in "Martha"548
Plançon as Méphistophélès in "Faust"549
Galli-Curci as Juliette in "Roméo et Juliette"578
Calvé as Carmen with Sparkes as Frasquita, and Braslau as Mercedes579
Caruso as Don José in "Carmen"590
Caruso as Don José in "Carmen"591
Calvé as Carmen594
Amato as Escamillo in "Carmen"595-xviii-
Gadski as Santuzza in "Cavalleria Rusticana"614
Bori as Iris615
Caruso as Canio in "I Pagliacci"630
Farrar as Nedda in "I Pagliacci"631
Farrar as Mimi in "La Bohème"644
Café Momus Scene, "La Bohème." Act II. Mimi (Rennyson), Musette (Joel), Rudolph (Sheehan)645
Cavalieri as Tosca656
Scotti as Scarpia657
Emma Eames as Tosca660
Caruso as Mario in "Tosca"661
Farrar as Tosca664
"Madama Butterfly." Act I. (Francis Maclennan, Renée Vivienne, and Thomas Richards)665
Farrar as Cio-Cio-San in "Madama Butterfly"668
Destinn as Minnie, Caruso as Johnson, and Amato as Jack Rance in "The Girl of the Golden West"669
Alda as Francesca, and Martinelli as Paolo in "Francesca da Rimini"682
Bori and Ferrari-Fontana in "The Love of Three Kings"683
Farrar as Catherine in "Mme. Sans-Gêne"710
Galli-Curci as Lakmé711
Caruso as Samson in "Samson and Dalila"726
Mary Garden as Grisélidis727
Mary Garden as Thaïs730
Farrar and Amato as Thaïs and Athanaël731-xix-
Farrar as Thaïs734
Farrar and Amato as Thaïs and Athanaël735
Caruso as Des Grieux in "Manon"738
Mary Garden in "Le Jongleur de Nôtre Dame"739
Mary Garden as Louise750
Lucienne Bréval as Salammbô751
Mary Garden as Mélisande in "Pelléas and Mélisande"754
Farrar as the Goose Girl in "Königskinder"776
Van Dyck and Mattfeld as Hänsel and Gretel777
Mary Garden as Salome802
Hempel as the Princess and Ober as Octavian in "Der Rosenkavalier"803
Scene from the Ballet in "Prince Igor" (with Rosina Galli)820
Anna Case as Feodor, Didur as Boris, and Sparkes as Xenia in "Boris Godounoff"821


The Complete Opera Book

Schools of Opera

THERE are three great schools of opera,—Italian, French, and German. None other has developed sufficiently to require comment in this brief chapter.

Of the three standard schools, the Italian is the most frankly melodious. When at its best, Italian vocal melody ravishes the senses. When not at its best, it merely tickles the ear and offends common sense. "Aïda" was a turning point in Italian music. Before Verdi composed "Aïda," Italian opera, despite its many beauties, was largely a thing of temperament, inspirationally, but often also carelessly set forth. Now, Italian opera composers no longer accept any libretto thrust at them. They think out their scores more carefully; they produce works in which due attention is paid to both vocal and orchestral effect. The older composers still represented in the repertoire are Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi. The last-named, however, also reaches well over into the modern school of Italian opera, whose foremost living exponent is Puccini.

Although Rameau (1683-1764), whose "Castor and Pollux" held the stage until supplanted by Gluck's works, was a native of France, French opera had for its founder the Italian, Lully; and one of its chief exponents was the German, Meyerbeer. Two foreigners, therefore, have had-2- a large share in developing the school. It boasts, however, many distinguished natives—Halévy, Auber, Gounod, Bizet, Massenet.

In the French school of opera the instrumental support of the voice is far richer and the combination of vocal and instrumental effect more discriminating than in the old school of Italian opera. A first cousin of Italian opera, the French, nevertheless, is more carefully thought out, sometimes even too calculated; but, in general, less florid, and never indifferent to the librettist and the significance of the lines he has written and the situations he has evoked. Massenet is, in the truest sense, the most recent representative of the school of Meyerbeer and Gounod, for Bizet's "Carmen" is unique, and Débussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande" a wholly separate manifestation of French art for the lyric stage.

The German school of opera is distinguished by a seriousness of purpose that discards all effort at vocal display for itself alone, and strives, in a score, well-balanced as between voice and orchestra, to express more forcibly than could the spoken work, the drama that has been set to music.

An opera house like the Metropolitan, which practically has three companies, presents Italian, French, and German operas in the language in which they were written, or at least usually does so. Any speaker before an English-speaking audience can always elicit prolonged applause by maintaining that in English-speaking countries opera should be sung in English. But, in point of fact, and even disregarding the atrocities that masquerade as translations of opera into English, opera should be sung in the language in which it is written. For language unconsciously affects, I might even say determines, the structure of the melody.

Far more important than language, however, is it that opera be sung by great artists. For these assimilate music-3- and give it forth in all its essence of truth and beauty. Were great artists to sing opera in Choctaw, it would still be welcome as compared with opera rendered by inferior interpreters, no matter in what language.


Opera Before Gluck

GLUCK'S "Orfeo ed Euridice" (Orpheus and Eurydice), produced in 1762, is the oldest opera in the repertoire of the modern opera house. But when you are told that the Grand Opéra, Paris, was founded by Lully, an Italian composer, in 1672; that Italians were writing operas nearly a century earlier; that a German, Reinhard Keiser (1679-1739), is known to have composed at least 116 operas; and that another German, Johann Adolph Hasse, composed among his operas, numbering at least a hundred, one entitled "Artaxerxes," two airs from which were sung by Carlo Broschi every evening for ten years to soothe King Philip V. of Spain;—you will realize that opera existed, and even flourished before Gluck produced his "Orpheus and Eurydice."

Opera originated in Florence toward the close of the sixteenth century. A band of composers, enthusiastic, intellectual, aimed at reproducing the musical declamation which they believed to have been characteristic of the representation of Greek tragedy. Their scores were not melodious, but composed in a style of declamatory recitative highly dramatic for its day. What usually is classed as the first opera, Jacopo Peri's "Dafne," was privately performed in the Palazzo Corsi, Florence, in 1597. So great was its success that Peri was commissioned, in 1600, to write a similar work for the festivities incidental to the marriage of Henry IV. of France with Maria de Medici, and composed "Euridice," said to have been the first opera ever produced in public.


The new art form received great stimulus from Claudio Monteverdi, the Duke of Mantua's director of music, who composed "Arianna" (Ariadne) in honor of the marriage of Francesco Gonzaga with Margherita, Infanta of Savoy. The scene in which Ariadne bewails her desertion by her lover was so dramatically written (from the standpoint of the day, of course) that it produced a sensation. The permanency of opera was assured, when Monteverdi brought out, with even greater success, his opera "Orfeo," which showed a further advance in dramatic expression, as well as in the treatment of the instrumental score. This composer invented the tremolo for strings—marvellous then, commonplace now, and even reprehensible, unless employed with great skill.

Monteverdi's scores contained, besides recitative, suggestions of melody. The Venetian composer, Cavalli, introduced melody more conspicuously into the vocal score in order to relieve the monotonous effect of a continuous recitative, that was interrupted only by brief melodious phrases. In his airs for voice he foreshadowed the aria form, which was destined to be freely developed by Alessandro Scarlatti (1659-1725). Scarlatti was the first to introduce into an opera score the ritornello—the instrumental introduction, interlude, or postlude to a composition for voice. Indeed, Scarlatti is regarded as the founder of what we call Italian opera, the chief characteristic of which is melody for the voice with a comparatively simple accompaniment.

By developing vocal melody to a point at which it ceased to be dramatically expressive, but degenerated into mere voice pyrotechnics, composers who followed Scarlatti laid themselves open to the charge of being too subservient to the singers, and of sacrificing dramatic truth and depth of expression to the vanity of those upon the stage. Opera became too much a series of show-pieces for its interpreters.-6- The first practical and effective protest against this came from Lully, who already has been mentioned. He banished all meaningless embellishment from his scores. But in the many years that intervened between Lully's career and Gluck's, the abuse set in again. Then Gluck, from copying the florid Italian style of operatic composition early in his career, changed his entire method as late as 1762, when he was nearly fifty years old, and produced "Orfeo ed Euridice." From that time on he became the champion for the restoration of opera to its proper function as a well-balanced score, in which the voice, while pre-eminent, does not "run away with the whole show."

Indeed, throughout the history of opera, there have been recurring periods, when it has become necessary for composers with the true interest of the lyric stage at heart, to restore the proper balance between the creator of a work and its interpreters, in other words to prevent opera from degenerating from a musical drama of truly dramatic significance to a mere framework for the display of vocal pyrotechnics. Such a reformer was Wagner. Verdi, born the same year as Wagner (1813), but outliving him nearly twenty years, exemplified both the faults and virtues of opera. In his earlier works, many of which have completely disappeared from the stage, he catered almost entirely to his singers. But in "Aïda" he produced a masterpiece full of melody which, while offering every opportunity for beautiful singing, never degenerates into mere vocal display. What is here said of Verdi could have been said of Gluck. His earlier operas were in the florid style. Not until he composed "Orpheus and Eurydice" did he approach opera from the point of view of a reformer. "Orpheus" was his "Aïda."

Regarding opera Gluck wrote that "the true mission of music is to second the poetry, by strengthening the expression of the sentiments and increasing the interest of the-7- situations, without interrupting and weakening the action by superfluous ornaments in order to tickle the ear and display the agility of fine voices."

These words might have been written by Richard Wagner, they express so well what he accomplished in the century following that in which Gluck lived. They might also have been penned by Verdi, had he chosen to write an introduction to his "Aïda," "Otello," or "Falstaff"; and they are followed by every successful composer of grand opera today—Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Puccini, Massenet, Strauss.

In fact, however much the public may be carried away temporarily by astonishing vocal display introduced without reason save to be astonishing, the fate of every work for the lyric stage eventually has been decided on the principle enunciated above. Without being aware of it, the public has applied it. For no matter how sensationally popular a work may have been at any time, it has not survived unless, consciously or unconsciously, the composer has been guided by the cardinal principle of true dramatic expression.

Finally, I must not be misunderstood as condemning, at wholesale, vocal numbers in opera that require extraordinary technique. Scenes in opera frequently offer legitimate occasion for brilliant vocal display. Witness the arias of the Queen of the Night in "The Magic Flute," "Una voce poco fa" in "The Barber of Seville," "Ah! non giunge" in "Sonnambula," the mad scene in "Lucia," "Caro nome" in "Rigoletto," the "Jewel Song" in "Faust," and even Brünnhilde's valkyr shout in "Die Walküre"—works for the lyric stage that have escorted thousands of operatic scores to the grave, with Gluck's gospel on the true mission of opera for a funeral service.


Christoph Willibald Gluck

GLUCK is the earliest opera composer represented in the repertoire of the modern opera house. In this country three of his works survive. These are, in the order of their production, "Orfeo ed Euridice" (Orpheus and Eurydice), "Armide," and "Iphigénie en Tauride" (Iphigenia in Tauris). "Orpheus and Eurydice," produced in 1762, is the oldest work of its kind on the stage. It is the great-great-grandfather of operas.

Its composer was a musical reformer and "Orpheus" was the first product of his musical reform. He had been a composer of operas in the florid vocal style, which sacrificed the dramatic verities to the whims, fancies, and ambitions of the singers, who sought only to show off their voices. Gluck began, with his "Orpheus," to pay due regard to true dramatic expression. His great merit is that he accomplished this without ignoring the beauty and importance of the voice, but by striking a correct balance between the vocal and instrumental portions of the score.

Simple as his operas appear to us today, they aroused a strife comparable only with that which convulsed musical circles during the progress of Wagner's career. The opposition to his reforms reached its height in Paris, whither he went in 1772. His opponents invited Nicola Piccini, at that time famous as a composer of operas in the florid Italian style, to compete with him. So fierce was the war-9- between Gluckists and Piccinists, that duels were fought and lives sacrificed over the respective merits of the two composers. Finally each produced an opera on the subject of "Iphigenia in Tauris." Gluck's triumphed, Piccini's failed.

Completely victorious, Gluck retired to Vienna, where he died, November 25, 1787.


Opera in three acts. Music by Christoph Willibald Gluck; book by Raniero di Calzabigi. Productions and revivals. Vienna, October 5, 1762; Paris, as "Orphée et Eurydice," 1774; London, Covent Garden, June 26, 1860; New York, Metropolitan Opera House, 1885 (in German); Academy of Music, American Opera Company, in English, under Theodore Thomas, January 8, 1886, with Helene Hastreiter, Emma Juch, and Minnie Dilthey; Metropolitan Opera House, 1910 (with Homer, Gadski, and Alma Gluck).


Amor, God of LoveSoprano
A Happy ShadeSoprano

Shepherds and Shepherdesses, Furies and Demons, Heroes and Heroines in Hades.


Place—Greece and the Nether Regions.

Following a brief and solemn prelude, the curtain rises on Act I, showing a grotto with the tomb of Eurydice. The beautiful bride of Orpheus has died. Her husband and friends are mourning at her tomb. During an affecting aria and chorus ("Thou whom I loved") funeral honours are paid to the dead bride. A second orchestra, behind the scenes, echoes, with charming effect, the distracted husband's evocations to his bride and the mournful measures of the chorus, until, in answer to the piercing cries of Orpheus-10- and the exclamatory recitative, "Gods, cruel gods," Amor appears. He tells the bereaved husband that Zeus has taken pity on him. He shall have permission to go down into Hades and endeavour to propitiate Pluto and his minions solely through the power of his music. But, should he rescue Eurydice, he must on no account look back at her until he has crossed the Styx.

Upon that condition, so difficult to fulfil, because of the love of Orpheus for his bride, turns the whole story. For should he, in answer to her pleading, look back, or explain to her why he cannot do so, she will immediately die. But Orpheus, confident in his power of song and in his ability to stand the test imposed by Zeus and bring his beloved Eurydice back to earth, receives the message with great joy.

"Fulfil with joy the will of the gods," sings Amor, and Orpheus, having implored the aid of the deities, departs for the Nether World.


Copyright Photo by Dupont

Louise Homer as Orpheus in “Orpheus and Eurydice”

Act I. Entrance to Hades. When Orpheus appears, he is greeted with threats by the Furies. The scene, beginning with the chorus, "Who is this mortal?" is still considered a masterpiece of dramatic music. The Furies call upon Cerberus, the triple-headed dog monster that guards the entrance to the Nether World, to tear in pieces the mortal who so daringly approaches. The bark of the monster is reproduced in the score. This effect, however, while interesting, is but a minor incident. What lifts the scene to its thrilling climax is the infuriated "No!" which is hurled at Orpheus by the dwellers at the entrance to Hades, when, having recourse to song, he tells of his love for Eurydice and his grief over her death and begs to be allowed to seek her. He voices his plea in the air, "A thousand griefs, threatening shades." The sweetness of his music wins the sympathy of the Furies. They allow him to enter the Valley of the Blest, a beautiful spot where the good spirits in Hades find rest. (Song for Eurydice and her companions, "In this-11- tranquil and lovely abode of the blest.") Orpheus comes seeking Eurydice. His recitative, "What pure light!" is answered by a chorus of happy shades, "Sweet singer, you are welcome." To him they bring the lovely Eurydice. Orpheus, beside himself with joy, but remembering the warning of Amor, takes his bride by the hand and, with averted gaze, leads her from the vale.

She cannot understand his action. He seeks to soothe her injured feelings. (Duet: "On my faith relying.") But his efforts are vain; nor can he offer her any explanation, for he has also been forbidden to make known to her the reason for his apparent indifference.

Act III. A wood. Orpheus, still under the prohibition imposed by the gods, has released the hand of his bride and is hurrying on in advance of her urging her to follow. She, still not comprehending why he does not even cast a glance upon her, protests that without his love she prefers to die.

Orpheus, no longer able to resist the appeal of his beloved bride, forgets the warning of Amor. He turns and passionately clasps Eurydice in his arms. Immediately she dies.

It is then that Orpheus intones the lament, "Che farò senza Euridice" (I have lost my Eurydice), that air in the score which has truly become immortal and by which Gluck, when the opera as a whole shall have disappeared from the stage, will still be remembered.



"All forms of language have been exhausted to praise the stupor of grief, the passion, the despair expressed in this sublime number," says a writer in the Clément and-12- Larousse Dictionnaire des Opéras. It is equalled only by the lines of Virgil:

Vox ipsa et frigida lingua,
"Ah! miseram Eurydicen," anima fugiente, vocabat;
"Eurydicen;" toto referabant flumine ripae.

[E'en then his trembling tongue invok'd his bride;
With his last voice, "Eurydice," he cried,
"Eurydice," the rocks and river banks replied.

In fact it is so beautiful that Amor, affected by the grief of Orpheus appears to him, touches Eurydice and restores her to life and to her husband's arms.

The legend of "Orpheus and Eurydice" as related in Virgil's Georgics, from which are the lines just quoted is one of the classics of antiquity. In "Orfeo ed Euridice" Gluck has preserved the chaste classicism of the original. Orpheus was the son of Apollo and the muse Calliope. He played so divinely that trees uprooted themselves and rocks were loosened from their fastnesses in order to follow him. His bride, Eurydice, was the daughter of a Thracian shepherd.

The rôle of Orpheus was written for the celebrated male contralto Guadagni. For the Paris production the composer added three bars to the most famous number of the score, the "Che farò senza Euridice," illustrated above. These presumably were the three last bars, the concluding phrases of the peroration of the immortal air. He also was obliged to transpose the part of Orpheus for the tenor Legros, for whom he introduced a vocal number not only entirely out of keeping with the rôle, but not even of his own composition—a bravura aria from "Tancred," an opera by the obscure Italian composer Fernandino Bertoni. It is believed that the tenor importuned Gluck for something that would show off his voice, whereupon the composer handed him the-13- Bertoni air. Legros introduced it at the end of the first act, where to this day it remains in the printed score.

When the tenor Nourrit sang the rôle many years later, he substituted the far more appropriate aria, "Ô transport, ô désordre extrême" (O transport, O ecstasy extreme) from Gluck's own "Echo and Narcissus."

But that the opera, as it came from Gluck's pen, required nothing more, appeared in the notable revival at the Théâtre Lyrique, Paris, November, 1859, under Berlioz's direction, when that distinguished composer restored the rôle of Orpheus to its original form and for a hundred and fifty nights the celebrated contralto, Pauline Viardot-Garcia, sang it to enthusiastic houses.

The best production of the work in this country was that of the American Opera Company. It was suited, as no other opera was, to the exact capacity of that ill-starred organization. The representation was in four acts instead of three, the second act being divided into two, a division to which it easily lends itself.

The opera has been the object of unstinted praise. Of the second act the same French authority quoted above says that from the first note to the last, it is "a complete masterpiece and one of the most astonishing productions of the human mind. The chorus of demons, 'What mortal dares,' in turn questions, becomes wrathful, bursts into a turmoil of threats, gradually becomes tranquil and is hushed, as if subdued and conquered by the music of Orpheus's lyre. What is more moving than the phrase 'Laissez-vous toucher par mes pleurs'? (A thousand griefs, threatening shades.) Seeing a large audience captivated by this mythological subject; an audience mixed, frivolous and unthinking, transported and swayed by this scene, one recognizes the real power of music. The composer conquered his hearers as his Orpheus succeeded in subduing the Furies. Nowhere, in no work, is the effect more gripping. The scene in the-14- Elysian fields also has its beauties. The air of Eurydice, the chorus of happy shades, have the breath of inalterable calm, peace and serenity."

Gaetano Guadagni, who created the rôle of Orpheus, was one of the most famous male contralti of the eighteenth century. Händel assigned to him contralto parts in the "Messiah" and "Samson," and it was Gluck himself who procured his engagement at Vienna. The French production of the opera was preceded by an act of homage, which showed the interest of the French in Gluck's work. For while it had its first performance in Vienna, the score was first printed in Paris and at the expense of Count Durazzo. The success of the Paris production was so great that Gluck's former pupil, Marie Antoinette, granted him a pension of 6,000 francs with an addition of the same sum for every fresh work he should produce on the French stage.

The libretto of Calzabigi was, for its day, charged with a vast amount of human interest, passion, and dramatic intensity. In these particulars it was as novel as Gluck's score, and possibly had an influence upon him in the direction of his operatic reforms.


Opera in five acts by Gluck; words by François Quinault, founded on Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered.

Produced, Paris, 1777, at the Académie de Musique; New York, Metropolitan Opera House, November 14, 1910, with Fremstad, Caruso, Homer, Gluck, and Amato.


Armide, a Sorceress, Niece of HidraotSoprano
Phenice}her attendants{Soprano
Hate, a FurySoprano
Renaud (Rinaldo), a Knight of the Crusade
under Godfrey of Bouillon
Artemidore, Captive Knight Delivered by RenaudTenor
The Danish Knight}Crusaders{Tenor
Hidraot, King of DamascusBass
Arontes, leader of the SaracensBass
A Naiad, a LoveApparitions

Populace, Apparitions and Furies.

Time—First Crusade, 1098.


Act I. Hall of Armide's palace at Damascus. Phenice and Sidonie are praising the beauty of Armide. But she is depressed at her failure to vanquish the intrepid knight, Renaud, although all others have been vanquished by her. Hidraot, entering, expresses a desire to see Armide married. The princess tells him that, should she ever yield to love, only a hero shall inspire it. People of Damascus enter to celebrate the victory won by Armide's sorcery over the knights of Godfrey. In the midst of the festivities Arontes, who has had charge of the captive knights, appears and announces their rescue by a single warrior, none other than Renaud, upon whom Armide now vows vengeance.

Act II. A desert spot. Artemidore, one of the Christian knights, thanks Renaud for his rescue. Renaud has been banished from Godfrey's camp for the misdeed of another, whom he will not betray. Artemidore warns him to beware the blandishments of Armide, then departs. Renaud falls asleep by the bank of a stream. Hidraot and Armide come upon the scene. He urges her to employ her supernatural powers to aid in the pursuit of Renaud. After the king has departed, she discovers Renaud. At her behest apparitions, in the disguise of charming nymphs, shepherds and shepherdesses, bind him with garlands of flowers. Armide now approaches to slay her sleeping enemy with a dagger, but, in the act of striking him, she is overcome with love for him, and bids the apparitions-16- transport her and her hero to some "farthest desert, where she may hide her weakness and her shame."

Act III. Wild and rugged landscape. Armide, alone, is deploring the conquest of her heart by Renaud. Phenice and Sidonie come to her and urge her to abandon herself to love. They assure her that Renaud cannot fail to be enchanted by her beauty. Armide, reluctant to yield, summons Hate, who is ready to do her bidding and expel love from her bosom. But at the critical moment Armide cries out to desist, and Hate retires with the threat never to return.

Act IV. From yawning chasms and caves wild beasts and monsters emerge in order to frighten Ubalde and a Danish Knight, who have come in quest of Renaud. Ubalde carries a magic shield and sceptre, to counteract the enchantments of Armide, and to deliver Renaud. The knights attack and vanquish the monsters. The desert changes into a beautiful garden. An apparition, disguised as Lucinde, a girl beloved by the Danish Knight, is here, accompanied by apparitions in various pleasing disguises. Lucinde tries to detain the knight from continuing upon his errand, but upon Ubalde touching her with the golden sceptre, she vanishes. The two then resume their journey to the rescue of Renaud.

Act V. Another part of the enchanted garden. Renaud, bedecked with garlands, endeavours to detain Armide, who, haunted by dark presentiment, wishes to consult with the powers of Hades. She leaves Renaud to be entertained by a company of happy Lovers. They, however, fail to divert the lovelorn warrior, and are dismissed by him. Ubalde and the Danish Knight appear. By holding the magic shield before Renaud's eyes, they counteract the passion that has swayed him. He is following the two knights, when Armide returns and vainly tries to detain him. Proof against her blandishments, he leaves her to-17- seek glory. Armide deserted, summons Hate to slay him. But Hate, once driven away, refuses to return. Armide then bids the Furies destroy the enchanted palace. They obey. She perishes in the ruins. (Or, according to the libretto, "departs in a flying car"—an early instance of aviation in opera!)

There are more than fifty operas on the subject of Armide. Gluck's has survived them all. Nearly a century before his opera was produced at the Académie, Paris, that institution was the scene of the first performance of "Armide et Renaud," composed by Lully to the same libretto used by Gluck, Quinault having been Lully's librettist in ordinary.

"Armide" is not a work of such strong human appeal as "Orpheus"; but for its day it was a highly dramatic production; and it still admits of elaborate spectacle. The air for Renaud in the second act, "Plus j'observe ces lieux, et plus je les admire!" (The more I view this spot the more charmed I am); the shepherd's song almost immediately following; Armide's air at the opening of the third act, "Ah! si la liberté me doit être ravie" (Ah! if liberty is lost to me); the exquisite solo and chorus in the enchanted garden, "Les plaisirs ont choisi pour asile" (Pleasure has chosen for its retreat) are classics. Several of the ballet numbers long were popular.

In assigning to a singer of unusual merit the ungrateful rôle of the Danish Knight, Gluck said: "A single stanza will compensate you, I hope, for so courteously consenting to take the part." It was the stanza, "Nôtre général vous rappelle" (Our commander summons you), with which the knight in Act V recalls Renaud to his duty. "Never," says the relater of the anecdote, "was a prediction more completely fulfilled. The stanza in question produced a sensation."



Opera in four acts by Gluck, words by François Guillard.

Produced at the Académie de Musique, Paris, May 18, 1779; Metropolitan Opera House, New York, November 25, 1916, with Kurt, Weil, Sembach, Braun, and Rappold.


Iphigénie, Priestess of DianaSoprano
Orestes, her BrotherBaritone
Pylades, his FriendTenor
Thoas, King of ScythiaBass

Scythians, Priestesses of Diana.

Time—Antiquity, after the Trojan War.


Iphigénie is the daughter of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae. Agamemnon was slain by his wife, Clytemnestra, who, in turn, was killed by her son, Orestes. Iphigénie is ignorant of these happenings. She has been a priestess of Diana and has not seen Orestes for many years.

Act I. Before the atrium of the temple of Diana. To priestesses and Greek maidens, Iphigénie tells of her dream that misfortune has come to her family in the distant country of her birth. Thoas, entering, calls for a human sacrifice to ward off danger that has been foretold to him. Some of his people, hastily coming upon the scene, bring with them as captives Orestes and Pylades, Greek youths who have landed upon the coast. They report that Orestes constantly speaks of having committed a crime and of being pursued by Furies.

Act II. Temple of Diana. Orestes bewails his fate. Pylades sings of his undying friendship for him. Pylades is separated from Orestes, who temporarily loses his mind. Iphigénie questions him. Orestes, under her influence, becomes calmer, but refrains from disclosing his identity.-19- He tells her, however, that he is from Mycenae, that Agamemnon (their father) has been slain by his wife, that Clytemnestra's son, Orestes, has slain her in revenge, and is himself dead. Of the once great family only a daughter, Electra, remains.

Act III. Iphigénie is struck with the resemblance of the stranger to her brother and, in order to save him from the sacrifice demanded by Thoas, charges him to deliver a letter to Electra. He declines to leave Pylades; nor until Orestes affirms that he will commit suicide, rather than accept freedom at the price of his friend's life, does Pylades agree to take the letter, and then only because he hopes to bring succour to Orestes.

Act IV. All is ready for the sacrifice. Iphigénie has the knife poised for the fatal thrust, when, through an exclamation uttered by Orestes, she recognizes him as her brother. The priestesses offer him obeisance as King. Thoas, however, enters and demands the sacrifice. Iphigénie declares that she will die with her brother. At that moment Pylades at the head of a rescue party enters the temple. A combat ensues in which Thoas is killed. Diana herself appears, pardons Orestes and returns to the Greeks her likeness which the Scythians had stolen and over which they had built the temple.

Gluck was sixty-five, when he brought out "Iphigénie en Tauride." A contemporary remarked that there were many fine passages in the opera. "There is only one," said the Abbé Arnaud. "Which?"—"The entire work."

The mad scene for Orestes, in the second act, has been called Gluck's greatest single achievement. Mention should also be made of the dream of Iphigénie, the dances of the Scythians, the air of Thoas, "De noirs pressentiments mon âme intimidée" (My spirit is depressed by dark forebodings); the air of Pylades, "Unis dès la plus tendre enfance" (United since our earliest infancy); Iphigénie's "Ô mal-20-heureuse (unhappy) Iphigénie," and "Je t'implore et je tremble" (I pray you and I tremble); and the hymn to Diana, "Chaste fille de Latone" (Chaste daughter of the crescent moon).

Here may be related an incident at the rehearsal of the work, which proves the dramatic significance Gluck sought to impart to his music. In the second act, while Orestes is singing, "Le calme rentre dans mon cœur," (Once more my heart is calm), the orchestral accompaniment continues to express the agitation of his thoughts. During the rehearsal the members of the orchestra, not understanding the passage, came to a stop. "Go on all the same," cried Gluck. "He lies. He has killed his mother!"

Gluck's enemies prevailed upon his rival, Piccini, to write an "Iphigénie en Tauride" in opposition. It was produced in January, 1781, met with failure, and put a definite stop to Piccini's rivalry with Gluck. At the performance the prima donna was intoxicated. This caused a spectator to shout:

"'Iphigénie en Tauride!' allons donc, c'est 'Iphigénie en Champagne!'" (Iphigenia in Tauris! Do tell! Shouldn't it be Iphigenia in Champagne?)

The laugh that followed sealed the doom of the work.

The Metropolitan production employs the version of the work made by Richard Strauss, which involves changes in the finales of the first and last acts. Ballet music from "Orfeo" and "Armide" also is introduced.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

THE operas of Gluck supplanted those of Lully and Rameau. Those of Mozart, while they did not supplant Gluck's, wrested from them the sceptre of supremacy. In a general way it may be said that, before Mozart's time, composers of grand opera reached back to antiquity and mythology, or to the early Christian era, for their subjects. Their works moved with a certain restricted grandeur. Their characters were remote.

Mozart's subjects were more modern, even contemporary. Moreover, he was one of the brightest stars in the musical firmament. His was a complete and easy mastery of all forms of music. "In his music breathes the warm-hearted, laughter-loving artist," writes Theodore Baker. That is a correct characterization. "The Marriage of Figaro" is still regarded as a model of what a comic grand opera, if so I may call it, should be. "Don Giovanni," despite its tragic dénouement, sparkles with humour, and Don Giovanni himself, despite the evil he does, is a jovial character. "The Magic Flute" is full of amusing incidents and, if its relationship to the rites of freemasonry has been correctly interpreted, was a contemporary subject of strong human interest, notwithstanding its story being laid in ancient Egypt. In fact it may be said that, in the evolution of opera, Mozart was the first to impart to it a strong human interest with humour playing about it like sunlight.


The libretto of "The Marriage of Figaro" was derived from a contemporary French comedy; "Don Giovanni," though its plot is taken from an old Spanish story, has in its principal character a type of libertine, whose reckless daring inspires loyalty not only in his servant, but even in at least one of his victims—a type as familiar to Mozart's contemporaries as it is to us; the probable contemporary significance of "The Magic Flute" I have already mentioned, and the point is further considered under the head of that opera.

For the most part as free from unnecessary vocal embellishments as are the operas of Gluck, Mozart, being the more gifted composer, attained an even higher degree of dramatic expression than his predecessor. May I say that he even gave to the voice a human clang it hitherto had lacked, and in this respect also advanced the art of opera? By this I mean that, full of dramatic significance as his voice parts are, they have, too, an ingratiating human quality which the music of his predecessor lacks. In plasticity of orchestration his operas also mark a great advance.

Excepting a few works by Gluck, every opera before Mozart and the operas of every composer contemporary with him, and for a considerable period after him, have disappeared from the repertoire. The next two operas to hold the stage, Beethoven's "Fidelio" (in its final form) and Rossini's "Barber of Seville" were not produced until 1814 and 1816—respectively twenty-three and twenty-five years after Mozart's death.

That Mozart was a genius by the grace of God will appear from the simple statement that his career came to an end at the age of thirty-five. Compare this with the long careers of the three other composers, whose influence upon opera was supreme—Gluck, Wagner, and Verdi. Gluck died in his seventy-third year, Wagner in his seven-23-tieth, and Verdi in his eighty-eighth. Yet the composer who laid down his pen and went to a pauper's grave at thirty-five, contributed as much as any of these to the evolution of the art of opera.


Opera in four acts by Mozart; words by Lorenzo da Ponte, after Beaumarchais. Produced at the National Theatre, Vienna, May 1, 1786, Mozart conducting. Académie de Musique, Paris, as "Le Mariage de Figaro" (with Beaumarchais's dialogue), 1793; as "Les Noces de Figaro" (words by Barbier and Carré), 1858. London, in Italian, King's Theatre, June 18, 1812. New York, 1823, with T. Phillips, of Dublin, as Figaro; May 10, 1824, with Pearman as Figaro and Mrs. Holman, as Susanna; January 18, 1828, with Elizabeth Alston, as Susanna; all these were in English and at the Park Theatre. (See concluding paragraph of this article.) Notable revivals in Italian, at the Metropolitan Opera House: 1902, with Sembrich, Eames, Fritzi Scheff, de Reszke, and Campanari; 1909, Sembrich, Eames, Farrar, and Scotti; 1916, Hempel, Matzenauer, Farrar, and Scotti.


Count AlmavivaBaritone
Figaro, his valetBaritone
Doctor Bartolo, a PhysicianBass
Don Basilio, a music-masterTenor
Cherubino, a pageSoprano
Antonio, a gardenerBass
Don Curzio, counsellor at lawTenor
Countess AlmavivaSoprano
Susanna, her personal maid, affianced to FigaroSoprano
Marcellina, a duennaSoprano
Barbarina, Antonio's daughterSoprano

Time—17th Century.

Place—The Count's château of Aguas Frescas, near Seville.

"Le Nozze di Figaro" was composed by Mozart by command of Emperor Joseph II., of Austria. After con-24-gratulating the composer at the end of the first performance, the Emperor said to him: "You must admit, however, my dear Mozart, that there are a great many notes in your score." "Not one too many, Sire," was Mozart's reply.

(The anecdote, it should be noted, also, is told of the first performance of Mozart's "Così Fan Tutte.")

No opera composed before "Le Nozze di Figaro" can be compared with it for development of ensemble, charm and novelty of melody, richness and variety of orchestration. Yet Mozart composed this score in a month. The finale to the second act occupied him but two days. In the music the sparkle of high comedy alternates with the deeper sentiment of the affections.

Michael Kelly, the English tenor, who was the Basilio and Curzio in the original production, tells in his memoirs of the splendid sonority with which Benucci, the Figaro, sang the martial "Non più andrai" at the first orchestral rehearsal. Mozart, who was on the stage in a crimson pelisse and cocked hat trimmed with gold lace, kept repeating sotto voce, "Bravo, bravo, Benucci!" At the conclusion the orchestra and all on the stage burst into applause and vociferous acclaim of Mozart:

"Bravo, bravo, Maestro! Viva, viva, grande Mozart!"

Further, the Reminiscences of Kelly inform us of the enthusiastic reception of "Le Nozze di Figaro" upon its production, almost everything being encored, so that the time required for its performance was nearly doubled. Notwithstanding this success, it was withdrawn after comparatively few representations, owing to Italian intrigue at the court and opera, led by Mozart's rival, the composer Salieri—now heard of only because of that rivalry. In Prague, where the opera was produced in January, 1787, its success was so great that Bondini, the manager of the company, was able to persuade Mozart to compose-25- an opera for first performance in Prague. The result was "Don Giovanni."

The story of "Le Nozze di Figaro" is a sequel to that of "The Barber of Seville," which Rossini set to music. Both are derived from "Figaro" comedies by Beaumarchais. In Rossini's opera it is Figaro, at the time a barber in Seville, who plays the go-between for Count Almaviva and his beloved Rosina, Dr. Bartolo's pretty ward. Rosina is now the wife of the Count, who unfortunately, is promiscuous in his attentions to women, including Susanna, the Countess's vivacious maid, who is affianced to Figaro. The latter and the music-master Basilio who, in their time helped to hoodwink Bartolo, are in the service of the Count, Figaro having been rewarded with the position of valet and majordomo. Bartolo, for whom, as formerly, Marcellina is keeping house, still is Figaro's enemy, because of the latter's interference with his plans to marry Rosina and so secure her fortune to himself. The other characters in the opera also belong to the personnel of the Count's household.

Aside from the difference between Rossini's and Mozart's scores, which are alike only in that each opera is a masterpiece of the comic sentiment, there is at least one difference between the stories. In Rossini's "Barber" Figaro, a man, is the mainspring of the action. In Mozart's opera it is Susanna, a woman; and a clever woman may possess in the rôle of protagonist in comedy a chicness and sparkle quite impossible to a man. The whole plot of "Le Nozze di Figaro" plays around Susanna's efforts to nip in the bud the intrigue in which the Count wishes to engage her. She is aided by the Countess and by Figaro; but she still must appear to encourage while evading the Count's advances, and do so without offending him, lest both she and her affianced be made to suffer through his disfavour. In the libretto there is much that is risqué,-26- suggestive. But as the average opera-goer does not understand the subtleties of the Italian language, and the average English translation is too clumsy to preserve them, it is quite possible—especially in this advanced age—to attend a performance of "Le Nozze di Figaro" without imperilling one's morals.

There is a romping overture. Then, in Act I, we learn that Figaro, Count Almaviva's valet, wants to get married. Susanna, the Countess's maid, is the chosen one. The Count has assigned to them a room near his, ostensibly because his valet will be able to respond quickly to his summons. The room is the scene of this Act. Susanna tells her lover that the true reason for the Count's choice of their room is the fact that their noble master is running after her. Now Figaro is willing enough to "play up" for the little Count, if he should take it into his head "to venture on a little dance" once too often. ("Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino!")



Unfortunately, however, Figaro himself is in a fix. He has borrowed money from Marcellina, Bartolo's housekeeper, and he has promised to marry her in case of his inability to repay her. She now appears, to demand of Figaro the fulfilment of his promise. Bartolo encourages her in this, both out of spite against Figaro and because he wants to be rid of the old woman, who has been his mistress and even borne him a son, who, however, was kidnapped soon after his birth. There is a vengeance aria for Bartolo, and a spiteful duet for Marcellina and Susanna, beginning: "Via resti servita, madama brillante" (Go first, I entreat you, Miss, model of beauty!).


Photo by White

Hempel (Susanna), Matzenauer (the Countess), and Farrar (Cherubino)
in “Le Nozze di Figaro”

The next scene opens between the page, Cherubino, a-27- boy in love with every petticoat, and Susanna. He begs Susanna to intercede for him with the Count, who has dismissed him. Cherubino desires to stay around the Countess, for whom he has conceived one of his grand passions. "Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio"—(Ah, what feelings now possess me!). The Count's step is heard. Cherubino hides himself behind a chair, from where he hears the Count paying court to Susanna. The voice of the music-master then is heard from without. The Count moves toward the door. Cherubino, taking advantage of this, slips out from behind the chair and conceals himself in it under a dress that has been thrown over it. The Count, however, instead of going out, hides behind the chair, in the same place where Cherubino has been. Basilio, who has entered, now makes all kinds of malicious remarks and insinuations about the flirtations of Cherubino with Susanna and also with the Countess. The Count, enraged at the free use of his wife's name, emerges from behind the chair. Only the day before, he says, he has caught that rascal, Cherubino, with the gardener's daughter Barbarina (with whom the Count also is flirting). Cherubino, he continues, was hidden under a coverlet, "just as if under this dress here." Then, suiting the action to the words, by way of demonstration, he lifts the gown from the chair, and lo! there is Cherubino. The Count is furious. But as the page has overheard him making love to Susanna, and as Figaro and others have come in to beg that he be forgiven, the Count, while no longer permitting him to remain in the castle, grants him an officer's commission in his own regiment. It is here that Figaro addresses Cherubino in the dashing martial air, "Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso" (Play no more, the part of a lover).

Act II. Still, the Count, for whom the claims of Marcellina upon Figaro have come in very opportunely, has not given consent for his valet's wedding. He wishes to-28- carry his own intrigue with Susanna, the genuineness of whose love for Figaro he underestimates, to a successful issue. Susanna and Figaro meet in the Countess's room. The Countess has been soliloquizing upon love, of whose fickleness the Count has but provided too many examples.—"Porgi amor, qualche ristoro" (Love, thou holy, purest passion.) Figaro has contrived a plan to gain the consent of the Count to his wedding with Susanna. The valet's scheme is to make the Count ashamed of his own flirtations. Figaro has sent a letter to the Count, which divulges a supposed rendezvous of the Countess in the garden. At the same time Susanna is to make an appointment to meet the Count in the same spot. But, in place of Susanna, Cherubino, dressed in Susanna's clothes, will meet the Count. Both will be caught by the Countess and the Count thus be confounded.

Cherubino is then brought in to try on Susanna's clothes. He sings to the Countess an air of sentiment, one of the famous vocal numbers of the opera, the exquisite: "Voi che sapete, che cosa è amor" (What is this feeling makes me so sad).



The Countess, examining his officer's commission, finds that the seal to it has been forgotten. While in the midst of these proceedings someone knocks. It is the Count. Consternation. Cherubino flees into the Countess's room and Susanna hides behind a curtain. The evident embarrassment of his wife arouses the suspicions of her husband, who, gay himself, is very jealous of her. He tries the door Cherubino has bolted from the inside, then goes off to get tools to break it down with. He takes his wife with him. While he is away, Cherubino slips out and leaps out of a window into the garden. In his place,-29- Susanna bolts herself in the room, so that, when the Count breaks open the door, it is only to discover that Susanna is in his wife's room. All would be well, but unfortunately Antonio, the gardener, enters. A man, he says, has jumped out of the Countess's window and broken a flowerpot. Figaro, who has come in, and who senses that something has gone wrong, says that it was he who was with Susanna and jumped out of the window. But the gardener has found a paper. He shows it. It is Cherubino's commission. How did Figaro come by it? The Countess whispers something to Figaro. Ah, yes; Cherubino handed it to him in order that he should obtain the missing seal.

Everything appears to be cleared up when Marcellina, accompanied by Bartolo, comes to lodge formal complaint against Figaro for breach of promise, which for the Count is a much desired pretext to refuse again his consent to Figaro's wedding with Susanna. These, the culminating episodes of this act, form a finale which is justly admired, a finale so gradually developed and so skilfully evolved that, although only the principals participate in it, it is as effective as if it employed a full ensemble of soloists, chorus, and orchestra worked up in the most elaborate fashion. Indeed, for effectiveness produced by simple means, the operas of Mozart are models.

But to return to the story. At the trial in Act III, between Marcellina and Figaro, it develops that Figaro is her long-lost natural son. Susanna pays the costs of the trial and nothing now seems to stand in the way of her union with Figaro. The Count, however, is not yet entirely cured of his fickle fancies. So the Countess and Susanna hit upon still another scheme in this play of complications. During the wedding festivities Susanna is to contrive to send secretly to the Count a note, in which she invites him to meet her. Then the Countess, dressed in Susanna's clothes, is to meet him at the place named. Figaro knows-30- nothing of this plan. Chancing to find out about the note, he too becomes jealous—another, though minor, contribution to the mix-up of emotions. In this act the concoction of the letter by the Countess and Susanna is the basis of the most beautiful vocal number in the opera, the "letter duet" or Canzonetta sull'aria (the "Canzonetta of the Zephyr")—"Che soave zeffiretto" (Hither gentle zephyr); an exquisite melody, in which the lady dictates, the maid writes down, and the voices of both blend in comment.



The final Act brings about the desired result after a series of amusing contretemps in the garden. The Count sinks on his knees before his Countess and, as the curtain falls, there is reason to hope that he is prepared to mend his ways.

Regarding the early performances of "Figaro" in this country, these early performances were given "with Mozart's music, but adapted by Henry Rowley Bishop." When I was a boy, a humorous way of commenting upon an artistic sacrilege was to exclaim: "Ah! Mozart improved by Bishop!" I presume the phrase came down from these early representations of "The Marriage of Figaro." Bishop was the composer of "Home, Sweet Home." In 1839 his wife eloped with Bochsa, the harp virtuoso, afterwards settled in New York, and for many years sang in concert and taught under the name of Mme. Anna Bishop.


Opera in two acts by Mozart; text by Lorenzo da Ponte. Productions, Prague, Oct. 29, 1787; Vienna, May 17, 1788; London, April 12, 1817; New York, Park Theatre, May 23, 1826.

Original title: "Il Dissoluto Punito, ossia il Don Giovanni" (The-31- Reprobate Punished, or Don Giovanni). The work was originally characterized as an opera buffa, or dramma giocoso, but Mozart's noble setting lifted it out of that category.


Don Pedro, the CommandantBass
Donna Anna, his daughterSoprano
Don Ottavio, her betrothedTenor
Don GiovanniBaritone
Leporello, his servantBass
Donna ElviraSoprano
Masetto, betrothed to ZerlinaTenor

"Don Giovanni" was presented for the first time in Prague, because Mozart, satisfied with the manner in which Bondini's troupe had sung his "Marriage of Figaro" a little more than a year before, had agreed to write another work for the same house.

The story on which da Ponte based his libretto—the statue of a murdered man accepting an insolent invitation to banquet with his murderer, appearing at the feast and dragging him down to hell—is very old. It goes back to the Middle Ages, probably further. A French authority considers that da Ponte derived his libretto from "Le Festin de Pierre," Molière's version of the old tale. Da Ponte, however, made free use of "Il Convitato di Pietra" (The Stone-Guest), a libretto written by the Italian theatrical poet Bertati for the composer Giuseppe Gazzaniga. Whoever desires to follow up this interesting phase of the subject will find the entire libretto of Bertati's "Convitato" reprinted, with a learned commentary by Chrysander, in volume iv of the Vierteljahrheft für Musikwissenschaft (Music Science Quarterly), a copy of which is in the New York Public Library.

Mozart agreed to hand over the finished score in time for the autumn season of 1787, for the sum of one hundred-32- ducats ($240). Richard Strauss receives for a new opera a guarantee of ten performances at a thousand dollars—$10,000 in all—and, of course, his royalties thereafter. There is quite a distinction in these matters between the eighteenth century and the present. And what a lot of good a few thousand dollars would have done the impecunious composer of the immortal "Don Giovanni!" Also, one is tempted to ask oneself if any modern ten thousand dollar opera will live as long as the two hundred and forty dollar one which already is 130 years old.

Bondini's company, for which Mozart wrote his masterpiece of dramatic music, furnished the following cast: Don Giovanni, Signor Bassi, twenty-two years old, a fine baritone, an excellent singer and actor; Donna Anna, Signora Teresa Saporiti; Donna Elvira, Signora Catarina Micelli, who had great talent for dramatic expression; Zerlina, Signora Teresa Bondini, wife of the manager; Don Ottavio, Signor Antonio Baglioni, with a sweet, flexible tenor voice; Leporello, Signor Felice Ponziani, an excellent basso comico; Don Pedro (the Commandant), and Masetto, Signor Giuseppe Lolli.

Mozart directed the rehearsals, had the singers come to his house to study, gave them advice how some of the difficult passages should be executed, explained the characters they represented, and exacted finish, detail, and accuracy. Sometimes he even chided the artists for an Italian impetuosity, which might be out of keeping with the charm of his melodies. At the first rehearsal, however, not being satisfied with the way in which Signora Bondini gave Zerlina's cry of terror from behind the scenes, when the Don is supposed to attempt her ruin, Mozart left the orchestra and went upon the stage. Ordering the first act finale to be repeated from the minuet on, he concealed himself in the wings. There, in the peasant dress of Zerlina, with its short skirt, stood Signora Bondini, waiting-33- for her cue. When it came, Mozart quickly reached out a hand from his place of concealment and pinched her leg. She gave a piercing shriek. "There! That is how I want it," he said, emerging from the wings, while the Bondini, not knowing whether to laugh or blush, did both.

One of the most striking features of the score, the warning words which the statue of the Commandant, in the plaza before the cathedral of Seville, utters within the hearing of Don Giovanni and Leporello, was originally accompanied by the trombones only. At rehearsal in Prague, Mozart, not satisfied with the way the passage was played, stepped over toward the desks at which the trombonists sat.

One of them spoke up: "It can't be played any better. Even you couldn't teach us how."

Mozart smiled. "Heaven forbid," he said, "that I should attempt to teach you how to play the trombone. But let me have the parts."

Looking them over he immediately made up his mind what to do. With a few quick strokes of the pen, he added the wood-wind instruments as they are now found in the score.

It is well known that the overture of "Don Giovanni" was written almost on the eve of the first performance. Mozart passed a gay evening with some friends. One of them said to him: "Tomorrow the first performance of 'Don Giovanni' will take place, and you have not yet composed the overture!" Mozart pretended to get nervous about it and withdrew to his room, where he found music-paper, pens, and ink. He began to compose about midnight. Whenever he grew sleepy, his wife, who was by his side, entertained him with stories to keep him awake. It is said that it took him but three hours to produce this overture.

The next evening, a little before the curtain rose, the copyists finished transcribing the parts for the orchestra.-34- Hardly had they brought the sheets, still wet, to the theatre, when Mozart, greeted by enthusiastic applause, entered the orchestra and took his seat at the piano. Although the musicians had not had time to rehearse the overture, they played it with such precision that the audience broke out into fresh applause. As the curtain rose and Leporello came forward to sing his solo, Mozart laughingly whispered to the musicians near him: "Some notes fell under the stands. But it went well."

The overture consists of an introduction which reproduces the scene of the banquet at which the statue appears. It is followed by an allegro which characterizes the impetuous, pleasure-seeking Don, oblivious to consequences. It reproduces the dominant character of the opera.

Without pause, Mozart links up the overture with the song of Leporello. The four principal personages of the opera appear early in the proceedings. The tragedy which brings them together so soon and starts the action, gives an effective touch of fore-ordained retribution to the misdeeds upon which Don Giovanni so gaily enters. This early part of the opera divides itself into four episodes. Wrapped in his cloak and seated in the garden of a house in Seville, Spain, which Don Giovanni, on amorous adventure bent, has entered secretly during the night—it is the residence of the CommandantLeporello is complaining of the fate which makes him a servant to such a restless and dangerous master. "Notte e giorno faticar" (Never rest by day or night), runs his song.


Copyright photo by Dupont

Scotti as Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni hurriedly issues from the house, pursued by Donna Anna. There follows a trio in which the wrath of the insulted woman, the annoyance of the libertine, and the cowardice of Leporello are expressed simultaneously and in turn in manner most admirable. The Commandant, attracted by the disturbance, arrives, draws his sword, and a duel ensues. In the unequal combat between the-35- aged Commandant and the agile Don, the Commandant receives a fatal wound. The trio which follows between Don Giovanni, the dying Commandant, and Leporello is a unique passage in the history of musical art. The genius of Mozart, tender, profound, pathetic, religious, is revealed in its entirety. Written in a solemn rhythm and in the key of F minor, so appropriate to dispose the mind to a gentle sadness, this trio, which fills only eighteen measures, contains in a restricted outline, but in master-strokes, the fundamental idea of this mysterious drama of crime and retribution. While the Commandant is breathing his last, emitting notes broken by long pauses, Donna Anna, who, during the duel between her father and Don Giovanni, has hurried off for help, returns accompanied by her servants and by Don Ottavio, her affianced. She utters a cry of terror at seeing the dead body of her father. The recitative which expresses her despair is intensely dramatic. The duet which she sings with Don Ottavio is both impassioned and solicitous, impetuous on her part, solicitous on his; for the rôle of Don Ottavio is stamped with the delicacy of sentiment, the respectful reserve of a well-born youth who is consoling the woman who is to be his wife. The passage, "Lascia, O cara, la rimembranza amara!" (Through love's devotion, dear one) is of peculiar beauty in musical expression.

After Donna Anna and Don Ottavio have left, there enters Donna Elvira. The air she sings expresses a complicated nuance of passion. Donna Elvira is another of Don Giovanni's deserted ones. There are in the tears of this woman not only the grief of one who has been loved and now implores heaven for comfort, but also the indignation of one who has been deserted and betrayed. When she cries with emotion: "Ah! chi mi dice mai quel barbaro dov'è?" (In memory still lingers his love's delusive sway) one feels that, in spite of her outbursts of anger, she is ready to for-36-give, if only a regretful smile shall recall to her the man who was able to charm her.

Don Giovanni hears from afar the voice of a woman in tears. He approaches, saying: "Cerchiam di consolare il suo tormento" (I must seek to console her sorrow). "Ah! yes," murmurs Leporello, under his breath: "Così ne consolò mille e otto cento" (He has consoled fully eighteen hundred). Leporello is charged by Don Giovanni, who, recognizing Donna Elvira, hurries away, to explain to her the reasons why he deserted her. The servant fulfils his mission as a complaisant valet. For it is here that he sings the "Madamina" air, which is so famous, and in which he relates with the skill of a historian the numerous amours of his master in the different parts of the world.

The "Air of Madamina," "Madamina! il catalogo"—(Dear lady, the catalogue) is a perfect passage of its kind; an exquisite mixture of grace and finish, of irony and sentiment, of comic declamation and melody, the whole enhanced by the poetry and skill of the accessories. There is nothing too much, nothing too little; no excess of detail to mar the whole. Every word is illustrated by the composer's imagination without his many brilliant sallies injuring the general effect. According to Leporello's catalogue his master's adventures in love have numbered 2065. To these Italy has contributed 245, Germany 231, France 100, Turkey 91, and Spain, his native land, 1003. The recital enrages Donna Elvira. She vows vengeance upon her betrayer.


Copyright photo by Dupont

Sembrich as Zerlina in “Don Giovanni”

The scene changes to the countryside of Don Giovanni's palace near Seville. A troop of gay peasants is seen arriving. The young and pretty Zerlina with Masetto, her affianced, and their friends are singing and dancing in honour of their approaching marriage. Don Giovanni and Leporello join this gathering of light-hearted and simple-37- young people. Having cast covetous eyes upon Zerlina, and having aroused her vanity and her spirit of coquetry by polished words of gallantry, the Don orders Leporello to get rid of the jealous Masetto by taking the entire gathering—excepting, of course, Zerlina—to his château. Leporello grumbles, but carries out his master's order. The latter, left alone with Zerlina, sings a duet with her which is one of the gems, not alone of this opera, but of opera in general: "Là ci darem la mano!" (Your hand in mine, my dearest). Donna Elvira appears and by her denunciation of Don Giovanni, "Ah! fuggi il traditore," makes clear to Zerlina the character of her fascinating admirer. Donna Anna and Don Ottavio come upon the stage and sing a quartette which begins: "Non ti fidar, o misera, di quel ribaldo cor" (Place not thy trust, O mourning one, in this polluted soul), at the end of which Donna Anna, as Don Giovanni departs, recognizes in his accents the voice of her father's assassin. Her narrative of the events of that terrible night is a declamatory recitative "in style as bold and as tragic as the finest recitatives of Gluck."

Don Giovanni orders preparations for the festival in his palace. He gives his commands to Leporello in the "Champagne aria," "Finch' han dal vino" (Wine, flow a fountain), which is almost breathless with exuberance of anticipated revel. Then there is the ingratiating air of Zerlina begging Masetto's forgiveness for having flirted with the Don, "Batti, batti, o bel Masetto" (Chide me, chide me, dear Masetto), a number of enchanting grace, followed by a brilliantly triumphant allegro, "Pace, pace o vita mia" (Love, I see you're now relenting).



The finale to the first act of "Don Giovanni" rightly passes for one of the masterpieces of dramatic music. Lepo-38-rello, having opened a window to let the fresh evening air enter the palace hall, the violins of a small orchestra within are heard in the first measures of the graceful minuet. Leporello sees three maskers, two women and a man, outside. In accordance with custom they are bidden to enter. Don Giovanni does not know that they are Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, and Don Ottavio, bent upon seeking the murderer of the Commandant and bringing him to justice. But even had he been aware of their purpose it probably would have made no difference, for courage this dissolute character certainly had.

After a moment of hesitation, after having taken council together, and repressing a movement of horror which they feel at the sight of the man whose crimes have darkened their lives, Donna Elvira, Donna Anna, and Don Ottavio decide to carry out their undertaking at all cost and to whatever end. Before entering the château, they pause on the threshold and, their souls moved by a holy fear, they address Heaven in one of the most touching prayers written by the hand of man. It is the number known throughout the world of music as the "Trio of the Masks," "Protegga, il giusto cielo"—(Just Heaven, now defend us)—one of those rare passages which, by its clearness of form, its elegance of musical diction, and its profundity of sentiment, moves the layman and charms the connoisseur.



Protegga il giusto cielo


Protegga il giusto cielo

The festivities begin with the familiar minuet. Its graceful rhythm is prolonged indefinitely as a fundamental-39- idea, while in succession, two small orchestras on the stage, take up, one a rustic quadrille in double time, the other a waltz. Notwithstanding the differences in rhythm, the three dances are combined with a skill that piques the ear and excites admiration. The scene would be even more natural and entertaining than it usually is, if the orchestras on the stage always followed the direction accordano (tune up) which occurs in the score eight bars before each begins to play its dance, and if the dances themselves were carried out according to directions. Only the ladies and gentlemen should engage in the minuet, the peasants in the quadrille; and before Don Giovanni leads off Zerlina into an adjoining room he should have taken part with her in this dance, while Leporello seeks to divert the jealous Masetto's attention by seizing him in an apparent exuberance of spirits and insisting on dancing the waltz with him. Masetto's suspicions, however, are not to be allayed. He breaks away from Leporello. The latter hurries to warn his master. But just as he has passed through the door, Zerlina's piercing shriek for help is heard from within. Don Giovanni rushes out, sword in hand, dragging out with him none other than poor Leporello, whom he has opportunely seized in the entrance, and whom, under pretence that he is the guilty party, he threatens to kill in order to turn upon him the suspicion that rests upon himself. But this ruse fails to deceive any one. Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, and Don Ottavio unmask and accuse Don Giovanni of the murder of the Commandant, "Tutto già si sà" (Everything is known and you are recognized). Taken aback, at first, Don Giovanni soon recovers himself. Turning, at bay, he defies the enraged crowd. A storm is rising without. A storm sweeps over the orchestra. Thunder growls in the basses, lightning plays on the fiddles. Don Giovanni, cool, intrepid, cuts a passage through the crowd upon which, at the same time,-40- he hurls his contempt. (In a performance at the Academy of Music, New York, about 1872, I saw Don Giovanni stand off the crowd with a pistol.)

The second act opens with a brief duet between Don Giovanni and Leporello. The trio which follows: "Ah! taci, ingiusto core" (Ah, silence, heart rebellious), for Donna Elvira, Leporello, and Don Giovanni, is an exquisite passage. Donna Elvira, leaning sadly on a balcony, allows her melancholy regrets to wander in the pale moonlight which envelops her figure in a semi-transparent gloom. In spite of the scene which she has recently witnessed, in spite of wrongs she herself has endured, she cannot hate Don Giovanni or efface his image from her heart. Her reward is that her recreant lover in the darkness below, changes costume with his servant and while Leporello, disguised as the Don, attracts Donna Elvira into the garden, the cavalier himself addresses to Zerlina, who has been taken under Donna Elvira's protection, the charming serenade: "Deh! vieni alla finestra" (Appear, love at thy window), which he accompanies on the mandolin, or should so accompany, for usually the accompaniment is played pizzicato by the orchestra.

As the result of complications, which I shall not attempt to follow, Masetto, who is seeking to administer physical chastisement to Don Giovanni, receives instead a drubbing from the latter.

Zerlina, while by no means indifferent to the attentions of the dashing Don, is at heart faithful to Masetto and, while I fancy she is by no means obtuse to the humorous aspect of his chastisement by Don Giovanni, she comes trippingly out of the house and consoles the poor fellow with the graceful measures of "Vedrai carino, se sei buonino" (List, and I'll find love, if you are kind love).

Shortly after this episode comes Don Ottavio's famous air, the solo number which makes the rôle worth while,-41- "Il mio tesoro intanto" (Fly then, my love, entreating). Upon this air praise has been exhausted. It has been called the "pietra di paragone" of tenors—the touchstone, the supreme test of classic song.



Retribution upon Don Giovanni is not to be too long deferred. After the escapade of the serenade and the drubbing of Masetto, the Don, who has made off, chances to meet in the churchyard (or in the public square) with Leporello, who meanwhile has gotten rid of Donna Elvira. It is about two in the morning. They see the newly erected statue to the murdered Commandant. Don Giovanni bids it, through Leporello, to supper with him in his palace. Will it accept? The statue answers, "Yea!" Leporello is terrified. And Don Giovanni?

"In truth the scene is bizarre. The old boy comes to supper. Now hasten and bestir yourself to spread a royal feast."

Such is the sole reflection that the fateful miracle, to which he has just been a witness, draws from this miscreant, who, whatever else he may be, is brave.

Back in his palace, Don Giovanni seats himself at table and sings of the pleasures of life. An orchestra on the stage plays airs from Vincente Martino's "Una Cosa Rara" (A Rare Thing); Sarti's "Fra Due Litiganti" (Between Two Litigants), and Mozart's own "Nozze di Figaro," Leporello announcing the selections. The "Figaro" air is "Non più andrai" (Play no more, boy, the part of a lover).

Donna Elvira enters. On her knees she begs the man who has betrayed her to mend his ways. Her plea falls on deaf ears. She leaves. Her shriek is heard from the corridor. She re-enters and flees the palace by another door.


"Va a veder che cos'è stato" (Go, and see what it is) Don Giovanni commands Leporello.

The latter returns trembling with fright. He has seen in the corridor "l'uom di sasso, l'uomo bianco"—the man of stone, the big white man.

Seizing a candle, drawing his sword, Don Giovanni boldly goes into the corridor. A few moments later he backs into the room, receding before the statue of the Commandant. The lights go out. All is dark save for the flame of the candle in Don Giovanni's hand. Slowly, with heavy footsteps that re-echo, the statue enters. It speaks.

"Don Giovanni, you have invited me to sit at table with you. Lo! I am here."

Well knowing the fate in store for him, yet, with unebbing courage, Don Giovanni nonchalantly commands Leporello to serve supper.

"Desist!" exclaims the statue. "He who has sat at a heavenly banquet, does not break the bread of mortals.... Don Giovanni, will you come to sup with me?"

"I will," fearlessly answers the Don.

"Give me your hand in gage thereof."

"Here it is."

Don Giovanni extends his hand. The statue's huge hand of stone closes upon it.

"Huh! what an icy grasp!"—"Repent! Change your course at your last hour."—"No, far from me such a thought."—"Repent, O miscreant!"—"No, you old fool."—"Repent!"—"No!"

Nothing daunts him. A fiery pit opens. Demons seize him—unrepentant to the end—and drag him down.

The music of the scene is gripping, yet accomplished without an addition to the ordinary orchestra of Mozart's day, without straining after effect, without any means save those commonly to his hand.


Copyright photo by Dupont

Scotti as Don Giovanni

In the modern opera house the final curtain falls upon-43- this scene. In the work, however, there is another scene in which the other characters moralize upon Don Giovanni's end. There is one accusation, however, none can urge against him. He was not a coward. Therein lies the appeal of the character. His is a brilliant, impetuous figure, with a dash of philosophy, which is that, sometime, somewhere, in the course of his amours, he will discover the perfect woman from whose lips he will be able to draw the sweetness of all women. Moreover he is a villain with a keen sense of humour. Inexcusable in real life, he is a debonair, fascinating figure on the stage, whereas Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, and Don Ottavio are mere hinges in the drama and as creations purely musical. Zerlina, on the other hand, is one of Mozart's most delectable characters. Leporello, too, is clearly drawn, dramatically and musically; a coward, yet loyal to the master who appeals to a strain of the humorous in him and whose courage he admires.

For the Vienna production Mozart wrote three new vocal numbers, which are printed in the score as additions. Caterina Cavalieri, the Elvira, had complained to Mozart, that the Viennese public did not appreciate her as did audiences of other cities and begged him for something that would give her voice full scope. The result was the fine aria: "Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata." The Ottavio, Signor Morello, was considered unequal to "Il mio tesoro," so Mozart wrote the less exacting "Dalla sua pace," for him. To amuse the public he inserted a comic duet, "Per queste tue manine," for Zerlina and Leporello. This usually is omitted. The other two inserts were interpolated in the second act of the opera before the finale. In the Metropolitan Opera House version, however, Donna Elvira sings "Mi tradì" to express her rage after the "Madamina" of Leporello; and Don Ottavio sings "Dalla sua pace" before the scene in Don Giovanni's château.

The first performance of "Don Giovanni" in America-44- took place in the Park Theatre, New York, on Tuesday evening, May 23, 1826. I have verified the date in the file of the New York Evening Post. "This evening for the first time in America, the semi-serious opera of 'Il Don Giovanni,'" reads the advertisement of that date. Then follows the cast. Manuel Garcia played the title rôle; Manuel Garcia, Jr., afterwards inventor of the laryngoscope, who reached the age of 101, dying in London in 1906, was Leporello; Mme. Barbieri, Donna Anna; Mme. Garcia, Donna Elvira; Signorina Maria Garcia (afterwards famous under her married name of Malibran), Zerlina; Milon, whom Mr. Krehbiel identifies as a violoncellist later with the Philharmonic Society, Don Ottavio; and Carlo Angrisani, Masetto, a rôle he had sung at the first London performance of the work.

Da Ponte, the librettist of the work, who had become Professor of Italian at Columbia College, had induced Garcia to put on the opera. At the first performance during the finale of the first act everything went at sixes and sevens, in spite of the efforts of Garcia, in the title rôle, to keep things together. Finally, sword in hand, he stepped to the front of the stage, ordered the performance stopped, and, exhorting the singers not to commit the crime of ruining a masterwork, started the finale over again, which now went all right.

It is related by da Ponte that "my 'Don Giovanni,'" as he called it, made such a success that a friend of his who always fell asleep at operatic performances, not only remained awake during the whole of "Don Giovanni," but told him he couldn't sleep a wink the rest of the night for excitement.

Pauline Viardot-Garcia, sister of Signorina Garcia (afterwards Mme. Malibran), the Zerlina of the first New York performance, owned the original autograph score of "Don Giovanni." She bequeathed it to the Paris Conservatoire.


The opera has engaged the services of famous artists. Faure and Maurel were great Don Giovannis, Jean de Reszke sang the rôle, while he was still a baritone; Scotti made his début at the Metropolitan Opera House, December 27, 1899, in the rôle, with Nordica as Donna Anna, Suzanne Adams, as Donna Elvira, Sembrich as Zerlina, and Édouard de Reszke as Leporello. Renaud appeared as Don Giovanni at the Manhattan Opera House. Lablache was accounted the greatest of Leporellos. The rôle of Don Ottavio has been sung by Rubini and Mario. At the Mozart Festival, Salzburg, 1914, the opera was given with Lilli Lehmann, Farrar, and McCormack in the cast.

A curious aside in the history of the work was an "adaptation," produced by Kalkbrenner in Paris, 1805. How greatly this differed from the original may be judged from the fact that the trio of the masks was sung, not by Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, and Don Ottavio, but by three policemen!


Opera in two acts by Mozart; words by Emanuel Schikaneder and Gieseke. Produced, September 30, 1791, in Vienna, in the Theatre auf der Wieden; Paris, 1801, as "Les Mystères d'Isis"; London, King's Theatre, June 6, 1811 (Italian); Covent Garden, May 27, 1833 (German); Drury Lane, March 10, 1838 (English); New York, Park Theatre, April 17, 1833 (English). The rôle of Astrofiammante, Queen of the Night, has been sung here by Carlotta Patti, Ilma di Murska, Gerster, Sembrich, and Hempel.


Sarastro, High Priest of IsisBass
Tamino, an Egyptian PrinceTenor
Papageno, a bird-catcherBaritone
Astrofiammante, Queen of the NightSoprano
Pamina, her daughterSoprano-46-
Monostatos, a Moor, chief slave of the TempleBaritone

Three Ladies-in-Waiting to the Queen; Three Youths of the Temple; Priests, Priestesses, Slaves, etc.

Time—Egypt, about the reign of Rameses I.

Place—Near and at the Temple of Isis, Memphis.

Alten and Goritz

Photo by White

Alten and Goritz as Papagena and Papageno in “The Magic Flute”

The libretto to "The Magic Flute" is considered such a jumble of nonsense that it is as well to endeavour to extract some sense from it.

Emanuel Johann Schikaneder, who wrote it with the aid of a chorister named Gieseke, was a friend of Mozart and a member of the same Masonic Lodge. He also was the manager of a theatrical company and had persuaded Mozart to compose the music to a puppet show for him. He had selected for this show the story of "Lulu" by Liebeskind, which had appeared in a volume of Oriental tales brought out by Wieland under the title of "Dschinnistan." In the original tale a wicked sorcerer has stolen the daughter of the Queen of Night, who is restored by a Prince by means of magic. While Schikaneder was busy on his libretto, a fairy story by Perinet, music by Wenzel Müller, and treating of the same subject, was given at another Viennese theatre. Its great success interfered with Schikaneder's original plan.

At that time, however, freemasonry was a much discussed subject. It had been interdicted by Maria Theresa and armed forces were employed to break up the lodges. As a practical man Schikaneder saw his chance to exploit the interdicted rites on the stage. Out of the wicked sorcerer he made Sarastro, the sage priest of Isis. The ordeals of Tamino and Pamina became copies of the ceremonials of freemasonry. He also laid the scene of the opera in Egypt, where freemasonry believes its rites to have originated. In addition to all this Mozart's beautiful music ennobled the libretto even in its dull and unpoetical-47- passages, and lent to the whole a touch of the mysterious and sacred. "The muse of Mozart lightly bears her century of existence," writes a French authority, of this score.

Because of its supposed relation to freemasonry, commentators have identified the vengeful Queen of the Night with Maria Theresa, and Tamino with the Emperor. Pamina, Papageno, and Papagena are set down as types of the people, and Monostatos as the fugleman of monasticism.

Mozart wrote on "The Magic Flute" from March until July and in September, 1791. September 30, two months before his death, the first performance was given.

In the overture to "The Magic Flute" the heavy reiterated chords represent, it has been suggested, the knocking at the door of the lodge room, especially as they are heard again in the temple scene, when the novitiate of Tamino is about to begin. The brilliancy of the fugued allegro often has been commented on as well as the resemblance of its theme to that of Clementi's sonata in B-flat.

The story of "The Magic Flute" opens Act I, with Tamino endeavouring to escape from a huge snake. He trips in running and falls unconscious. Hearing his cries for help, three black-garbed Ladies-in-Waiting of the Queen of the Night appear and kill the snake with their spears. Quite unwillingly they leave the handsome youth, who, on recovering consciousness, sees dancing toward him an odd-looking man entirely covered with feathers. It is Papageno, a bird-catcher. He tells the astonished Tamino that this is the realm of the Queen of the Night. Nor, seeing that the snake is dead, does he hesitate to boast that it was he who killed the monster. For this lie he is immediately punished. The three Ladies-in-Waiting reappear and place a padlock on his mouth. Then they show Tamino the miniature of a maiden, whose magical beauty at once fills his heart with ardent love. Enter the-48- Queen of the Night. She tells Tamino the portrait is that of her daughter, Pamina, who has been taken from her by a wicked sorcerer, Sarastro. She has chosen Tamino to deliver the maiden and as a reward he will receive her hand in marriage. The Queen then disappears and the three Ladies-in-Waiting come back. They take the padlock from Papageno's mouth, give him a set of chimes and Tamino a golden flute. By the aid of these magical instruments they will be able to escape the perils of their journey, on which they will be accompanied by three youths or genii.

Change of scene. A richly furnished apartment in Sarastro's palace is disclosed. A brutal Moor, Monostatos, is pursuing Pamina with unwelcome attentions. The appearance of Papageno puts him to flight. The bird-catcher recognizes Pamina as the daughter of the Queen of the Night, and assures her that she will soon be rescued. In the meantime the Three Youths guide Tamino to a grove where three temples stand. He is driven away from the doors of two, but at the third there appears a priest who informs him that Sarastro is no tyrant, no wicked sorcerer as the Queen had warned him, but a man of wisdom and of noble character.

The sound of Papageno's voice arouses Tamino from the meditations inspired by the words of the priest. He hastens forth and seeks to call his companion by playing on his flute. Papageno is not alone. He is trying to escape with Pamina, but is prevented by the appearance of Monostatos and some slaves, who endeavour to seize them. But Papageno sets the Moor and his slaves dancing by playing on his magic chimes.

Trumpet blasts announce the coming of Sarastro. Pamina falls at the feet of the High Priest and explains that she was trying to escape the unwelcome attentions of the Moor. The latter now drags Tamino in, but instead of-49- the reward he expects, receives a sound flogging. By the command of Sarastro, Tamino and Pamina are brought into the Temple of Ordeals, where they must prove that they are worthy of the higher happiness.

Act II. In the Palm Grove. Sarastro informs the priests of the plans which he has laid. The gods have decided that Pamina shall become the wife of the noble youth Tamino. Tamino, however, must prove, by his own power, that he is worthy of admission to the Temple. Therefore Sarastro has taken under his protection Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night, to whom is due all darkness and superstition. But the couple must go through severe ordeals in order to be worthy of entering the Temple of Light, and thus of thwarting the sinister machinations of the Queen.

In the succeeding scenes we see these fabulous ordeals, which Tamino, with the assistance of his magic flute and his own purity of purpose, finally overcomes in company with Pamina. Darkness is banished and the young couple enter into the light of the Temple of the Sun. Papageno also fares well, for he receives Papagena for wife.

There is much nonsense and even buffoonery in "The Magic Flute"; and, in spite of real nobility in the rôle and music of Sarastro, Mr. Krehbiel's comment that the piece should be regarded as somewhat in the same category as a Christmas pantomime is by no means far-fetched. It lends itself to elaborate production, and spectacular performances of it have been given at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Its representation requires for the rôle of Astrofiammante, Queen of the Night, a soprano of extraordinarily high range and agility of voice, as each of the two great airs of this vengeful lady extend to high F and are so brilliant in style that one associates with them almost anything but the dire outpouring of threats their text is intended to convey.-50- They were composed because Mozart's sister-in-law, Josepha Weber (Mme. Hofer) was in the cast of the first performance and her voice was such as has been described above. The Queen has an air in Act I and another in Act II. A quotation from the second, the so-called "Vengeance aria," will show the range and brilliancy of voice required of a singer in the rôle of Astrofiammante.



One is surprised to learn that this tour de force of brilliant vocalization is set to words beginning: "Vengeance of hell is boiling in my bosom"; for by no means does it boil with a vengeance.

Papageno in his dress of feathers is an amusing character. His first song, "A fowler bold in me you see," with interludes on his pipes, is jovial; and after his mouth has been padlocked his inarticulate and oft-repeated "Hm!" can always be made provocative of laughter. With Pamina he has a charming duet "The manly heart that love desires." The chimes with which he causes Monostatos and his slaves to dance, willy-nilly, are delightful and so is his duet with Papagena, near the end of the opera. Tamino, with the magic flute, charms the wild beasts. They come forth from their lairs and lie at his feet. "Thy magic tones shall speak for me," is his principal air. The concerted number for Pamina and trio of female voices (the Three Youths or genii) is of exceeding grace. The two Men in Armour, who in one of the scenes of the ordeals guard the portal to a subterranean cavern and announce to Tamino the awards that await him, do so to the vocal strains of an old German sacred melody with much admired counterpoint in the orchestra.

Next, however, in significance to the music for Astro-51-fiammante and, indeed, of far nobler character than the airs for the Queen of the Night, are the invocation of Isis by Sarastro, "O, Isis and Osiris," with its interluding chant of the priests, and his air, "Within this hallowed dwelling." Not only the solemnity of the vocal score but the beauty of the orchestral accompaniment, so rich, yet so restrained, justly cause these two numbers to rank with Mozart's finest achievements.

"Die Zauberflöte" (The Magic Flute) was its composer's swan-song in opera and perhaps his greatest popular success. Yet he is said to have made little or nothing out of it, having reserved as his compensation the right to dispose of copies of the score to other theatres. Copies, however, were procured surreptitiously; his last illness set in; and, poor business man that he was, others reaped the rewards of his genius.

In 1801, ten years after Mozart's death, there was produced in Paris an extraordinary version of "The Magic Flute," entitled "Les Mystères d'Isis" (The Mysteries of Isis). Underlying this was a considerable portion of "The Magic Flute" score, but also introduced in it were fragments from other works of the composer ("Don Giovanni," "Figaro," "Clemenza di Tito") and even bits from Haydn symphonies. Yet this hodge-podge not only had great success—owing to the magic of Mozart's music—it actually was revived more than a quarter of a century later, and the real "Zauberflöte" was not given in Paris until 1829.

Besides the operas discussed, Mozart produced (1781) "Idomeneo" and (1791) "La Clemenza di Tito." In 1768, when he was twelve years old, a one-act "Singspiel" or musical comedy, "Bastien and Bastienne," based on a French vaudeville by Mme. Favart, was privately played in Vienna. With text rearranged by Max Kalbeck, the graceful little piece has been revived with success. The-52- story is of the simplest. Two lovers, Bastien (tenor) and Bastienne (soprano), have quarrelled. Without the slightest complication in the plot, they are brought together by the third character, an old shepherd named Colas (bass). "Der Schauspieldirektor" (The Impresario), another little comedy opera, produced 1786, introduces that clever rogue, Schikaneder, at whose entreaty "The Magic Flute" was composed. The other characters include Mozart himself, and Mme. Hofer, his sister-in-law, who was the Queen of the Night in the original cast of "The Magic Flute." The story deals with the troubles of an impresario due to the jealousy of prima donnas. "Before they are engaged, opera singers are very engaging, except when they are engaged in singing." This line is from H.E. Krehbiel's translation of the libretto, produced, with "Bastien and Bastienne" (translated by Alice Matullah, as a "lyric pastoral"), at the Empire Theatre, New York, October 26, 1916. These charming productions were made by the Society of American Singers with a company including David Bispham (Schikaneder and Colas), Albert Reiss (Mozart and Bastien), Mabel Garrison, and Lucy Gates; the direction that of Mr. Reiss.

There remain to be mentioned two other operatic comedies by Mozart: "The Elopement from the Serail" (Belmonte und Constanze), 1782, in three acts; and "Così fan Tutte" (They All Do It), 1790, in two. The music of "Così fan Tutte" is so sparkling that various attempts have been made to relieve it of the handicap imposed by the banality of the original libretto by da Ponte. Herman Levi's version has proven the most successful of the various rearrangements. The characters are two Andalusian sisters, Fiordiligi (soprano), Dorabella (soprano); two officers, their fiancés, Ferrando (tenor), and Guglielmo (baritone); Alfonso (bass); and Despina (soprano), maid to the two sisters.


Alfonso lays a wager with the officers that, like all women, their fiancées will prove unfaithful, if opportunity were offered. The men pretend their regiment has been ordered to Havana, then return in disguise and lay siege to the young ladies. In various ways, including a threat of suicide, the women's sympathies are played upon. In the original they are moved to pledge their hearts and hands to the supposed new-comers. A reconciliation follows their simple pronouncement that "they all do it."

In the revised version, they become cognizant of the intrigue, play their parts in it knowingly, at the right moment disclose their knowledge, shame their lovers, and forgive them. An actual wager laid in Vienna is said to have furnished the basis for da Ponte's libretto.


Ludwig van Beethoven


"Fidelio," opera in two acts, by Ludwig van Beethoven. Produced in three acts, as "Fidelio, oder, die eheliche Liebe" (Fidelio, or Conjugal Love), at the Theatre on the Wien, November 20, 1805. Revised and given at the Imperial Private Theatre, March 29, 1806, but withdrawn after a few performances. Again revised and successfully brought out May 23, 1814, at the Kärnthnerthor Theatre (Theatre at the Carinthian Gate), Vienna. Paris, Théâtre Lyrique, May 5, 1860. London, King's Theatre, May 18, 1832; Covent Garden, June 12, 1835, with Malibran; May 20, 1851, in Italian, with recitatives by Balfe. New York, Park Theatre, September 9, 1839. (See last paragraph of this article.) The libretto was by Sonnleithner after Bouilly; first revision by Breuning; second by Treitschke. Four overtures, "Leonore," Nos. 1, 2, and 3; and "Fidelio."


Florestan, a Spanish NoblemanTenor
Leonore, his wife, in male attire as FidelioSoprano
Don Fernando, Prime Minister of SpainBass
Pizarro, Governor of the prison and enemy to FlorestanBass
Rocco, chief jailerBass
Marcellina, daughter of RoccoSoprano
Jacquino, assistant to RoccoTenor

Soldiers, prisoners, people.

Time—18th Century.

Place—A fortress, near Seville, Spain, used as a prison for political offenders.

LUDWIG van BEETHOVEN, composer of "Fidelio," was born at Bonn, December 16, 1770. He died at Vienna, March 26, 1827. As he composed but this one opera, and as his fame rests chiefly on his great achieve-55-ments outside the domain of the stage—symphonies, sonatas, etc.—it is possible, as Storck suggests in his Opernbuch, to dispense with biographical data and confine ourselves to facts relating to "Fidelio."

The libretto, which appealed to the composer by reason of its pure and idealistic motive, was not written for Beethoven. It was a French book by Bouilly and had been used by three composers: Pierre Gabeaux (1798); Simon Mayr, Donizetti's teacher at Bergamo and the composer of more than seventy operas (1805); and Paër, whose "Leonora, ossia l'Amore Conjugale" (Leonora, or Conjugal Love) was brought out at Dresden in December, 1804.

It was Schikaneder, the librettist and producer of Mozart's "Magic Flute," who commissioned Beethoven to compose an opera. But it was finally executed for Baron von Braun, who had succeeded to the management of the Theatre on the Wien.

Beethoven's heart was bound up in the work. Conscientious to the last detail in everything he did, this noble man, inspired by a noble theme, appears to have put even more labour into his opera than into any other one work. There are no less than sixteen sketches for the opening of Florestan's first air and 346 pages of sketches for the opera. Nor did his labour in it cease when the opera was completed and performed.

Bouilly's libretto was translated and made over for Beethoven by Schubert's friend Joseph Sonnleithner. The opera was brought out November 20th and repeated November 21 and 22, 1805. It was a failure. The French were in occupation of Vienna, which the Emperor of Austria and the court had abandoned, and conditions generally were upset. But even Beethoven's friends did not blame the non-success of the opera upon these untoward circumstances. It had inherent defects, as was apparent even a-56- century later, when at the "Fidelio" centennial celebration in Berlin, the original version was restored and performed.

To remedy these, Beethoven's friend, Stephan von Breuning, condensed the three acts to two and the composer made changes in the score. This second version was brought forward April 29, 1806, with better success, but a quarrel with von Braun led Beethoven to withdraw it. It seems to have required seven years for the entente cordiale between composer and manager to become re-established. Then Baron von Braun had the book taken in hand by a practical librettist, Georg Friedrich Treitschke. Upon receiving the revision, which greatly pleased him, Beethoven in his turn re-revised the score. In this form "Fidelio" was brought out May 23, 1814, in the Theatre am Kärnthnerthor. There was no question of failure this time. The opera took its place in the repertoire and when, eight years later, Mme. Schröder-Devrient sang the title rôle, her success in it was sensational.

There are four overtures to the work, three entitled "Leonore" (Nos. 1, 2, and 3) and one "Fidelio." The "Leonore" overtures are incorrectly numbered. The No. 2 was given at the original performance and is, therefore, No. 1. The greatest and justly the most famous, the No. 3, is really No. 2. The so-called No. 1 was composed for a projected performance at Prague, which never came off. The score and parts, in a copyist's hand, but with corrections by Beethoven, were discovered after the composer's death. When it was recognized as an overture to the opera, the conclusion that it was the earliest one, which he probably had laid aside, was not unnaturally arrived at. The "Fidelio" overture was intended for the second revision, but was not ready in time. The overture to "The Ruins of Athens" was substituted. The overture to "Fidelio" usually is played before the opera and the "Leonore," No. 3, between the acts.


Photo by White

Matzenauer as Fidelio


Of the "Leonore," No. 3, I think it is within bounds to say that it is the first great overture that sums up in its thematic material and in its general scope, construction, and working out, the story of the opera which it precedes. Even the trumpet call is brought in with stirring dramatic effect. It may be said that from this time on the melodies of their operas were drawn on more and more by composers for the thematic material of their overtures, which thus became music-dramas in miniature. The overture "Leonore," No. 3, also is an established work in the classical concert repertoire, as is also Leonore's recitative and air in the first act.

In the story of the opera, Florestan, a noble Spaniard, has aroused the enmity of Pizarro, governor of a gloomy mediæval fortress, used as a place of confinement for political prisoners. Pizarro has been enabled secretly to seize Florestan and cast him into the darkest dungeon of the fortress, at the same time spreading a report of his death. Indeed, Pizarro actually plans to do away with Florestan by slow starvation; or, if necessary, by means more swift.

One person, however, suspects the truth—Leonore, the wife of Florestan. Her faithfulness, the risks she takes, the danger she runs, in order to save her husband, and the final triumph of conjugal love over the sinister machinations of Pizarro, form the motive of the story of "Fidelio," a title derived from the name assumed by Leonore, when, disguised as a man, she obtains employment as assistant to Rocco, the chief jailer of the prison. Fidelio has been at work and has become a great favourite with Rocco, as well as with Marcellina, the jailer's daughter. The latter, in fact, much prefers the gentle, comely youth, Fidelio, to Jacquino, the turnkey, who, before Fidelio's appearance upon the scene, believed himself to be her accepted lover. Leonore cannot make her sex known to the girl. It would ruin her plans to save her husband.-58- Such is the situation when the curtain rises on the first act, which is laid in the courtyard of the prison.

Act I. The opera opens with a brisk duet between Jacquino and Marcellina, in which he urges her definitely to accept him and she cleverly puts him off. Left alone she expresses her regret for Jacquino, but wishes she were united with Fidelio. ("O wär' ich schon mit dir vereint"—O, were I but with you united.)

Afterward she is joined by her father. Then Leonore (as Fidelio) enters the courtyard. She has a basket of provisions and also is carrying some fetters which she has taken to be repaired. Marcellina, seeing how weary Leonore is, hastens to relieve the supposed youth of his burden. Rocco hints not only tolerantly but even encouragingly at what he believes to be the fancy Fidelio and Marcellina have taken to each other. This leads up to the quartet in canon form, one of the notable vocal numbers of the opera, "Mir ist so wunderbar" (How wondrous the emotion). Being a canon, the theme enunciated by each of the four characters is the same, but if the difference in the sentiments of each character is indicated by subtle nuance of expression on the part of the singers, and the intonation be correct, the beauty of this quartet becomes plain even at a first hearing. The participants are Leonore, Marcellina, Rocco, and Jacquino, who appears toward the close. "After this canon," say the stage directions, so clearly is the form of the quartet recognized, "Jacquino goes back to his lodge."



Rocco then voices a song in praise of money and the need of it for young people about to marry. ("Wenn sich Nichts mit Nichts verbindet"—When you nothing add to-59- nothing.) The situation is awkward for Leonore, but the rescue of her husband demands that she continue to masquerade as a man. Moreover there is an excuse in the palpable fact that before she entered Rocco's service, Jacquino was in high favour with Marcellina and probably will have no difficulty in re-establishing himself therein, when the comely youth Fidelio, turns out to be Leonore, the faithful wife of Florestan.

Through a description which Rocco gives of the prisoners, Leonore now learns what she had not been sure of before. Her husband is confined in this fortress and in its deepest dungeon.

A short march, with a pronounced and characteristic rhythm, announces the approach of Pizarro. He looks over his despatches. One of them warns him that Fernando, the Minister of State, is about to inspect the fortress, accusations having been made to him that Pizarro has used his power as governor to wreak vengeance upon his private enemies. A man of quick decision, Pizarro determines to do away with Florestan at once. His aria, "Ha! welch' ein Augenblick!" (Ah! the great moment!) is one of the most difficult solos in the dramatic repertoire for bass voice. When really mastered, however, it also is one of the most effective.

Pizarro posts a trumpeter on the ramparts with a sentry to watch the road from Seville. As soon as a state equipage with outriders is sighted, the trumpeter is to blow a signal. Having thus made sure of being warned of the approach of the Minister, he tosses a well-filled purse to Rocco, and bids him "for the safety of the State," to make away with the most dangerous of the prisoners—meaning Florestan. Rocco declines to commit murder, but when Pizarro takes it upon himself to do the deed, Rocco consents to dig a grave in an old cistern in the vaults, so that all traces of the crime will be hidden from the expected visitor.


Leonore, who has overheard the plot, now gives vent to her feelings in the highly dramatic recitative: "Abscheulicher! wo eilst du hin!" ("Accursed one! Where hasten'st thou!"); followed by the beautiful air, "Komm Hoffnung" (Come, hope!), a deeply moving expression of confidence that her love and faith will enable her, with the aid of Providence, to save her husband's life. Soon afterwards she learns that, as Rocco's assistant, she is to help him in digging the grave. She will be near her husband and either able to aid him or at least die with him.

The prisoners from the upper tiers are now, on Leonore's intercession, permitted a brief opportunity to breathe the open air. The cells are unlocked and they are allowed to stroll in the garden of the fortress, until Pizarro, hearing of this, angrily puts an end to it. The chorus of the prisoners, subdued like the half-suppressed joy of fearsome beings, is one of the significant passages of the score.

Act II. The scene is in the dungeon where Florestan is in heavy chains. To one side is the old cistern covered with rubbish. Musically the act opens with Florestan's recitative and air, a fit companion piece to Leonore's "Komm Hoffnung" in Act I. The whispered duet between Leonore and Rocco as they dig the grave and the orchestral accompaniment impress one with the gruesome significance of the scene.

Pizarro enters the vault, exultantly makes himself known to his enemy, and draws his dagger for the fatal thrust. Leonore throws herself in his way. Pushed aside, she again interposes herself between the would-be murderer and his victim, and, pointing at him a loaded pistol, which she has had concealed about her person, cries out: "First slay his wife!"

At this moment, in itself so tense, a trumpet call rings out from the direction of the fortress wall. Jacquino appears at the head of the stone stairway leading down-61- into the dungeon. The Minister of State is at hand. His vanguard is at the gate. Florestan is saved. There is a rapturous duet, "O, namenlose Freude" (Joy inexpressible) for him and the devoted wife to whom he owes his life.

In Florestan the Minister of State recognizes his friend, whom he believed to have died, according to the reports set afloat by Pizarro, who himself is now apprehended. To Leonore is assigned the joyful task of unlocking and loosening her husband's fetters and freeing him from his chains. A chorus of rejoicing: "Wer ein solches Weib errungen" (He, whom such a wife has cherished) brings the opera to a close.

It is well said in George P. Upton's book, The Standard Operas, that "as a drama and as an opera, 'Fidelio' stands almost alone in its perfect purity, in the moral grandeur of its subject, and in the resplendent ideality of its music." Even those who do not appreciate the beauty of such a work, and, unfortunately their number is considerable, cannot fail to agree with me that the trumpet call, which brings the prison scene to a climax, is one of the most dramatic moments in opera. I was a boy when, more than forty years ago, I first heard "Fidelio" in Wiesbaden. But I still remember the thrill, when that trumpet call split the air with the message that the Minister of State was in sight and that Leonore had saved her husband.


[Listen (MP3)]

When "Fidelio" had its first American performance (New York, Park Theatre, September 9, 1839) the opera did not fill the entire evening. The entertainment, as a-62- whole, was a curiosity from present-day standards. First came Beethoven's opera, with Mrs. Martyn as Leonore. Then a pas seul was danced by Mme. Araline; the whole concluding with "The Deep, Deep Sea," in which Mr. Placide appeared as The Great American Sea Serpent. This seems incredible. But I have searched for and found the advertisement in the New York Evening Post, and the facts are stated.

Under Dr. Leopold Damrosch, "Fidelio" was performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in the season of 1884-85; under Anton Seidl, during the season of 1886-87, with Brandt and Niemann as well as with Lehmann and Niemann as Leonore and Florestan.

The 1886-87 representations of "Fidelio," by great artists under a great conductor, are among the most vivid memories of opera-goers so fortunate as to have heard them.


Weber and his Operas

CARL MARIA von WEBER, born at Eutin, Oldenberg, December 18, 1786, died in London, June 5, 1826, is the composer of "Der Freischütz;" "Euryanthe," and "Oberon."

"Der Freischütz" was first heard in Berlin, June 18, 1821. "Euryanthe" was produced in Vienna, October 25, 1823. "Oberon" had its first performance at Covent Garden, London, April 12, 1826. Eight weeks later Weber died. A sufferer from consumption, his malady was aggravated by over-exertion in finishing the score of "Oberon," rehearsing and conducting the opera, and attending the social functions arranged in his honour.


The first American performance of this opera, which is in three acts, was in English. The event took place in the Park Theatre, New York, March 2, 1825. This was only four years later than the production in Berlin. It was not heard here in German until a performance at the old Broadway Theatre. This occurred in 1856 under the direction of Carl Bergmann. London heard it, in English, July 23, 1824; in German, at the King's Theatre, May 9, 1832; in Italian, as "Il Franco Arciero," at Covent Garden, March 16, 1825. For this performance Costa wrote recitatives to replace the dialogue. Berlioz did the same for the production at the Grand Opéra, Paris, as "Le Franc Archer," June 7, 1841. "Freischütz" means "free-shooter"—someone who shoots with magic bullets.


Prince OttokarBaritone
Cuno, head rangerBass-64-
Max, a foresterTenor
Kaspar, a foresterBass
Kilian, a peasantTenor
A HermitBass
Zamiel, the wild huntsmanSpeaking Part
Agathe, Cuno's daughterSoprano
Aennchen (Annette), her cousinSoprano

Time—Middle of 18th Century.


Act I. At the target range. Kilian, the peasant, has defeated Max, the forester, at a prize shooting, a Schützenfest, maybe. Max, of course, should have won. Being a forester, accustomed to the use of fire-arms, it is disgraceful for him to have been defeated by a mere peasant.

Kilian "rubs it in" by mocking him in song and the men and girls of the village join in the mocking chorus—a clever bit of teasing in music and establishing at the very start the originality in melody, style, and character of the opera.

The hereditary forester, Cuno, is worried over the poor showing Max has made not only on that day, but for some time past. There is to be a "shoot" on the morrow before Prince Ottokar. In order to win the hand in marriage of Agathe, Cuno's daughter, and the eventual succession as hereditary forester, Max must carry off the honours in the competition now so near at hand. He himself is in despair. Life will be worthless to him without Agathe. Yet he seems to have lost all his cunning as a shot.

It is now, when the others have gone, that another forester, Kaspar, a man of dark visage and of morose and forbidding character, approaches him. He hands him his gun, points to an eagle circling far on high, and tells him to fire at it. Max shoots. From its dizzy height the bird falls dead at his feet. It is a wonderful shot. Kaspar explains to him that he has shot with a "free," or charmed bullet; that such bullets always hit what the marksman-65- wills them to; and that if Max will meet him in the Wolf's Glen at midnight, they will mould bullets with one of which, on the morrow, he easily can win Agathe's hand and the hereditary office of forester. Max, to whom victory means all that is dear to him, consents.

Act II. Agathe's room in the head ranger's house. The girl has gloomy forebodings. Even her sprightly relative, Aennchen, is unable to cheer her up. At last Max, whom she has been awaiting, comes. Very soon, however, he says he is obliged to leave, because he has shot a deer in the Wolf's Glen and must go after it. In vain the girls warn him against the locality, which is said to be haunted.

The scene changes to the Wolf's Glen, the haunt of Zamiel the wild huntsman (otherwise the devil) to whom Kaspar has sold himself, and to whom now he plans to turn over Max as a victim, in order to gain for himself a brief respite on earth, his time to Zamiel being up. The younger forester joins him in the Wolf's Glen and together they mould seven magic bullets, six of which go true to the mark. The seventh goes whither Zamiel wills it.

Act III. The first scene again plays in the forester's house. Agathe still is filled with forebodings. She is attired for the test shooting which also will make her Max's bride, if he is successful. Faith dispels her gloom. The bridesmaids enter and wind the bridal garland.

The time arrives for the test shooting. But only the seventh bullet, the one which Zamiel speeds whither he wishes, remains to Max. His others he has used up on the hunt in order to show off before the Prince. Kaspar climbs a tree to watch the proceedings from a safe place of concealment. He expects Max to be Zamiel's victim. Before the whole village and the Prince the test shot is to be made. The Prince points to a flying dove. At that moment Agathe appears accompanied by a Hermit, a holy-66- man. She calls out to Max not to shoot, that she is the dove. But Max already has pulled the trigger. The shot resounds. Agathe falls—but only in a swoon. It is Kaspar who tumbles from the tree and rolls, fatally wounded, on the turf. Zamiel has had no power over Max, for the young forester had not come to the Wolf's Glen of his own free will, but only after being tempted by Kaspar. Therefore Kaspar himself had to be the victim of the seventh bullet. Upon the Hermit's intercession, Max, who has confessed everything, is forgiven by Prince Ottokar, the test shot is abolished and a year's probation substituted for it.

Many people are familiar with music from "Der Freischütz" without being aware that it is from that opera. Several melodies from it have been adapted as hymn tunes, and are often sung in church. In Act I, are Kilian's song and the chorus in which the men and women, young and old, rally Max upon his bad luck. There is an expressive trio for Max, Kaspar, and Cuno, with chorus "O diese Sonne!" (O fateful morrow.) There is a short waltz. Max's solo, "Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen" (Through the forest and o'er the meadows) is a melody of great beauty, and this also can be said of his other solo in the same scene, "Jetzt ist wohl ihr Fenster offen" (Now mayhap her window opens), while the scene comes to a close with gloomy, despairing accents, as Zamiel, unseen of course by Max, hovers, a threatening shadow, in the background. There follows Kaspar's drinking song, forced in its hilariousness and ending in grotesque laughter, Kaspar being the familiar of Zamiel, the wild huntsman. His air ("Triumph! Triumph! Vengeance will succeed") is wholly in keeping with his sinister character.

Act II opens with a delightful duet for Agathe and Aennchen and a charmingly coquettish little air for the latter (Comes a comely youth a-wooing). Then comes Agathe's principal scene. She opens the window and, as the moon-67-light floods the room, intones the prayer so simple, so exquisite, so expressive: "Leise, leise, fromme Weise" (Softly sighing, day is dying).



This is followed, after a recitative, by a rapturous, descending passage leading into an ecstatic melody: "Alle meine Pulse schlagen" (All my pulses now are beating) as she sees her lover approaching.



The music of the Wolf's Glen scene long has been considered the most expressive rendering of the gruesome that is to be found in a musical score. The stage apparatus that goes with it is such that it makes the young sit up and take notice, while their elders, because of its naïveté, are entertained. The ghost of Max's mother appears to him and strives to warn him away. Cadaverous, spooky-looking animals crawl out from caves in the rocks and spit flames and sparks. Wagner got more than one hint from the scene. But in the crucible of his genius the glen became the lofty Valkyr rock, and the backdrop with the wild hunt the superb "Ride of the Valkyries," while other details are transfigured in that sublime episode, "The Magic Fire Scene."

After a brief introduction, with suggestions of the hunting chorus later in the action, the third act opens with Agathe's lovely cavatina, "And though a cloud the sun obscure." There are a couple of solos for Aennchen, and then comes the enchanting chorus of bridesmaids. This is the piece which Richard Wagner, then seven years old,-68- was playing in a room, adjoining which his stepfather, Ludwig Geyer, lay in his last illness. Geyer had shown much interest in the boy and in what might become of him. As he listened to him playing the bridesmaids' chorus from "Der Freischütz" he turned to his wife, Wagner's mother, and said: "What if he should have a talent for music?"

In the next scene are the spirited hunting chorus and the brilliant finale, in which recurs the jubilant melody from Agathe's second act scene.

The overture to "Der Freischütz" is the first in which an operatic composer unreservedly has made use of melodies from the opera itself. Beethoven, in the third "Leonore" overture, utilizes the theme of Florestan's air and the trumpet call. Weber has used not merely thematic material but complete melodies. Following the beautiful passage for horns at the beginning of the overture (a passage which, like Agathe's prayer, has been taken up into the Protestant hymnal) is the music of Max's outcry when, in the opera, he senses rather than sees the passage of Zamiel across the stage, after which comes the sombre music of Max's air: "Hatt denn der Himmel mich verlassen?" (Am I then by heaven forsaken?). This leads up to the music of Agathe's outburst of joy when she sees her lover approaching; and this is given complete.

The structure of this overture is much like that of the overture to "Tannhäuser" by Richard Wagner. There also is a resemblance in contour between the music of Agathe's jubilation and that of Tannhäuser's hymn to Venus. Wagner worshipped Weber. Without a suggestion of plagiarism, the contour of Wagner's melodic idiom is that of Weber's. The resemblance to Weber in the general structure of the finales to the first acts of "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin" is obvious. Even in some of the leading motives of the Wagner music-dramas, the-69- student will find the melodic contour of Weber still persisting. What could be more in the spirit of Weber than the ringing Parsifal motive, one of the last things from the pen of Richard Wagner?

Indeed the importance of Weber in the logical development of music and specifically of opera, lies in the fact that he is the founder of the romantic school in music;—a school of which Wagner is the culmination. Weber is as truly the forerunner of Wagner as Haydn is of Mozart, and Mozart of Beethoven. From the "Freischütz" Wagner derived his early predilection for legendary subjects, as witness the "Flying Dutchman," "Tannhäuser," and "Lohengrin," from which it was but a step to the mythological subject of the "Ring" dramas.

"Der Freischütz" is heard far too rarely in this country. But Weber's importance as the founder of the romantic school and as the inspired forerunner of Wagner long has been recognized. Without this recognition there would be missing an important link in the evolution of music and, specifically, of opera.


Opera in three acts by Weber. Book, by Helmine von Chezy, adapted from "L'Histoire de Gérard de Nevers et de la belle et vertueuse Euryanthe, sa mie." Produced, Vienna, Kärnthnerthor Theatre (Theatre at the Carinthian Gate), October 25, 1823. New York, by Carl Anschütz, at Wallack's Theatre, Broadway and Broome Street, 1863; Metropolitan Opera House, December 23, 1887, with Lehmann, Brandt, Alvary, and Fischer, Anton Seidl conducting.


Euryanthe de SavoieSoprano
Eglantine de PuisetMezzo-Soprano
Lysiart de ForêtBaritone
Adolar de NeversTenor
Louis VIBass

Time—Beginning of the Twelfth Century.



Act I. Palace of the King. Count Adolar chants the beauty and virtue of his betrothed, Euryanthe. Count Lysiart sneers and boasts that he can lead her astray. The two noblemen stake their possessions upon the result.

Garden of the Palace of Nevers. Euryanthe sings of her longing for Adolar. Eglantine, the daughter of a rebellious subject who, made a prisoner, has, on Euryanthe's plea, been allowed the freedom of the domain, is in love with Adolar. She has sensed that Euryanthe and her lover guard a secret. Hoping to estrange Adolar from her, she seeks to gain Euryanthe's confidence and only too successfully. For Euryanthe confides to her that Adolar's dead sister, who lies in the lonely tomb in the garden, has appeared to Adolar and herself and confessed that, her lover having been slain in battle, she has killed herself by drinking poison from her ring; nor can her soul find rest until someone, innocently accused, shall wet the ring with tears. To hold this secret inviolate has been imposed upon Euryanthe by Adolar as a sacred duty. Too late she repents of having communicated it to Eglantine who, on her part, is filled with malicious glee. Lysiart arrives to conduct Adolar's betrothed to the royal palace.

Act II. Lysiart despairs of accomplishing his fell purpose when Eglantine emerges from the tomb with the ring and reveals to him its secret. In the royal palace, before a brilliant assembly, Lysiart claims to have won his wager, and, in proof, produces the ring, the secret of which he claims Euryanthe has communicated to him. She protests her innocence, but in vain. Adolar renounces his rank and estates with which Lysiart is forthwith invested and endowed, and, dragging Euryanthe after him, rushes into the forest where he intends to kill her and then himself.

Act III. In a rocky mountain gorge Adolar draws his sword and is about to slay Euryanthe, who in vain protests her innocence. At that moment a huge serpent appears.-71- Euryanthe throws herself between it and Adolar in order to save him. He fights the serpent and kills it; then, although Euryanthe vows she would rather he slew her than not love her, he goes his way leaving her to heaven's protection. She is discovered by the King, who credits her story and promises to vindicate her, when she tells him that it was through Eglantine, to whom she disclosed the secret of the tomb, that Lysiart obtained possession of the ring.

Gardens of Nevers, where preparations are making for the wedding of Lysiart and Eglantine. Adolar enters in black armour with visor down. Eglantine, still madly in love with him and dreading her union with Lysiart, is so affected by the significance of the complete silence with which the assembled villagers and others watch her pass, that, half out of her mind, she raves about the unjust degradation she has brought upon Euryanthe.

Adolar, disclosing his identity, challenges Lysiart to combat. But before they can draw, the King appears. In order to punish Adolar for his lack of faith in Euryanthe, he tells him that she is dead. Savagely triumphant over her rival's end, Eglantine now makes known the entire plot and is slain by Lysiart. At that moment Euryanthe rushes into Adolar's arms. Lysiart is led off a captive. Adolar's sister finds eternal rest in her tomb because the ring has been bedewed by the tears wept by the innocent Euryanthe.

The libretto of "Euryanthe" is accounted extremely stupid, even for an opera, and the work is rarely given. The opera, however, is important historically as another stepping-stone in the direction of Wagner. Several Wagnerian commentators regard the tomb motive as having conveyed to the Bayreuth master more than a suggestion of the Leitmotif system which he developed so fully in his music-drama. Adolar, in black armour, is believed to-72- have suggested Parsifal's appearance in sable harness and accoutrements in the last act of "Parsifal." In any event, Wagner was a close student of Weber and there is more than one phrase in "Euryanthe" that finds its echo in "Lohengrin," although of plagiarism in the ordinary sense there is none.

While "Euryanthe" has never been popular, some of its music is very fine. The overture may be said to consist of two vigorous, stirringly dramatic sections separated by the weird tomb motive. The opening chorus in the King's palace is sonorous and effective. There is a very beautiful romanza for Adolar ("'Neath almond trees in blossom"). In the challenge of the knights to the test of Euryanthe's virtue occurs the vigorous phrase with which the overture opens. Euryanthe has an exquisite cavatina ("Chimes in the valley"). There is an effective duet for Euryanthe and Eglantine ("Threatful gather clouds about me"). A scene for Eglantine is followed by the finale—a chorus with solo for Euryanthe.

Lysiart's recitations and aria ("Where seek to hide?"), expressive of hatred and defiance—a powerfully dramatic number—opens the second act. There is a darkly premonitory duet for Lysiart and Eglantine. Adolar has a tranquil aria ("When zephyrs waft me peace"); and a duet full of abandon with Euryanthe ("To you my soul I give"). The finale is a quartette with chorus. The hunting chorus in the last act, previous to the King's discovery of Euryanthe, has been called Weber's finest inspiration.

Something should be done by means of a new libretto or by re-editing to give "Euryanthe" the position it deserves in the modern operatic repertoire. An attempt at a new libretto was made in Paris in 1857, at the Théâtre Lyrique. It failed. Having read a synopsis of that libretto, I can readily understand why. It is, if possible, more absurd than the original. Shakespeare's "Cym-73-beline" is derived from the same source as "Euryanthe," which shows that, after all, something could be made of the story.


Opera in three acts, by Weber. Words by James Robinson Planché.


TitaniaMute Character
Huon de BordeauxTenor
Scherasmin, his esquireBaritone
Haroun el RaschidBaritone
Rezia, his daughterSoprano
Fatima, her slaveSoprano
Prince BabekanTenor
Emir AlmansorBaritone
Roschana, his wifeContralto
Abdallah, a pirateBass

In a tribute to Weber, the librettist of "Oberon" wrote a sketch of the action and also gave as the origin of the story the tale of "Huon de Bordeaux," from the old collection of romances known as "La Bibliothèque Bleue." Wieland's poem "Oberon," is based upon the old romance and Sotheby's translation furnished Planché with the groundwork for the text.

According to Planché's description of the action, Oberon, the Elfin King, having quarrelled with his fairy partner, Titania, vows never to be reconciled to her till he shall find two lovers constant through peril and temptation. To seek such a pair his "tricksy spirit," Puck, has ranged in vain through the world. Puck, however, hears sentence-74- passed on Sir Huon, of Bordeaux, a young knight, who, having been insulted by the son of Charlemagne, kills him in single combat, and is for this condemned by the monarch to proceed to Bagdad, slay him who sits on the Caliph's left hand, and claim the Caliph's daughter as his bride. Oberon instantly resolves to make this pair the instruments of his reunion with his queen, and for this purpose he brings up Huon and Scherasmin asleep before him, enamours the knight by showing him Rezia, daughter of the Caliph, in a vision, transports him at his waking to Bagdad, and having given him a magic horn, by the blasts of which he is always to summon the assistance of Oberon, and a cup that fills at pleasure, disappears. Sir Huon rescues a man from a lion, who proves afterwards to be Prince Babekan, who is betrothed to Rezia. One of the properties of the cup is to detect misconduct. He offers it to Babekan. On raising it to his lips the wine turns to flame, and thus proves him a villain. He attempts to assassinate Huon, but is put to flight. The knight then learns from an old woman that the princess is to be married next day, but that Rezia has been influenced, like her lover, by a vision, and is resolved to be his alone. She believes that fate will protect her from her nuptials with Babekan, which are to be solemnized on the next day. Huon enters, fights with and vanquishes Babekan, and having spellbound the rest by a blast of the magic horn, he and Scherasmin carry off Rezia and Fatima. They are soon shipwrecked. Rezia is captured by pirates on a desert island and brought to Tunis, where she is sold to the Emir and exposed to every temptation, but she remains constant. Sir Huon, by the order of Oberon, is also conveyed thither. He undergoes similar trials from Roschana, the jealous wife of the Emir, but proving invulnerable she accuses him to her husband, and he is condemned to be burned on the same pyre with Rezia. They are rescued by Scherasmin, who has the magic-75- horn, and sets all those who would harm Sir Huon and Rezia dancing. Oberon appears with his queen, whom he has regained by the constancy of the lovers, and the opera concludes with Charlemagne's pardon of Huon.

The chief musical numbers are, in the first act, Huon's grand scene, beginning with a description of the glories to be won in battle: in the second act, an attractive quartette, "Over the dark blue waters," Puck's invocation of the spirits and their response, the great scene for Rezia, "Ocean, thou mighty monster, that liest like a green serpent coiled around the world," and the charming mermaid's song; and, in the third act, the finale.

As is the case with "Euryanthe," the puerilities of the libretto to "Oberon" appear to have been too much even for Weber's beautiful music. Either that, or else Weber is suffering the fate of all obvious forerunners: which is that their genius finds its full and lasting fruition in those whose greater genius it has caused to germinate and ripen. Thus the full fruition of Weber's genius is found in the Wagner operas and music-dramas. Even the fine overtures, "Freischütz," "Euryanthe," and "Oberon," in former years so often found in the classical concert repertoire, are played less and less frequently. The "Tannhäuser" overture has supplanted them. The "Oberon" overture, like that to "Freischütz" and "Euryanthe," is composed of material from the opera—the horn solo from Sir Huon's scena, portions of the fairies, chorus and the third-act finale, the climax of Rezia's scene in the second act, and Puck's invocation.

In his youth Weber composed, to words by Heimer, an amusing little musical comedy entitled "Abu Hassan." It was produced in Dresden under the composer's direction. The text is derived from a well-known tale in the Arabian Nights. Another youthful opera by Weber, "Silvana," was produced at Frankfort-on-Main in 1810. The text,-76- based upon an old Rhine legend of a feud between two brothers, has been rearranged by Ernst Pasqué, the score by Ferdinand Lange, who, in the ballet in the second act, has introduced Weber's "Invitation à la Valse" and his "Polonaise," besides utilizing other music by the composer. The fragment of another work, a comic opera, "The Three Pintos," text by Theodor Hell, was taken in hand and completed, the music by Gustav Mahler, the libretto by Weber's grandson, Carl von Weber.


Why Some Operas are Rarely Given

THERE is hardly a writer on music, no matter how advanced his views, who will not agree with me in all I have said in praise of "Orpheus and Eurydice," the principal Mozart operas, Beethoven's "Fidelio," and Weber's "Freischütz" and "Euryanthe." The question therefore arises: "Why are these works not performed with greater frequency?"

A general answer would be that the modern opera house is too large for the refined and delicate music of Gluck and Mozart to be heard to best effect. Moreover, these are the earliest works in the repertoire.

In Mozart's case there is the further reason that "Don Giovanni" and "The Magic Flute" are very difficult to give. An adequate performance of "Don Giovanni" calls for three prima donnas of the highest rank. The demands of "The Magic Flute" upon the female personnel of an opera company also are very great—that is if the work is to be given at all adequately and effectively. Moreover, the recitativo secco (dry recitative) of the Mozart operas—a recitative which, at a performance of "Don Giovanni" in the Academy of Music, New York, I have heard accompanied by the conductor on an upright pianoforte—is tedious to ears accustomed to have every phrase in modern opera sung to an expressive orchestral accompaniment. As regards "Fidelio" it has spoken dialogue; and if anything has been demonstrated over and over again, it is that American audiences of today simply will not stand-78- for spoken dialogue in grand opera. That also, together with the extreme naïveté of their librettos, is the great handicap of the Weber operas. It is neither an easy nor an agreeable descent from the vocalized to the spoken word. And so, works, admittedly great, are permitted to lapse into unpardonable desuetude, because no genius, willing or capable, has come forward to change the recitativo secco of Mozart, or the dialogue that affronts the hearer in the other works mentioned, into recitatives that will restore these operas to their deserved place in the modern repertoire. Berlioz tried it with "Der Freischütz" and appears to have failed; nor have the "Freischütz" recitatives by Costa seemingly fared any better. This may have deterred others from making further attempts of the kind. But it seems as if a lesser genius than Berlioz, and a talent superior to Costa's, might succeed where they failed.


From Weber to Wagner

IN the evolution of opera from Weber to Wagner a gap was filled by composers of but little reputation here, although their names are known to every student of the lyric stage. Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861) composed in "Hans Heiling," Berlin, 1833, an opera based on legendary material. Its success may have confirmed Wagner's bent toward dramatic sources of this kind already aroused by his admiration for Weber. "Hans Heiling," "Der Vampyr" (The Vampire), and "Der Templer und Die Judin" (Templar and Jewess, a version of Ivanhoe) long held an important place in the operatic repertoire of their composer's native land. On the other hand "Faust" (1818) and "Jessonda" (1823), by Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859), have about completely disappeared. Spohr, however, deserves mention as being one of the first professional musicians of prominence to encourage Wagner. Incapable of appreciating either Beethoven or Weber, yet, strange to say, he at once recognized the merits of "The Flying Dutchman" and "Tannhäuser," and even of "Lohengrin"—at the time sealed volumes to most musicians and music lovers. As court conductor at Kassel, he brought out the first two Wagner operas mentioned respectively in 1842 and 1853; and was eager to produce "Lohengrin," but was prevented by opposition from the court.

Meyerbeer and his principal operas will be considered at length in the chapters in this book devoted to French-80- opera. There is no doubt, however, that what may be called the "largeness" of Meyerbeer's style and the effectiveness of his instrumentation had their influence on Wagner.

Gasparo Spontini (1774-1851) was an Italian by birth, but I believe can be said to have made absolutely no impression on the development of Italian opera. His principal works, "La Vestale" (The Vestal Virgin), and "Fernando Cortez," were brought out in Paris and later in Berlin, where he was general music director, 1820-1841. His operas were heavily scored, especially for brass. Much that is noisy in "Rienzi" may be traced to Spontini, but later Wagner understood how to utilize the brass in the most eloquent manner; for, like Shakespeare, Wagner possessed the genius that converts the dross of others into refined gold.

Mention may be here made of three composers of light opera, who succeeded in evolving a refined and charming type of the art. We at least know the delightful overture to "The Merry Wives of Windsor," by Otto Nicolai (1810-1849); and the whole opera, produced in Berlin a few months before Nicolai died, is equally frolicksome and graceful. Conradin Kreutzer (1780-1849) brought out, in 1836, "Das Nachtlager in Granada" (A Night's Camp in Granada), a melodious and sparkling score.

But the German light opera composer par excellence is Albert Lortzing (1803-1851). His chief works are, "Czar und Zimmermann" (Czar and Carpenter), 1834, with its beautiful baritone solo, "In childhood I played with a sceptre and crown"; "Der Wildschütz" (The Poacher); "Undine"; and "Der Waffenschmied" (The Armourer) which last also has a deeply expressive solo for baritone, "Ich auch war einst Jüngling mit lockigem Haar" (I too was a youth once with fair, curly hair).


Richard Wagner

RICHARD WAGNER was born at Leipsic, May 22, 1813. His father was clerk to the city police court and a man of good education. During the French occupation of Leipsic he was, owing to his knowledge of French, made chief of police. He was fond of poetry and had a special love for the drama, often taking part in amateur theatricals.

Five months after Richard's birth his father died of an epidemic fever brought on by the carnage during the battle of Leipsic, October 16, 18, and 19, 1813. In 1815 his widow, whom he had left in most straitened circumstances, married Ludwig Geyer, an actor, a playwright, and a portrait painter. By inheritance from his father, by association with his stepfather, who was very fond of him, Wagner readily acquired the dramatic faculty so pronounced in his operas and music-dramas of which he is both author and composer.

At the time Wagner's mother married Geyer, he was a member of the Court Theatre at Dresden. Thither the family removed. When the boy was eight years old, he had learned to play on the pianoforte the chorus of bridesmaids from "Der Freischütz," then quite new. The day before Geyer's death, September 30, 1821, Richard was playing this piece in an adjoining room and heard Geyer say to his mother: "Do you think he might have a gift-82- for music?" Coming out of the death room Wagner's mother said to him: "Of you he wanted to make something." "From this time on," writes Wagner in his early autobiographical sketch, "I always had an idea that I was destined to amount to something in this world."

At school Wagner made quite a little reputation as a writer of verses. He was such an enthusiastic admirer of Shakespeare that at the age of fourteen he began a grand tragedy, of which he himself says that it was a jumble of Hamlet and Lear. So many people died in the course of it that their ghosts had to return in order to keep the fifth act going.

In 1833, at the age of twenty, Wagner began his career as a professional musician. His elder brother Albert was engaged as tenor, actor, and stage manager at the Würzburg theatre. A position as chorus master being offered to Richard, he accepted it, although his salary was a pittance of ten florins a month. However, the experience was valuable. He was able to profit by many useful hints from his brother, the Musikverein performed several of his compositions, and his duties were not so arduous but that he found time to write the words and music of an opera in three acts entitled "The Fairies"—first performed in June, 1888, five years after his death, at Munich. In the autumn of 1834 he was called to the conductorship of the opera at Magdeburg. There he wrote and produced an opera, "Das Liebesverbot" (Love Veto), based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. The theatre at Magdeburg was, however, on the ragged edge of bankruptcy, and during the spring of 1836 matters became so bad that it was evident the theatre must soon close. Finally only twelve days were left for the rehearsing and the performance of his opera. The result was that the production went completely to pieces, singers forgetting their lines and music, and a repetition which was announced could not-83- come off because of a free fight behind the scenes between two of the principal singers. Wagner describes this in the following amusing passage in his autobiographical sketch:

"All at once the husband of my prima donna (the impersonator of Isabella) pounced upon the second tenor, a very young and handsome fellow (the singer of my Claudio), against whom the injured spouse had long cherished a secret jealousy. It seemed that the prima donna's husband, who had from behind the curtains inspected with me the composition of the audience, considered that the time had now arrived when, without damage to the prospects of the theatre, he could take his revenge on his wife's lover. Claudio was so pounded and belaboured by him that the unhappy individual was compelled to retire to the dressing-room with his face all bleeding. Isabella was informed of this, and, rushing desperately toward her furious lord, received from him such a series of violent cuffs that she forthwith went into spasms. The confusion among my personnel was now quite boundless: everybody took sides with one party or the other, and everything seemed on the point of a general fight. It seemed as if this unhappy evening appeared to all of them precisely calculated for a final settling up of all sorts of fancied insults. This much was evident, that the couple who had suffered under the 'love veto' (Liebesverbot) of Isabella's husband, were certainly unable to appear on this occasion."

Wagner was next engaged as orchestral conductor at Königsberg, where he married the actress Wilhelmina, or Minna Planer. Later he received notice of his appointment as conductor and of the engagement of his wife and sister at the theatre at Riga, on the Russian side of the Baltic.

In Riga he began the composition of his first great suc-84-cess, "Rienzi." He completed the libretto during the summer of 1838, and began the music in the autumn, and when his contract terminated in the spring of 1839 the first two acts were finished. In July, accompanied by his wife and a huge Newfoundland dog, he boarded a sailing vessel for London, at the port of Pilau, his intention being to go from London to Paris. "I shall never forget the voyage," he says. "It was full of disaster. Three times we nearly suffered shipwreck, and once were obliged to seek safety in a Norwegian harbour.... The legend of the 'Flying Dutchman' was confirmed by the sailors, and the circumstances gave it a distinct and characteristic colour in my mind." No wonder the sea is depicted so graphically in his opera "The Flying Dutchman."

He arrived in Paris in September, 1839, and remained until April 7, 1842, from his twenty-sixth to his twenty-ninth year. This Parisian sojourn was one of the bitter experiences of his life. At times he actually suffered from cold and hunger, and was obliged to do a vast amount of most uncongenial kind of hack work.

November 19, 1840, he completed the score of "Rienzi," and in December forwarded it to the director of the Royal Theatre at Dresden. While awaiting a reply, he contributed to the newspapers and did all kinds of musical drudgery for Schlesinger, the music publisher, even making arrangements for the cornet à piston. Finally word came from Dresden. "Rienzi" had aroused the enthusiasm of the chorus master, Fischer, and of the tenor Tichatschek, who saw that the title rôle was exactly suited to his robust, dramatic voice. Then there was Mme. Schröder-Devrient for the part of Adriano. The opera was produced October 20, 1842, the performance beginning at six and ending just before midnight, to the enthusiastic plaudits of an immense audience. So great was the excitement that in spite of the late hour people remained awake to talk over the success.-85- "We all ought to have gone to bed," relates a witness, "but we did nothing of the kind." Early the next morning Wagner appeared at the theatre in order to make excisions from the score, which he thought its great length necessitated. But when he returned in the afternoon to see if they had been executed, the copyist excused himself by saying the singers had protested against any cuts. Tichatschek said: "I will have no cuts; it is too heavenly." After a while, owing to its length, the opera was divided into two evenings.

The success of "Rienzi" led the Dresden management to put "The Flying Dutchman" in rehearsal. It was brought out after somewhat hasty preparations, January 2, 1843. The opera was so different from "Rienzi," its sombre beauty contrasted so darkly with the glaring, brilliant music and scenery of the latter, that the audience failed to grasp it. In fact, after "Rienzi," it was a disappointment.

Before the end of January, 1843, not long after the success of "Rienzi," Wagner was appointed one of the Royal conductors at Dresden. He was installed February 2d. One of his first duties was to assist Berlioz at the rehearsals of the latter's concerts. Wagner's work in his new position was somewhat varied, consisting not only of conducting operas, but also music between the acts at theatrical performances and at church services. The principal operas which he rehearsed and conducted were "Euryanthe," "Freischütz," "Don Giovanni," "The Magic Flute," Gluck's "Armide," and "Iphigenia in Aulis." The last-named was revised both as regards words and music by him, and his changes are now generally accepted.

Meanwhile he worked arduously on "Tannhäuser," completing it April 13, 1844. It was produced at Dresden, October 19, 1845. At first the work proved even a greater puzzle to the public than "The Flying Dutchman" had,-86- and evoked comments which nowadays, when the opera has actually become a classic, seem ridiculous. Some people even suggested that the plot of the opera should be changed so that Tannhäuser should marry Elizabeth.

The management of the Dresden theatre, which had witnessed the brilliant success of "Rienzi" and had seen "The Flying Dutchman" and "Tannhäuser" at least hold their own in spite of the most virulent opposition, looked upon his next work, "Lohengrin," as altogether too risky and put off its production indefinitely.

Thinking that political changes might put an end to the routine stagnation in musical matters, Wagner joined in the revolutionary agitation of '48 and '49. In May, 1849, the disturbances at Dresden reached such an alarming point that the Saxon Court fled. Prussian troops were dispatched to quell the riot and Wagner thought it advisable to flee. He went to Weimar, where Liszt was busy rehearsing "Tannhäuser." While attending a rehearsal of this work, May 19, news was received that orders had been issued for his arrest as a politically dangerous individual. Liszt at once procured a passport and Wagner started for Paris. In June he went to Zurich, where he found Dresden friends and where his wife joined him, being enabled to do so through the zeal of Liszt, who raised the money to defray her journey from Dresden.

Liszt brought out "Lohengrin" at Weimar, August 28, 1850. The reception of "Lohengrin" did not at first differ much from that accorded to "Tannhäuser." Yet the performance made a deep impression. The fact that the weight of Liszt's influence had been cast in its favour gave vast importance to the event, and it may be said that through this performance Wagner's cause received its first great stimulus. The so-called Wagner movement may be said to have dated from this production of "Lohengrin."


He finished the librettos of the "Nibelung" dramas in 1853. By May, 1854, the music of "Das Rheingold" was composed. The following month he began "Die Walküre" and finished all but the instrumentation during the following winter and the full score in 1856. Previous to this, in fact already in the autumn of 1854, he had sketched some of the music of "Siegfried," and in the spring of 1857 the full score of the first act and of the greater part of the second act was finished. Then, recognizing the difficulties which he would encounter in securing a performance of the "Ring," and appalled by the prospect of the battle he would be obliged to wage, he was so disheartened that he abandoned the composition of "Siegfried" at the Waldweben scene and turned to "Tristan." His idea at that time was that "Tristan" would be short and comparatively easy to perform. Genius that he was, he believed that because it was easy for him to write great music it would be easy for others to interpret it. A very curious, not to say laughable, incident occurred at this time. An agent of the Emperor of Brazil called and asked if Wagner would compose an opera for an Italian troupe at Rio de Janeiro, and would he conduct the work himself, all upon his own terms. The composition of "Tristan" actually was begun with a view of its being performed by Italians in Brazil!

The poem of "Tristan" was finished early in 1857, and in the winter of the same year the full score of the first act was ready to be forwarded to the engraver. The second act is dated Venice, March 2, 1859. The third is dated Lyons, August, 1859.

It is interesting to note in connection with "Tristan" that, while Wagner wrote it because he thought it would be easy to secure its performance, he subsequently found more difficulty in getting it produced than any other of his works. In September, 1859, he again went to Paris-88- with the somewhat curious hope that he could there find opportunity to produce "Tristan" with German artists. Through the intercession of the Princess Metternich, the Emperor ordered the production of "Tannhäuser" at the Opéra. Beginning March 13, 1861, three performances were given, of which it is difficult to say whether the performance was on the stage or in the auditorium, for the uproar in the house often drowned the sounds from the stage. The members of the Jockey Club, who objected to the absence of a ballet, armed themselves with shrill whistles, on which they began to blow whenever there was the slightest hint of applause, and the result was that between the efforts of the singers to make themselves heard and of Wagner's friends to applaud, and the shrill whistling from his enemies, there was confusion worse confounded. But Wagner's friendship with Princess Metternich bore good fruit. Through her mediation, it is supposed, he received permission to return to all parts of Germany but Saxony. It was not until March, 1862, thirteen years after his banishment, that he was again allowed to enter the kingdom of his birth and first success.

His first thought now was to secure the production of "Tristan," but at Vienna, after fifty-seven rehearsals, it was put upon the shelf as impossible.

In 1863, while working upon "Die Meistersinger," at Penzing, near Vienna, he published his "Nibelung" dramas, expressing his hope that through the bounty of one of the German rulers the completion and performance of his "Ring of the Nibelung" would be made possible. But in the spring of 1864, worn out by his struggle with poverty and almost broken in spirit by his contest with public and critics, he actually determined to give up his public career, and eagerly grasped the opportunity to visit a private country seat in Switzerland. Just at this-89- very moment, when despair had settled upon him, the long wished-for help came. King Ludwig II., of Bavaria, bade him come to Munich, where he settled in 1864. "Tristan" was produced there June 10, 1865. June 21, 1868, a model performance of "Die Meistersinger," which he had finished in 1867, was given at Munich under the direction of von Bülow, Richter acting as chorus master and Wagner supervising all the details. Wagner also worked steadily at the unfinished portion of the "Ring," completing the instrumentation of the third act of "Siegfried" in 1869 and the introduction and first act of "The Dusk of the Gods" in June, 1870.

August 25, 1870, his first wife having died January 25, 1866, after five years' separation from him, he married the divorced wife of von Bülow, Cosima Liszt. In 1869 and 1870, respectively "The Rhinegold" and "The Valkyr" were performed at the Court Theatre in Munich.

Bayreuth having been determined upon as the place where a theatre for the special production of his "Ring" should be built, Wagner settled there in April, 1872. By November, 1874, "Dusk of the Gods" received its finishing touches, and rehearsals had already been held at Bayreuth. During the summer of 1875, under Wagner's supervision, Hans Richter held full rehearsals there, and at last, twenty-eight years after its first conception, on August 13th, 14th, 16th, and 17th, again from August 20 to 23, and from August 27 to 30, 1876, "The Ring of the Nibelung" was performed at Bayreuth with the following cast: Wotan, Betz; Loge, Vogel; Alberich, Hill; Mime, Schlosser; Fricka, Frau Grün; Donner and Gunther, Gura; Erda and Waltraute, Frau Jaide; Siegmund, Niemann; Sieglinde, Frl. Schefsky; Brünnhilde, Frau Materna; Siegfried, Unger; Hagen, Siehr; Gutrune, Frl. Weckerin; Rhinedaughters, Lilli and Marie Lehmann, and Frl. Lammert. First violin, Wilhelmj; conductor, Hans Richter.-90- The first Rhinedaughter was the same Lilli Lehmann who, in later years, at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, became one of the greatest of prima donnas and, as regards the Wagnerian repertoire, set a standard for all time. Materna appeared at that house in the "Valkyr" production under Dr. Damrosch, in January, 1885, and Niemann was heard there later.

To revert to Bayreuth, "Parsifal" was produced there in July, 1882. In the autumn of that year, Wagner's health being in an unsatisfactory state, though no alarming symptoms had shown themselves, he took up his residence in Venice at the Palazzo Vendramini, on the Grand Canal. He died February 13, 1883.

In manner incidental, that is, without attention formally being called to the subject, Wagner's reform of the lyric stage is set forth in the descriptive accounts of his music-dramas which follow, and in which the leading motives are quoted in musical notation. But something directly to the point must be said here.

Once again, like Gluck a century before, Wagner opposed the assumption of superiority on the part of the interpreter—the singer—over the composer. He opposed it in manner so thorough-going that he changed the whole face of opera. A far greater tribute to Wagner's genius than the lame attempts of some German composers at imitating him, is the frank adoption of certain phases of his method by modern French and Italian composers, beginning with Verdi in "Aïda." While by no means a Wagnerian work, since it contains not a trace of the theory of the leading motive, "Aïda," through the richness of its instrumentation, the significant accompaniment of its recitative, the lack of mere bravura embellishment in its vocal score, and its sober reaching out for true dramatic effect in the treatment of the voices, substituting this for ostentatious brilliancy and ear-tickling fluency, plainly-91- shows the influence of Wagner upon the greatest of Italian composers. And what is true of "Aïda," is equally applicable to the whole school of Italian verismo that came after Verdi—Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Puccini.

Wagner's works are conceived and executed upon a gigantic scale. They are Shakespearian in their dimensions and in their tragic power; or, as in the "Meistersinger," in their comedy element. Each of his works is highly individual. The "Ring" dramas and "Tristan" are unmistakably Wagner. Yet how individually characteristic the music of each! That of the "Ring" is of elemental power. The "Tristan" music is molten passion. Equally characteristic and individual are his other scores.

The theory evolved by Wagner was that the lyric stage should present not a series of melodies for voice upon a mere framework of plot and versified story, but a serious work of dramatic art, the music to which should, both vocally and instrumentally, express the ever varying development of the drama. With this end in view he invented a melodious recitative which only at certain great crises in the progress of the action—such as the love-climax, the gathering at the Valkyr Rock, the "Farewell," and the "Magic Fire" scenes in "The Valkyr"; the meeting of Siegfried and Brünnhilde in "Siegfried"; the love duet and "Love-Death" in "Tristan"—swells into prolonged melody. Note that I say prolonged melody. For besides these prolonged melodies, there is almost constant melody, besides marvellous orchestral colour, in the weft and woof of the recitative. This is produced by the artistic use of leading motives, every leading motive being a brief, but expressive, melody—so brief that, to one coming to Wagner without previous study or experience, the melodious quality of his recitative is not appreciated at first. After a while, however, the hearer begins to recognize certain brief, but melodious and musically-92- eloquent phrases—leading motives—as belonging to certain characters in the drama or to certain influences potent in its development, such as hate, love, jealousy, the desire for revenge, etc. Often to express a combination of circumstances, influences, passions, or personal actions, these leading motives, these brief melodious phrases, are combined with a skill that is unprecedented; or the voice may express one, while the orchestra combines with it in another.

To enable the orchestra to follow these constantly changing phases in the evolution and development of the drama, and often to give utterance to them separately, it was necessary for Wagner to have most intimate knowledge of the individual tone quality and characteristics of every instrument in the orchestra, and this mastery of what I may call instrumental personality he possessed to a hitherto undreamed-of degree. Nor has anyone since equalled him in it. The result is a choice and variety of instrumentation which in itself is almost an equivalent for dramatic action and enables the orchestra to adapt itself with unerring accuracy to the varying phases of the drama.

Consider that, when Wagner first projected his theory of the music-drama, singers were accustomed in opera to step into the limelight and, standing there, deliver themselves of set melodies, acknowledge applause and give as many encores as were called for, in fact were "it," while the real creative thing, the opera, was but secondary, and it is easy to comprehend the opposition which his works aroused among the personnel of the lyric stage; for music-drama demands a singer's absorption not only in the music but also in the action. A Wagner music-drama requires great singers, but the singers no longer absorb everything. They are part—a most important part, it is true—of a performance, in which the drama itself, the orchestra, and the stage pictures are also of great importance. A performance of a Wagner-93- music-drama, to be effective, must be a well-rounded, eloquent whole. The drama must be well acted from a purely dramatic point of view. It must be well sung from a purely vocal point of view. It must be well interpreted from a purely orchestral point of view. It must be well produced from a purely stage point of view. For all these elements go hand in hand. It is, of course, well known that Wagner was the author of his own librettos and showed himself a dramatist of the highest order for the lyric stage.

While his music-dramas at first aroused great opposition among operatic artists, growing familiarity with them caused these artists to change their view. The interpretation of a Wagner character was discovered to be a combined intellectual and emotional task which slowly, but surely, appealed more and more to the great singers of the lyric stage. They derived a new dignity and satisfaction from their work, especially as audiences also began to realize that, instead of mere entertainment, performances of Wagner music-dramas were experiences that both stirred the emotions to their depths and appealed to the intellect as well. To this day Lilli Lehmann is regarded by all, who had the good fortune to hear her at the Metropolitan Opera House, as the greatest prima donna and the most dignified figure in the history of the lyric stage in this country; for on the lyric stage the interpretation of the great characters in Wagnerian music-drama already had come to be regarded as equal to the interpretation of the great Shakespearian characters on the dramatic.

Wagner's genius was so supreme that, although he has been dead thirty-four years, he is still without a successor. Through the force of his own genius he appears destined to remain the sole exponent of the art form of which he was the creator. But his influence is still potent. This we discover not only in the enrichment of the orchestral accompaniment in opera, but in the banishment of sense-94-less vocal embellishment, in the search for true dramatic expression and, in general, in the greater seriousness with which opera is taken as an art. Even the minor point of lowering the lights in the auditorium during a performance, so as to concentrate attention upon the stage, is due to him; and even the older Italian operas are now given with an attention to detail, scenic setting, and an endeavour to bring out their dramatic effects, quite unheard of before his day. He was, indeed, a reformer of the lyric stage whose influence long will be potent "all along the line."


Opera in five acts. Words and music by Wagner. Produced, Dresden, October 20, 1842. London, Her Majesty's Theatre, April 16, 1869. New York, Academy of Music, 1878, with Charles R. Adams, as Rienzi, Pappenheim as Adriano; Metropolitan Opera House, February 5, 1886, with Sylva as Rienzi, Lehmann as Irene, Brandt as Adriano, Fischer as Colonna.


Cola Rienzi, Roman Tribune and Papal NotaryTenor
Irene, his sisterSoprano
Steffano ColonnaBass
Adriano, his sonMezzo-Soprano
Paolo OrsinoBass
Raimondo, Papal LegateBass
Baroncello}Roman citizens{Tenor
Cecco del Vecchio}{Bass
Messenger of PeaceSoprano

Ambassadors, Nobles, Priests, Monks, Soldiers, Messengers, and Populace in General.

Time—Middle of the Fourteenth Century.


Orsino, a Roman patrician, attempts to abduct Irene, the sister of Rienzi, a papal notary, but is opposed at the critical moment by Colonna, another patrician. A fight ensues between the two factions, in the midst of which-95- Adriano, the son of Colonna, who is in love with Irene, appears to defend her. A crowd is attracted by the tumult, and among others Rienzi comes upon the scene. Enraged at the insult offered his sister, and stirred on by Cardinal Raimondo, he urges the people to resist the outrages of the nobles. Adriano is impelled by his love for Irene to cast his lot with her brother. The nobles are overpowered, and appear at the capitol to swear allegiance to Rienzi, but during the festal proceedings Adriano warns him that the nobles have plotted to kill him. An attempt which Orsino makes upon him with a dagger is frustrated by a steel breastplate which Rienzi wears under his robe.

The nobles are seized and condemned to death, but on Adriano's pleading they are spared. They, however, violate their oath of submission, and the people again under Rienzi's leadership rise and exterminate them, Adriano having pleaded in vain. In the end the people prove fickle. The popular tide turns against Rienzi, especially in consequence of the report that he is in league with the German emperor, and intends to restore the Roman pontiff to power. As a festive procession is escorting him to church, Adriano rushes upon him with a drawn dagger, being infuriated at the slaughter of his family, but the blow is averted. Instead of the "Te Deum," however, with which Rienzi expected to be greeted on his entrance to the church, he hears the malediction and sees the ecclesiastical dignitaries placing the ban of excommunication against him upon the doors. Adriano hurries to Irene to warn her of her brother's danger, and urges her to seek safety with him in flight. She, however, repels him, and seeks her brother, determined to die with him, if need be. She finds him at prayer in the capitol, but rejects his counsel to save herself with Adriano. Rienzi appeals to the infuriated populace which has gathered around the-96- capitol, but they do not heed him. They fire the capitol with their torches, and hurl stones at Rienzi and Irene. As Adriano sees his beloved one and her brother doomed to death in the flames, he throws away his sword, rushes into the capitol, and perishes with them.

The overture of "Rienzi" gives a vivid idea of the action of the opera. Soon after the beginning there is heard the broad and stately melody of Rienzi's prayer, and then the Rienzi Motive, a typical phrase, which is used with great effect later in the opera. It is followed in the overture by the lively melody heard in the concluding portion of the finale of the second act. These are the three most conspicuous portions of the overture, in which there are, however, numerous tumultuous passages reflecting the dramatic excitement which pervades many scenes.

The opening of the first act is full of animation, the orchestra depicting the tumult which prevails during the struggle between the nobles. Rienzi's brief recitative is a masterpiece of declamatory music, and his call to arms is spirited. It is followed by a trio between Irene, Rienzi, and Adriano, and this in turn by a duet for the two last-named which is full of fire. The finale opens with a double chorus for the populace and the monks in the Lateran, accompanied by the organ. Then there is a broad and energetic appeal to the people from Rienzi, and amid the shouts of the populace and the ringing tones of the trumpets the act closes.

The insurrection of the people against the nobles is successful, and Rienzi, in the second act, awaits at the capitol the patricians who are to pledge him their submission. The act opens with a broad and stately march, to which the messengers of peace enter. They sing a graceful chorus. This is followed by a chorus for the senators, and the nobles then tender their submission. There is a-97- terzetto, between Adriano, Colonna, and Orsino, in which the nobles express their contempt for the young patrician. The finale which then begins is highly spectacular. There is a march for the ambassadors, and a grand ballet, historical in character, and supposed to be symbolical of the triumphs of ancient Rome. In the midst of this occurs the assault upon Rienzi. Rienzi's pardon of the nobles is conveyed in a broadly beautiful melody, and this is succeeded by the animated passage heard in the overture. With it are mingled the chants of the monks, the shouts of the people who are opposed to the cardinal and nobles, and the tolling of bells.

The third act opens tumultuously. The people have been aroused by fresh outrages on the part of the nobles. Rienzi's emissaries disperse, after a furious chorus, to rouse the populace to vengeance. After they have left, Adriano has his great air, a number which can never fail of effect when sung with all the expression of which it is capable. The rest of the act is a grand accumulation of martial music or noise, whichever one chooses to call it, and includes the stupendous battle hymn, which is accompanied by the clashing of sword and shields, the ringing of bells, and all the tumult incidental to a riot. After Adriano has pleaded in vain with Rienzi for the nobles, and the various bands of armed citizens have dispersed, there is a duet between Adriano and Irene, in which Adriano takes farewell of her. The victorious populace appears and the act closes with their triumphant shouts. The fourth act is brief, and beyond the description given in the synopsis of the plot, requires no further comment.

The fifth act opens with the beautiful prayer of Rienzi, already familiar from the overture. There is a tender duet between Rienzi and Irene, an impassioned aria for Rienzi, a duet for Irene and Adriano, and then the finale, which is chiefly choral.



Opera in three acts, words and music by Richard Wagner. Produced, Royal Opera, Dresden, January 2, 1843. London, July 23, 1870, as "L'Olandese Dannato"; October 3, 1876, by Carl Rosa, in English. New York, Academy of Music, January 26, 1877, in English, with Clara Louise Kellogg; March 12, 1877, in German; in the spring of 1883, in Italian, with Albani, Galassi, and Ravelli.


Daland, a Norwegian sea captainBass
Senta, his daughterSoprano
Eric, a huntsmanTenor
Mary, Senta's nurseContralto
Daland's SteersmanTenor
The DutchmanBaritone

Sailors, Maidens, Hunters, etc.

Time—Eighteenth Century.

Place—A Norwegian Fishing Village.

From "Rienzi" Wagner took a great stride to "The Flying Dutchman." This is the first milestone on the road from opera to music-drama. Of his "Rienzi" the composer was in after years ashamed, writing to Liszt: "I, as an artist and man, have not the heart for the reconstruction of that, to my taste, superannuated work, which in consequence of its immoderate dimensions, I have had to remodel more than once. I have no longer the heart for it, and desire from all my soul to do something new instead." He spoke of it as a youthful error, but in "The Flying Dutchman" there is little, if anything, which could have troubled his artistic conscience.

One can hardly imagine the legend more effective dramatically and musically than it is in Wagner's libretto and score. It is a work of wild and sombre beauty, relieved only occasionally by touches of light and grace, and has all the interest attaching to a work in which for the first time a genius feels himself conscious of his greatness. If-99- it is not as impressive as "Tannhäuser" or "Lohengrin," nor as stupendous as the music-dramas, that is because the subject of the work is lighter. As his genius developed, his choice of subjects and his treatment of them passed through as complete an evolution as his musical theory, so that when he finally abandoned the operatic form and adopted his system of leading motives, he conceived, for the dramatic bases of his scores, dramas which it would be difficult to fancy set to any other music than that which is so characteristic in his music-dramas.

Wagner's present libretto is based upon the weirdly picturesque legend of "The Flying Dutchman"—the Wandering Jew of the ocean. A Dutch sea captain, who, we are told, tried to double the Cape of Good Hope in the teeth of a furious gale, swore that he would accomplish his purpose even if he kept on sailing forever. The devil, hearing the oath, condemned the captain to sail the sea until Judgment Day, without hope of release, unless he should find a woman who would love him faithfully unto death. Once in every seven years he is allowed to go ashore in search of a woman who will redeem him through her faithful love.

The opera opens just as a term of seven years has elapsed. The Dutchman's ship comes to anchor in a bay of the coast of Norway, in which the ship of Daland, a Norwegian sea captain, has sought shelter from the storm. Daland's home is not far from the bay, and the Dutchman, learning he has a daughter, asks permission to woo her, offering him in return all his treasures. Daland readily consents. His daughter, Senta, is a romantic maiden upon whom the legend of "The Flying Dutchman" has made a deep impression. As Daland ushers the Dutchman into his home Senta is gazing dreamily upon a picture representing the unhappy hero of the legend. The resemblance of the stranger to the face in this picture is so striking that the-100- emotional girl is at once attracted to him, and pledges him her faith, deeming it her mission to save him. Later on, Eric, a young huntsman, who is in love with her, pleads his cause with her, and the Dutchman, overhearing them, and thinking himself again forsaken, rushes off to his vessel. Senta cries out that she is faithful to him, but is held back by Eric, Daland, and her friends. The Dutchman, who really loves Senta, then proclaims who he is, thinking to terrify her, and at once puts to sea. But she, undismayed by his words, and truly faithful unto death, breaks away from those who are holding her, and rushing to the edge of a cliff casts herself into the ocean, with her arms outstretched toward him. The phantom ship sinks, the sea rises high and falls back into a seething whirlpool. In the sunset glow the forms of Senta and the Dutchman are seen rising in each other's embrace from the sea and floating upward.

In "The Flying Dutchman" Wagner employs several leading motives, not, indeed, with the skill which he displays in his music-dramas, but with considerably greater freedom of treatment than in "Rienzi." There we had but one leading motive, which never varied in form. The overture, which may be said to be an eloquent and beautiful musical narrative of the whole opera, contains all these leading motives. It opens with a stormy passage, out of which there bursts the strong but sombre Motive of the Flying Dutchman himself, the dark hero of the legend. The orchestra fairly seethes and rages like the sea roaring under the lash of a terrific storm. And through all this furious orchestration there is heard again and again the motive of the Dutchman, as if his figure could be seen amid all the gloom and fury of the elements. There he stands, hoping for death, yet indestructible. As the excited music gradually dies away, there is heard a calm, somewhat undulating phrase which occurs in the opera when the-101- Dutchman's vessel puts into the quiet Norwegian harbour. Then, also, there occurs again the motive of the Dutchman, but this time played softly, as if the storm-driven wretch had at last found a moment's peace.

We at once recognize to whom it is due that he has found this moment of repose, for we hear like prophetic measures the strains of the beautiful ballad which is sung by Senta in the second act of the opera, in which she relates the legend of "The Flying Dutchman" and tells of his unhappy fate. She is the one whom he is to meet when he goes ashore. The entire ballad is not heard at this point, only the opening of the second part, which may be taken as indicating in this overture the simplicity and beauty of Senta's character. In fact, it would not be too much to call this opening phrase the Senta Motive. It is followed by the phrase which indicates the coming to anchor of the Dutchman's vessel; then we hear the Motive of the Dutchman himself, dying away with the faintest possible effect. With sudden energy the orchestra dashes into the surging ocean music, introducing this time the wild, pathetic plaint sung by the Dutchman in the first act of the opera. Again we hear his motive, and again the music seems to represent the surging, swirling ocean when aroused by a furious tempest. Even when we hear the measures of the sailors' chorus the orchestra continues its furious pace, making it appear as if the sailors were shouting above the storm.

Characteristic in this overture, and also throughout the opera, especially in Senta's ballad, is what may be called the Ocean Motive, which most graphically depicts the wild and terrible aspect of the ocean during a storm. It is varied from time to time, but never loses its characteristic force and weirdness. The overture ends with an impassioned burst of melody based upon a portion of the concluding phrases of Senta's ballad; phrases which we-102- hear once more at the end of the opera when she sacrifices herself in order to save her lover.

A wild and stormy scene is disclosed when the curtain rises upon the first act. The sea occupies the greater part of the scene, and stretches itself out far toward the horizon. A storm is raging. Daland's ship has sought shelter in a little cove formed by the cliffs. Sailors are employed in furling sails and coiling ropes. Daland is standing on a rock, looking about him to discover in what place they are. The orchestra, chiefly with the wild ocean music heard in the overture, depicts the raging of the storm, and above it are heard the shouts of the sailors at work: "Ho-jo-he! Hal-lo-jo!"

Daland discovers that they have missed their port by seven miles on account of the storm, and deplores his bad luck that when so near his home and his beloved child, he should have been driven out of his course. As the storm seems to be abating the sailors descend into the hold and Daland goes down into the cabin to rest, leaving his steersman in charge of the deck. The steersman walks the deck once or twice and then sits down near the rudder, yawning, and then rousing himself as if sleep were coming over him. As if to force himself to remain awake he intones a sailor song, an exquisite little melody, with a dash of the sea in its undulating measures. He intones the second verse, but sleep overcomes him and the phrases become more and more detached, until at last he falls asleep.

The storm begins to rage again and it grows darker. Suddenly the ship of the Flying Dutchman, with blood-red sails and black mast, looms up in the distance. She glides over the waves as if she did not feel the storm at all, and quickly enters the harbour over against the ship of the Norwegian; then silently and without the least noise the spectral crew furl the sails. The Dutchman goes on shore.


Here now occur the weird, dramatic recitative and aria: "The term is passed, and once again are ended seven long years." As the Dutchman leans in brooding silence against a rock in the foreground, Daland comes out of the cabin and observes the ship. He rouses the steersman, who begins singing again a phrase of his song, until Daland points out the strange vessel to him, when he springs up and hails her through a speaking trumpet. Daland, however, perceives the Dutchman and going ashore questions him. It is then that the Dutchman, after relating a mariner's story of ill luck and disaster, asks Daland to take him to his home and allow him to woo his daughter, offering him his treasures. At this point we have a graceful and pretty duet, Daland readily consenting that the Dutchman accompany him. The storm having subsided and the wind being fair, the crews of the vessels hoist sail to leave port, Daland's vessel disappearing just as the Dutchman goes on board his ship.

After an introduction in which we hear a portion of the steersman's song, and also that phrase which denotes the appearance of the Dutchman's vessel in the harbour, the curtain rises upon a room in Daland's house. On the walls are pictures of vessels, charts, and on the farther wall the portrait of a pale man with a dark beard. Senta, leaning back in an armchair, is absorbed in dreamy contemplation of the portrait. Her old nurse, Mary, and her young friends are sitting in various parts of the room, spinning. Here we have that charming musical number famous all the musical world over, perhaps largely through Liszt's admirable piano arrangement of it, the "Spinning Chorus." For graceful and engaging beauty it cannot be surpassed, and may be cited as a striking instance of Wagner's gift of melody, should anybody at this late day be foolish enough to require proof of his genius in that respect. The girls tease Senta for gazing so dreamily at the portrait of the-104- Flying Dutchman, and finally ask her if she will not sing his ballad.

This ballad is a masterpiece of composition, vocally and instrumentally, being melodious as well as descriptive. It begins with the storm music familiar from the overture, and with the weird measures of the Flying Dutchman's Motive, which sound like a voice calling in distress across the sea.



Senta repeats the measures of this motive, and then we have the simple phrases beginning: "A ship the restless ocean sweeps." Throughout this portion of the ballad the orchestra depicts the surging and heaving of the ocean, Senta's voice ringing out dramatically above the accompaniment. She then tells how he can be delivered from his curse, this portion being set to the measures which were heard in the overture, Senta finally proclaiming, in the broadly delivered, yet rapturous phrases with which the overture ends,



that she is the woman who will save him by being faithful to him unto death. The girls about her spring up in terror and Eric, who has just entered the door and heard her outcry, hastens to her side. He brings news of the arrival of Daland's vessel, and Mary and the girls hasten forth to meet the sailors. Senta wishes to follow, but Eric restrains her and pleads his love for her in melodious measures. Senta, however, will not give him an answer at this time. He then tells her of a dream he has had, in which he saw a weird vessel from which two men, one her father, the other a ghastly-looking stranger, made their way. Her he saw going to the stranger and entreating him for his regard.


Senta, worked up to the highest pitch of excitement by Eric's words, now exclaims: "He seeks for me and I for him," and Eric, full of despair and horror, rushes away. Senta, after her outburst of excitement, remains again sunk in contemplation of the picture, softly repeating the measures of her romance. The door opens and the Dutchman and Daland appear. The Dutchman is the first to enter. Senta turns from the picture to him, and, uttering a loud cry of wonder, remains standing as if transfixed without removing her eyes from the Dutchman. Daland, seeing that she does not greet him, comes up to her. She seizes his hand and after a hasty greeting asks him who the stranger is. Daland tells her of the stranger's request, and leaves them alone. Then follows a duet for Senta and the Dutchman, with its broad, smoothly-flowing melody and its many phrases of dramatic power, in which Senta gives herself up unreservedly to the hero of her romantic attachment, Daland finally entering and adding his congratulations to their betrothal. This scene closes the act.

The music of it re-echoes through the introduction of the next act and goes over into a vigorous sailors' chorus and dance. The scene shows a bay with a rocky shore. Daland's house is in the foreground on one side, the background is occupied by his and the Dutchman's ships, which lie near one another. The Norwegian ship is lighted up, and all the sailors are making merry on the deck. In strange contrast is the Flying Dutchman's vessel. An unnatural darkness hangs over it and the stillness of death reigns aboard. The sailors and the girls in their merry-making call loudly toward the Dutch ship to join them, but no reply is heard from the weird vessel. Finally the sailors call louder and louder and taunt the crew of the other ship. Then suddenly the sea, which has been quite calm, begins to rise. The storm wind whistles through the cordage of the strange vessel, and as dark bluish flames-106- flare up in the rigging, the weird crew show themselves, and sing a wild chorus, which strikes terror into all the merrymakers. The girls have fled, and the Norwegian sailors quit their deck, making the sign of the cross. The crew of the Flying Dutchman observing this, disappear with shrill laughter. Over their ship comes the stillness of death. Thick darkness is spread over it and the air and the sea become calm as before.

Senta now comes with trembling steps out of the house. She is followed by Eric. He pleads with her and entreats her to remember his love for her, and speaks also of the encouragement which she once gave him. The Dutchman has entered unperceived and has been listening. Eric seeing him, at once recognizes the man of ghastly mien whom he saw in his vision. When the Flying Dutchman bids her farewell, because he deems himself abandoned, and Senta endeavours to follow him, Eric holds her and summons others to his aid. But, in spite of all resistance, Senta seeks to tear herself loose. Then it is that the Flying Dutchman proclaims who he is and puts to sea. Senta, however, freeing herself, rushes to a cliff overhanging the sea, and calling out,

"Praise thou thine angel for what he saith;
Here stand I faithful, yea, to death,"

casts herself into the sea. Then occurs the concluding tableau, the work ending with the portion of the ballad which brought the overture and spinning scene to a close.


Opera in three acts, words and music by Richard Wagner. Produced, Royal Opera, Dresden, October 19, 1845. Paris, Grand Opéra,-107- March 13, 1861. London, Covent Garden, May 6, 1876, in Italian; Her Majesty's Theatre, February 14, 1882, in English; Drury Lane, May 23, 1882, in German, under Hans Richter. New York, Stadt Theatre, April 4, 1859, and July, 1861, conducted by Carl Bergmann; under Adolff Neuendorff's direction, 1870, and, Academy of Music, 1877; Metropolitan Opera House, opening night of German Opera, under Dr. Leopold Damrosch, November 17, 1884, with Seidl-Kraus as Elizabeth, Anna Slach as Venus, Schott as Tannhäuser, Adolf Robinson as Wolfram, Josef Kögel as the Landgrave.


Hermann, Landgrave of ThuringiaBass
Tannhäuser}Knights and MinnesingerTenor
Wolfram von Eschenbach}Baritone
Walter von der Vogelweide}Tenor
Heinrich der Schreiber}Tenor
Reinmar von Zweter}Bass
Elizabeth, niece of the LandgraveSoprano
A Young ShepherdSoprano
Four Noble PagesSoprano and Alto

Nobles, Knights, Ladies, elder and younger Pilgrims, Sirens, Naiads, Nymphs, Bacchantes.

Time—Early Thirteenth Century.

Place—Near Eisenach.

The story of "Tannhäuser" is laid in and near the Wartburg, where, during the thirteenth century, the Landgraves of the Thuringian Valley held sway. They were lovers of art, especially of poetry and music, and at the Wartburg many peaceful contests between the famous minnesingers took place. Near this castle rises the Venusberg. According to tradition the interior of this mountain was inhabited by Holda, the Goddess of Spring, who, however, in time became identified with the Goddess of Love. Her court was filled with nymphs and sirens, and it was her greatest joy to entice into the mountain the knights of the Wartburg and hold them captive to her beauty.


Among those whom she has thus lured into the rosy recesses of the Venusberg is Tannhäuser.

In spite of her beauty, however, he is weary of her charms and longs for a glimpse of the world. He seems to have heard the tolling of bells and other earthly sounds, and these stimulate his yearning to be set free from the magic charms of the goddess.

In vain she prophesies evil to him should he return to the world. With the cry that his hope rests in the Virgin, he tears himself away from her. In one of the swiftest and most effective of scenic changes the court of Venus disappears and in a moment we see Tannhäuser prostrate before a cross in a valley upon which the Wartburg peacefully looks down. Pilgrims on their way to Rome pass him by and Tannhäuser thinks of joining them in order that at Rome he may obtain forgiveness for his crime in allowing himself to be enticed into the Venusberg. But at that moment the Landgrave and a number of minnesingers on their return from the chase come upon him and, recognizing him, endeavour to persuade him to return to the Wartburg with them. Their pleas, however, are vain, until one of them, Wolfram von Eschenbach, tells him that since he has left the Wartburg a great sadness has come over the niece of the Landgrave, Elizabeth. It is evident that Tannhäuser has been in love with her, and that it is because of her beauty and virtue that he regrets so deeply having been lured into the Venusberg. For Wolfram's words stir him profoundly. To the great joy of all, he agrees to return to the Wartburg, the scene of his many triumphs as a minnesinger in the contests of song.


Copyright photo by Dupont

Farrar as Elizabeth in “Tannhäuser”


Photo by Hall

“Tannhäuser,” Finale, Act II
Tannhäuser (Maclennan), Elizabeth (Fornia), Wolfram (Dean)
The Landgrave (Cranston)

The Landgrave, feeling sure that Tannhäuser will win the prize at the contest of song soon to be held, offers the hand of his niece to the winner. The minnesingers sing tamely of the beauty of virtuous love, but Tannhäuser, suddenly remembering the seductive and magical beauties-109- of the Venusberg, cannot control himself, and bursts out into a reckless hymn in praise of Venus. Horrified at his words, the knights draw their swords and would slay him, but Elizabeth throws herself between him and them. Crushed and penitent, Tannhäuser stands behind her, and the Landgrave, moved by her willingness to sacrifice herself for her sinful lover, announces that he will be allowed to join a second band of pilgrims who are going to Rome and to plead with the Pope for forgiveness.

Elizabeth prayerfully awaits his return; but, as she is kneeling by the crucifix in front of the Wartburg, the Pilgrims pass her by and in the band she does not see her lover. Slowly and sadly she returns to the castle to die. When the Pilgrims' voices have died away, and Elizabeth has returned to the castle, leaving only Wolfram, who is also deeply enamoured of her, upon the scene, Tannhäuser appears, weary and dejected. He has sought to obtain forgiveness in vain. The Pope has cast him out forever, proclaiming that no more than that his staff can put forth leaves can he expect forgiveness. He has come back to re-enter the Venusberg. Wolfram seeks to restrain him, but it is not until he invokes the name of Elizabeth that Tannhäuser is saved. A cortège approaches, and, as Tannhäuser recognizes the form of Elizabeth on the bier, he sinks down on her coffin and dies. Just then the second band of pilgrims arrive, bearing Tannhäuser's staff, which has put forth blossoms, thus showing that his sins have been forgiven.

From "The Flying Dutchman" to "Tannhäuser," dramatically and musically, is, if anything, a greater stride than from "Rienzi" to "The Flying Dutchman." In each of his successive works Wagner demonstrates greater and deeper powers as a dramatic poet and composer. True it is that in nearly every one of them woman appears as the redeeming angel of sinful man, but the-110- circumstances differ so that this beautiful tribute always interests us anew.

The overture of the opera has long been a favorite piece on concert programs. Like that of "The Flying Dutchman" it is the story of the whole opera told in music. It certainly is one of the most brilliant and effective pieces of orchestral music and its popularity is easily understood. It opens with the melody of the Pilgrims' chorus, beginning softly as if coming from a distance and gradually increasing in power until it is heard in all its grandeur. At this point it is joined by a violently agitated accompaniment on the violins. This passage evoked great criticism when it was first produced and for many years thereafter. It was thought to mar the beauty of the pilgrims' chorus. But without doing so at all it conveys additional dramatic meaning, for these agitated phrases depict the restlessness of the world as compared with the grateful tranquillity of religious faith as set forth in the melody of the Pilgrims' chorus.



Having reached a climax, this chorus gradually dies away, and suddenly, and with intense dramatic contrast, we have all the seductive spells of the Venusberg displayed before us—that is, musically displayed; but then the music is so wonderfully vivid, it depicts with such marvellous clearness the many-coloured alluring scene at the court of the unholy goddess, it gives vent so freely to the sinful excitement which pervades the Venusberg, that we actually seem to see what we hear. This passes over in turn to the impassioned burst of song in which Tannhäuser hymns Venus's praise, and immediately after we have the boisterous and vigorous music which accompanies the-111- threatening action of the Landgrave and minnesingers when they draw their swords upon Tannhäuser in order to take vengeance upon him for his crimes. Upon these three episodes of the drama, which so characteristically give insight into its plot and action, the overture is based, and it very naturally concludes with the Pilgrims' chorus which seems to voice the final forgiveness of Tannhäuser.

The curtain rises, disclosing all the seductive spells of the Venusberg. Tannhäuser lies in the arms of Venus, who reclines upon a flowery couch. Nymphs, sirens, and satyrs are dancing about them and in the distance are grottoes alive with amorous figures. Various mythological amours, such as that of Leda and the swan, are supposed to be in progress, but fortunately at a mitigating distance.



Much of the music familiar from the overture is heard during this scene, but it gains in effect from the distant voices of the sirens and, of course, from artistic scenery and grouping and well-executed dances of the denizens of Venus's court. Very dramatic, too, is the scene between Venus and Tannhäuser, when the latter sings his hymn in her praise, but at the same time proclaims that he desires to return to the world. In alluring strains she endeavours to tempt him to remain with her, but when she discovers that he is bound upon going, she vehemently warns him of the misfortunes which await him upon earth and prophe-112-sies that he will some day return to her and penitently ask to be taken back into her realm.

Dramatic and effective as this scene is in the original score, it has gained immensely in power by the additions which Wagner made for the production of the work in Paris, in 1861. The overture does not, in this version, come to a formal close, but after the manner of Wagner's later works, the transition is made directly from it to the scene of the Venusberg. The dances have been elaborated and laid out upon a more careful allegorical basis and the music of Venus has been greatly strengthened from a dramatic point of view, so that now the scene in which she pleads with him to remain and afterwards warns him against the sorrows to which he will be exposed, are among the finest of Wagner's compositions, rivalling in dramatic power the ripest work in his music-dramas.

Wagner's knowledge of the stage is shown in the wonderfully dramatic effect in the change of scene from the Venusberg to the landscape in the valley of the Wartburg. One moment we have the variegated allures of the court of the Goddess of Love, with its dancing nymphs, sirens, and satyrs, its beautiful grottoes and groups; the next all this has disappeared and from the heated atmosphere of Venus's unholy rites we are suddenly transported to a peaceful scene whose influence upon us is deepened by the crucifix in the foreground, before which Tannhäuser kneels in penitence. The peacefulness of the scene is further enhanced by the appearance upon a rocky eminence to the left of a young Shepherd who pipes a pastoral strain, while in the background are heard the tinkling of bells, as though his sheep were there grazing upon some upland meadow. Before he has finished piping his lay the voices of the Pilgrims are heard in the distance, their solemn measures being interrupted by little phrases piped by the Shepherd. As the Pilgrims approach, the chorus becomes-113- louder, and as they pass over the stage and bow before the crucifix, their praise swells into an eloquent psalm of devotion.

Tannhäuser is deeply affected and gives way to his feelings in a lament, against which are heard the voices of the Pilgrims as they recede in the distance. This whole scene is one of marvellous beauty, the contrast between it and the preceding episode being enhanced by the religiously tranquil nature of what transpires and of the accompanying music. Upon this peaceful scene the notes of hunting-horns now break in, and gradually the Landgrave and his hunters gather about Tannhäuser. Wolfram recognizes him and tells the others who he is. They greet him in an expressive septette, and Wolfram, finding he is bent upon following the Pilgrims to Rome, asks permission of the Landgrave to inform him of the impression which he seems to have made upon Elizabeth. This he does in a melodious solo, and Tannhäuser, overcome by his love for Elizabeth, consents to return to the halls which have missed him so long. Exclamations of joy greet his decision, and the act closes with an enthusiastic ensemble, which is a glorious piece of concerted music, and never fails of brilliant effect when it is well executed, especially if the representative of Tannhäuser has a voice that can soar above the others, which, unfortunately, is not always the case. The accompanying scenic grouping should also be in keeping with the composer's instructions. The Landgrave's suite should gradually arrive, bearing the game which has been slain, and horses and hunting-hounds should be led on the stage. Finally, the Landgrave and minnesingers mount their steeds and ride away toward the castle.

The scene of the second act is laid in the singers' hall of the Wartburg. The introduction depicts Elizabeth's joy at Tannhäuser's return, and when the curtain rises she at once enters and joyfully greets the scenes of Tannhäuser's-114- former triumphs in broadly dramatic melodious phrases. Wolfram then appears, conducting Tannhäuser to her. Elizabeth seems overjoyed to see him, but then checks herself, and her maidenly modesty, which veils her transport at meeting him, again finds expression in a number of hesitating but exceedingly beautiful phrases. She asks Tannhäuser where he has been, but he, of course, gives misleading answers. Finally, however, he tells her she is the one who has attracted him back to the castle. Their love finds expression in a swift and rapidly flowing dramatic duet, which unfortunately is rarely given in its entirety, although as a glorious outburst of emotional music it certainly deserves to be heard in the exact form and length in which the composer wrote it.

There is then a scene of much tender feeling between the Landgrave and Elizabeth, in which the former tells her that he will offer her hand as prize to the singer whom she shall crown as winner. The first strains of the grand march are then heard. This is one of Wagner's most brilliant and effective orchestral and vocal pieces. Though in perfect march rhythm, it is not intended that the guests who assembled at the Wartburg shall enter like a company of soldiers. On the contrary, they arrive in irregular detachments, stride across the floor, and make their obeisance in a perfectly natural manner. After an address by the Landgrave, which can hardly be called remarkably interesting, the singers draw lots to decide who among them shall begin. This prize singing is, unfortunately, not so great in musical value as the rest of the score, and, unless a person understands the words, it is decidedly long drawn out. What, however, redeems it is a gradually growing dramatic excitement as Tannhäuser voices his contempt for what seem to him the tame tributes paid to love by the minnesingers, an excitement which reaches its climax when, no longer able to restrain-115- himself, he bursts forth into his hymn in praise of the unholy charms of Venus.



The women cry out in horror and rush from the hall as if the very atmosphere were tainted by his presence, and the men, drawing their swords, rush upon him. This brings us to the great dramatic moment, when, with a shriek, Elizabeth, in spite of his betrayal of her love, throws herself protectingly before him, and thus appears a second time as his saving angel. In short and excited phrases the men pour forth their wrath at Tannhäuser's crime in having sojourned with Venus, and he, realizing its enormity, seems crushed with a consciousness of his guilt. Of wondrous beauty is the septette, "An angel has from heaven descended," which rises to a magnificent climax and is one of the finest pieces of dramatic writing in Wagner's scores, although often execrably sung and rarely receiving complete justice. The voices of young Pilgrims are heard in the valley. The Landgrave then announces the conditions upon which Tannhäuser can again obtain forgiveness, and Tannhäuser joins the pilgrims on their way to Rome.

The third act displays once more the valley of the Wartburg, the same scene as that to which the Venusberg changed in the first act. Elizabeth, arrayed in white, is kneeling, in deep prayer, before the crucifix. At one side, and watching her tenderly, stands Wolfram. After a sad recitative from Wolfram, the chorus of returning Pilgrims is heard in the distance. They sing the melody heard in the overture and in the first act; and the same effect of gradual approach is produced by a superb crescendo as they reach and cross the scene. With almost piteous anxiety and grief Elizabeth scans them closely as they go-116- by, to see if Tannhäuser be among them, and when the last one has passed and she realizes that he has not returned, she sinks again upon her knees before the crucifix and sings the prayer, "Almighty Virgin, hear my sorrow," music in which there is most beautifully combined the expression of poignant grief with trust in the will of the Almighty. As she rises and turns toward the castle, Wolfram, by his gesture, seems to ask her if he cannot accompany her, but she declines his offer and slowly goes her way up the mountain.

Meanwhile night has fallen upon the scene and the evening star glows softly above the castle. It is then that Wolfram, accompanying himself on his lyre, intones the wondrously tender and beautiful "Song to the Evening Star," confessing therein his love for the saintly Elizabeth.



Then Tannhäuser, dejected, footsore, and weary, appears, and in broken accents asks Wolfram to show him the way back to the Venusberg. Wolfram bids him stay his steps and persuades him to tell him the story of his pilgrimage. In fierce, dramatic accents, Tannhäuser relates all that he has suffered on his way to Rome and the terrible judgment pronounced upon him by the Pope. This is a highly impressive episode, clearly foreshadowing Wagner's dramatic use of musical recitative in his later music-dramas. Only a singer of the highest rank can do justice to it.

Tannhäuser proclaims that, having lost all chance of salvation, he will once more give himself up to the delights of the Venusberg. A roseate light illumines the recesses of the mountain and the unholy company of the Venusberg again is seen, Venus stretching out her arms for Tannhäuser, to welcome him. But at last, when Tannhäuser-117- seems unable to resist Venus' enticing voice any longer, Wolfram conjures him by the memory of the sainted Elizabeth. Then Venus knows that all is lost. The light dies away and the magic charms of the Venusberg disappear. Amid tolling of bells and mournful voices a funeral procession comes down the mountain. Recognizing the features of Elizabeth, the dying Tannhäuser falls upon her corpse. The younger pilgrims arrive with the staff, which has again put forth leaves, and amid the hallelujahs of the pilgrims the opera closes.

Besides the character of Elizabeth that of Wolfram stands out for its tender, manly beauty. In love with Elizabeth, he is yet the means of bringing back her lover to her, and in the end saves that lover from perdition, so that they may be united in death.


Opera in three acts, by Richard Wagner. Produced, Weimar, Germany, August 28, 1850, under the direction of Franz Liszt; London, Covent Garden, May 8, 1875; New York, Stadt Theater, in German, April 3, 1871; Academy of Music, in Italian, March 23, 1874, with Nilsson, Cary, Campanini, and Del Puente; Metropolitan Opera House, in German, November 23, 1885, with Seidl-Kraus, Brandt, Stritt, Robinson, and Fischer, American début of Anton Seidl as conductor.


Henry the Fowler, King of GermanyBass
Elsa of BrabantSoprano
Duke Godfrey, her brotherMute
Frederick of Telramund, Count of BrabantBaritone
Ortrud, his wifeMezzo-Soprano
The King's HeraldBass

Saxon, Thuringian, and Brabantian Counts and Nobles, Ladies of Honour, Pages, Attendants.

Time—First half of the Tenth Century.



The circumstances attending the creation and first production of "Lohengrin" are most interesting.

Prior to and for more than a decade after he wrote and composed the work Wagner suffered many vicissitudes. In Paris, where he lived from hand to mouth before "Rienzi" was accepted by the Royal Opera House at Dresden, he was absolutely poverty-stricken and often at a loss how to procure the next meal.

"Rienzi" was produced at the Dresden Opera in 1842. It was brilliantly successful. "The Flying Dutchman," which followed, was less so, and "Tannhäuser" seemed even less attractive to its early audiences. Therefore it is no wonder that, although Wagner was royal conductor in Dresden, he could not succeed in having "Lohengrin" accepted there for performance. Today "Rienzi" hardly can be said to hold its own in the repertoire outside of its composer's native country. The sombre beauty of "The Flying Dutchman," though recognized by musicians and serious music lovers, has prevented its becoming popular. But "Tannhäuser," looked at so askance at first, and "Lohengrin," absolutely rejected, are standard operas and, when well given, among the most popular works of the lyric stage. Especially is this true of "Lohengrin."

This opera, at the time of its composition so novel and so strange, yet filled with beauties of orchestration and harmony that are now quoted as leading examples in books on these subjects, was composed in less than a year. The acts were finished almost, if not quite, in reversed order. For Wagner wrote the third act first, beginning it in September, 1846, and completing it March 5, 1847. The first act occupied him from May 12th to June 8th, less than a month; the second act from June 18th to August 2d. Fresh and beautiful as "Lohengrin" still sounds today, it is, in fact, a classic.

Wagner's music, however, was so little understood at-119- the time, that even before "Lohengrin" was produced and not a note of it had been heard, people made fun of it. A lithographer named Meser had issued Wagner's previous three scores, but the enterprise had not been a success. People said that before publishing "Rienzi," Meser had lived on the first floor. "Rienzi" had driven him to the second; "The Flying Dutchman" and "Tannhäuser" to the third; and now "Lohengrin" would drive him to the garret—a prophecy that didn't come true, because he refused to publish it.

In 1849, "Lohengrin" still not having been accepted by the Dresden Opera, Wagner, as already has been stated, took part in the May revolution, which, apparently successful for a very short time, was quickly suppressed by the military. The composer of "Lohengrin" and the future composer of the "Ring of the Nibelung," "Tristan und Isolde," "Meistersinger," and "Parsifal," is said to have made his escape from Dresden in the disguise of a coachman. Occasionally there turns up in sales as a great rarity a copy of the warrant for Wagner's arrest issued by the Dresden police. As it gives a description of him at the time when he had but recently composed "Lohengrin," I will quote it:

"Wagner is thirty-seven to thirty-eight years of age, of medium stature, has brown hair, an open forehead; eyebrows, brown; eyes, greyish blue; nose and mouth, proportioned; chin, round, and wears spectacles. Special characteristics: rapid in movements and speech. Dress: coat of dark green buckskin, trousers of black cloth, velvet vest, silk neckerchief, ordinary felt hat and boots."

Much fun has been made of the expression "chin, round, and wears spectacles." Wagner got out of Dresden on the pass of a Dr. Widmann, whom he resembled. It has-120- been suggested that he made the resemblance still closer by discontinuing the habit of wearing spectacles on his chin.

I saw Wagner several times in Bayreuth in the summer of 1882, when I attended the first performance of "Parsifal," as correspondent by cable and letter for one of the large New York dailies. Except that his hair was grey (and that he no longer wore his spectacles on his chin) the description in the warrant still held good, especially as regards his rapidity of movement and speech, to which I may add a marked vivacity of gesture. There, too, I saw the friend, who had helped him over so many rough places in his early career, Franz Liszt, his hair white with age, but framing a face as strong and keen as an eagle's. I saw them seated at a banquet, and with them Cosima, Liszt's daughter, who was Wagner's second wife, and their son, Siegfried Wagner; Cosima the image of her father, and Siegfried a miniature replica of the composer to whom we owe "Lohengrin" and the music-dramas that followed it. The following summer one of the four was missing. I have the "Parsifal" program with mourning border signifying that the performances of the work were in memory of its creator.

In April, 1850, Wagner, then an exile in Zurich, wrote to Liszt: "Bring out my 'Lohengrin!' You are the only one to whom I would put this request; to no one but you would I entrust the production of this opera; but to you I surrender it with the fullest, most joyous confidence."

Wagner himself describes the appeal and the result, by saying that at a time when he was ill, unhappy, and in despair, his eye fell on the score of "Lohengrin" which he had almost forgotten. "A pitiful feeling overcame me that these tones would never resound from the deathly-pale paper; two words I wrote to Liszt, the answer to which was nothing else than the information that, as far as the resources of the Weimar Opera permitted, the most-121- elaborate preparations were being made for the production of 'Lohengrin.'"

Liszt's reply to which Wagner refers, and which gives some details regarding "the elaborate preparations," while testifying to his full comprehension of Wagner's genius and the importance of his new score as a work of art, may well cause us to smile today at the small scale on which things were done in 1850.

"Your 'Lohengrin,'" he wrote, "will be given under conditions that are most unusual and most favourable for its success. The direction will spend on this occasion almost 2000 thalers [about $1500]—a sum unprecedented at Weimar within memory of man ... the bass clarinet has been bought," etc. Ten times fifteen hundred dollars might well be required today for a properly elaborate production of "Lohengrin," and the opera orchestra that had to send out and buy a bass clarinet would be a curiosity. But Weimar had what no other opera house could boast of—Franz Liszt as conductor.

Under his brilliant direction "Lohengrin" had at Weimar its first performance on any stage, August 28, 1850. This was the anniversary of Goethe's birth, the date of the dedication of the Weimar monument to the poet, Herder, and, by a coincidence that does not appear to have struck either Wagner or Liszt, the third anniversary of the completion of "Lohengrin." The work was performed without cuts and before an audience which included some of the leading musical and literary men of Germany. The performance made a deep impression. The circumstance that Liszt added the charm of his personality to it and that the weight of his influence had been thrown in its favour alone gave vast importance to the event. Indeed, through Liszt's production of Wagner's early operas Weimar became, as Henry T. Finck has said in Wagner and His Works, a sort of preliminary Bayreuth. Occa-122-sionally special opera trains were put on for the accommodation of visitors to the Wagner performances. In January, 1853, Liszt writes to Wagner that "the public interest in 'Lohengrin' is rapidly increasing. You are already very popular at the various Weimar hotels, where it is not easy to get a room on the days when your operas are given." The Liszt production of "Lohengrin" was a turning point in his career, the determining influence that led him to throw himself heart and soul into the composition of the "Ring of the Nibelung."

On May 15, 1861, when, through the intervention of Princess Metternich, he had been permitted to return to Germany, fourteen years after he had finished "Lohengrin" and eleven years after its production at Weimar, he himself heard it for the first time at Vienna. A tragedy of fourteen years—to create a masterpiece of the lyric stage, and be forced to wait that long to hear it!

Before proceeding to a complete descriptive account of the "Lohengrin" story and music I will give a brief summary of the plot and a similar characterization of the score.

Wagner appears to have become so saturated with the subject of his dramas that he transported himself in mind and temperament to the very time in which his scenes are laid. So vividly does he portray the mythological occurrences told in "Lohengrin" that one can almost imagine he had been an eye-witness of them. This capacity of artistic reproduction of a remote period would alone entitle him to rank as a great dramatist. But he has done much more; he has taken unpromising material, which in the original is strung out over a period of years, and, by condensing the action to two days, has converted it into a swiftly moving drama.


Copyright photo by Mishkin

Sembach as Lohengrin


Copyright photo by Dupont

Schumann-Heink as Ortrud in “Lohengrin”

The story of "Lohengrin" is briefly as follows: The Hungarians have invaded Germany, and King Henry I.-123- visits Antwerp for the purpose of raising a force to combat them. He finds the country in a condition of anarchy. The dukedom is claimed by Frederick, who has married Ortrud, a daughter of the Prince of Friesland. The legitimate heir, Godfrey, has mysteriously disappeared, and his sister, Elsa, is charged by Frederick and Ortrud with having done away with him in order that she might obtain the sovereignty. The King summons her before him so that the cause may be tried by the ordeal of single combat between Frederick and a champion who may be willing to appear for Elsa. None of the knights will defend her cause. She then describes a champion whose form has appeared to her in a vision, and she proclaims that he shall be her champion. Her pretence is derided by Frederick and his followers, who think that she is out of her mind; but after a triple summons by the Herald, there is seen in the distance on the river, a boat drawn by a swan, and in it a knight clad in silver armour. He comes to champion Elsa's cause, and before the combat betroths himself to her, but makes a strict condition that she shall never question him as to his name or birthplace, for should she, he would be obliged to depart. She assents to the conditions, and the combat which ensues results in Frederick's ignominious defeat. Judgment of exile is pronounced on him.

Instead, however, of leaving the country he lingers in the neighbourhood of Brabant, plotting with Ortrud how they may compass the ruin of Lohengrin and Elsa. Ortrud by her entreaties moves Elsa to pity, and persuades her to seek a reprieve for Frederick, at the same time, however, using every opportunity to instil doubts in Elsa's mind regarding her champion, and rousing her to such a pitch of nervous curiosity that she is on the point of asking him the forbidden question. After the bridal ceremonies, and in the bridal chamber, the distrust which Ortrud and Frederick have engendered in Elsa's mind so overcomes her-124- faith that she vehemently puts the forbidden question to her champion. Almost at the same moment Frederick and four of his followers force their way into the apartment, intending to take the knight's life. A single blow of his sword, however, stretches Frederick lifeless, and his followers bear his corpse away. Placing Elsa in the charge of her ladies-in-waiting, and ordering them to take her to the presence of the King, he repairs thither himself.

The Brabantian hosts are gathering, and he is expected to lead them to battle, but owing to Elsa's question he is now obliged to disclose who he is and to take his departure. He proclaims that he is Lohengrin, son of Parsifal, Knight of the Holy Grail, and that he can linger no longer in Brabant, but must return to the place of his coming. The swan has once more appeared, drawing the boat down the river, and bidding Elsa farewell he steps into the little shell-like craft. Then Ortrud, with malicious glee, declares that the swan is none other than Elsa's brother, whom she (Ortrud) bewitched into this form, and that he would have been changed back again to his human shape had it not been for Elsa's rashness. But Lohengrin, through his supernatural powers, is able to undo Ortrud's work, and at a word from him the swan disappears and Godfrey stands in its place. A dove now descends, and, hovering in front of the boat, draws it away with Lohengrin, while Elsa expires in her brother's arms.

Owing to the lyric character of the story upon which "Lohengrin" is based, the opera, while not at all lacking in strong dramatic situations is characterized by a subtler and more subdued melodiousness than "Tannhäuser," is more exquisitely lyrical in fact than any Wagnerian work except "Parsifal."

There are typical themes in the score, but they are hardly handled with the varied effect that entitles them to be called leading motives. On the other hand there are-125- fascinating details of orchestration. These are important because the composer has given significant clang-tints to the music that is heard in connection with the different characters in the story. He uses the brass chiefly to accompany the King, and, of course, the martial choruses; the plaintive, yet spiritual high wood-wind for Elsa; the English horn and sombre bass clarinet—the instrument that had to be bought—for Ortrud; the violins, especially in high harmonic positions, to indicate the Grail and its representative, for Lohengrin is a Knight of the Holy Grail. Even the keys employed are distinctive. The Herald's trumpeters blow in C and greet the King's arrival in that bright key. F-sharp minor is the dark, threatful key that indicates Ortrud's appearance. The key of A, which is the purest for strings and the most ethereal in effect, on account of the greater ease of using "harmonics," announces the approach of Lohengrin and the subtle influence of the Grail.

Moreover Wagner was the first composer to discover that celestial effects of tone colour are produced by the prolonged notes of the combined violins and wood-wind in the highest positions more truly than by the harp. It is the association of ideas with the Scriptures, wherein the harp frequently is mentioned, because it was the most perfected instrument of the period, that has led other composers to employ it for celestial tone-painting. But while no one appreciated the beauty of the harp more than Wagner, or has employed it with finer effect than he, his celestial tone-pictures with high-violins and wood-wind are distinctly more ecstatic than those of other composers.

The music clothes the drama most admirably. The Vorspiel or Prelude immediately places the listener in the proper mood for the story which is to unfold itself, and for the score, vocal and instrumental, whose strains are to fall upon his ear.

The Prelude is based entirely upon one theme, a beau-126-tiful one and expressive of the sanctity of the Grail, of which Lohengrin is one of the knights. Violins and flutes with long-drawn-out, ethereal chords open the Prelude. Then is heard on the violins, so divided as to heighten the delicacy of the effect, the Motive of the Grail, the cup in which the Saviour's blood is supposed to have been caught as it flowed from the wound in His side, while he was on the Cross. No modern book on orchestration is considered complete unless it quotes this passage from the score, which is at once the earliest and, after seventy years, still the most perfect example of the effect of celestial harmony produced on the high notes of the divided violin choir. This interesting passage in the score is as follows:


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Although this is the only motive that occurs in the Prelude, the ear never wearies of it. Its effectiveness is due to the wonderful skill with which Wagner handles the theme, working it up through a superb crescendo to a magnificent climax, with all the splendours of Wagnerian orchestration, after which it dies away again to the ethereal harmonies with which it first greeted the listener.

Act I. The curtain, on rising, discloses a scene of unwonted life on the plain near the River Scheldt, where the stream winds toward Antwerp. On an elevated seat under a huge oak sits King Henry I. On either side are his Saxon and Thuringian nobles. Facing him with the knights of Brabant are Count Frederick of Telramund and his wife, Ortrud, daughter of the Prince of Friesland, of dark, almost forbidding beauty, and with a treacherous mingling of haughtiness and humility in her carriage.


It is a strange tale the King has just heard fall from Frederick of Telramund's lips. Henry has assembled the Brabantians on the plain by the Scheldt in order to summon them to join his army and aid in checking the threatened invasion of Germany by the Hungarians. But he has found the Brabantians themselves torn by factional strife, some supporting, others opposing Frederick in his claim to the ducal succession of Brabant.

"Sire," says Frederick, when called upon by the King to explain the cause of the discord that has come upon the land, "the late Duke of Brabant upon his death-bed confided to me, his kinsman, the care of his two children, Elsa and her young brother Godfrey, with the right to claim the maid as my wife. But one day Elsa led the boy into the forest and returned alone. From her pale face and faltering lips I judged only too well of what had happened, and I now publicly accuse Elsa of having made away with her brother that she might be sole heir to Brabant and reject my right to her hand. Her hand! Horrified, I shrank from her and took a wife whom I could truly love. Now as nearest kinsman of the duke I claim this land as my own, my wife, too, being of the race that once gave a line of princes to Brabant."

So saying, he leads Ortrud forward, and she, lowering her dark visage, makes a deep obeisance to the King. To the latter but one course is open. A terrible accusation has been uttered, and an appeal must be made to the immediate judgment of God in trial by combat between Frederick and whoever may appear as champion for Elsa. Solemnly the King hangs his shield on the oak, the Saxons and Thuringians thrust the points of their swords into the ground, while the Brabantians lay theirs before them. The royal Herald steps forward. "Elsa, without delay appear!" he calls in a loud voice.

A sudden hush falls upon the scene, as a slender figure-128- robed in white slowly advances toward the King. It is Elsa. With her fair brow, gentle mien, and timid footsteps it seems impossible that she can be the object of Frederick's dire charge. But there are dark forces conspiring against her, of which none knows save her accuser and the wife he has chosen from the remoter North. In Friesland the weird rites of Odin and the ancient gods still had many secret adherents, Ortrud among them, and it is the hope of this heathenish woman, through the undoing of Elsa, and the accession of Frederick whom she has completely under her influence, to check the spread of the Christian faith toward the North and restore the rites of Odin in Brabant. To this end she is ready to bring all the black magic of which she secretly is mistress into play. What wonder that Elsa, as she encounters her malevolent gaze, lowers her eyes with a shudder!

Up to the moment of Elsa's entrance, the music is harsh and vigorous, reflecting Frederick's excitement as, incited by Ortrud, he brings forward his charge against Elsa. With her appearance a change immediately comes over the music. It is soft, gentle, and plaintive; not, however, entirely hopeless, as if the maiden, being conscious of her innocence, does not despair of her fate.

"Elsa," gently asks the King, "whom name you as your champion?" She answers as if in a trance; and it is at this point that the music of "Elsa's Dream" is heard. In the course of this, violins whisper the Grail Motive and in dreamy rapture Elsa sings, "I see, in splendour shining, a knight of glorious mien. His eyes rest upon me with tranquil gaze. He stands amid clouds beside a house of gold, and resting on his sword. Heaven has sent him to save me. He shall my champion be!"


Copyright photo by Dupont

Emma Eames as Elsa in “Lohengrin”

The men regard each other in wonder. But a sneer curls around Ortrud's lips, and Frederick again proclaims his-129- readiness to prove his accusation in trial by combat for life and death.

"Elsa," the King asks once more, "whom have you chosen as your champion?"

"Him whom Heaven shall send me; and to him, whatever he shall ask of me, I freely will give, e'en though it be myself as bride!" Again there is heard the lovely, broad and flowing melody of which I have already spoken and which may be designated as the Elsa Motive.



The Herald now stations his trumpeters at the corners of the plain and bids them blow a blast toward the four points of the compass. When the last echo has died away he calls aloud:

"He who in right of Heaven comes here to fight for Elsa of Brabant, let him step forth!"

The deep silence that follows is broken by Frederick's voice. "No one appears to repel my charge. 'Tis proven."

"My King," implores Elsa, whose growing agitation is watched by Ortrud with a malevolent smile, "my champion bides afar. He has not yet heard the summons. I pray you let it go forth once more."

Again the trumpeters blow toward the four points of the compass, again the Herald cries his call, again there is-130- the fateful silence. "The Heavens are silent. She is doomed," murmured the men. Then Elsa throws herself upon her knees and raises her eyes in prayer. Suddenly there is a commotion among the men nearest the river bank.

"A wonder!" they cry. "A swan! A swan—drawing a boat by a golden chain! In the boat stands a knight! See, it approaches! His armour is so bright it blinds our eyes! A wonder! A wonder!"

There is a rush toward the bank and a great shout of acclaim, as the swan with a graceful sweep rounds a bend in the river and brings the shell-like boat, in which stands a knight in dazzling armour and of noble mien, up to the shore. Not daring to trust her senses and turn to behold the wondrous spectacle, Elsa gazes in rapture heavenward, while Ortrud and Telramund, their fell intrigue suddenly halted by a marvel that surpasses their comprehension, regard each other with mingled amazement and alarm.

A strange feeling of awe overcomes the assembly, and the tumult with which the advent of the knight has been hailed dies away to breathless silence, as he extends his hand and in tender accents bids farewell to the swan, which gently inclines its head and then glides away with the boat, vanishing as it had come. There is a chorus, in which, in half-hushed voices, the crowd gives expression to the mystery of the scene. Then the men fall back and the Knight of the Swan, for a silver swan surmounts his helmet and is blazoned upon his shield, having made due obeisance to the King, advances to where Elsa stands and, resting his eyes upon her pure and radiant beauty, questions her.

"Elsa, if I become your champion and right the foul wrong that is sought to be put upon you, will you confide your future to me; will you become my bride?"

"My guardian, my defender!" she exclaims ecstatically. "All that I have, all that I am, is yours!"


"Elsa," he says slowly, as if wishing her to weigh every word, "if I champion your cause and take you to wife, there is one promise I must exact: Never must you ask me whence I come or what my name."

"I promise," she answers, serenely meeting his warning look. He repeats the warning and again she promises to observe it.

"Elsa, I love you!" he exclaims, as he clasps her in his arms. Then addressing the King he proclaims his readiness to defend her innocence in trial by combat.

In this scene occurs one of the significant themes of the opera, the motive of warning—for it is Elsa's disregard of it and the breaking of her promise that brings her happiness to an end.



Three Saxons for the Knight and three Brabantians for Frederick solemnly pace off the circle within which the combatants are to fight. The King, drawing his sword, strikes three resounding blows with it upon his shield. At the first stroke the Knight and Frederick take their positions. At the second they draw their swords. At the third they advance to the encounter. Frederick is no coward. His willingness to meet the Knight whose coming had been so strange proves that. But his blows are skilfully warded off until the Swan Knight, finding an opening, fells him with a powerful stroke. Frederick's life is forfeited, but his conqueror, perchance knowing that he has been naught but a tool in the hands of a woman leagued with the powers of evil, spares it and bids his fallen foe rise. The King leads Elsa to the victor, while all hail him as her deliverer and betrothed.

The scenes here described are most stirring. Before the combat begins, the King intones a prayer, in which first-132- the principals and then the chorus join with noble effect, while the music of rejoicing over the Knight's victory has an irresistible onsweep.

Act II. That night in the fortress of Antwerp, the palace where abide the knights is brilliantly illuminated and sounds of revelry issue from it, and lights shine from the kemenate, where Elsa's maids-in-waiting are preparing her for the bridal on the morrow. But in the shadow of the walls sit two figures, a man and a woman; the man, his head bowed in despair, the woman looking vindictively toward the palace. They are Frederick and Ortrud, who have been condemned to banishment, he utterly dejected, she still trusting in the power of her heathenish gods. To her the Swan Knight's chivalrous forbearance in sparing Frederick's life has seemed weak instead of noble, and Elsa she regards as an insipid dreamer and easy victim. Not knowing that Ortrud still darkly schemes to ruin Elsa and restore him to power, Frederick denounces her in an outburst of rage and despair.

As another burst of revelry, another flash of light, causes Frederick to bow his head in deeper gloom, Ortrud begins to unfold her plot to him. How long will a woman like Elsa—as sweet as she is beautiful, but also as weak—be able to restrain herself from asking the forbidden question? Once her suspicion aroused that the Knight is concealing from her something in his past life, growing jealousy will impel her first to seek to coax from him, then to demand of him his name and lineage. Let Frederick conceal himself within the minster, and when the bridal procession reaches the steps, come forth and, accusing the Knight of treachery and deceit, demand that he be compelled to disclose his name and origin. He will refuse, and thus, even before Elsa enters the minster, she will begin to be beset by doubts. She herself meanwhile will seek to enter the kemenate and play upon her credulousness. "She is-133- for me; her champion is for you. Soon the daughter of Odin will teach you all the joys of vengeance!" is Ortrud's sinister exclamation as she finishes.

Indeed it seems as if Fate were playing into her hand. For at that very moment Elsa, all clad in white, comes out upon the balcony of the kemenate and, sighing with happiness, breathes out upon the night air her rapture at the thought of what bliss the coming day has in store for her. As she lets her gaze rest on the calm night she hears a piteous voice calling her name, and looking down sees Ortrud, her hands raised in supplication to her. Moved by the spectacle of one but a short time before so proud and now apparently in such utter dejection, the guileless maid descends and, herself opening the door of the kemenate, hastens to Ortrud, raises her to her feet, and gently leads her in, while, hidden in the shadows, Frederick of Telramund bides his time for action. Thus within and without, mischief is plotting for the unsuspecting Elsa.

These episodes, following the appearance of Elsa upon the balcony, are known as the "Balcony Scene." It opens with the exquisite melody which Elsa breathes upon the zephyrs of the night in gratitude to heaven for the champion sent to her defence. Then, when in pity she has hastened down to Ortrud, the latter pours doubts regarding her champion into Elsa's mind. Who is he? Whence came he? May he not as unexpectedly depart? The whole closes with a beautiful duet, which is repeated by the orchestra, as Ortrud is conducted by Elsa into the apartment.

It is early morn. People begin to gather in the open place before the minster and, by the time the sun is high, the space is crowded with folk eager to view the bridal procession. They sing a fine and spirited chorus.

At the appointed hour four pages come out upon the balcony of the kemenate and cry out:


"Make way, our Lady Elsa comes!" Descending, they clear a path through the crowd to the steps of the minster. A long train of richly clad women emerges upon the balcony, slowly comes down the steps and, proceeding past the palace, winds toward the minster. At that moment a great shout, "Hail! Elsa of Brabant!" goes up, as the bride herself appears followed by her ladies-in-waiting. For the moment Ortrud's presence in the train is unnoticed, but as Elsa approaches the minster, Frederick's wife suddenly throws herself in her path.

"Back, Elsa!" she cries. "I am not a menial, born to follow you! Although your Knight has overthrown my husband, you cannot boast of who he is—his very name, the place whence he came, are unknown. Strong must be his motives to forbid you to question him. To what foul disgrace would he be brought were he compelled to answer!"

Fortunately the King, the bridegroom, and the nobles approaching from the palace, Elsa shrinks from Ortrud to her champion's side and hides her face against his breast. At that moment Frederick of Telramund, taking his cue from Ortrud, comes out upon the minster steps and repeats his wife's accusation. Then, profiting by the confusion, he slips away in the crowd. The insidious poison, however, has already begun to take effect. For even as the King taking the Knight on his right and Elsa on his left conducts them up the minster steps, the trembling bride catches sight of Ortrud whose hand is raised in threat and warning; and it is clinging to her champion, in love indeed but love mingled with doubt and fear, that she passes through the portal, and into the edifice.

These are crucial scenes. The procession to the minster, often known as the bridal procession, must not be confused with the "Bridal Chorus." It is familiar music, however, because at weddings it often is played softly as a musical background to the ceremony.


Act III. The wedding festivities are described in the brilliant "Introduction to Act III." This is followed in the opera by the "Bridal Chorus," which, wherever heard—on stage or in church—falls with renewed freshness and significance upon the ear. In this scene the Knight and Elsa are conducted to the bridal chamber in the castle. From the right enter Elsa's ladies-in-waiting leading the bride; from the left the King and nobles leading the Knight. Preceding both trains are pages bearing lights; and voices chant the bridal chorus. The King ceremoniously embraces the couple and then the procession makes its way out, until, as the last strains of the chorus die away, Elsa and her champion are for the first time alone.

It should be a moment of supreme happiness for both, and indeed, Elsa exclaims as her bridegroom takes her to his arms, that words cannot give expression to all its hidden sweetness. Yet, when he tenderly breathes her name, it serves only to remind her that she cannot respond by uttering his. "How sweetly sounds my name when spoken by you, while I, alas, cannot reply with yours. Surely, some day, you will tell me, all in secret, and I shall be able to whisper it when none but you is near!"

In her words the Knight perceives but too clearly the seeds of the fatal mistrust sown by Ortrud and Frederick. Gently he leaves her side and throwing open the casement, points to the moonlit landscape where the river winds its course along the plain. The same subtle magic that can conjure up this scene from the night has brought him to her, made him love her, and give unshrinking credence to her vow never to question his name or origin. Will she now wantonly destroy the wondrous spell of moonlight and love?

But still Elsa urges him. "Let me be flattered by your trust and confidence. Your secret will be safe in my heart. No threats, not even of death, shall tear it-136- from my lips. Tell me who you are and whence you come!"

"Elsa!" he cries, "come to my heart. Let me feel that happiness is mine at last. Let your love and confidence compensate me for what I have left behind me. Cast dark suspicion aside. For know, I came not hither from night and grieving but from the abode of light and noble pleasures."

But his words have the very opposite effect of what he had hoped for. "Heaven help me!" exclaims Elsa. "What must I hear! Already you are beginning to look back with longing to the joys you have given up for me. Some day you will leave me to sorrow and regret. I have no magic spells wherewith to hold you. Ah!"—and now she cries out like one distracted and with eyes straining at distance—"See!—the swan!—I see him floating on the waters yonder! You summon him, embark!—Love—madness—whatever it may be—your name declare, your lineage and your home!"

Hardly have these mad words been spoken by her when, as she stands before her husband of a few hours, she sees something that with a sudden shock brings her to her senses. Rushing to the divan where the pages laid the Knight's sword, she seizes it and thrusts it into his hand, and he, turning to discover what peril threatens, sees Frederick, followed by four Brabantian nobles, burst into the room. With one stroke he lays the leader lifeless, and the others, seeing him fall, go down on their knees in token of submission. At a sign from the Knight they arise and, lifting Frederick's body, bear it away. Then the Knight summons Elsa's ladies-in-waiting and bids them prepare her in her richest garments to meet him before the King. "There I will make fitting answer to her questions, tell her my name, my rank, and whence I come."

Sadly he watches her being led away, while she, no longer-137- the happy bride, but the picture of utter dejection, turns and raises her hands to him in supplication as though she would still implore him to undo the ruin her lack of faith in him has wrought.

Some of the most beautiful as well as some of the most dramatic music of the score occurs in these scenes.

The love duet is exquisite—one of the sweetest and tenderest passages of which the lyric stage can boast. A very beautiful musical episode is that in which the Knight, pointing through the open casement to the flowery close below, softly illumined by the moon, sings to an accompaniment of what might be called musical moonbeams, "Say, dost thou breathe the incense sweet of flowers?" But when, in spite of the tender warning which he conveys to her, she begins questioning him, he turns toward her and in a passionate musical phrase begs her to trust him and abide with him in loving faith. Her dread that the memory of the delightful place from which he has come will wean him from her; the wild vision in which she imagines she sees the swan approaching to bear him away from her, and when she puts to him the forbidden questions, are details expressed with wonderful vividness in the music.

After the attack by Frederick and his death, there is a dramatic silence during which Elsa sinks on her husband's breast and faints. When I say silence I do not mean that there is a total cessation of sound, for silence can be more impressively expressed in music than by actual silence itself. It is done by Wagner in this case by long drawn-out chords followed by faint taps on the tympani. When the Knight bends down to Elsa, raises her, and gently places her on a couch, echoes of the love duet add to the mournfulness of the music. The scene closes with the Motive of Warning, which resounds with dread meaning.

A quick change of scene should be made at this point-138- in the performance of the opera, but as a rule the change takes so long that the third act is virtually given in two acts.

It is on the banks of the Scheldt, the very spot where he had disembarked, that the Knight elects to make reply to Elsa's questions. There the King, the nobles, and the Brabantians, whom he was to lead, are awaiting him to take command, and as their leader they hail him when he appears. This scene, "Promise of Victory," is in the form of a brilliant march and chorus, during which the Counts of Brabant, followed by their vassals, enter on horseback from various directions. In the average performance of the opera, however, much of it is sacrificed in order to shorten the representation.

The Knight answers their hail by telling them that he has come to bid them farewell, that Elsa has been lured to break her vow and ask the forbidden questions which he now is there to answer. From distant lands he came, from Montsalvat, where stands the temple of the Holy Grail, his father, Percival, its King, and he, Lohengrin, its Knight. And now, his name and lineage known, he must return, for the Grail gives strength to its knights to right wrong and protect the innocent only so long as the secret of their power remains unrevealed.

Even while he speaks the swan is seen floating down the river. Sadly Lohengrin bids Elsa farewell. Sadly all, save one, look on. For Ortrud, who now pushes her way through the spectators, it is a moment of triumph.

"Depart in all your glory," she calls out. "The swan that draws you away is none other than Elsa's brother Godfrey, changed by my magic into his present form. Had she kept her vow, had you been allowed to tarry, you would have freed him from my spell. The ancient gods, whom faithfully I serve, thus punish human faithlessness!"

By the river bank Lohengrin falls upon his knees and-139- prays in silence. Suddenly a white dove descends over the boat. Rising, Lohengrin loosens the golden chain by which the swan is attached to the boat; the swan vanishes; in its place Godfrey stands upon the bank, and Lohengrin, entering the boat, is drawn away by the dove. At sight of the young Duke, Ortrud falls with a shriek, while the Brabantian nobles kneel before him as he advances and makes obeisance to the King. Elsa gazes on him in rapture until, mindful of her own sorrow, as the boat in which Lohengrin stands vanishes around the upper bend of the river, she cries out, "My husband! My husband!" and falls back in death in her brother's arms.

Lohengrin's narrative of his origin is beautifully set to music familiar from the Prelude; but when he proclaims his name we hear the same measures which Elsa sang in the second part of her dream in the first act. Very beautiful and tender is the music which he sings when he hands Elsa his horn, his sword, and his ring to give to her brother, should he return, and also his greeting to the swan when it comes to bear him back. The work is brought to a close with a repetition of the music of the second portion of Elsa's dream, followed by a superb climax with the Motive of the Grail.


A stage-festival play for three days and a preliminary evening (Ein Bühnenfestspiel für drei Tage und einen Vorabend), words and music by Richard Wagner.

The first performance of the entire cycle of four music-dramas took place at Bayreuth, August 13, 14, 16, and 17, 1876. "Das Rheingold" had been given September 22, 1869, and "Die Walküre," June 26, 1870, at Munich.

January 30, 1888, at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, "Die Walküre" was given as the first performance of the "Ring"-140- in America, with the omission, however, of "Das Rheingold," the cycle therefore being incomplete, consisting only of the three music-dramas—"Die Walküre," "Siegfried," and "Götterdämmerung"; in other words the trilogy without the Vorabend, or preliminary evening.

Beginning Monday, March 4, 1889, with "Das Rheingold," the complete cycle, "Der Ring des Nibelungen," was given for the first time in America; "Die Walküre" following Tuesday, March 5; "Siegfried," Friday, March 8; "Götterdämmerung," Monday, March 11. The cycle was immediately repeated. Anton Seidl was the conductor. Among the principals were Lilli Lehmann, Max Alvary, and Emil Fischer.

Seidl conducted the production of the "Ring" in London, under the direction of Angelo Neumann, at Her Majesty's Theatre, May 5-9, 1882.

The "Ring" really is a tetralogy. Wagner, however, called it a trilogy, regarding "Das Rheingold" only as a Vorabend to the three longer music-dramas.

In the repetitions of the "Ring" in this country many distinguished artists have appeared: Lehmann, Moran-Olden, Nordica, Ternina, Fremstad, Gadski, Kurt, as Brünnhilde; Lehmann, Nordica, Eames, Fremstad, as Sieglinde; Alvary and Jean de Reszke as Siegfried, both in "Siegfried" and "Götterdämmerung"; Niemann and Van Dyck, as Siegmund; Fischer and Van Rooy as Wotan; Schumann-Heink and Homer as Waltraute and Erda.


Copyright A. Dupont, N.Y.

Louise Homer as Fricka in “The Ring of the Nibelung”


The "Ring of the Nibelung" consists of four music-dramas—"Das Rheingold" (The Rhinegold), "Die Walküre" (The Valkyr), "Siegfried," and "Götterdämmerung" (Dusk of the Gods). The "books" of these were written in inverse order. Wagner made a dramatic sketch of the Nibelung myth as early as the autumn of 1848, and between then and the autumn of 1850 he wrote the "Death of Siegfried." This subsequently became the "Dusk of the Gods." Meanwhile Wagner's ideas as to the proper treatment of the myth seem to have undergone a change. "Siegfried's Death" ended with Brünnhilde leading Siegfried to Valhalla,—dramatic, but without the deeper ethical significance of the later version, when Wagner evidently-141- conceived the purpose of connecting the final catastrophe of his trilogy with the "Dusk of the Gods," or end of all things, in Northern mythology, and of embodying a profound truth in the action of the music-dramas. This metaphysical significance of the work is believed to be sufficiently explained in the brief synopsis of the plot of the trilogy and in the descriptive musical and dramatic analyses below.

In the autumn of 1850 when Wagner was on the point of sketching out the music of "Siegfried's Death," he recognized that he must lead up to it with another drama, and "Young Siegfried," afterwards "Siegfried," was the result. This in turn he found incomplete, and finally decided to supplement it with the "Valkyr" and "Rhinegold."

"Das Rheingold" was produced in Munich, at the Court Theatre, September 22, 1869; "Die Walküre," on the same stage, June 20, 1870. "Siegfried" and "Dusk of the Gods" were not performed until 1876, when they were produced at Bayreuth.

Of the principal characters in the "Ring of the Nibelung," Alberich, the Nibelung, and Wotan, the chief of the gods, are symbolic of greed for wealth and power. This lust leads Alberich to renounce love—the most sacred of emotions—in order that he may rob the Rhinedaughters of the Rhinegold and forge from it the ring which is to make him all-powerful. Wotan by strategy obtains the ring, but instead of returning it to the Rhinedaughters, he gives it to the giants, Fafner and Fasolt, as ransom for Freia, the goddess of youth and beauty, whom he had promised to the giants as a reward for building Walhalla. Alberich has cursed the ring and all into whose possession it may come. The giants no sooner obtain it than they fall to quarrelling over it. Fafner slays Fasolt and then retires to a cave in the heart of a forest where, in the form of a-142- dragon, he guards the ring and the rest of the treasure which Wotan wrested from Alberich and also gave to the giants as ransom for Freia. This treasure includes the Tarnhelmet, a helmet made of Rhinegold, the wearer of which can assume any guise.

Wotan having witnessed the slaying of Fasolt, is filled with dread lest the curse of Alberich be visited upon the gods. To defend Walhalla against the assaults of Alberich and the host of Nibelungs, he begets in union with Erda, the goddess of wisdom, the Valkyrs (chief among them Brünnhilde), wild maidens who course through the air on superb chargers and bear the bodies of departed heroes to Walhalla, where they revive and aid the gods in warding off the attacks of the Nibelungs. But it is also necessary that the curse-laden ring should be wrested from Fafner and restored through purely unselfish motives to the Rhinedaughters, and the curse thus lifted from the race of the gods. None of the gods can do this because their motive in doing so would not be unselfish. Hence Wotan, for a time, casts off his divinity, and in human disguise as Wälse, begets in union with a human woman the Wälsung twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde. Siegmund he hopes will be the hero who will slay Fafner and restore the ring to the Rhinedaughters. To nerve him for this task, Wotan surrounds the Wälsungs with numerous hardships. Sieglinde is forced to become the wife of her robber, Hunding. Siegmund, storm-driven, seeks shelter in Hunding's hut, where he and his sister, recognizing one another, flee together. Hunding overtakes them and Wotan, as Siegmund has been guilty of a crime against the marriage vow, is obliged, at the request of his spouse Fricka, the Juno of Northern mythology, to give victory to Hunding. Brünnhilde, contrary to Wotan's command, takes pity on Siegmund, and seeks to shield him against Hunding. For this, Wotan causes her to fall into a profound slumber. The hero who-143- will penetrate the barrier of fire with which Wotan has surrounded the rock upon which she slumbers can claim her as his bride.

After Siegmund's death Sieglinde gives birth to Siegfried, a son of their illicit union, who is reared by one of the Nibelungs, Mime, in the forest where Fafner guards the Nibelung treasure. Mime is seeking to weld the pieces of Siegmund's sword (Nothung or Needful) in order that Siegfried may slay Fafner, Mime hoping then to kill the youth and to possess himself of the treasure. But he cannot weld the sword. At last Siegfried, learning that it was his father's weapon, welds the pieces and slays Fafner. His lips having come in contact with his bloody fingers, he is, through the magic power of the dragon's blood, enabled to understand the language of the birds, and a little feathery songster warns him of Mime's treachery. Siegfried slays the Nibelung and is then guided to the fiery barrier around the Valkyr rock. Penetrating this, he comes upon Brünnhilde, and enraptured with her beauty, awakens her and claims her as his bride. She, the virgin pride of the goddess, yielding to the love of the woman, gives herself up to him. He plights his troth with the curse-laden ring which he has wrested from Fafner.

Siegfried goes forth in quest of adventure. On the Rhine lives the Gibichung Gunther, his sister Gutrune and their half-brother Hagen, none other than the son of the Nibelung Alberich. Hagen, knowing of Siegfried's coming, plans his destruction in order to regain the ring for the Nibelungs. Therefore, craftily concealing Brünnhilde's and Siegfried's relations from Gunther, he incites a longing in the latter to possess Brünnhilde as his bride. Carrying out a plot evolved by Hagen, Gutrune on Siegfried's arrival presents to him a drinking-horn filled with a love-potion. Siegfried drinks, is led through the effect of the potion to forget that Brünnhilde is his bride, and, becoming enam-144-oured of Gutrune, asks her in marriage of Gunther. The latter consents, provided Siegfried will disguise himself in the Tarnhelmet as Gunther and lead Brünnhilde to him as bride. Siegfried readily agrees, and in the guise of Gunther overcomes Brünnhilde and delivers her to the Gibichung. But Brünnhilde, recognizing on Siegfried the ring, which her conquerer had drawn from her finger, accuses him of treachery in delivering her, his own bride, to Gunther. The latter, unmasked and also suspicious of Siegfried, conspires with Hagen and Brünnhilde, who, knowing naught of the love-potion, is roused to a frenzy of hate and jealousy by Siegfried's seeming treachery, to compass the young hero's death. Hagen slays Siegfried during a hunt, and then in a quarrel with Gunther over the ring also kills the Gibichung.

Meanwhile Brünnhilde has learned through the Rhinedaughters of the treachery of which she and Siegfried have been the victims. All her jealous hatred of Siegfried yields to her old love for him and a passionate yearning to join him in death. She draws the ring from his finger and places it on her own, then hurls a torch upon the pyre. Mounting her steed, she plunges into the flames. One of the Rhinedaughters, swimming in on the rising waters, seizes the curse-laden ring. Hagen rushes into the flooding Rhine hoping to regain it, but the other Rhinedaughters grasp him and draw him down into the flood. Not only the flames of the pyre, but a glow which pervades the whole horizon illumine the scene. It is Walhalla being consumed by fire. Through love—the very emotion Alberich renounced in order to gain wealth and power—Brünnhilde has caused the old order of things to pass away and a human era to dawn in place of the old mythological one of the gods.

The sum of all that has been written concerning the book of "The Ring of the Nibelung" is probably larger than the-145- sum of all that has been written concerning the librettos used by all other composers. What can be said of the ordinary opera libretto beyond Voltaire's remark that "what is too stupid to be spoken is sung"? But "The Ring of the Nibelung" produced vehement discussion. It was attacked and defended, praised and ridiculed, extolled and condemned. And it survived all the discussion it called forth. It is the outstanding fact in Wagner's career that he always triumphed. He threw his lance into the midst of his enemies and fought his way up to it. No matter how much opposition his music-dramas excited, they gradually found their way into the repertoire.

It was contended on many sides that a book like "The Ring of the Nibelung" could not be set to music. Certainly it could not be after the fashion of an ordinary opera. Perhaps people were so accustomed to the books of nonsense which figured as opera librettos that they thought "The Ring of the Nibelung" was so great a work that its action and climaxes were beyond the scope of musical expression. For such, Wagner has placed music on a higher level. He has shown that music makes a great drama greater.

One of the most remarkable features of Wagner's works is the author's complete absorption of the times of which he wrote. He seems to have gone back to the very period in which the scenes of his music-dramas are laid and to have himself lived through the events in his plots. Hans Sachs could not have left a more faithful portrayal of life in the Nuremberg of his day than Wagner has given us in "Die Meistersinger." In "The Ring of the Nibelung" he has done more—he has absorbed an imaginary epoch; lived over the days of gods and demigods; infused life into mythological figures. "The Rhinegold," which is full of varied interest from its first note to its last, deals entirely with beings of mythology. They are presented true to-146- life—if that expression may be used in connection with beings that never lived—that is to say, they are so vividly drawn that we forget such beings never lived, and take as much interest in their doings and saying as if they were lifelike reproductions of historical characters. Was there ever a love scene more thrilling than that between Siegmund and Sieglinde? It represents the gradations of the love of two souls from its first awakening to its rapturous greeting in full self-consciousness. No one stops to think during that impassioned scene that the close relationship between Siegmund and Sieglinde would in these days have been a bar to their legal union. For all we know, in those moments when the impassioned music of that scene whirls us away in its resistless current, not a drop of related blood courses through their veins. It has been said that we could not be interested in mythological beings—that "The Ring of the Nibelung" lacked human interest. In reply, I say that wonderful as is the first act of "The Valkyr," there is nothing in it to compare in wild and lofty beauty with the last act of that music-drama—especially the scene between Brünnhilde and Wotan.

That there are faults of dramatic construction in "The Ring of the Nibelung" I admit. In what follows I have not hesitated to point them out. But there are faults of construction in Shakespeare. What would be the critical verdict if "Hamlet" were now to have its first performance in the exact form in which Shakespeare left it? With all its faults of dramatic construction "The Ring of the Nibelung" is a remarkable drama, full of life and action and logically developed, the events leading up to superb climaxes. Wagner was doubly inspired. He was both a great dramatist and a great musician.

The chief faults of dramatic construction of which Wagner was guilty in "The Ring of the Nibelung" are certain unduly prolonged scenes which are merely episodi-147-cal—that is, unnecessary to the development of the plot so that they delay the action and weary the audience to a point which endangers the success of the really sublime portions of the score. In several of these scenes, there is a great amount of narrative, the story of events with which we have become familiar being retold in detail although some incidents which connect the plot of the particular music-drama with that of the preceding one are also related. But, as narrative on the stage makes little impression, and, when it is sung perhaps none at all, because it cannot be well understood, it would seem as if prefaces to the dramas could have taken the place of these narratives. Certain it is that these long drawn-out scenes did more to retard the popular recognition of Wagner's genius than the activity of hostile critics and musicians. Still, it should be remembered that these music-dramas were composed for performance under the circumstances which prevail at Bayreuth, where the performances begin in the afternoon and there are long waits between the acts, during which you can refresh yourself by a stroll or by the more mundane pleasures of the table. Then, after an hour's relaxation of the mind and of the sense of hearing, you are ready to hear another act. Under these agreeable conditions one remains sufficiently fresh to enjoy the music even of the dramatically faulty scenes.

One of the characters in "The Ring of the Nibelung," Brünnhilde, is Wagner's noblest creation. She takes upon herself the sins of the gods and by her expiation frees the world from the curse of lust for wealth and power. She is a perfect dramatic incarnation of the profound and beautiful metaphysical motive upon which the plot of "The Ring of the Nibelung" is based.

There now follow descriptive accounts of the stories and music of the four component parts of this work by Wagner—perhaps his greatest.



Prologue in four scenes to the trilogy of music-dramas, "The Ring of the Nibelung," by Richard Wagner. "Des Rheingold" was produced, Munich, September 22, 1869. "The Ring of the Nibelung" was given complete for the first time in the Wagner Theatre, Bayreuth, in August, 1876. In the first American performance of "Das Rheingold," Metropolitan Opera House, New York, January 4, 1889, Fischer was Wotan, Alvary Loge, Moran-Oldern Fricka, and Katti Bettaque Freia.




Place—The bed of the Rhine; a mountainous district near the Rhine; the subterranean caverns of Nibelheim.

In "The Rhinegold" we meet with supernatural beings of German mythology—the Rhinedaughters Woglinde, Wellgunde, and Flosshilde, whose duty it is to guard the precious Rhinegold; Wotan, the chief of the gods; his spouse Fricka; Loge, the God of Fire (the diplomat of Walhalla); Freia, the Goddess of Youth and Beauty; her brothers Donner and Froh; Erda, the all-wise woman; the giants Fafner and Fasolt; Alberich and Mime of the-149- race of Nibelungs, cunning, treacherous gnomes who dwell in the bowels of the earth.

The first scene of "Rhinegold" is laid in the Rhine, at the bottom of the river, where the Rhinedaughters guard the Rhinegold.

The work opens with a wonderfully descriptive Prelude, which depicts with marvellous art (marvellous because so simple) the transition from the quietude of the water-depths to the wavy life of the Rhinedaughters. The double basses intone E-flat. Only this note is heard during four bars. Then three contra bassoons add a B-flat. The chord, thus formed, sounds until the 136th bar. With the sixteenth bar there flows over this seemingly immovable triad, as the current of a river flows over its immovable bed, the Motive of the Rhine.



A horn intones this motive. Then one horn after another takes it up until its wave-like tones are heard on the eight horns. On the flowing accompaniment of the 'cellos the motive is carried to the wood-wind. It rises higher and higher, the other strings successively joining in the accompaniment, which now flows on in gentle undulations until the motive is heard on the high notes of the wood-wind, while the violins have joined in the accompaniment. When the theme thus seems to have stirred the waters from their depth to their surface the curtain rises.

The scene shows the bed and flowing waters of the Rhine, the light of day reaching the depths only as a greenish twilight. The current flows on over rugged rocks and through dark chasms.


Woglinde is circling gracefully around the central ridge of rock. To an accompaniment as wavy as the waters through which she swims, she sings:

Weia! Waga! Woge, du Welle,
Walle zur Wiege! Wagala weia!
Wallala, Weiala weia!

They are sung to the Motive of the Rhinedaughters.



Weia Waga! Woge, du Welle, walle zur Wiege! Wagala weia! wallala, weiala weia!

In wavy sport the Rhinedaughters dart from cliff to cliff. Meanwhile Alberich has clambered from the depths up to one of the cliffs, and watches, while standing in its shadow, the gambols of the Rhinedaughters. As he speaks to them there is a momentary harshness in the music, whose flowing rhythm is broken. In futile endeavours to clamber up to them, he inveighs against the "slippery slime" which causes him to lose his foothold.

Woglinde, Wellgunde, and Flosshilde in turn gambol almost within his reach, only to dart away again. He curses his own weakness in the Motive of the Nibelungs' Servitude.



Swimming high above him the Rhinedaughters incite him with gleeful cries to chase them. Alberich tries to ascend, but always slips and falls down. Then his gaze is attracted and held by a glow which suddenly pervades the waves above him and increases until from the highest point of the central cliff a bright, golden ray shoots through the water. Amid the shimmering accompaniment of the violins is heard on the horn the Rhinegold Motive.


[Listen (MP3)]


With shouts of triumph the Rhinedaughters swim around the rock. Their cry "Rhinegold," is a characteristic motive. The Rhinedaughters' Shout of Triumph and the accompaniment to it are as follows:




As the river glitters with golden light the Rhinegold Motive rings out brilliantly on the trumpet. The Nibelung is fascinated by the sheen. The Rhinedaughters gossip with one another, and Alberich thus learns that the light is that of the Rhinegold, and that whoever shall shape a ring from this gold will become invested with great power. We hear The Ring Motive.



Flosshilde bids her sisters cease their prattle, lest some sinister foe should overhear them. Wellgunde and Woglinde ridicule their sister's anxiety, saying that no one would care to filch the gold, because it would give power only to him who abjures or renounces love. At this point is heard the darkly prophetic Motive of the Renunciation of Love.



Alberich reflects on the words of the Rhinedaughters. The Ring Motive occurs both in voice and orchestra in-152- mysterious pianissimo (like an echo of Alberich's sinister thoughts), and is followed by the Motive of Renunciation. Then is heard the sharp, decisive rhythm of the Nibelung Motive. Alberich fiercely springs over to the central rock. The Rhinedaughters scream and dart away in different directions. Alberich has reached the summit of the highest cliff.

"Hark, ye floods! Love I renounce forever!" he cries, and amid the crash of the Rhinegold Motive he seizes the gold and disappears in the depths. With screams of terror the Rhinedaughters dive after the robber through the darkened water, guided by Alberich's shrill, mocking laugh.

There is a transformation. Waters and rocks sink. As they disappear, the billowy accompaniment sinks lower and lower in the orchestra. Above it rises once more the Motive of Renunciation. The Ring Motive is heard, and then, as the waves change into nebulous clouds, the billowy accompaniment rises pianissimo until, with a repetition of the Ring Motive, the action passes to the second scene. One crime has already been committed—the theft of the Rhinegold by Alberich. How that crime and the ring which he shapes from the gold inspire other crimes is told in the course of the following scenes of "Rhinegold." Hence the significance of the Ring Motive as a connecting link between the first and second scenes.

Scene II. Dawn illumines a castle with glittering turrets on a rocky height at the back. Through a deep valley between this and the foreground flows the Rhine.

The Walhalla Motive now heard is a motive of superb beauty. It greets us again and again in "Rhinegold" and frequently in the later music-dramas of the cycle. Walhalla is the abode of gods and heroes. Its motive is divinely, heroically beautiful. Though essentially broad and stately, it often assumes a tender mood, like the-153- chivalric gentleness which every hero feels toward woman. Thus it is here. In crescendo and decrescendo it rises and falls, as rises and falls with each breath the bosom of the beautiful Fricka, who slumbers at Wotan's side.



As Fricka awakens, her eyes fall on the castle. In her surprise she calls to her spouse. Wotan dreams on, the Ring Motive, and later the Walhalla Motive, being heard in the orchestra, for with the ring Wotan is planning to compensate the giants for building Walhalla, instead of rewarding them by presenting Freia to them as he has promised. As he opens his eyes and sees the castle you hear the Spear Motive, which is a characteristic variation of the Motive of Compact. For Wotan should enforce, if needful, the compacts of the gods with his spear.

Wotan sings of the glory of Walhalla. Fricka reminds him of his compact with the giants to deliver over to them for their work in building Walhalla, Freia, the Goddess of Youth and Beauty. This introduces on the 'cellos and double basses the Motive of Compact, a theme expressive of the binding force of law and with the inherent dignity and power of the sense of justice.


[Listen (MP3)]

In a domestic spat between Wotan and Fricka, Wotan charges that she was as anxious as he to have Walhalla built. Fricka answers that she desired to have it erected in order to persuade him to lead a more domestic life. At Fricka's words,

"Halls, bright and gleaming,"


the Fricka Motive is heard, a caressing motive of much grace and beauty.



It is also prominent in Wotan's reply immediately following. Wotan tells Fricka that he never intended to really give up Freia to the giants. Chromatics, like little tongues of flame, appear in the accompaniment. They are suggestive of the Loge Motive, for with the aid of Loge the God of Fire, Wotan hopes to trick the giants and save Freia.

"Then save her at once!" calls Fricka, as Freia enters in hasty flight. The Motive of Flight is as follows:



The following is the Freia Motive:



With Freia's exclamations that the giants are pursuing her, the first suggestion of the Giant Motive appears and as these "great, hulking fellows" enter, the heavy, clumsy Giant Motive is heard in its entirety:



For the giants, Fasolt, and Fafner, have come to demand that Wotan deliver up to them Freia, according to his promise when they agreed to build Walhalla for him. In the ensuing scene, in which Wotan parleys with the Giants, the Giant Motive, the Walhalla Motive, the Motive of-155- the Compact, and the first bar of the Freia Motive figure until Fasolt's threatening words,

"Peace wane when you break your compact,"

when there is heard a version of the Motive of Compact characteristic enough to be distinguished as the Motive of Compact with the Giants:



The Walhalla, Giant, and Freia motives again are heard until Fafner speaks of the golden apples which grow in Freia's garden. These golden apples are the fruit of which the gods partake in order to enjoy eternal youth. The Motive of Eternal Youth, which now appears, is one of the loveliest in the cycle. It seems as though age could not wither it, nor custom stale its infinite variety. Its first bar is reminiscent of the Ring Motive, for there is subtle relationship between the Golden Apples of Freia and the Rhinegold. Here is the Motive of Eternal Youth:



It is finely combined with the Giant Motive at Fafner's words:

"Let her forthwith be torn from them all."

Froh and Donner, Freia's brothers, enter hastily to save their sister. Froh clasps her in his arms, while Donner confronts the giants, the Motive of Eternal Youth rings out triumphantly on the horns and wood-wind. But Freia's hope is short-lived. For though Wotan desires to keep Freia in Walhalla, he dare not offend the giants. At this-156- critical moment, however, he sees his cunning adviser, Loge, approaching. These are Loge's characteristic motives:





Wotan upbraids Loge for not having discovered something which the giants would be willing to accept as a substitute for Freia. Loge says he has travelled the world over without finding aught that would compensate man for the renunciation of a lovely woman. This leads to Loge's narrative of his wanderings. With great cunning he tells Wotan of the theft of the Rhinegold and of the wondrous worth of a ring shaped from the gold. Thus he incites the listening giants to ask for it as a compensation for giving up Freia. Hence Wagner, as Loge begins his narrative, has blended, with a marvellous sense of musical beauty and dramatic fitness, two phrases: the Freia Motive and the accompaniment to the Rhinedaughters' Shout of Triumph in the first scene. This music continues until Loge says that he discovered but one person (Alberich) who was willing to renounce love. Then the Rhinegold Motive is sounded tristly in a minor key and immediately afterward is heard the Motive of Renunciation.

Loge next tells how Alberich stole the gold. He has already excited the curiosity of the giants, and when Fafner asks him what power Alberich will gain through the possession of the gold, he dwells upon the magical attributes of the ring shaped from Rhinegold.


Loge's diplomacy is beginning to bear results. Fafner tells Fasolt that he deems the possession of the gold more important than Freia. Notice here how the Freia motive, so prominent when the giants insisted on her as their compensation, is relegated to the bass and how the Rhinegold Motive breaks in upon the Motive of Eternal Youth, as Fafner and Fasolt again advance toward Wotan, and bid him wrest the gold from Alberich and give it to them as ransom for Freia. Wotan refuses, for he himself now lusts for the ring made of Rhinegold. The giants having proclaimed that they will give Wotan until evening to determine upon his course, seize Freia and drag her away. Pallor now settles upon the faces of the gods; they seem to have grown older. They are affected by the absence of Freia, the Goddess of Youth, whose motives are but palely reflected by the orchestra. At last Wotan proclaims that he will go with Loge to Nibelung and wrest the entire treasure of Rhinegold from Alberich as ransom for Freia.

Loge disappears down a crevice in the side of the rock. From it a sulphurous vapour at once issues. When Wotan has followed Loge into the cleft the vapour fills the stage and conceals the remaining characters. The vapours thicken to a black cloud, continually rising upward until rocky chasms are seen. These have an upward motion, so that the stage appears to be sinking deeper and deeper. With a molto vivace the orchestra dashes into the Motive of Flight. From various distant points ruddy gleams of light illumine the chasms, and when the Flight Motive has died away, only the increasing clangour of the smithies is heard from all directions. This is the typical Nibelung Motive, characteristic of Alberich's Nibelungs toiling at the anvil for him. Gradually the sounds grow fainter.




Then as the Ring Motive resounds like a shout of malicious triumph (expressive of Alberich's malignant joy at his possession of power), there is seen a subterranean cavern, apparently of illimitable depth, from which narrow shafts lead in all directions.

Scene III. Alberich enters from a side cleft dragging after him the shrieking Mime. The latter lets fall a helmet which Alberich at once seizes. It is the Tarnhelmet, made of Rhinegold, the wearing of which enables the wearer to become invisible or assume any shape. As Alberich closely examines the helmet the Motive of the Tarnhelmet is heard.



It is mysterious, uncanny. To test its power Alberich puts it on and changes into a column of vapour. He asks Mime if he is visible, and when Mime answers in the negative Alberich cries out shrilly, "Then feel me instead," at the same time making poor Mime writhe under the blows of a visible scourge. Alberich then departs—still in the form of a vaporous column—to announce to the Nibelungs that they are henceforth his slavish subjects. Mime cowers down with fear and pain.

Wotan and Loge enter from one of the upper shafts. Mime tells them how Alberich has become all-powerful through the ring and the Tarnhelmet made of the Rhinegold. Then Alberich, who has taken off the Tarnhelmet and hung it from his girdle, is seen in the distance, driving a crowd of Nibelungs before him from the caves below. They are laden with gold and silver, which he forces them to pile up in one place and so form a hoard. He suddenly perceives Wotan and Loge. After abusing Mime for per-159-mitting strangers to enter Nibelheim, he commands the Nibelungs to descend again into the cavern in search of new treasure for him. They hesitate. You hear the Ring Motive. Alberich draws the ring from his finger, stretches it threateningly toward the Nibelungs, and commands them to obey their master.

They disperse in headlong flight, with Mime, into the cavernous recesses. Alberich looks with mistrust upon Wotan and Loge. Wotan tells him they have heard report of his wealth and power and have come to ascertain if it is true. The Nibelung points to the hoard. He boasts that the whole world will come under his sway (Ring Motive), that the gods who now laugh and love in the enjoyment of youth and beauty will become subject to him (Freia Motive); for he has abjured love (Motive of Renunciation). Hence, even the gods in Walhalla shall dread him (Walhalla Motive) and he bids them beware of the time when the night-begotten host of the Nibelungs shall rise from Nibelheim into the realm of daylight. (Rhinegold Motive followed by Walhalla Motive, for it is through the power gained by the Rhinegold that Alberich hopes to possess himself of Walhalla.) Loge cunningly flatters Alberich, and when the latter tells him of the Tarnhelmet, feigns disbelief of Alberich's statements. Alberich, to prove their truth, puts on the helmet and transforms himself into a huge serpent. The Serpent Motive expresses the windings and writhings of the monster. The serpent vanishes and Alberich reappears. When Loge doubts if Alberich can transform himself into something very small, the Nibelung changes into a toad. Now is Loge's chance. He calls Wotan to set his foot on the toad. As Wotan does so, Loge puts his hand to its head and seizes the Tarnhelmet. Alberich is seen writhing under Wotan's foot. Loge binds Alberich; both seize him, drag him to the shaft from which they descended and disappear ascending.


The scene changes in the reverse direction to that in which it changed when Wotan and Loge were descending to Nibelheim. The orchestra accompanies the change of scene. The Ring Motive dies away from crashing fortissimo to piano, to be succeeded by the dark Motive of Renunciation. Then is heard the clangour of the Nibelung smithies. The Giant, Walhalla, Loge, and Servitude Motives follow the last with crushing force as Wotan and Loge emerge from the cleft, dragging the pinioned Alberich with them. His lease of power was brief. He is again in a condition of servitude.

Scene IV. A pale mist still veils the prospect as at the end of the second scene. Loge and Wotan place Alberich on the ground and Loge dances around the pinioned Nibelung, mockingly snapping his fingers at the prisoner. Wotan joins Loge in his mockery of Alberich. The Nibelung asks what he must give for his freedom. "Your hoard and your glittering gold," is Wotan's answer. Alberich assents to the ransom and Loge frees the gnome's right hand. Alberich raises the ring to his lips and murmurs a secret behest. The Nibelungs emerge from the cleft and heap up the hoard. Then, as Alberich stretches out the ring toward them, they rush in terror toward the cleft, into which they disappear. Alberich now asks for his freedom, but Loge throws the Tarnhelmet on to the heap. Wotan demands that Alberich also give up the ring. At these words dismay and terror are depicted on the Nibelung's face. He had hoped to save the ring, but in vain. Wotan tears it from the gnome's finger. Then Alberich, impelled by hate and rage, curses the ring. The Motive of the Curse:



To it should be added the syncopated measures expres-161-sive of the ever-threatening and ever-active Nibelung's Hate:



Amid heavy thuds of the Motive of Servitude Alberich vanishes in the cleft.

The mist begins to rise. It grows lighter. The Giant Motive and the Motive of Eternal Youth are heard, for the giants are approaching with Freia. Donner, Froh, and Fricka hasten to greet Wotan. Fasolt and Fafner enter with Freia. It has grown clear except that the mist still hides the distant castle. Freia's presence seems to have restored youth to the gods. Fasolt asks for the ransom for Freia. Wotan points to the hoard. With staves the giants measure off a space of the height and width of Freia. That space must be filled out with treasure.

Loge and Froh pile up the hoard, but the giants are not satisfied even when the Tarnhelmet has been added. They wish also the ring to fill out a crevice. Wotan turns in anger away from them. A bluish light glimmers in the rocky cleft to the right, and through it Erda rises. She warns Wotan against retaining possession of the ring. The Erda Motive bears a strong resemblance to the Rhine Motive.

The syncopated notes of the Nibelung's Malevolence, so threateningly indicative of the harm which Alberich is plotting, are also heard in Erda's warning.

Wotan, heeding her words, throws the ring upon the hoard. The giants release Freia, who rushes joyfully towards the gods. Here the Freia Motive combined with the Flight Motive, now no longer agitated but joyful, rings out gleefully. Soon, however, these motives are interrupted by the Giant and Nibelung motives, and later-162- the Nibelung's Hate and Ring Motive. For Alberich's curse already is beginning its dread work. The giants dispute over the spoils, their dispute waxes to strife, and at last Fafner slays Fasolt and snatches the ring from the dying giant, while, as the gods gaze horror-stricken upon the scene, the Curse Motive resounds with crushing force.

Loge congratulates Wotan on having given up the curse-laden ring. But even Fricka's caresses, as she asks Wotan to lead her into Walhalla, cannot divert the god's mind from dark thoughts, and the Curse Motive accompanies his gloomy reflections—for the ring has passed through his hands. It was he who wrested it from Alberich—and its curse rests on all who have touched it.

Donner ascends to the top of a lofty rock. He gathers the mists around him until he is enveloped by a black cloud. He swings his hammer. There is a flash of lightning, a crash of thunder, and lo! the cloud vanishes. A rainbow bridge spans the valley to Walhalla, which is illumined by the setting sun.

Wotan eloquently greets Walhalla, and then, taking Fricka by the hand, leads the procession of the gods into the castle.

The music of this scene is of wondrous eloquence and beauty. Six harps are added to the ordinary orchestral instruments, and as the variegated bridge is seen their arpeggios shimmer like the colours of the rainbow around the broad, majestic Rainbow Motive:



Then the stately Walhalla Motive resounds as the gods gaze, lost in admiration, at the Walhalla. It gives way to the Ring Motive as Wotan speaks of the day's ills; and then as he is inspired by the idea of begetting a race of-163- demigods to conquer the Nibelungs, there is heard for the first time the Sword Motive:



The cries of the Rhinedaughters greet Wotan. They beg him to restore the ring to them. But Wotan must remain deaf to their entreaties. He gave the ring, which he should have restored to the Rhinedaughters, to the giants, as ransom for Freia.

The Walhalla Motive swells to a majestic climax and the gods enter the castle. Amid shimmering arpeggios the Rainbow Motive resounds. The gods have attained the height of their glory—but the Nibelung's curse is still potent, and it will bring woe upon all who have possessed or will possess the ring until it is restored to the Rhinedaughters. Fasolt was only the first victim of Alberich's curse.


Music-drama in three acts, words and music by Richard Wagner. Produced, Munich, June 25, 1870. New York, Academy of Music, April 2, 1877, an incomplete and inadequate performance with Pappenheim as Brünnhilde, Pauline Canissa Sieglinde, A. Bischoff Siegmund, Felix Preusser Wotan, A. Blum Hunding, Mme. Listner Fricka, Frida de Gebel, Gerhilde, Adolf Neuendorff, conductor. The real first performance in America was conducted by Dr. Leopold Damrosch at the Metropolitan Opera House, January 30, 1885, with Materna, the original Bayreuth Brünnhilde in that rôle, Schott as Siegmund, Seidl-Kraus as Sieglinde, Marianne Brandt as Fricka, Staudigl as Wotan, and Kögel as Hunding.



Valkyrs (Sopranos and Mezzo-Sopranos): Gerhilde, Ortlinde, Waltraute, Schwertleite, Helmwige, Siegrune, Grimgerde, Rossweisse.


Place—Interior of Hunding's hut; a rocky height; the peak of a rocky mountain (the Brünnhilde-rock).

Wotan's enjoyment of Walhalla was destined to be short-lived. Filled with dismay by the death of Fasolt in the combat of the giants for the accursed ring, and impelled by a dread presentiment that the force of the curse would be visited upon the gods, he descended from Walhalla to the abode of the all-wise woman, Erda, who bore him nine daughters. These were the Valkyrs, headed by Brünnhilde—the wild horsewomen of the air, who on winged steeds bore the dead heroes to Walhalla, the warriors' heaven. With the aid of the Valkyrs and the heroes they gathered to Walhalla, Wotan hoped to repel any assault upon his castle by the enemies of the gods.

But though the host of heroes grew to a goodly number, the terror of Alberich's curse still haunted the chief of gods. He might have freed himself from it had he returned the ring and helmet made of Rhinegold to the Rhinedaughters, from whom Alberich filched it; but in his desire to persuade the giants to relinquish Freia, whom he had promised to them as a reward for building Walhalla, he, having wrested the ring from Alberich, gave it to the giants instead of returning it to the Rhinedaughters. He saw the giants contending for the possession of the ring and saw Fasolt slain—the first victim of Alberich's curse. He knows that the giant Fafner, having assumed the shape of a huge serpent, now guards the Nibelung treasure, which includes the ring and the Tarnhelmet, in a cave in the heart of a-165- dense forest. How shall the Rhinegold be restored to the Rhinedaughters?

Wotan hopes that this may be consummated by a human hero who, free from the lust for power which obtains among the gods, shall, with a sword of Wotan's own forging, slay Fafner, gain possession of the Rhinegold and restore it to its rightful owners, thus righting Wotan's guilty act and freeing the gods from the curse. To accomplish this Wotan, in human guise as Wälse, begets, in wedlock with a human, the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde. How the curse of Alberich is visited upon these is related in "The Valkyr."

The dramatis personæ in "The Valkyr" are Brünnhilde, the valkyr, and her eight sister valkyrs; Fricka, Sieglinde, Siegmund, Hunding (the husband of Sieglinde), and Wotan. The action begins after the forced marriage of Sieglinde to Hunding. The Wälsungs are in ignorance of the divinity of their father. They know him only as Wälse.

Act I. In the introduction to "The Rhinegold," we saw the Rhine flowing peacefully toward the sea and the innocent gambols of the Rhinedaughters. But "The Valkyr" opens in storm and stress. The peace and happiness of the first scene of the cycle seem to have vanished from the earth with Alberich's abjuration of love, his theft of the gold, and Wotan's equally treacherous acts.

This "Valkyr" Vorspiel is a masterly representation in tone of a storm gathering for its last infuriated onslaught. The elements are unleashed. The wind sweeps through the forest. Lightning flashes in jagged streaks across the black heavens. There is a crash of thunder and the storm has spent its force.

Two leading motives are employed in this introduction. They are the Storm Motive and the Donner Motive. The Storm Motive is as follows:




These themes are elemental. From them Wagner has composed storm music of convincing power.

In the early portion of this vorspiel only the string instruments are used. Gradually the instrumentation grows more powerful. With the climax we have a tremendous ff on the contra tuba and two tympani, followed by the crash of the Donner Motive on the wind instruments.

The storm then gradually dies away. Before it has quite passed over, the curtain rises, revealing the large hall of Hunding's dwelling. This hall is built around a huge ash-tree, whose trunk and branches pierce the roof, over which the foliage is supposed to spread. There are walls of rough-hewn boards, here and there hung with large plaited and woven hangings. In the right foreground is a large open hearth; back of it in a recess is the larder, separated from the hall by a woven hanging, half drawn. In the background is a large door. A few steps in the left foreground lead up to the door of an inner room. The furniture of the hall is primitive and rude. It consists chiefly of a table, bench, and stools in front of the ash-tree. Only the light of the fire on the hearth illumines the room; though occasionally its fitful gleam is slightly intensified by a distant flash of lightning from the departing storm.

The door in the background is opened from without. Siegmund, supporting himself with his hand on the bolt, stands in the entrance. He seems exhausted. His appearance is that of a fugitive who has reached the limit of his powers of endurance. Seeing no one in the hall, he staggers toward the hearth and sinks upon a bearskin rug before it, with the exclamation:

Whose hearth this may be,
Here I must rest me.


Lilli Lehmann as Brünnhilde in “Die Walküre”


Photo by Hall

“The Valkyr.” Act I
Hunding (Parker), Sieglinde (Rennyson), and Siegmund (Maclennan)


Wagner's treatment of this scene is masterly. As Siegmund stands in the entrance we hear the Siegmund Motive. This is a sad, weary strain on 'cellos and basses. It seems the wearier for the burden of an accompanying figure on the horns, beneath which it seems to stagger as Siegmund staggers toward the hearth. Thus the music not only reflects Siegmund's weary mien, but accompanies most graphically his weary gait. Perhaps Wagner's intention was more metaphysical. Maybe the burden beneath which the Siegmund Motive staggers is the curse of Alberich. It is through that curse that Siegmund's life has been one of storm and stress.


[Listen (MP3)]

When the storm-beaten Wälsung has sunk upon the rug the Siegmund Motive is followed by the Storm Motive, pp—and the storm has died away. The door of the room to the left opens and a young woman—Sieglinde—appears. She has heard someone enter, and, thinking her husband returned, has come forth to meet him—not impelled to this by love, but by fear. For Hunding had, while her father and kinsmen were away on the hunt, laid waste their dwelling and abducted her and forcibly married her. Ill-fated herself, she is moved to compassion at sight of the storm-driven fugitive before the hearth, and bends over him.

Her compassionate action is accompanied by a new motive, which by Wagner's commentators has been entitled the Motive of Compassion. But it seems to me to have a further meaning as expressing the sympathy between two souls, a tie so subtle that it is at first invisible even to those whom it unites. Siegmund and Sieglinde, it will be remembered, belong to the same race; and though they are at this point of the action unknown to one another,-168- yet, as Sieglinde bends over the hunted, storm-beaten Siegmund, that subtle sympathy causes her to regard him with more solicitude than would be awakened by any other unfortunate stranger. Hence I have called this motive the Motive of Sympathy—taking sympathy in its double meaning of compassion and affinity of feeling:



The beauty of this brief phrase is enhanced by its unpretentiousness. It wells up from the orchestra as spontaneously as pity mingled with sympathetic sorrow wells up from the heart of a gentle woman. As it is Siegmund who has awakened these feelings in Sieglinde, the Motive of Sympathy is heard simultaneously with the Siegmund Motive.

Siegmund, suddenly raising his head, ejaculates, "Water, water!" Sieglinde hastily snatches up a drinking-horn and, having quickly filled it at a spring near the house, swiftly returns and hands it to Siegmund. As though new hope were engendered in Siegmund's breast by Sieglinde's gentle ministration, the Siegmund Motive rises higher and higher, gathering passion in its upward sweep and then, combined again with the Motive of Sympathy, sinks to an expression of heartfelt gratitude. This passage is scored entirely for strings. Yet no composer, except Wagner, has evoked from a full orchestra sounds richer or more sensuously beautiful.

Having quaffed from the proffered cup the stranger lifts a searching gaze to her features, as if they awakened within him memories the significance of which he himself cannot fathom. She, too, is strangely affected by his gaze. How has fate interwoven their lives that these two people, a man and a woman, looking upon each other apparently for the first time, are so thrilled by a mysterious sense of affinity?


Here occurs the Love Motive played throughout as a violoncello solo, with accompaniment of eight violoncellos and two double basses; exquisite in tone colour and one of the most tenderly expressive phrases ever penned.


[Listen (MP3)]

The Love Motive is the mainspring of this act. For this act tells the story of love from its inception to its consummation. Similarly in the course of this act the Love Motive rises by degrees of intensity from an expression of the first tender presentiment of affection to the very ecstasy of love.

Siegmund asks with whom he has found shelter. Sieglinde replies that the house is Hunding's, and she his wife, and requests Siegmund to await her husband's return.

Weaponless am I:
The wounded guest,
He will surely give shelter,

is Siegmund's reply. With anxious celerity, Sieglinde asks him to show her his wounds. But, refreshed by the draught of cool spring water and with hope revived by her sympathetic presence, he gathers force and, raising himself to a sitting posture, exclaims that his wounds are but slight; his frame is still firm, and had sword and shield held half so well, he would not have fled from his foes. His strength was spent in flight through the storm, but the night that sank on his vision has yielded again to the sunshine of Sieglinde's presence. At these words the Motive of Sympathy rises like a sweet hope. Sieglinde fills the drinking-horn with mead and offers it to Siegmund. He asks her to take the first sip. She does so and then hands it to him. His eyes rest upon her while he drinks. As he returns the drinking-horn to her there are traces of deep emotion in-170- his mien. He sighs and gloomily bows his head. The action at this point is most expressively accompanied by the orchestra. Specially noteworthy is an impassioned upward sweep of the Motive of Sympathy as Siegmund regards Sieglinde with traces of deep emotion in his mien.

In a voice that trembles with emotion, he says: "You have harboured one whom misfortune follows wherever he wends his footsteps. Lest through me misfortune enter this house, I will depart." With firm, determined strides he already has reached the door, when she, forgetting all in the vague memories that his presence have stirred within her, calls after him:

"Tarry! You cannot bring sorrow to the house where sorrow already reigns!"

Her words are followed by a phrase freighted as if with sorrow, the Motive of the Wälsung Race, or Wälsung Motive:



Siegmund returns to the hearth, while she, as if shamed by her outburst of feeling, allows her eyes to sink toward the ground. Leaning against the hearth, he rests his calm, steady gaze upon her, until she again raises her eyes to his, and they regard each other in long silence and with deep emotion. The woman is the first to start. She hears Hunding leading his horse to the stall, and soon afterward he stands upon the threshold looking darkly upon his wife and the stranger. Hunding is a man of great strength and stature, his eyes heavy-browed, his sinister features framed in thick black hair and beard, a sombre, threatful personality boding little good to whomever crosses his path.

With the approach of Hunding there is a sudden change in the character of the music. Like a premonition of Hunding's entrance we hear the Hunding Motive, pp.-171- Then as Hunding, armed with spear and shield, stands upon the threshold, this Hunding Motive—as dark, forbidding, and portentous of woe to the two Wälsungs as Hunding's sombre visage—resounds with dread power on the tubas:


[Listen (MP3)]

Although weaponless, and Hunding armed with spear and shield, the fugitive meets his scrutiny without flinching, while the woman, anticipating her husband's inquiry, explains that she had discovered him lying exhausted at the hearth and given him shelter. With an assumed graciousness that makes him, if anything, more forbidding, Hunding orders her prepare the meal. While she does so he glances repeatedly from her to the stranger whom she has harboured, as if comparing their features and finding in them something to arouse his suspicions. "How like unto her," he mutters.

"Your name and story?" he asks, after they have seated themselves at the table in front of the ash-tree, and when the stranger hesitates, Hunding points to the woman's eager, inquiring look.

"Guest," she urges, little knowing the suspicions her husband harbours, "gladly would I know whence you come."

Slowly, as if oppressed by heavy memories, he begins his story, carefully, however, continuing to conceal his name, since for all he knows, Hunding may be one of the enemies of his race. Amid incredible hardships, surrounded by enemies against whom he and his kin constantly were obliged to defend themselves, he grew up in the forest. He and his father returned from one of their hunts to find the hut in ashes, his mother a corpse, and no trace of his twin sister. In one of the combats with their foes he became separated from his father.


At this point you hear the Walhalla Motive, for Siegmund's father was none other than Wotan, known to his human descendants, however, only as Wälse. In Wotan's narrative in the next act it will be discovered that Wotan purposely created these misfortunes for Siegmund, in order to strengthen him for his task.

Continuing his narrative Siegmund says that, since losing track of his father, he has wandered from place to place, ever with misfortune in his wake. That very day he has defended a maid whom her brothers wished to force into marriage. But when, in the combat that ensued, he had slain her brothers, she turned upon him and denounced him as a murderer, while the kinsmen of the slain, summoned to vengeance, attacked him from all quarters. He fought until shield and sword were shattered, then fled to find chance shelter in Hunding's dwelling.


Photo by White

Fremstad as Brünnhilde in “Die Walküre”


Copyright photo by Dupont

Fremstad as Sieglinde in “Die Walküre”

The story of Siegmund is told in melodious recitative. It is not a melody in the old-fashioned meaning of the term, but it fairly teems with melodiousness. It will have been observed that incidents very different in kind are related by Siegmund. It would be impossible to treat this narrative with sufficient variety of expression in a melody. But in Wagner's melodious recitative the musical phrases reflect every incident narrated by Siegmund. For instance, when Siegmund tells how he went hunting with his father there is joyous freshness and abandon in the music, which, however, suddenly sinks to sadness as he narrates how they returned and found the Wälsung dwelling devastated by enemies. We hear also the Hunding Motive at this point, which thus indicates that whose who brought this misfortune upon the Wälsungs were none other than Hunding and his kinsmen. As Siegmund tells how, when he was separated from his father, he sought to mingle with men and women, you hear the Love Motive, while his description of his latest combat is accompanied by the-173- rhythm of the Hunding Motive. Those whom Siegmund slew were Hunding's kinsmen. Thus Siegmund's dark fate has driven him to seek shelter in the house of the very man who is the arch-enemy of his race and is bound by the laws of kinship to avenge on Siegmund the death of kinsmen.

As Siegmund concludes his narrative the Wälsung Motive is heard. Gazing with ardent longing toward Sieglinde, he says:

Now know'st thou, questioning wife,
Why "Peaceful" is not my name.

These words are sung to a lovely phrase. Then, as Siegmund rises and strides over to the hearth, while Sieglinde, pale and deeply affected by his tale, bows her head, there is heard on the horns, bassoons, violas, and 'cellos a motive expressive of the heroic fortitude of the Wälsungs in struggling against their fate. It is the Motive of the Wälsungs' Heroism, a motive steeped in the tragedy of futile struggle against destiny.



The sombre visage at the head of the table has grown even darker and more threatening. Hunding arises. "I know a ruthless race to whom nothing is sacred, and hated of all," he says. "Mine were the kinsmen you slew. I, too, was summoned from my home to take blood vengeance upon the slayer. Returning, I find him here. You have been offered shelter for the night, and for the night you are safe. But tomorrow be prepared to defend yourself."

Alone, unarmed, and in the house of his enemy! And yet the same roof harbours a friend—the woman. What strange affinity has brought them together under the eye of the pitiless savage with whom she has been forced-174- into marriage? The embers on the hearth collapse. The glow that for a moment pervades the room seems to his excited senses a reflection from the eyes of the woman to whom he has been so unaccountably yet so strongly drawn. Even the spot on the old ash-tree, where he saw her glance linger before she left the room, seems to have caught its sheen. Then the embers die out. All grows dark.

The scene is eloquently set to music. Siegmund's gloomy thoughts are accompanied by the threatening rhythm of the Hunding Motive and the Sword Motive in a minor key, for Siegmund is still weaponless.

A sword my father did promise....
Wälse! Wälse! Where is thy sword!

The Sword Motive rings out like a shout of triumph. As the embers of the fire collapse, there is seen in the glare, that for a moment falls upon the ash-tree, the hilt of a sword whose blade is buried in the trunk of the tree at the point upon which Sieglinde's look last rested. While the Motive of the Sword gently rises and falls, like the coming and going of a lovely memory, Siegmund apostrophizes the sheen as the reflection of Sieglinde's glance. And although the embers die out, and night falls upon the scene, in Siegmund's thoughts the memory of that pitying, loving look glimmers on.

Is it his excited fancy that makes him hear the door of the inner chamber softly open and light footsteps coming in his direction? No; for he becomes conscious of a form, her form, dimly limned upon the darkness. He springs to his feet. Sieglinde is by his side. She has given Hunding a sleeping-potion. She will point out a weapon to Siegmund—a sword. If he can wield it she will call him the greatest hero, for only the mightiest can wield it.-175- The music quickens with the subdued excitement in the breasts of the two Wälsungs. You hear the Sword Motive and above it, on horns, clarinet, and oboe, a new motive—that of the Wälsungs' Call to Victory:



for Sieglinde hopes that with the sword the stranger, who has awakened so quickly love in her breast, will overcome Hunding. This motive has a resistless, onward sweep. Sieglinde, amid the strains of the stately Walhalla Motive, followed by the Sword Motive, narrates the story of the sword. While Hunding and his kinsmen were feasting in honour of her forced marriage with him, an aged stranger entered the hall. The men knew him not and shrank from his fiery glance. But upon her his look rested with tender compassion. With a mighty thrust he buried a sword up to its hilt in the trunk of the ash-tree. Whoever drew it from its sheath to him it should belong. The stranger went his way. One after another the strong men tugged at the hilt—but in vain. Then she knew who the aged stranger was and for whom the sword was destined.

The Sword Motive rings out like a joyous shout, and Sieglinde's voice mingles with the triumphant notes of the Wälsungs' Call to Victory as she turns to Siegmund:

O, found I in thee
The friend in need!

The Motive of the Wälsungs' heroism, now no longer full of tragic import, but forceful and defiant—and Siegmund holds Sieglinde in his embrace.

There is a rush of wind. The woven hangings flap and fall. As the lovers turn, a glorious sight greets their eyes. The landscape is illumined by the moon. Its silver sheen-176- flows down the hills and quivers along the meadows whose grasses tremble in the breeze. All nature seems to be throbbing in unison with the hearts of the lovers, and, turning to the woman, Siegmund greets her with the Love Song:



The Love Motive, impassioned, irresistible, sweeps through the harmonies—and Love and Spring are united. The Love Motive also pulsates through Sieglinde's ecstatic reply after she has given herself fully up to Siegmund in the Flight Motive—for before his coming her woes have fled as winter flies before the coming of spring. With Siegmund's exclamation:

Oh, wondrous vision!
Rapturous woman!

there rises from the orchestra like a vision of loveliness the Motive of Freia, the Venus of German mythology. In its embrace it folds this pulsating theme:



It throbs on like a love-kiss until it seemingly yields to the blandishments of this caressing phrase:



This throbbing, pulsating, caressing music is succeeded by a moment of repose. The woman again gazes searchingly into the man's features. She has seen his face before.-177- When? Now she remembers. It is when she has seen her own reflection in a brook! And his voice? It seems to her like an echo of her own. And his glance; has it never before rested on her? She is sure it has, and she will tell him when.

She repeats how, while Hunding and his kinsmen were feasting at her marriage, an aged man entered the hall and, drawing a sword, thrust it to the hilt in the ash-tree. The first to draw it out, to him it should belong. One after another the men strove to loosen the sword, but in vain. Once the aged man's glance rested on her and shone with the same light as now shines in his who has come to her through night and storm. He who thrust the sword into the tree was of her own race, the Wälsungs. Who is he?

"I, too, have seen that light, but in your eyes!" exclaimed the fugitive. "I, too, am of your race. I, too, am a Wälsung, my father none other than Wälse himself."

"Was Wälse your father?" she cries ecstatically. "For you, then, this sword was thrust in the tree! Let me name you, as I recall you from far back in my childhood, SiegmundSiegmundSiegmund!"

"Yes, I am Siegmund; and you, too, I now know well. You are Sieglinde. Fate has willed that we two of our unhappy race, shall meet again and save each other or perish together."

Then, leaping upon the table, he grasps the sword-hilt which protrudes from the trunk of the ash-tree where he has seen that strange glow in the light of the dying embers. A mighty tug, and he draws it from the tree as a blade from its scabbard. Brandishing it in triumph, he leaps to the floor and, clasping Sieglinde, rushes forth with her into the night.

And the music? It fairly seethes with excitement. As Siegmund leaps upon the table, the Motive of the Wälsungs' Heroism rings out as if in defiance of the enemies of-178- the race. The Sword Motive—and he has grasped the hilt; the Motive of Compact, ominous of the fatality which hangs over the Wälsungs; the Motive of Renunciation, with its threatening import; then the Sword Motive—brilliant like the glitter of refulgent steel—and Siegmund has unsheathed the sword. The Wälsungs' Call to Victory, like a song of triumph; a superb upward sweep of the Sword Motive; the Love Motive, now rushing onward in the very ecstasy of passion, and Siegmund holds in his embrace Sieglinde, his bride—of the same doomed race as himself!

Act II. In the Vorspiel the orchestra, with an upward rush of the Sword Motive, resolved into 9-8 time, the orchestra dashes into the Motive of Flight. The Sword Motive in this 9-8 rhythm closely resembles the Motive of the Valkyr's Ride, and the Flight Motive in the version in which it appears is much like the Valkyr's Shout. The Ride and the Shout are heard in the course of the Vorspiel, the former with tremendous force on trumpets and trombones as the curtain rises on a wild, rocky mountain pass, at the back of which, through a natural rock-formed arch, a gorge slopes downward.

In the foreground stands Wotan, armed with spear, shield, and helmet. Before him is Brünnhilde in the superb costume of the Valkyr. The stormy spirit of the Vorspiel pervades the music of Wotan's command to Brünnhilde that she bridle her steed for battle and spur it to the fray to do combat for Siegmund against Hunding. Brünnhilde greets Wotan's command with the weirdly joyous Shout of the Valkyrs

Hojotoho! Heiaha-ha.




Photo by White

Weil as Wotan in “Die Walküre”


Photo by Hall

“Die Walküre.” Act III
Brünnhilde (Margaret Crawford)


It is the cry of the wild horsewomen of the air, coursing through storm-clouds, their shields flashing back the lightning, their voices mingling with the shrieks of the tempest. Weirder, wilder joy has never found expression in music. One seems to see the steeds of the air and streaks of lightning playing around their riders, and to hear the whistling of the wind.

The accompanying figure is based on the Motive of the Ride of the Valkyrs:



Brünnhilde, having leapt from rock to rock to the highest peak of the mountain, again faces Wotan, and with delightful banter calls to him that Fricka is approaching in her ram-drawn chariot. Fricka has appeared, descended from her chariot, and advances toward Wotan, Brünnhilde having meanwhile disappeared behind the mountain height.

Fricka is the protector of the marriage vow, and as such she has come in anger to demand from Wotan vengeance in behalf of Hunding. As she advances hastily toward Wotan, her angry, passionate demeanour is reflected by the orchestra, and this effective musical expression of Fricka's ire is often heard in the course of the scene. When near Wotan she moderates her pace, and her angry demeanour gives way to sullen dignity.

Wotan, though knowing well what has brought Fricka upon the scene, feigns ignorance of the cause of her agitation and asks what it is that harasses her. Her reply is preceded by the stern Hunding motive. She tells Wotan that she, as the protectress of the sanctity of the marriage vow, has heard Hunding's voice calling for vengeance upon the Wälsung twins. Her words, "His voice for vengeance-180- is raised," are set to a phrase strongly suggestive of Alberich's curse. It seems as though the avenging Nibelung were pursuing Wotan's children and thus striking a blow at Wotan himself through Fricka. The Love Motive breathes through Wotan's protest that Siegmund and Sieglinde only yielded to the music of the spring night. Wotan argues that Siegmund and Sieglinde are true lovers, and Fricka should smile instead of venting her wrath on them. The motive of the Love Song, the Love Motive, and the caressing phrase heard in the love scene are beautifully blended with Wotan's words. In strong contrast to these motives is the music in Fricka's outburst of wrath, introduced by the phrase reflecting her ire, which is repeated several times in the course of this episode. Wotan explains to her why he begat the Wälsung race and the hopes he has founded upon it. But Fricka mistrusts him. What can mortals accomplish that the gods, who are far mightier than mortals, cannot accomplish? Hunding must be avenged on Siegmund and Sieglinde. Wotan must withdraw his protection from Siegmund. Now appears a phrase which expresses Wotan's impotent wrath—impotent because Fricka brings forward the unanswerable argument that if the Wälsungs go unpunished by her, as guardian of the marriage vow, she, the Queen of the Gods, will be held up to the scorn of mankind.

Wotan would fain save the Wälsungs. But Fricka's argument is conclusive. He cannot protect Siegmund and Sieglinde, because their escape from punishment would bring degradation upon the queen-goddess and the whole race of the gods, and result in their immediate fall. Wotan's wrath rises at the thought of sacrificing his beloved children to the vengeance of Hunding, but he is impotent. His far-reaching plans are brought to nought. He sees the hope of having the Ring restored to the Rhinedaughters by the voluntary act of a hero of the Wälsung race vanish.-181- The curse of Alberich hangs over him like a dark, threatening cloud. The Motive of Wotan's Wrath is as follows:



Brünnhilde's joyous shouts are heard from the height. Wotan exclaims that he had summoned the Valkyr to do battle for Siegmund. In broad, stately measures, Fricka proclaims that her honour shall be guarded by Brünnhilde's shield and demands of Wotan an oath that in the coming combat the Wälsung shall fall. Wotan takes the oath and throws himself dejectedly down upon a rocky seat. Fricka strides toward the back. She pauses a moment with a gesture of queenly command before Brünnhilde, who has led her horse down the height and into a cave to the right, then departs.

In this scene we have witnessed the spectacle of a mighty god vainly struggling to avert ruin from his race. That it is due to irresistible fate and not merely to Fricka that Wotan's plans succumb, is made clear by the darkly ominous notes of Alberich's Curse, which resound as Wotan, wrapt in gloomy brooding, leans back against the rocky seat, and also when, in a paroxysm of despair, he gives vent to his feelings, a passage which, for overpowering intensity of expression, stands out even from among Wagner's writings. The final words of this outburst of grief:

The saddest I among all men,

are set to this variant of the Motive of Renunciation; the meaning of this phrase having been expanded from the renunciation of love by Alberich to cover the renunciation of happiness which is forced upon Wotan by avenging fate:




Brünnhilde casts away shield, spear, and helmet, and sinking down at Wotan's feet looks up to him with affectionate anxiety. Here we see in the Valkyr the touch of tenderness, without which a truly heroic character is never complete.

Musically it is beautifully expressed by the Love Motive, which, when Wotan, as if awakening from a reverie, fondly strokes her hair, goes over into the Siegmund Motive. It is over the fate of his beloved Wälsungs Wotan has been brooding. Immediately following Brünnhilde's words,

What an I were I not thy will,

is a wonderfully soft yet rich melody on four horns. It is one of those beautiful details in which Wagner's works abound.

In Wotan's narrative, which now follows, the chief of the gods tells Brünnhilde of the events which have brought this sorrow upon him, of his failure to restore the stolen gold to the Rhinedaughters; of his dread of Alberich's curse; how she and her sister Valkyrs were born to him by Erda; of the necessity that a hero should without aid of the gods gain the Ring and Tarnhelmet from Fafner and restore the Rhinegold to the Rhinedaughters; how he begot the Wälsungs and inured them to hardships in the hope that one of the race would free the gods from Alberich's curse.

The motives heard in Wotan's narrative will be recognized, except one, which is new. This is expressive of the stress to which the gods are subjected through Wotan's crime. It is first heard when Wotan tells of the hero who alone can regain the ring. It is the Motive of the Gods' Stress.




Excited by remorse and despair Wotan bids farewell to the glory of the gods. Then he in terrible mockery blesses the Nibelung's heir—for Alberich has wedded and to him has been born a son, upon whom the Nibelung depends to continue his death struggle with the gods. Terrified by this outburst of wrath, Brünnhilde asks what her duty shall be in the approaching combat. Wotan commands her to do Fricka's bidding and withdraw protection from Siegmund. In vain Brünnhilde pleads for the Wälsung whom she knows Wotan loves, and wished a victor until Fricka exacted a promise from him to avenge Hunding. But her pleading is in vain. Wotan is no longer the all-powerful chief of the gods—through his breach of faith he has become the slave of fate. Hence we hear, as Wotan rushes away, driven by chagrin, rage, and despair, chords heavy with the crushing force of fate.

Slowly and sadly Brünnhilde bends down for her weapons, her actions being accompanied by the Valkyr Motive. Bereft of its stormy impetuosity it is as trist as her thoughts. Lost in sad reflections, which find beautiful expression in the orchestra, she turns toward the background.

Suddenly the sadly expressive phrases are interrupted by the Motive of Flight. Looking down into the valley the Valkyr perceives Siegmund and Sieglinde approaching in hasty flight. She then disappears in the cave. With a superb crescendo the Motive of Flight reaches its climax and the two Wälsungs are seen approaching through the natural arch. For hours they have toiled forward; often Sieglinde's limbs have threatened to fail her, yet never have the fugitives been able to shake off the dread sound of Hunding winding his horn as he called upon his kinsmen to redouble their efforts to overtake the two Wälsungs. Even now, as they come up the gorge and pass under a rocky arch to the height of the divide, the pursuit can be-184- heard. They are human quarry of the hunt. Terror has begun to unsettle Sieglinde's reason. When Siegmund bids her rest she stares wildly before her, then gazes with growing rapture into his eyes and throws her arms around his neck, only to shriek suddenly: "Away, away!" as she hears the distant horn-calls, then to grow rigid and stare vacantly before her as Siegmund announces to her that here he proposes to end their flight, here await Hunding, and test the temper of Wälse's sword. Then she tries to thrust him away. Let him leave her to her fate and save himself. But a moment later, although she still clings to him, she apparently is gazing into vacancy and crying out that he has deserted her. At last, utterly overcome by the strain of flight with the avenger on the trail, she faints, her hold on Siegmund relaxes, and she would have fallen had he not caught her form in his arms. Slowly he lets himself down on a rocky seat, drawing her with him, so that when he is seated her head rests on his lap. Tenderly he looks down upon the companion of his flight, and, while, like a mournful memory, the orchestra intones the Love Motive, he presses a kiss upon her brow—she of his own race, like him doomed to misfortune, dedicated to death, should the sword which he has unsheathed from Hunding's ash-tree prove traitor. As he looks up from Sieglinde he is startled. For there stands on the rock above them a shining apparition in flowing robes, breastplate, and helmet, and leaning upon a spear. It is Brünnhilde, the Valkyr, daughter of Wotan.

The Motive of Fate—so full of solemn import—is heard.



While her earnest look rests upon him, there is heard the Motive of the Death-Song, a tristly prophetic strain.




Brünnhilde advances and then, pausing again, leans with one hand on her charger's neck, and, grasping shield and spear with the other, gazes upon Siegmund. Then there rises from the orchestra, in strains of rich, soft, alluring beauty, an inversion of the Walhalla Motive. The Fate, Death-Song and Walhalla motives recur, and Siegmund, raising his eyes and meeting Brünnhilde's look, questions her and receives her answers. The episode is so fraught with solemnity that the shadow of death seems to have fallen upon the scene. The solemn beauty of the music impresses itself the more upon the listener, because of the agitated, agonized scene which preceded it. To the Wälsung, who meets her gaze so calmly, Brünnhilde speaks in solemn tones:

"Siegmund, look on me. I am she whom soon you must prepare to follow." Then she paints for him in glowing colours the joys of Walhalla, where Wälse, his father, is awaiting him and where he will have heroes for his companions, himself the hero of many valiant deeds. Siegmund listens unmoved. In reply he frames but one question: "When I enter Walhalla, will Sieglinde be there to greet me?"

When Brünnhilde answers that in Walhalla he will be attended by valkyrs and wishmaidens, but that Sieglinde will not be there to meet him, he scorns the delights she has held out. Let her greet Wotan from him, and Wälse, his father, too, as well as the wishmaidens. He will remain with Sieglinde.

Then the radiant Valkyr, moved by Siegmund's calm determination to sacrifice even a place among the heroes of Walhalla for the woman he loves, makes known to him the fate to which he has been doomed. Wotan desired-186- to give him victory over Hunding, and she had been summoned by the chief of the gods and commanded to hover above the combatants, and by shielding Siegmund from Hunding's thrusts, render the Wälsung's victory certain. But Wotan's spouse, Fricka, who, as the first among the goddesses, is guardian of the marriage vows, has heard Hunding's voice calling for vengeance, and has demanded that vengeance be his. Let Siegmund therefore prepare for Walhalla, but let him leave Sieglinde in her care. She will protect her.

"No other living being but I shall touch her," exclaims the Wälsung, as he draws his sword. "If the Wälsung sword is to be shattered on Hunding's spear, to which I am to fall a victim, it first shall bury itself in her breast and save her from a worse fate!" He poises the sword ready for the thrust above the unconscious Sieglinde.

"Hold!" cries Brünnhilde, thrilled by his heroic love. "Whatever the consequences which Wotan, in his wrath, shall visit upon me, today, for the first time I disobey him. Sieglinde shall live, and with her Siegmund! Yours the victory over Hunding. Now Wälsung, prepare for battle!"

Hunding's horn-calls sound nearer and nearer. Siegmund judges that he has ascended the other side of the gorge, intending to cross the rocky arch. Already Brünnhilde has gone to take her place where she knows the combatants must meet. With a last look and a last kiss for Sieglinde, Siegmund gently lays her down and begins to ascend toward the peak. Mist gathers; storm-clouds roll over the mountain; soon he is lost to sight. Slowly Sieglinde regains her senses. She looks for Siegmund. Instead of seeing him bending over her she hears Hunding's voice as if from among the clouds, calling him to combat; then Siegmund's accepting the challenge. She staggers toward the peak. Suddenly a bright light pierces the clouds. Above her-187- she sees the men fighting, Brünnhilde protecting Siegmund who is aiming a deadly stroke at Hunding.

At that moment, however, the light is diffused with a reddish glow. In it Wotan appears. As Siegmund's sword cuts the air on its errand of death, the god interposes his spear, the sword breaks in two and Hunding thrusts his spear into the defenceless Wälsung's breast. The second victim of Alberich's curse has met his fate.

With a wild shriek, Sieglinde falls to the ground, to be caught up by Brünnhilde and swung upon the Valkyr's charger, which, urged on by its mistress, now herself a fugitive from Wotan's anger, dashes down the defile in headlong flight for the Valkyr rock.

Act III. The third act opens with the famous "Ride of the Valkyrs," a number so familiar that detailed reference to it is scarcely necessary. The wild maidens of Walhalla coursing upon winged steeds through storm-clouds, their weapons flashing in the gleam of lightning, their weird laughter mingling with the crash of thunder, have come to hold tryst upon the Valkyr rock.

When eight of the Valkyrs have gathered upon the rocky summit of the mountain, they espy Brünnhilde approaching. It is with savage shouts of "Hojotoho! Heiha!" those who already have reached their savage eyrie, watch for the coming of their wild sisters. Fitful flashes of lightning herald their approach as they storm fearlessly through the wind and cloud, their weird shouts mingling with the clash of thunder. "Hojotoho! Heihe!—Hojotoho! Heiha!"

But, strange burden! Instead of a slain hero across her pommel, Brünnhilde bears a woman, and instead of urging her horse to the highest crag, she alights below. The Valkyrs hasten down the rock, and there the wild sisters of the air stand, curiously awaiting the approach of Brünnhilde.

In frantic haste the Valkyr tells her sisters what has transpired, and how Wotan is pursuing her to punish her-188- for her disobedience. One of the Valkyrs ascends the rock and, looking in the direction from which Brünnhilde has come, calls out that even now she can descry the red glow behind the storm-clouds that denotes Wotan's approach. Quickly Brünnhilde bids Sieglinde seek refuge in the forest beyond the Valkyr rock. The latter, who has been lost in gloomy brooding, starts at her rescuer's supplication and in strains replete with mournful beauty begs that she may be left to her fate and follow Siegmund in death. The glorious prophecy in which Brünnhilde now foretells to Sieglinde that she is to become the mother of Siegfried, is based upon the Siegfried Motive:



Sieglinde, in joyous frenzy, blesses Brünnhilde and hastens to find safety in a dense forest to the eastward, the same forest in which Fafner, in the form of a serpent, guards the Rhinegold treasures.

Wotan, in hot pursuit of Brünnhilde, reaches the mountain summit. In vain her sisters entreat him to spare her. He harshly threatens them unless they cease their entreaties, and with wild cries of fear they hastily depart.

In the ensuing scene between Wotan and Brünnhilde, in which the latter seeks to justify her action, is heard one of the most beautiful themes of the cycle.

It is the Motive of Brünnhilde's Pleading, which finds its loveliest expression when she addresses Wotan in the passage beginning:

Thou, who this love within my breast inspired.




Brünnhilde is Wotan's favourite daughter, but instead of the loving pride with which he always has been wont to regard her, his features are dark with anger at her disobedience of his command. He had decreed Siegmund's death. She has striven to give victory to the Wälsung. Throwing herself at her father's feet, she pleads that he himself had intended to save Siegmund and had been turned from his purpose only by Fricka's interference, and that he had yielded only most grudgingly to Fricka's insistent behest. Therefore, when she, his daughter, profoundly moved by Siegmund's love for Sieglinde, and her sympathies aroused by the sad plight of the fugitives, disregarded his command, she nevertheless acted in accordance with his real inclinations. But Wotan is obdurate. She has revelled in the very feelings which he was obliged, at Fricka's behest, to forego—admiration for Siegmund's heroism and sympathy for him in his misfortune. Therefore she must be punished. He will cause her to fall into a deep sleep upon the Valkyr rock, which shall become the Brünnhilde-rock, and to the first man who finds her and awakens her, she, no longer a Valkyr, but a mere woman, shall fall prey.

This great scene between Wotan and Brünnhilde is introduced by an orchestral passage. The Valkyr lies in penitence at her father's feet. In the expressive orchestral measures the Motive of Wotan's Wrath mingles with that of Brünnhilde's Pleading. The motives thus form a prelude to the scene in which the Valkyr seeks to appease her father's anger, not through a specious plea, but by laying bare the promptings of a noble heart, which forced her, against the chief god's command, to intervene for Siegmund. The Motive of Brünnhilde's Pleading is heard in its simplest form at Brünnhilde's words:

Was it so shameful what I have done,

and it may be noticed that as she proceeds the Motive of-190- Wotan's Wrath, heard in the accompaniment, grows less stern, until with her plea,

Soften thy wrath,

it assumes a tone of regretful sorrow.

Wotan's feelings toward Brünnhilde have softened for the time from anger to grief that he must mete out punishment for her disobedience. In his reply excitement subsides to gloom. It would be difficult to point to other music more touchingly expressive of deep contrition than the phrase in which Brünnhilde pleads that Wotan himself taught her to love Siegmund. It is here that the Motive of Brünnhilde's Pleading assumes the form in the notation given above. Then we hear from Wotan that he had abandoned Siegmund to his fate, because he had lost hope in the cause of the gods and wished to end his woe in the wreck of the world. The weird terror of the Curse Motive hangs over this outburst of despair. In broad and beautiful strains Wotan then depicts Brünnhilde yielding to her emotions when she intervened for Siegmund.

Brünnhilde makes her last appeal. She tells her father that Sieglinde has found refuge in the forest, and that there she will give birth to a son, Siegfried,—the hero for whom the gods have been waiting to overthrow their enemies. If she must suffer for her disobedience, let Wotan surround her sleeping form with a fiery circle which only such a hero will dare penetrate. The Motive of Brünnhilde's Pleading and the Siegfried Motive vie with each other in giving expression to the beauty, tenderness, and majesty of this scene.

Gently the god raises her and tenderly kisses her brow; and thus bids farewell to the best beloved of his daughters. Slowly she sinks upon the rock. He closes her helmet and covers her with her shield. Then, with his spear, he invokes the god of fire. Tongues of flame leap from the-191- crevices of the rock. Wildly fluttering fire breaks out on all sides. The forest beyond glows like a furnace, with brighter streaks shooting and throbbing through the mass, as Wotan, with a last look at the sleeping form of Brünnhilde, vanishes beyond the fiery circle.

A majestic orchestral passage opens Wotan's farewell to Brünnhilde. In all music for bass voice this scene has no peer. Such tender, mournful beauty has never found expression in music—and this, whether we regard the vocal part or the orchestral accompaniment in which the lovely Slumber Motive:



As Wotan leads Brünnhilde to the rock, upon which she sinks, closes her helmet, and covers her with her shield, then invokes Loge, and, after gazing fondly upon the slumbering Valkyr, vanishes amid the magic flames, the Slumber Motive, the Magic Fire Motive, and the Siegfried Motive combine to place the music of the scene with the most brilliant and beautiful portion of our heritage from the great master-musician. But here, too, lurks Destiny. Towards the close of this glorious finale we hear again the ominous muttering of the Motive of Fate. Brünnhilde may be saved from ignominy, Siegfried may be born to Sieglinde—but the crushing weight of Alberich's curse still rests upon the race of the gods.


Music-drama in three acts, by Richard Wagner. Produced, Bayreuth, August 16, 1876. London, by the Carl Rosa Company, 1898, in English. New York, Metropolitan Opera House, November 9, 1887, with Lehmann (Brünnhilde), Fischer (Wotan), Alvary (Siegfried), and Seidl-Kraus (Forest bird).



Wotan (disguised as the Wanderer)Baritone-Bass
Forest BirdSoprano


Place—A rocky cave in the forest; deep in the forest; wild region at foot of a rocky mount; the Brünnhilde-rock.

The Nibelungs were not present in the dramatic action of "The Valkyr," though the sinister influence of Alberich shaped the tragedy of Siegmund's death. In "Siegfried" several characters of "The Rhinegold," who do not take part in "The Valkyr," reappear. These are the Nibelungs Alberich and Mime; the giant Fafner, who in the guise of a serpent guards the Ring, the Tarnhelmet, and the Nibelung hoard in a cavern, and Erda.

Siegfried has been born of Sieglinde, who died in giving birth to him. This scion of the Wälsung race has been reared by Mime, who found him in the forest by his dead mother's side. Mime is plotting to obtain possession of the ring and of Fafner's other treasures, and hopes to be aided in his designs by the lusty youth. Wotan, disguised as a wanderer, is watching the course of events, again hopeful that a hero of the Wälsung race will free the gods from Alberich's curse. Surrounded by magic fire, Brünnhilde still lies in deep slumber on the Brünnhilde Rock.

The Vorspiel of "Siegfried" is expressive of Mime's planning and plotting. It begins with music of a mysterious brooding character. Mingling with this is the Motive of the Hoard, familiar from "The Rhinegold." Then is heard the Nibelung Motive. After reaching a forceful climax it passes over to the Motive of the Ring,-193- which rises from pianissimo to a crashing climax. The ring is to be the prize of all Mime's plotting. He hopes to weld the pieces of Siegmund's sword together, and that with this sword Siegfried will slay Fafner. Then Mime will slay Siegfried and possess himself of the ring. Thus it is to serve his own ends only, that Mime is craftily rearing Siegfried.

The opening scene shows Mime forging a sword at a natural forge formed in a rocky cave. In a soliloquy he discloses the purpose of his labours and laments that Siegfried shivers every sword which has been forged for him. Could he (Mime) but unite the pieces of Siegmund's sword! At this thought the Sword Motive rings out brilliantly, and is jubilantly repeated, accompanied by a variant of the Walhalla Motive. For if the pieces of the sword were welded together, and Siegfried were with it to slay Fafner, Mime could surreptitiously obtain possession of the ring, slay Siegfried, rule over the gods in Walhalla, and circumvent Alberich's plans for regaining the hoard.

Mime is still at work when Siegfried enters, clad in a wild forest garb. Over it a silver horn is slung by a chain. The sturdy youth has captured a bear. He leads it by a bast rope, with which he gives it full play so that it can make a dash at Mime. As the latter flees terrified behind the forge, Siegfried gives vent to his high spirits in shouts of laughter. Musically his buoyant nature is expressed by a theme inspired by the fresh, joyful spirit of a wild, woodland life. It may be called, to distinguish it from the Siegfried Motive, the Motive of Siegfried the Fearless.



It pervades with its joyous impetuosity the ensuing scene, in which Siegfried has his sport with Mime, until-194- tiring of it, he loosens the rope from the bear's neck and drives the animal back into the forest. In a pretty, graceful phrase Siegfried tells how he blew his horn, hoping it would be answered by a pleasanter companion than Mime. Then he examines the sword which Mime has been forging. The Siegfried Motive resounds as he inveighs against the weapon's weakness, then shivers it on the anvil. The orchestra, with a rush, takes up the Motive of Siegfried the Impetuous.



This is a theme full of youthful snap and dash. Mime tells Siegfried how he tenderly reared him from infancy. The music here is as simple and pretty as a folk-song, for Mime's reminiscences of Siegfried's infancy are set to a charming melody, as though Mime were recalling to Siegfried's memory a cradle song of those days. But Siegfried grows impatient. If Mime really tended him so kindly out of pure affection, why should Mime be so repulsive to him; and yet why should he, in spite of Mime's repulsiveness, always return to the cave? The dwarf explains that he is to Siegfried what the father is to the fledgling. This leads to a beautiful lyric episode. Siegfried says that he saw the birds mating, the deer pairing, the she-wolf nursing her cubs. Whom shall he call Mother? Who is Mime's wife? This episode is pervaded by the lovely Motive of Love-Life.




Mime endeavours to persuade Siegfried that he is his father and mother in one. But Siegfried has noticed that the young of birds and deer and wolves look like the parents. He has seen his features reflected in the brook, and knows he does not resemble the hideous Mime. The notes of the Love-Life Motive pervade this episode. When Siegfried speaks of seeing his own likeness, we also hear the Siegfried Motive. Mime, forced by Siegfried to speak the truth, tells of Sieglinde's death while giving birth to Siegfried. Throughout this scene we find reminiscences of the first act of "The Valkyr," the Wälsung Motive, the Motive of Sympathy, and the Love Motive. Finally, when Mime produces as evidence of the truth of his words the two pieces of Siegmund's sword, the Sword Motive rings out brilliantly. Siegfried exclaims that Mime must weld the pieces into a trusty weapon. Then follows Siegfried's "Wander Song," so full of joyous abandon. Once the sword welded, he will leave the hated Mime for ever. As the fish darts through the water, as the bird flies so free, he will flee from the repulsive dwarf. With joyous exclamations he runs from the cave into the forest.

The frank, boisterous nature of Siegfried is charmingly portrayed. His buoyant vivacity finds capital expression in the Motives of Siegfried the Fearless, Siegfried the Impetuous, and his "Wander Song," while the vein of tenderness in his character seems to run through the Love-Life Motive. His harsh treatment of Mime is not brutal; for Siegfried frankly avows his loathing for the dwarf, and we feel, knowing Mime's plotting against the young Wälsung, that Siegfried's hatred is the spontaneous aversion of a frank nature for an insidious one.

Mime has a gloomy soliloquy. It is interrupted by the entrance of Wotan, disguised as a wanderer. At the moment Mime is in despair because he cannot weld the pieces-196- of Siegmund's sword. When the Wanderer departs, he has prophesied that only he who does not know what fear is—only a fearless hero—can weld the fragments, and that through this fearless hero Mime shall lose his life. This prophecy is reached through a somewhat curious process which must be unintelligible to anyone who has not made a study of the libretto. The Wanderer, seating himself, wagers his head that he can correctly answer any three questions which Mime may put to him. Mime then asks: "What is the race born in the earth's deep bowels?" The Wanderer answers: "The Nibelungs." Mime's second question is: "What race dwells on the earth's back?" The Wanderer replies: "The race of giants." Mime finally asks: "What race dwells on cloudy heights?" The Wanderer answers: "The race of the gods." The Wanderer, having thus answered correctly Mime's three questions, now put three questions to Mime: "What is that noble race which Wotan ruthlessly dealt with, and yet which he deemeth most dear?" Mime answers correctly: "The Wälsungs." Then the Wanderer asks: "What sword must Siegfried then strike with, dealing to Fafner death?" Mime answers correctly: "With Siegmund's sword." "Who," asks the Wanderer, "can weld its fragments?" Mime is terrified, for he cannot answer. Then Wotan utters the prophecy of the fearless hero.

The scene is musically most eloquent. It is introduced by two motives, representing Wotan as the Wanderer. The mysterious chords of the former seem characteristic of Wotan's disguise.

The latter, with its plodding, heavily-tramping movement, is the motive of Wotan's wandering.

The third new motive found in this scene is characteristically expressive of the Cringing Mime.


Several motives familiar from "The Rhinegold" and "The Valkyr" are heard here. The Motive of Compact so powerfully expressive of the binding force of law, the Nibelung and Walhalla motives from "The Rhinegold," and the Wälsungs' Heroism motives from the first act of "The Valkyr," are among these.

When the Wanderer has vanished in the forest Mime sinks back on his stool in despair. Staring after Wotan into the sunlit forest, the shimmering rays flitting over the soft green mosses with every movement of the branches and each tremor of the leaves seem to him like flickering flames and treacherous will-o'-the-wisps. We hear the Loge Motive (Loge being the god of fire) familiar from "The Rhinegold" and the finale of "The Valkyr." At last Mime rises to his feet in terror. He seems to see Fafner in his serpent's guise approaching to devour him, and in a paroxysm of fear he falls with a shriek behind the anvil. Just then Siegfried bursts out of the thicket, and with the fresh, buoyant "Wander Song" and the Motive of Siegfried the Fearless, the weird mystery which hung over the former scene is dispelled. Siegfried looks about him for Mime until he sees the dwarf lying behind the anvil.

Laughingly the young Wälsung asks the dwarf if he has thus been welding the sword. "The sword? The sword?" repeats Mime confusedly, as he advances, and his mind wanders back to Wotan's prophecy of the fearless hero. Regaining his senses he tells Siegfried there is one thing he has yet to learn, namely, to be afraid; that his mother charged him (Mime) to teach fear to him (Siegfried). Mime asks Siegfried if he has never felt his heart beating when in the gloaming he heard strange sounds and saw weirdly glimmering lights in the forest. Siegfried replies that he never has. He knows not what fear is. If it is necessary before he goes forth in quest of adventure to learn-198- what fear is he would like to be taught. But how can Mime teach him?

The Magic Fire Motive and Brünnhilde's Slumber Motive familiar from Wotan's Farewell, and the Magic Fire scene in the third act of "The Valkyr" are heard here, the former depicting the weirdly glimmering lights with which Mime has sought to infuse dread into Siegfried's breast, the latter prophesying that, penetrating fearlessly the fiery circle, Siegfried will reach Brünnhilde. Then Mime tells Siegfried of Fafner, thinking thus to strike terror into the young Wälsung's breast. But far from it! Siegfried is incited by Mime's words to meet Fafner in combat. Has Mime welded the fragments of Siegmund's sword, asks Siegfried. The dwarf confesses his impotency. Siegfried seizes the fragments. He will forge his own sword. Here begins the great scene of the forging of the sword. Like a shout of victory the Motive of Siegfried the Fearless rings out and the orchestra fairly glows as Siegfried heaps a great mass of coal on the forge-hearth, and, fanning the heat, begins to file away at the fragments of the sword.

The roar of the fire, the sudden intensity of the fierce white heat to which the young Wälsung fans the glow—these we would respectively hear and see were the music given without scenery or action, so graphic is Wagner's score. The Sword Motive leaps like a brilliant tongue of flame over the heavy thuds of a forceful variant of the Motive of Compact, till brightly gleaming runs add to the brilliancy of the score, which reflects all the quickening, quivering effulgence of the scene. How the music flows like a fiery flood and how it hisses as Siegfried pours the molten contents of the crucible into a mould and then plunges the latter into water! The glowing steel lies on the anvil and Siegfried swings the hammer. With every stroke his joyous excitement is intensified. At last the work is done. He brandishes the sword and with one stroke-199- splits the anvil from top to bottom. With the crash of the Sword Motive, united with the Motive of Siegfried the Fearless, the orchestra dashes into a furious prestissimo, and Siegfried, shouting with glee, holds aloft the sword!

Act II. The second act opens with a darkly portentous Vorspiel. On the very threshold of it we meet Fafner in his motive, which is so clearly based on the Giant Motive that there is no necessity for quoting it. Through themes which are familiar from earlier portions of the work, the Vorspiel rises to a crashing fortissimo.

The curtain lifts on a thick forest. At the back is the entrance to Fafner's cave, the lower part of which is hidden by rising ground in the middle of the stage, which slopes down toward the back. In the darkness the outlines of a figure are dimly discerned. It is the Nibelung Alberich, haunting the domain which hides the treasures of which he was despoiled. From the forest comes a gust of wind. A bluish light gleams from the same direction. Wotan, still in the guise of a Wanderer, enters.

The ensuing scene between Alberich and the Wanderer is, from a dramatic point of view, episodical. Suffice it to say that the fine self-poise of Wotan and the maliciously restless character of Alberich are superbly contrasted. When Wotan has departed the Nibelung slips into a rocky crevice, where he remains hidden when Siegfried and Mime enter. Mime endeavours to awaken dread in Siegfried's heart by describing Fafner's terrible form and powers. But Siegfried's courage is not weakened. On the contrary, with heroic impetuosity, he asks to be at once confronted with Fafner. Mime, well knowing that Fafner will soon awaken and issue from his cave to meet Siegfried in mortal combat, lingers on in the hope that both may fall, until the young Wälsung drives him away.

Now begins a beautiful lyric episode. Siegfried reclines under a linden-tree, and looks up through the branches. The-200- rustling of the trees is heard. Over the tremulous whispers of the orchestra—known from concert programs as the "Waldweben" (forest-weaving)—rises a lovely variant of the Wälsung Motive. Siegfried is asking himself how his mother may have looked, and this variant of the theme which was first heard in "The Valkyr," when Sieglinde told Siegmund that her home was the home of woe, rises like a memory of her image. Serenely the sweet strains of the Love-Life Motive soothe his sad thoughts. Siegfried, once more entranced by forest sounds, listens intently. Birds' voices greet him. A little feathery songster, whose notes mingle with the rustling leaves of the linden-tree, especially charms him.

The forest voices—the humming of insects, the piping of the birds, the amorous quiver of the branches—quicken his half-defined aspirations. Can the little singer explain his longing? He listens, but cannot catch the meaning of the song. Perhaps, if he can imitate it he may understand it. Springing to a stream hard by, he cuts a reed with his sword and quickly fashions a pipe from it. He blows on it, but it sounds shrill. He listens again to the birds. He may not be able to imitate his song on the reed, but on his silver horn he can wind a woodland tune. Putting the horn to his lips he makes the forest ring with its notes:


[Listen (MP3)]

The notes of the horn have awakened Fafner who now, in the guise of a huge serpent or dragon, crawls toward Siegfried. Perhaps the less said about the combat between Siegfried and Fafner the better. This scene, which seems very spirited in the libretto, is ridiculous on the stage. To make it effective it should be carried out very far back—best of all out of sight—so that the magnificent music-201- will not be marred by the sight of an impossible monster. The music is highly dramatic. The exultant force of the Motive of Siegfried the Fearless, which rings out as Siegfried rushes upon Fafner, the crashing chord as the serpent roars when Siegfried buries the sword in its heart, the rearing, plunging music as the monster rears and plunges with agony—these are some of the most graphic features of the score.

Siegfried raises his fingers to his lips and licks the blood from them. Immediately after the blood has touched his lips he seems to understand the bird, which has again begun its song, while the forest voices once more weave their tremulous melody. The bird tells Siegfried of the ring and helmet and of the other treasures in Fafner's cave, and Siegfried enters it in quest of them. With his disappearance the forest-weaving suddenly changes to the harsh, scolding notes heard in the beginning of the Nibelheim scene in "The Rhinegold." Mime slinks in and timidly looks about him to make sure of Fafner's death. At the same time Alberich issues forth from the crevice in which he was concealed. This scene, in which the two Nibelungs berate each other, is capitally treated, and its humour affords a striking contrast to the preceding scenes.

As Siegfried comes out of the cave and brings the ring and helmet from darkness to the light of day, there are heard the Ring Motive, the Motive of the Rhinedaughters' Shout of Triumph, and the Rhinegold Motive. The forest-weaving again begins, and the birds bid the young Wälsung beware of Mime. The dwarf now approaches Siegfried with repulsive sycophancy. But under a smiling face lurks a plotting heart. Siegfried is enabled through the supernatural gifts with which he has become endowed to fathom the purpose of the dwarf, who unconsciously discloses his scheme to poison Siegfried. The young Wälsung slays Mime, who, as he dies, hears Alberich's mocking laugh. Though the Motive of Siegfried the Fearless predominates-202- at this point, we also hear the Nibelung Motive and the Motive of the Curse—indicating Alberich's evil intent toward Siegfried.

Siegfried again reclines under the linden. His soul is tremulous with an undefined longing. As he gazes in almost painful emotion up to the branches and asks if the bird can tell him where he can find a friend, his being seems stirred by awakening passion.

The music quickens with an impetuous phrase, which seems to define the first joyous thrill of passion in the youthful hero. It is the Motive of Love's Joy:



It is interrupted by a beautiful variant of the Motive of Love-Life, which continues until above the forest-weaving the bird again thrills him with its tale of a glorious maid who has so long slumbered upon the fire-guarded rock. With the Motive of Love's joy coursing through the orchestra, Siegfried bids the feathery songster continue, and, finally, to guide him to Brünnhilde. In answer, the bird flutters from the linden branch, hovers over Siegfried, and hesitatingly flies before him until it takes a definite course toward the background. Siegfried follows the little singer, the Motive of Love's joy, succeeded by that of Siegfried the Fearless, bringing the act to a close.

Act III. The third act opens with a stormy introduction in which the Motive of the Ride of the Valkyrs accompanies the Motive of the Gods' Stress, the Compact, and the Erda motives. The introduction reaches its climax with the Motive of the Dusk of the Gods:




Then to the sombre, questioning phrase of the Motive of Fate, the action begins to disclose the significance of this Vorspiel. A wild region at the foot of a rocky mountain is seen. It is night. A fierce storm rages. In dire distress and fearful that through Siegfried and Brünnhilde the rulership of the world may pass from the gods to the human race, Wotan summons Erda from her subterranean dwelling. But Erda has no counsel for the storm-driven, conscience-stricken god.

The scene reaches its climax in Wotan's noble renunciation of the empire of the world. Weary of strife, weary of struggling against the decree of fate, he renounces his sway. Let the era of human love supplant this dynasty, sweeping away the gods and the Nibelungs in its mighty current. It is the last defiance of all-conquering fate by the ruler of a mighty race. After a powerful struggle against irresistible forces, Wotan comprehends that the twilight of the gods will be the dawn of a more glorious epoch. A phrase of great dignity gives force to Wotan's utterances. It is the Motive of the World's Heritage:



Siegfried enters, guided to the spot by the bird; Wotan checks his progress with the same spear which shivered-204- Siegmund's sword. Siegfried must fight his way to Brünnhilde. With a mighty blow the young Wälsung shatters the spear and Wotan disappears 'mid the crash of the Motive of Compact—for the spear with which it was the chief god's duty to enforce compacts is shattered. Meanwhile the gleam of fire has become noticeable. Fiery clouds float down from the mountain. Siegfried stands at the rim of the magic circle. Winding his horn he plunges into the seething flames. Around the Motive of Siegfried the Fearless and the Siegfried Motive flash the Magic Fire and Loge motives.

The flames, having flashed forth with dazzling brilliancy, gradually pale before the red glow of dawn till a rosy mist envelops the scene. When it rises, the rock and Brünnhilde in deep slumber under the fir-tree, as in the finale of "The Valkyr," are seen. Siegfried appears on the height in the background. As he gazes upon the scene there are heard the Fate and Slumber motives and then the orchestra weaves a lovely variant of the Freia Motive. This is followed by the softly caressing strains of the Fricka Motive. Fricka sought to make Wotan faithful to her by bonds of love, and hence the Fricka Motive in this scene does not reflect her personality, but rather the awakening of the love which is to thrill Siegfried when he has beheld Brünnhilde's features. As he sees Brünnhilde's charger slumbering in the grove we hear the Motive of the Valkyr's Ride, and when his gaze is attracted by the sheen of Brünnhilde's armour, the theme of Wotan's Farewell. Approaching the armed slumberer under the fir-tree, Siegfried raises the shield and discloses the figure of the sleeper, the face being almost hidden by the helmet.

Carefully he loosens the helmet. As he takes it off Brünnhilde's face is disclosed and her long curls flow down over her bosom. Siegfried gazes upon her enraptured. Drawing his sword he cuts the rings of mail on both sides,-205- gently lifts off the corselet and greaves, and Brünnhilde, in soft female drapery, lies before him. He starts back in wonder. Notes of impassioned import—the Motive of Love's Joy—express the feelings that well up from his heart as for the first time he beholds a woman. The fearless hero is infused with fear by a slumbering woman. The Wälsung Motive, afterwards beautifully varied with the Motive of Love's Joy, accompanies his utterances, the climax of his emotional excitement being expressed in a majestic crescendo of the Freia Motive. A sudden feeling of awe gives him at least the outward appearance of calmness. With the Motive of Fate he faces his destiny; and then, while the Freia Motive rises like a vision of loveliness, he sinks over Brünnhilde, and with closed eyes presses his lips to hers.

Brünnhilde awakens. Siegfried starts up. She rises, and with a noble gesture greets in majestic accents her return to the sight of earth. Strains of loftier eloquence than those of her greeting have never been composed. Brünnhilde rises from her magic slumbers in the majesty of womanhood:



With the Motive of Fate she asks who is the hero who has awakened her. The superb Siegfried Motive gives back the proud answer. In rapturous phrases they greet one another. It is the Motive of Love's Greeting,




which unites their voices in impassioned accents until, as if this motive no longer sufficed to express their ecstasy, it is followed by the Motive of Love's Passion,



which, with the Siegfried Motive, rises and falls with the heaving of Brünnhilde's bosom.

These motives course impetuously through this scene. Here and there we have others recalling former portions of the cycle—the Wälsung Motive, when Brünnhilde refers to Siegfried's mother, Sieglinde; the Motive of Brünnhilde's Pleading, when she tells him of her defiance of Wotan's behest; a variant of the Walhalla Motive when she speaks of herself in Walhalla; and the Motive of the World's Heritage, with which Siegfried claims her, this last leading over to a forceful climax of the Motive of Brünnhilde's Pleading, which is followed by a lovely, tranquil episode introduced by the Motive of Love's Peace,



succeeded by a motive, ardent yet tender—the Motive of Siegfried the Protector:




These motives accompany the action most expressively. Brünnhilde still hesitates to cast off for ever the supernatural characteristics of the Valkyr and give herself up entirely to Siegfried. The young hero's growing ecstasy finds expression in the Motive of Love's Joy. At last it awakens a responsive note of purely human passion in Brünnhilde and, answering the proud Siegfried Motive with the jubilant Shout of the Valkyrs and the ecstatic measures of Love's Passion, she proclaims herself his.

With a love duet—nothing puny and purring, but rapturous and proud—the music-drama comes to a close. Siegfried, a scion of the Wälsung race, has won Brünnhilde for his bride, and upon her finger has placed the ring fashioned of Rhinegold by Alberich in the caverns of Nibelheim, the abode of the Nibelungs. Clasping her in his arms and drawing her to his breast, he has felt her splendid physical being thrill with a passion wholly responsive to his. Will the gods be saved through them, or does the curse of Alberich still rest on the ring worn by Brünnhilde as a pledge of love?


Music-drama in a prologue and three acts, words and music by Richard Wagner. Produced, Bayreuth, August 17, 1876.

New York, Metropolitan Opera House, January 25, 1888, with Lehmann (Brünnhilde), Seidl-Kraus (Gutrune), Niemann (Siegfried),-208- Robinson (Gunther), and Fischer (Hagen). Other performances at the Metropolitan Opera House have had, among others, Alvary and Jean de Reszke as Siegfried and Édouard de Reszke as Hagen.


First, Second, and Third NornContralto, Mezzo-Soprano, and Soprano
Woglinde, Wellgunde, and FlosshildeSopranos and Mezzo-Soprano

Vassals and Women.


Place—On the Brünnhilde-Rock; Gunther's castle on the Rhine; wooded district by the Rhine.


The first scene of the prologue is a weird conference of the three grey sisters of fate—the Norns who wind the skein of life. They have met on the Valkyrs' rock and their words forebode the end of the gods. At last the skein they have been winding breaks—the final catastrophe is impending.

An orchestral interlude depicts the transition from the unearthly gloom of the Norn scene to break of day, the climax being reached in a majestic burst of music as Siegfried and Brünnhilde, he in full armour, she leading her steed by the bridle, issue forth from the rocky cavern in the background. This climax owes its eloquence to three motives—that of the Ride of the Valkyrs and two new-209- motives, the one as lovely as the other is heroic, the Brünnhilde Motive,



and the Motive of Siegfried the Hero:



The Brünnhilde Motive expresses the strain of pure, tender womanhood in the nature of the former Valkyr, and proclaims her womanly ecstasy over wholly requited love. The motive of Siegfried the Hero is clearly developed from the motive of Siegfried the Fearless. Fearless youth has developed into heroic man. In this scene Brünnhilde and Siegfried plight their troth, and Siegfried having given to Brünnhilde the fatal ring and having received from her the steed Grane, which once bore her in her wild course through the storm-clouds, bids her farewell and sets forth in quest of further adventure. In this scene, one of Wagner's most beautiful creations, occur the two new motives already quoted, and a third—the Motive of Brünnhilde's Love.



A strong, deep woman's nature has given herself up to love. Her passion is as strong and deep as her nature. It is not a surface-heat passion. It is love rising from the depths of a heroic woman's soul. The grandeur of her-210- ideal of Siegfried, her thoughts of him as a hero winning fame, her pride in his prowess, her love for one whom she deems the bravest among men, culminate in the Motive of Brünnhilde's Love.

Siegfried disappears with the steed behind the rocks and Brünnhilde stands upon the cliff looking down the valley after him; his horn is heard from below and Brünnhilde with rapturous gesture waves him farewell. The orchestra accompanies the action with the Brünnhilde Motive, the Motive of Siegfried the Fearless, and finally with the theme of the love duet with which "Siegfried" closed.

The curtain then falls, and between the prologue and the first act an orchestral interlude describes Siegfried's voyage down the Rhine to the castle of the Gibichungs where dwell Gunther, his sister Gutrune, and their half-brother Hagen, the son of Alberich. Through Hagen the curse hurled by Alberich in "The Rhinegold" at all into whose possession the ring shall come, is to be worked out to the end of its fell purpose—Siegfried betrayed and destroyed and the rule of the gods brought to an end by Brünnhilde's expiation.

In the interlude between the prologue and the first act we first hear the brilliant Motive of Siegfried the Fearless and then the gracefully flowing Motives of the Rhine, and of the Rhinedaughters' Shout of Triumph with the Motives of the Rhinegold and Ring. Hagen's malevolent plotting, of which we are soon to learn in the first act, is foreshadowed by the sombre harmonies which suddenly pervade the music.

Édouard de Reszke

Copyright photo by Dupont

Édouard de Reszke as Hagen in “Götterdämmerung”

Jean de Reszke

Copyright photo by Dupont

Jean de Reszke as Siegfried in “Götterdämmerung”

Act I. On the river lies the hall of the Gibichungs, where house Gunther, his sister Gutrune, and Hagen, their half-brother. Gutrune is a maiden of fair mien, Gunther a man of average strength and courage, Hagen a sinister plotter, large of stature and sombre of visage. Long-211- he has planned to possess himself of the ring fashioned of Rhinegold. He is aware that it was guarded by the dragon, has been taken from the hoard by Siegfried, and by him given to Brünnhilde. And now observe the subtle craft with which he prepares to compass his plans.

A descendant, through his father, Alberich, the Nibelung, of a race which practised the black art, he plots to make Siegfried forget Brünnhilde through a love-potion to be administered to him by Gutrune. Then, when under the fiery influence of the potion and all forgetful of Brünnhilde, Siegfried demands Gutrune to wife, the price demanded will be that he win Brünnhilde as bride for Gunther. Before Siegfried comes in sight, before Gunther and Gutrune so much as even know that he is nearing the hall of the Gibichungs, Hagen begins to lay the foundation for this seemingly impossible plot. For it is at this opportune moment Gunther chances to address him:

"Hark, Hagen, and let your answer be true. Do I head the race of the Gibichungs with honour?"

"Aye," replies Hagen, "and yet, Gunther, you remain unwived while Gutrune still lacks a husband." Then he tells Gunther of Brünnhilde—"a circle of flame surrounds the rock on which she dwells, but he who can brave that fire may win her for wife. If Siegfried does this in your stead, and brings her to you as bride, will she not be yours?" Hagen craftily conceals from his half-brother and from Gutrune the fact that Siegfried already has won Brünnhilde for himself; but having aroused in Gunther the desire to possess her, he forthwith unfolds his plan and reminds Gutrune of the magic love-potion which it is in her power to administer to Siegfried.

At the very beginning of this act the Hagen Motive is heard. Particularly noticeable in it are the first two sharp, decisive chords. They recur with dramatic force in the-212- third act when Hagen slays Siegfried. The Hagen Motive is as follows:



This is followed by the Gibichung Motive, the two motives being frequently heard in the opening scene.



Added to these is the Motive of the Love-Potion which is to cause Siegfried to forget Brünnhilde, and conceive a violent passion for Gutrune.



Whatever hesitation may have been in Gutrune's mind, because of the trick which is involved in the plot, vanishes when soon afterwards Siegfried's horn-call announces his approach from the river, and, as he brings his boat up to the bank, she sees this hero among men in all his youthful strength and beauty. She hastily withdraws, to carry out her part in the plot that is to bind him to her.

The three men remain to parley. Hagen skilfully-213- questions Siegfried regarding his combat with the dragon. Has he taken nothing from the hoard?

"Only a ring, which I have left in a woman's keep," answers Siegfried; "and this." He points to a steel network that hangs from his girdle.

"Ha," exclaims Hagen, "the Tarnhelmet! I recognize it as the artful work of the Nibelungs. Place it on your head and it enables you to assume any guise." He then flings open a door and on the platform of a short flight of steps that leads up to it, stands Gutrune, in her hand a drinking-horn which she extends toward Siegfried.

"Welcome, guest, to the house of the Gibichungs. A daughter of the race extends to you this greeting." And so, while Hagen looks grimly on, the fair Gutrune offers Siegfried the draught that is to transform his whole nature. Courteously, but without regarding her with more than friendly interest, Siegfried takes the horn from her hands and drains it. As if a new element coursed through his veins, there is a sudden change in his manner. Handing the horn back to her he regards her with fiery glances, she blushingly lowering her eyes and withdrawing to the inner apartment. New in this scene is the Gutrune Motive:



"Gunther, your sister's name? Have you a wife?" Siegfried asks excitedly.

"I have set my heart on a woman," replies Gunther, "but may not win her. A far-off rock, fire-encircled, is her home."


"A far-off rock, fire-encircled," repeats Siegfried, as if striving to remember something long forgotten; and when Gunther utters Brünnhilde's name, Siegfried shows by his mien and gesture that it no longer signifies aught to him. The love-potion has caused him to forget her.

"I will press through the circle of flame," he exclaims. "I will seize her and bring her to you—if you will give me Gutrune for wife."

And so the unhallowed bargain is struck and sealed with the oath of blood-brotherhood, and Siegfried departs with Gunther to capture Brünnhilde as bride for the Gibichung. The compact of blood-brotherhood is a most sacred one. Siegfried and Gunther each with his sword draws blood from his arm, which he allows to mingle with wine in a drinking-horn held by Hagen; each lays two fingers upon the horn, and then, having pledged blood-brotherhood, drinks the blood and wine. This ceremony is significantly introduced by the Motive of the Curse followed by the Motive of Compact. Phrases of Siegfried's and Gunther's pledge are set to a new motive whose forceful simplicity effectively expresses the idea of truth. It is the Motive of the Vow.



Abruptly following Siegfried's pledge:

Thus I drink thee troth,

are those two chords of the Hagen Motive which are heard again in the third act when the Nibelung has slain Siegfried. It should perhaps be repeated here that Gunther is not aware-215- of the union which existed between Brünnhilde and Siegfried, Hagen having concealed this from his half-brother, who believes that he will receive the Valkyr in all her goddess-like virginity.

When Siegfried and Gunther have departed and Gutrune, having sighed her farewell after her lover, has retired, Hagen broods with wicked glee over the successful inauguration of his plot. During a brief orchestral interlude a drop-curtain conceals the scene which, when the curtain again rises, has changed to the Valkyr's rock, where sits Brünnhilde, lost in contemplation of the Ring, while the Motive of Siegfried the Protector is heard on the orchestra like a blissful memory of the love scene in "Siegfried."

Her rapturous reminiscences are interrupted by the sounds of an approaching storm and from the dark cloud there issues one of the Valkyrs, Waltraute, who comes to ask of Brünnhilde that she cast back the ring Siegfried has given her—the ring cursed by Alberich—into the Rhine, and thus lift the curse from the race of gods. But Brünnhilde refuses:

More than Walhalla's welfare,
More than the good of the gods,
The ring I guard.

It is dusk. The magic fire rising from the valley throws a glow over the landscape. The notes of Siegfried's horn are heard. Brünnhilde joyously prepares to meet him. Suddenly she sees a stranger leap through the flames. It is Siegfried, but through the Tarnhelmet (the motive of which, followed by the Gunther Motive dominates the first part of the scene) he has assumed the guise of the Gibichung. In vain Brünnhilde seeks to defend herself with the might which the ring imparts. She is powerless against the intruder. As he tears the ring from her finger, the Motive of the Curse resounds with tragic import,-216- followed by trist echoes of the Motive of Siegfried the Protector and of the Brünnhilde Motive, the last being succeeded by the Tarnhelmet Motive expressive of the evil magic which has wrought this change in Siegfried. Brünnhilde, in abject recognition of her impotence, enters the cavern. Before Siegfried follows her he draws his sword Nothung (Needful) and exclaims:

Now, Nothung, witness thou, that chaste my wooing is;
To keep my faith with my brother, separate me from his bride.

Phrases of the pledge of Brotherhood followed by the Brünnhilde, Gutrune, and Sword motives accompany his words. The thuds of the typical Nibelung rhythm resound, and lead to the last crashing chord of this eventful act.

Act II. The ominous Motive of the Nibelung's Malevolence introduces the second act. The curtain rises upon the exterior of the hall of the Gibichungs. To the right is the open entrance to the hall, to the left the bank of the Rhine, from which rises a rocky ascent toward the background. It is night. Hagen, spear in hand and shield at side, leans in sleep against a pillar of the hall. Through the weird moonlight Alberich appears. He urges Hagen to murder Siegfried and to seize the ring from his finger. After hearing Hagen's oath that he will be faithful to the hate he has inherited, Alberich disappears. The weirdness of the surroundings, the monotony of Hagen's answers, uttered seemingly in sleep, as if, even when the Nibelung slumbered, his mind remained active, imbue this scene with mystery.

A charming orchestral interlude depicts the break of day. Its serene beauty is, however, broken in upon by the Motive of Hagen's Wicked Glee, which I quote, as it frequently occurs in the course of succeeding events.




All night Hagen has watched by the bank of the river for the return of the men from the quest. It is daylight when Siegfried returns, tells him of his success, and bids him prepare to receive Gunther and Brünnhilde. On his finger he wears the ring—the ring made of Rhinegold, and cursed by Alberich—the same with which he pledged his troth to Brünnhilde, but which in the struggle of the night, and disguised by the Tarnhelmet as Gunther, he has torn from her finger—the very ring the possession of which Hagen craves, and for which he is plotting. Gutrune has joined them. Siegfried leads her into the hall.

Hagen, placing an ox-horn to his lips, blows a loud call toward the four points of the compass, summoning the Gibichung vassals to the festivities attending the double wedding—Siegfried and Gutrune, Gunther and Brünnhilde; and when the Gibichung brings his boat up to the bank, the shore is crowded with men who greet him boisterously, while Brünnhilde stands there pale and with downcast eyes. But as Siegfried leads Gutrune forward to meet Gunther and his bride, and Gunther calls Siegfried by name, Brünnhilde starts, raises her eyes, stares at Siegfried in amazement, drops Gunther's hand, advances, as if by sudden impulse, a step toward the man who awakened her from her magic slumber on the rock, then recoils in horror, her eyes fixed upon him, while all look on in wonder. The Motive of Siegfried the Hero, the Sword Motive, and the Chords of the Hagen Motive emphasize with a tumultuous crash the dramatic significance of the situation. There is a sudden hush—Brünnhilde astounded and dumb, Siegfried unconscious of guilt quietly self-possessed, Gunther, Gutrune, and the vassals silent with amazement—it is during this moment of tension that we hear the motive which expresses the thought uppermost in Brünnhilde, the thought which would find expression in a burst of frenzy were not her wrath held in check by her inability to quite-218- grasp the meaning of the situation or to fathom the depth of the treachery of which she has been the victim. This is the Motive of Vengeance:



"What troubles Brünnhilde?" composedly asks Siegfried, from whom all memory of his first meeting with the rock maiden and his love for her have been effaced by the potion. Then, observing that she sways and is about to fall, he supports her with his arm.

"Siegfried knows me not!" she whispers faintly, as she looks up into his face.

"There stands your husband," is Siegfried's reply, as he points to Gunther. The gesture discloses to Brünnhilde's sight the ring upon his finger, the ring he gave her, and which to her horror Gunther, as she supposed, had wrested from her. In the flash of its precious metal she sees the whole significance of the wretched situation in which she finds herself, and discovers the intrigue, the trick, of which she has been the victim. She knows nothing, however, of the treachery Hagen is plotting, or of the love-potion that has aroused in Siegfried an uncontrollable passion to possess Gutrune, has caused him to forget her, and led him to win her for Gunther. There at Gutrune's side, and about to wed her, stands the man she loves. To Brünnhilde, infuriated with jealousy, her pride wounded to the quick, Siegfried appears simply to have betrayed her to Gunther through infatuation for another woman.

"The ring," she cries out, "was taken from me by that man," pointing to Gunther. "How came it on your finger?-219- Or, if it is not the ring"—again she addresses Gunther—"where is the one you tore from my hand?"

Gunther, knowing nothing about the ring, plainly is perplexed. "Ha," cries out Brünnhilde in uncontrollable rage, "then it was Siegfried disguised as you and not you yourself who won it from me! Know then, Gunther, that you, too, have been betrayed by him. For this man who would wed your sister, and as part of the price bring me to you as bride, was wedded to me!"

In all but Hagen and Siegfried, Brünnhilde's words arouse consternation. Hagen, noting their effect on Gunther, from whom he craftily has concealed Siegfried's true relation to Brünnhilde, sees in the episode an added opportunity to mould the Gibichung to his plan to do away with Siegfried. The latter, through the effect of the potion, is rendered wholly unconscious of the truth of what Brünnhilde has said. He even has forgotten that he ever has parted with the ring, and, when the men, jealous of Gunther's honour, crowd about him, and Gunther and Gutrune in intense excitement wait on his reply, he calmly proclaims that he found it among the dragon's treasure and never has parted with it. To the truth of this assertion, to a denial of all Brünnhilde has accused him of, he announces himself ready to swear at the point of any spear which is offered for the oath, the strongest manner in which the asseveration can be made and, in the belief of the time, rendering his death certain at the point of that very spear should he swear falsely.

How eloquent the music of these exciting scenes!—Crashing chords of the Ring Motive followed by that of the Curse, as Brünnhilde recognizes the ring on Siegfried's finger, the Motive of Vengeance, the Walhalla Motive, as she invokes the gods to witness her humiliation, the touchingly pathetic Motive of Brünnhilde's Pleading, as she vainly strives to awaken fond memories in Siegfried; then again-220- the Motive of Vengeance, as the oath is about to be taken, the Murder Motive and the Hagen Motive at the taking of the oath, for the spear is Hagen's; and in Brünnhilde's asseveration, the Valkyr music coursing through the orchestra.

It is Hagen who offers his weapon for the oath. "Guardian of honour, hallowed weapon," swears Siegfried, "where steel can pierce me, there pierce me; where death can be dealt me, there deal it me, if ever I was wed to Brünnhilde, if ever I have wronged Gutrune's brother."

At his words, Brünnhilde, livid with rage, strides into the circle of men, and thrusting Siegfried's fingers away from the spearhead, lays her own upon it.

"Guardian of honour, hallowed weapon," she cries, "I dedicate your steel to his destruction. I bless your point that it may blight him. For broken are all his oaths, and perjured now he proves himself."

Siegfried shrugs his shoulders. To him Brünnhilde's imprecations are but the ravings of an overwrought brain. "Gunther, look to your lady. Give the tameless mountain maid time to rest and recover," he calls out to Gutrune's brother. "And now, men, follow us to table, and make merry at our wedding feast!" Then with a laugh and in highest spirits, he throws his arm about Gutrune and draws her after him into the hall, the vassals and women following them.

But Brünnhilde, Hagen, and Gunther remain behind; Brünnhilde half stunned at sight of the man with whom she has exchanged troth, gaily leading another to marriage, as though his vows had been mere chaff; Gunther, suspicious that his honour wittingly has been betrayed by Siegfried, and that Brünnhilde's words are true; Hagen, in whose hands Gunther is like clay, waiting the opportunity to prompt both Brünnhilde and his half-brother to vengeance.

"Coward," cries Brünnhilde to Gunther, "to hide behind-221- another in order to undo me! Has the race of the Gibichungs fallen so low in prowess?"

"Deceiver, and yet deceived! Betrayer, and yet myself betrayed," wails Gunther. "Hagen, wise one, have you no counsel?"

"No counsel," grimly answers Hagen, "save Siegfried's death."

"His death!"

"Aye, all these things demand his death."

"But, Gutrune, to whom I gave him, how would we stand with her if we so avenged ourselves?" For even in his injured pride Gunther feels that he has had a share in what Siegfried has done.

But Hagen is prepared with a plan that will free Gunther and himself of all accusation. "Tomorrow," he suggests, "we will go on a great hunt. As Siegfried boldly rushes ahead we will fell him from the rear, and give out that he was killed by a wild boar."

"So be it," exclaims Brünnhilde; "let his death atone for the shame he has wrought me. He has violated his oath; he shall die!"

At that moment as they turn toward the hall, he whose death they have decreed, a wreath of oak on his brow and leading Gutrune, whose hair is bedecked with flowers, steps out on the threshold as though wondering at their delay and urges them to enter. Gunther, taking Brünnhilde by the hand, follows him in. Hagen alone remains behind, and with a look of grim triumph watches them as they disappear within. And so, although the valley of the Rhine re-echoes with glad sounds, it is the Murder Motive that brings the act to a close.

Act III. How picturesque the mise-en-scène of this act—a clearing in the forest primeval near a spot where the bank of the Rhine slopes toward the river. On the shore, above the stream, stands Siegfried. Baffled in the pursuit-222- of game, he is looking for Gunther, Hagen, and his other comrades of the hunt, in order to join them.

One of the loveliest scenes of the trilogy now ensues. The Rhinedaughters swim up to the bank and, circling gracefully in the current of the river, endeavour to coax from him the ring of Rhinegold. It is an episode full of whimsical badinage and, if anything, more charming even than the opening of "Rhinegold."

Siegfried refuses to give up the ring. The Rhinedaughters swim off leaving him to his fate.

Here is the principal theme of their song in this scene:



Distant hunting-horns are heard. Gunther, Hagen, and their attendants gradually assemble and encamp themselves. Hagen fills a drinking-horn and hands it to Siegfried whom he persuades to relate the story of his life. This Siegfried does in a wonderfully picturesque, musical, and dramatic story in which motives, often heard before, charm us anew.

In the course of his narrative he refreshes himself by a draught from the drinking-horn into which meanwhile Hagen has pressed the juice of an herb. Through this the effect of the love-potion is so far counteracted that tender memories of Brünnhilde well up within him and he tells with artless enthusiasm how he penetrated the circle of flame about the Valkyr, found Brünnhilde slumbering there, awoke her with his kiss, and won her. Gunther springs up aghast at this revelation. Now he knows that Brünnhilde's accusation is true.


Two ravens fly overhead. As Siegfried turns to look after them the Motive of the Curse resounds and Hagen plunges his spear into the young hero's back. Gunther and the vassals throw themselves upon Hagen. The Siegfried Motive, cut short with a crashing chord, the two murderous chords of the Hagen Motive forming the bass—and Siegfried, who with a last effort has heaved his shield aloft to hurl it at Hagen, lets it fall, and, collapsing, drops upon it. So overpowered are the witnesses—even Gunther—by the suddenness and enormity of the crime that, after a few disjointed exclamations, they gather, bowed with grief, around Siegfried. Hagen, with stony indifference turns away and disappears over the height.

With the fall of the last scion of the Wälsung race we hear a new motive, simple yet indescribably fraught with sorrow, the Death Motive.



Siegfried, supported by two men, rises to a sitting posture, and with a strange rapture gleaming in his glance, intones his death-song. It is an ecstatic greeting to Brünnhilde. "Brünnhilde!" he exclaims, "thy wakener comes to wake thee with his kiss." The ethereal harmonies of the Motive of Brünnhilde's Awakening, the Motive of Fate, the Siegfried Motive swelling into the Motive of Love's Greeting and dying away through the Motive of Love's Passion to Siegfried's last whispered accents—"Brünnhilde beckons to me"—in the Motive of Fate—and Siegfried sinks back in death.


Full of pathos though this episode be, it but brings us to the threshold of a scene of such overwhelming power that it may without exaggeration be singled out as the supreme musico-dramatic climax of all that Wagner wrought, indeed of all music. Siegfried's last ecstatic greeting to his Valkyr bride has made us realize the blackness of the treachery which tore the young hero and Brünnhilde asunder and led to his death; and now as we are bowed down with a grief too deep for utterance—like the grief with which a nation gathers at the grave of its noblest hero—Wagner voices for us, in music of overwhelmingly tragic power, feelings which are beyond expression in human speech. This is not a "funeral march," as it is often absurdly called—it is the awful mystery of death itself expressed in music.

Motionless with grief the men gather around Siegfried's corpse. Night falls. The moon casts a pale, sad light over the scene. At the silent bidding of Gunther the vassals raise the body and bear it in solemn procession over the rocky height. Meanwhile with majestic solemnity the orchestra voices the funeral oration of the "world's greatest hero." One by one, but tragically interrupted by the Motive of Death, we hear the motives which tell the story of the Wälsungs' futile struggle with destiny—the Wälsung Motive, the Motive of the Wälsungs' Heroism, the Motive of Sympathy, and the Love Motive, the Sword Motive, the Siegfried Motive, and the Motive of Siegfried the Hero, around which the Death Motive swirls and crashes like a black, death-dealing, all-wrecking flood, forming an overwhelmingly powerful climax that dies away into the Brünnhilde Motive with which, as with a heart-broken sigh, the heroic dirge is brought to a close.

Meanwhile the scene has changed to the Hall of the Gibichungs as in the first act. Gutrune is listening through the-225- night for some sound which may announce the return of the hunt.

Men and women bearing torches precede in great agitation the funeral train. Hagen grimly announces to Gutrune that Siegfried is dead. Wild with grief she overwhelms Gunther with violent accusations. He points to Hagen whose sole reply is to demand the ring as spoil. Gunther refuses. Hagen draws his sword and after a brief combat slays Gunther. He is about to snatch the ring from Siegfried's finger, when the corpse's hand suddenly raises itself threateningly, and all—even Hagen—fall back in consternation.

Brünnhilde advances solemnly from the back. While watching on the bank of the Rhine she has learned from the Rhinedaughters the treachery of which she and Siegfried have been the victims. Her mien is ennobled by a look of tragic exaltation. To her the grief of Gutrune is but the whining of a child. When the latter realizes that it was Brünnhilde whom she caused Siegfried to forget through the love-potion, she falls fainting over Gunther's body. Hagen leaning on his spear is lost in gloomy brooding.

Brünnhilde turns solemnly to the men and women and bids them erect a funeral pyre. The orchestral harmonies shimmer with the Magic Fire Motive through which courses the Motive of the Ride of the Valkyrs. Then, her countenance transfigured by love, she gazes upon her dead hero and apostrophizes his memory in the Motive of Love's Greeting. From him she looks upward and in the Walhalla Motive and the Motive of Brünnhilde's Pleading passionately inveighs against the injustice of the gods. The Curse Motive is followed by a wonderfully beautiful combination of the Walhalla Motive and the Motive of the Gods' Stress at Brünnhilde's words:

Rest thee! Rest thee! O, God!


For with the fading away of Walhalla, and the inauguration of the reign of human love in place of that of lust and greed—a change to be wrought by the approaching expiation of Brünnhilde for the crimes which began with the wresting of the Rhinegold from the RhinedaughtersWotan's stress will be at an end. Brünnhilde, having told in the graceful, rippling Rhine music how she learned of Hagen's treachery through the Rhinedaughters, places upon her finger the ring. Then turning toward the pyre upon which Siegfried's body rests, she snatches a huge firebrand from one of the men, and flings it upon the pyre, which kindles brightly. As the moment of her immolation approaches the Motive of Expiation begins to dominate the scene.

Brünnhilde mounts her Valkyr charger, Grane, who oft bore her through the clouds, while lightning flashed and thunder reverberated. With one leap the steed bears her into the blazing pyre.

The Rhine overflows. Borne on the flood, the Rhinedaughters swim to the pyre and draw, from Brünnhilde's finger, the ring. Hagen, seeing the object of all his plotting in their possession, plunges after them. Two of them encircle him with their arms and draw him down with them into the flood. The third holds up the ring in triumph.

In the heavens is perceived a deep glow. It is Götterdämmerung—the dusk of the gods. An epoch has come to a close. Walhalla is in flames. Once more its stately motive resounds, only to crumble, like a ruin, before the onsweeping power of the motive of expiation. The Siegfried Motive with a crash in the orchestra; once more then the Motive of Expiation. The sordid empire of the gods has passed away. A new era, that of human love, has dawned through the expiation of Brünnhilde. As in "The Flying Dutchman" and "Tannhäuser," it is through woman that comes redemption.



Music-drama in three acts, words and music by Richard Wagner, who calls the work, "eine Handlung" (an action). Produced, under the direction of Hans von Bülow, Munich, June 10, 1865. First London production, June 20, 1882. Produced, December 1, 1886, with Anton Seidl as conductor, at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, with Niemann (Tristan), Fischer (King Marke), Lehmann (Isolde), Robinson (Kurwenal), von Milde (Melot), Brandt (Brangäne), Kemlitz (a Shepherd), Alvary (a Sailor), Sänger (a Helmsman). Jean de Reszke is accounted the greatest Tristan heard at the Metropolitan. Nordica, Ternina, Fremstad, and Gadski are other Isoldes, who have been heard at that house. Édouard de Reszke sang King Marke, and Bispham Kurwenal.


Tristan, a Cornish knight, nephew to King MarkeTenor
King Marke, of CornwallBass
Isolde, an Irish princessSoprano
Kurwenal, one of Tristan's retainersBaritone
Melot, a courtierBaritone
Brangäne, Isolde's attendantMezzo-Soprano
A ShepherdTenor
A SailorTenor
A HelmsmanBaritone

Sailors, Knights, Esquires, and Men-at-Arms.


Place—A ship at sea; outside King Marke's palace, Cornwall; the platform at Kareol, Tristan's castle.

Wagner was obliged to remodel the "Tristan" legend thoroughly before it became available for a modern drama. He has shorn it of all unnecessary incidents and worked over the main episodes into a concise, vigorous, swiftly moving drama, admirably adapted for the stage. He shows keen dramatic insight in the manner in which he adapts the love-potion of the legends to his purpose. In the legends the love of Tristan and Isolde is merely "chemical"—entirely the result of the love-philtre. Wagner, however,-228- presents them from the outset as enamoured of one another, so that the potion simply quickens a passion already active.

To the courtesy of G. Schirmer, Inc., publishers of my Wagner's Music-Dramas Analysed, I am indebted, as I have already stated elsewhere, for permission to use material from that book. I have there placed a brief summary of the story of "Tristan and Isolde" before the descriptive account of the "book" and music, and, accordingly do so here.

In the Wagnerian version the plot is briefly as follows: Tristan, having lost his parents in infancy, has been reared at the court of his uncle, Marke, King of Cornwall. He has slain in combat Morold, an Irish knight, who had come to Cornwall, to collect the tribute that country had been paying to Ireland. Morold was affianced to his cousin Isolde, daughter of the Irish king. Tristan, having been dangerously wounded in the combat, places himself, without disclosing his identity, under the care of Morold's affianced, Isolde, who comes of a race skilled in magic arts. She discerns who he is; but, although she is aware that she is harbouring the slayer of her affianced, she spares him and carefully tends him, for she has conceived a deep passion for him. Tristan also becomes enamoured of her, but both deem their love unrequited. Soon after Tristan's return to Cornwall, he is dispatched to Ireland by Marke, that he may win Isolde as Queen for the Cornish king.

The music-drama opens on board the vessel in which Tristan bears Isolde to Cornwall. Deeming her love for Tristan unrequited she determines to end her sorrow by quaffing a death-potion; and Tristan, feeling that the woman he loves is about to be wedded to another, readily consents to share it with her. But Brangäne, Isolde's companion, substitutes a love-potion for the death-draught. This rouses their love to resistless passion. Not long after they reach Cornwall, they are surprised in the castle-229- garden by the King and his suite, and Tristan is severely wounded by Melot, one of Marke's knights. Kurwenal, Tristan's faithful retainer, bears him to his native place, Kareol. Hither Isolde follows him, arriving in time to fold him in her arms as he expires. She breathes her last over his corpse.


Copyright photo by Dupont

Nordica as Isolde


All who have made a study of opera, and do not regard it merely as a form of amusement, are agreed that the score of "Tristan and Isolde" is the greatest setting of a love story for the lyric stage. In fact to call it a love story seems a slight. It is a tale of tragic passion, culminating in death, unfolded in the surge and palpitation of immortal music.

This passion smouldered in the heart of the man and woman of this epic of love. It could not burst into clear flame because over it lay the pall of duty—a knight's to his king, a wife's to her husband. They elected to die; drank, as they thought, a death potion. Instead it was a magic love-philtre, craftily substituted by the woman's confidante. Then love, no longer vague and hesitating, but roused by sorcerous means to the highest rapture, found expression in the complete abandonment of the lovers to their ecstasy—and their fate.

What precedes the draught of the potion in the drama, is narrative, explanatory and prefatorial. Once Tristan and Isolde have shared the goblet, passion is unleashed. The goal is death.

The magic love-philtre is the excitant in this story of rapture and gloom. The Vorspiel therefore opens most fittingly with a motive which expresses the incipient effect of the potion upon Tristan and Isolde. It clearly can be divided into two parts, one descending, the other ascend-230-ing chromatically. The potion overcomes the restraining influence of duty in two beings and leaves them at the mercy of their passions. The first part, with its descending chromatics, is pervaded by a certain trist mood, as if Tristan were still vaguely forewarned by his conscience of the impending tragedy. The second soars ecstatically upward. It is the woman yielding unquestioningly to the rapture of requited love. Therefore, while the phrase may be called the Motive of the Love-Potion, or, as Wolzogen calls it, of Yearning, it seems best to divide it into the Tristan and Isolde Motives (A and B).



The two motives having been twice repeated, there is a fermate. Then the Isolde Motive alone is heard, so that the attention of the hearer is fixed upon it. For in this tragedy, as in that of Eden, it is the woman who takes the first decisive step. After another fermate, the last two notes of the Isolde Motive are twice repeated, dying away to pp. Then a variation of the Isolde Motive



leads with an impassioned upward sweep into another version,-231- full of sensuous yearning, and distinct enough to form a new Motive, the Motive of the Love Glance.



This occurs again and again in the course of the Vorspiel. Though readily recognized, it is sufficiently varied with each repetition never to allow the emotional excitement to subside. In fact, the Vorspiel gathers impetus as it proceeds, until, with an inversion of the Love Glance Motive, borne to a higher and higher level of exaltation by upward rushing runs, it reaches its climax in a paroxysm of love, to die away with repetitions of the Tristan, the Isolde, and the Love Glance motives.



In the themes it employs this prelude tells, in music, the story of the love of Tristan and Isolde. We have the motives of the hero and heroine of the drama, and the Motive of the Love Glance. When as is the case in concerts, the finale of the work, "Isolde's Love-Death," is linked to the Vorspiel, we are entrusted with the beginning and the end of the music-drama, forming an eloquent epitome of the tragic story.

Act I. Wagner wisely refrains from actually placing before us on the stage, the events that transpired in Ireland before Tristan was despatched thither to bring Isolde as a bride to King Marke. The events, which led to the two meetings between Tristan and Isolde, are told in Isolde's narrative, which forms an important part of the first act. This act opens aboard the vessel in which Tristan is conveying Isolde to Cornwall.


The opening scene shows Isolde reclining on a couch, her face hid in soft pillows, in a tent-like apartment on the forward deck of a vessel. It is hung with rich tapestries, which hide the rest of the ship from view. Brangäne has partially drawn aside one of the hangings and is gazing out upon the sea. From above, as though from the rigging, is heard the voice of a young Sailor singing a farewell song to his "Irish maid." It has a wild charm and is a capital example of Wagner's skill in giving local colouring to his music. The words, "Frisch weht der Wind der Heimath zu" (The wind blows freshly toward our home) are sung to a phrase which occurs frequently in the course of this scene. It represents most graphically the heaving of the sea and may be appropriately termed the Ocean Motive. It undulates gracefully through Brangäne's reply to Isolde's question as to the vessel's course, surges wildly around Isolde's outburst of impotent anger when she learns that Cornwall's shore is not far distant, and breaks itself in savage fury against her despairing wrath as she invokes the elements to destroy the ship and all upon it. Ocean Motive.



It is her hopeless passion for Tristan which has prostrated Isolde, for the Motive of the Love Glance accompanies her first exclamation as she starts up excitedly.

Isolde calls upon Brangäne to throw aside the hangings, that she may have air. Brangäne obeys. The deck of the ship,-233- and, beyond it, the ocean, are disclosed. Around the mainmast sailors are busy splicing ropes. Beyond them, on the after deck, are knights and esquires. A little aside from them stands Tristan, gazing out upon the sea. At his feet reclines Kurwenal, his esquire. The young sailor's voice is again heard.

Isolde beholds Tristan. Her wrath at the thought that he whom she loves is bearing her as bride to another vents itself in a vengeful phrase. She invokes death upon him. This phrase is the Motive of Death.



The Motive of the Love Glance is heard—and gives away Isolde's secret—as she asks Brangäne in what estimation she holds Tristan. It develops into a triumphant strain as Brangäne sings his praises. Isolde then bids her command Tristan to come into her presence. This command is given with the Motive of Death, for it is their mutual death Isolde wishes to compass. As Brangäne goes to do her mistress's bidding, a graceful variation of the Ocean Motive is heard, the bass marking the rhythmic motions of the sailors at the ropes. Tristan refuses to leave the helm and when Brangäne repeats Isolde's command, Kurwenal answers in deft measures in praise of Tristan. Knights, esquires, and sailors repeat the refrain. The boisterous measures—"Hail to our brave Tristan!"—form the Tristan Call.



Heil unser Held Tristan,


Isolde's wrath at Kurwenal's taunts find vent in a narrative in which she tells Brangäne that once a wounded knight calling himself Tantris landed on Ireland's shore to seek her healing art. Into a niche in his sword she fitted a sword splinter she had found imbedded in the head of Morold, which had been sent to her in mockery after he had been slain in a combat with the Cornish foe. She brandished the sword over the knight, whom thus by his weapon she knew to be Tristan, her betrothed's slayer. But Tristan's glance fell upon her. Under its spell she was powerless. She nursed him back to health, and he vowed eternal gratitude as he left her. The chief theme of this narrative is derived from the Tristan Motive.



What of the boat, so bare, so frail,
That drifted to our shore?
What of the sorely stricken man feebly extended there?
Isolde's art he humbly sought;
With balsam, herbs, and healing salves,
From wounds that laid him low,
She nursed him back to strength.

Exquisite is the transition of the phrase "His eyes in mine were gazing," to the Isolde and Love Glance motives. The passage beginning: "Who silently his life had spared," is followed by the Tristan Call, Isolde seeming to compare sarcastically what she considers his betrayal of her with his fame as a hero. Her outburst of wrath as she inveighs against his treachery in now bearing her as bride to King Marke, carries the narrative to a superb-235- climax. Brangäne seeks to comfort Isolde, but the latter, looking fixedly before her, confides, almost involuntarily, her love for Tristan.

It is clear, even from this brief description, with what constantly varying expression the narrative of Isolde is treated. Wrath, desire for vengeance, rapturous memories that cannot be dissembled, finally a confession of love to Brangäne—such are the emotions that surge to the surface.

They lead Brangäne to exclaim: "Where lives the man who would not love you?" Then she weirdly whispers of the love-potion and takes a phial from a golden salver. The motives of the Love Glance and of the Love-Potion accompany her words and action. But Isolde seizes another phial, which she holds up triumphantly. It is the death-potion. Here is heard an ominous phrase of three notes—the Motive of Fate.



A forceful orchestral climax, in which the demons of despairing wrath seem unleashed, is followed by the cries of the sailors greeting the sight of the land, where she is to be married to King Marke. Isolde hears them with growing terror. Kurwenal brusquely calls to her and Brangäne to prepare soon to go ashore. Isolde orders Kurwenal that he command Tristan to come into her presence; then bids Brangäne prepare the death-potion. The Death Motive accompanies her final commands to Kurwenal and Brangäne, and the Fate Motive also drones threatfully through the weird measures. But Brangäne artfully substitutes the love-potion for the death-draught.

Kurwenal announces Tristan's approach. Isolde, seeking to control her agitation, strides to the couch, and, supporting herself by it, gazes fixedly at the entrance where-236- Tristan remains standing. The motive which announces his appearance is full of tragic defiance, as if Tristan felt that he stood upon the threshold of death, yet was ready to meet his fate unflinchingly. It alternates effectively with the Fate Motive, and is used most dramatically throughout the succeeding scene between Tristan and Isolde. Sombrely impressive is the passage when he bids Isolde slay him with the sword she once held over him.

If so thou didst love thy lord,
Lift once again this sword,
Thrust with it, nor refrain,
Lest the weapon fall again.

Shouts of the sailors announce the proximity of land. In a variant of her narrative theme Isolde mockingly anticipates Tristan's praise of her as he leads her into King Marke's presence. At the same time she hands him the goblet which contains, as she thinks, the death-potion and invites him to quaff it. Again the shouts of the sailors are heard, and Tristan, seizing the goblet, raises it to his lips with the ecstasy of one from whose soul a great sorrow is about to be lifted. When he has half emptied it, Isolde wrests it from him and drains it.

The tremor that passes over Isolde loosens her grasp upon the goblet. It falls from her hand. She faces Tristan.

Is the weird light in their eyes the last upflare of passion before the final darkness? What does the music answer as it enfolds them in its wondrous harmonies? The Isolde Motive;—then what? Not the glassy stare of death; the Love Glance, like a swift shaft of light penetrating the gloom. The spell is broken. Isolde sinks into Tristan's embrace.


Copyright photo by Dupont

Lilli Lehmann as Isolde

Jean de Reszke

Copyright photo by Dupont

Jean de Reszke as Tristan

Voices! They hear them not. Sailors are shouting-237- with joy that the voyage is over. Upon the lovers all sounds are lost, save their own short, quick interchange of phrases, in which the rapture of their passion, at last uncovered, finds speech. Music surges about them. But for Brangäne they would be lost. It is she who parts them, as the hangings are thrust aside.

Knights, esquires, sailors crowd the deck. From a rocky height King Marke's castle looks down upon the ship, now riding at anchor in the harbour. Peace and joy everywhere save in the lovers' breasts! Isolde faints in Tristan's arms. Yet it is a triumphant climax of the Isolde Motive that is heard above the jubilation of the ship-folk, as the act comes to a close.

Act II. This act also has an introduction, which together with the first scene between Isolde and Brangäne, constitutes a wonderful mood picture in music. Even Wagner's bitterest critic, Edward Hanslick, of Vienna, was forced to compare it with the loveliest creations of Schubert, in which that composer steeps the senses in dreams of night and love.

And so, this introduction of the second act opens with a motive of peculiar significance. During the love scene in the previous act, Tristan and Isolde have inveighed against the day which jealously keeps them apart. They may meet only under the veil of darkness. Even then their joy is embittered by the thought that the blissful night will soon be succeeded by day. With them, therefore, the day stands for all that is inimical, night for all that is friendly. This simile is elaborated with considerable metaphysical subtlety, the lovers even reproaching the day with Tristan's willingness to lead Isolde to King Marke, Tristan charging that in the broad light of the jealous day his duty to win Isolde for his king stood forth so clearly as to overpower the passion for her which he had nurtured during the silent watches of the night. The phrase, there-238-fore, which begins the act as with an agonized cry is the Day Motive.



The Day Motive is followed by a phrase whose eager, restless measures graphically reflect the impatience with which Isolde awaits the coming of Tristan—the Motive of Impatience.



Over this there hovers a dulcet, seductive strain, the Motive of the Love Call, which is developed into the rapturous measures of the Motive of Ecstasy.



When the curtain rises, the scene it discloses is the palace garden, into which Isolde's apartments open. It is a-239- summer night, balmy and with a moon. The King and his suite have departed on a hunt. With them is Melot, a knight who professes devotion to Tristan, but whom Brangäne suspects.

Brangäne stands upon the steps leading to Isolde's apartment. She is looking down a bosky allée in the direction taken by the hunt. This silently gliding, uncanny creature, the servitor of sin in others, is uneasy. She fears the hunt is but a trap; and that its quarry is not the wild deer, but her mistress and the knight, who conveyed her for bride to King Marke.

Meanwhile against the open door of Isolde's apartment is a burning torch. Its flare through the night is to be the signal to Tristan that all is well, and that Isolde waits.

The first episode of the act is one of those exquisite tone paintings in the creation of which Wagner is supreme. The notes of the hunting-horns become more distant. Isolde enters from her apartment into the garden. She asks Brangäne if she cannot now signal for Tristan. Brangäne answers that the hunt is still within hearing. Isolde chides her—is it not some lovely, prattling rill she hears? The music is deliciously idyllic—conjuring up a dream-picture of a sylvan spring night bathed in liquescent moonlight. Brangäne warns Isolde against Melot; but Isolde laughs at her fears. In vain Brangäne entreats her mistress not to signal for Tristan. The seductive measures of the Love Call and of the Motive of Ecstasy tell throughout this scene of the yearning in Isolde's breast. When Brangäne informs Isolde that she substituted the love-potion for the death-draught, Isolde scorns the suggestion that her guilty love for Tristan is the result of her quaffing the potion. This simply intensified the passion already in her breast. She proclaims this in the rapturous phrases of the Isolde Motive; and then, when she declares her fate to be in the hands of the-240- goddess of love, there are heard the tender accents of the Love Motive.



In vain Brangäne warns once more against possible treachery from Melot. The Love Motive rises with ever increasing passion until Isolde's emotional exaltation finds expression in the Motive of Ecstasy as she bids Brangäne hie to the lookout, and proclaims that she will give Tristan the signal by extinguishing the torch, though in doing so she were to extinguish the light of her life. The Motive of the Love Call ringing out triumphantly accompanies her action, and dies away into the Motive of Impatience as she gazes down a bosky avenue through which she seems to expect Tristan to come to her. Then the Motive of Ecstasy and Isolde's rapturous gesture tell that she has discerned her lover; and, as this Motive reaches a fiercely impassioned climax, Tristan and Isolde rush into each other's arms.

The music fairly seethes with passion as the lovers greet one another, the Love Motive and the Motive of Ecstasy vying in the excitement of this rapturous meeting. Then begins the exchange of phrases in which the lovers pour forth their love for one another. This is the scene dominated by the Motive of the Day, which, however, as the day sinks into the soft night, is softened into the Night Motive, which soothes the senses with its ravishing caress.




This motive throbs through the rapturous harmonies of the duet: "Oh, sink upon us, Night of Love," and there is nothing in the realms of music or poetry to compare in suggestiveness with these caressing, pulsating phrases.

The duet is broken in upon by Brangäne's voice warning the lovers that night will soon be over. The arpeggios accompanying her warning are like the first grey streaks of dawn. But the lovers heed her not. In a smooth, soft melody—the Motive of Love's Peace—whose sensuous grace is simply entrancing, they whisper their love.



It is at such a moment, enveloped by night and love, that death should have come to them; and, indeed, it is for such a love-death they yearn. Hence we have here, over a quivering accompaniment, the Motive of the Love-Death,



Once more Brangäne calls. Once more Tristan and Isolde heed her not.

Night will shield us for aye!

Thus exclaims Isolde in defiance of the approach of dawn, while the Motive of Ecstasy, introduced by a rapturous mordent, soars ever higher.




A cry from Brangäne, Kurwenal rushing upon the scene calling to Tristan to save himself—and the lovers' ravishing dream is ended. Surrounded by the King and his suite, with the treacherous Melot, they gradually awaken to the terror of the situation. Almost automatically Isolde hides her head among the flowers, and Tristan spreads out his cloak to conceal her from view while phrases reminiscent of the love scene rise like mournful memories.

Now follows a soliloquy for the King, whose sword instead should have leapt from its scabbard and buried itself in Tristan's breast. For it seems inexplicable that the monarch, who should have slain the betrayer of his honour, indulges instead in a philosophical discourse, ending:

The unexplained,
Cause of all these woes,
Who will to us disclose?

Tristan turns to Isolde. Will she follow him to the bleak land of his birth? Her reply is that his home shall be hers. Then Melot draws his sword. Tristan rushes upon him, but as Melot thrusts, allows his guard to fall and receives the blade. Isolde throws herself on her wounded lover's breast.

Act III. The introduction to this act opens with a variation of the Isolde Motive, sadly prophetic of the desolation which broods over the scene to be disclosed when the curtain rises. On its third repetition it is continued in a long-drawn-out ascending phrase, which seems to represent musically the broad waste of ocean upon which Tristan's castle looks down from its craggy height.

The whole passage appears to represent Tristan hopelessly yearning for Isolde, letting his fancy travel back over the watery waste to the last night of love, and then giving himself up wholly to his grief.


Copyright photo by Dupont

Gadski as Isolde


N.Y. Photographic Co.

Ternina as Isolde

The curtain rises upon the desolate grounds of Kareol,-243- between the outer walls of Tristan's castle and the main structure, which stands upon a rocky eminence overlooking the sea. Tristan is stretched, apparently lifeless, under a huge linden-tree. Over him, in deep sorrow, bends the faithful Kurwenal. A Shepherd is heard piping a strain, whose plaintive notes harmonize most beautifully with the despairing desolation and sadness of the scene. It is the Lay of Sorrow, and by it, the Shepherd, who scans the sea, conveys to Kurwenal information that the ship he has dispatched to Cornwall to bear Isolde to Kareol has not yet hove in sight.

The Lay of Sorrow is a strain of mournful beauty, with the simplicity and indescribable charm of a folk-song. Its plaintive notes cling like ivy to the grey and crumbling ruins of love and joy.



The Shepherd peers over the wall and asks if Tristan has shown any signs of life. Kurwenal gloomily replies in the negative. The Shepherd departs to continue his lookout, piping the sad refrain. Tristan slowly opens his eyes. "The old refrain; why wakes it me? Where am I?" he murmurs. Kurwenal is beside himself with joy at these signs of returning life. His replies to Tristan's feeble and wandering questions are mostly couched in a motive which beautifully expresses the sterling nature of this faithful retainer, one of the noblest characters Wagner has drawn.




When Tristan loses himself in sad memories of Isolde, Kurwenal seeks to comfort him with the news that he has sent a trusty man to Cornwall to bear Isolde to him that she may heal the wound inflicted by Melot as she once healed that dealt Tristan by Morold. In Tristan's jubilant reply, during which he draws Kurwenal to his breast, the Isolde Motive assumes a form in which it becomes a theme of joy.

But it is soon succeeded by the Motive of Anguish,



when Tristan raves of his yearning for Isolde. "The ship! the ship!" he exclaims. "Kurwenal, can you not see it?" The Lay of Sorrow, piped by the Shepherd, gives the sad answer. It pervades his sad reverie until, when his mind wanders back to Isolde's tender nursing of his wound in Ireland, the theme of Isolde's Narrative is heard again. Finally his excitement grows upon him, and in a paroxysm of anguish bordering on insanity he even curses love.

Tristan sinks back apparently lifeless. But no—as Kurwenal bends over him and the Isolde Motive is breathed by the orchestra, he again whispers of Isolde. In ravishing beauty the Motive of Love's Peace caressingly follows his vision as he seems to see Isolde gliding toward him o'er the waves. With ever-growing excitement he orders Kurwenal to the lookout to watch the ship's coming. What he sees so clearly cannot Kurwenal also see? Suddenly the music changes in character. The ship is in sight, for the Shepherd is heard piping a joyous lay.



It pervades the music of-245- Tristan's excited questions and Kurwenal's answers as to the vessel's movements. The faithful retainer rushes down toward the shore to meet Isolde and lead her to Tristan. The latter, his strength sapped by his wound, his mind inflamed to insanity by his passionate yearning, struggles to rise. He raises himself a little. The Motive of Love's Peace, no longer tranquil, but with frenzied rapidity, accompanies his actions as, in his delirium, he tears the bandage from his wounds and rises from his couch.

Isolde's voice! Into her arms, outstretched to receive him, staggers Tristan. Gently she lets him down upon his couch, where he has lain in the anguish of expectancy.


"Isolde!" he answers in broken accents. This last look resting rapturously upon her, while in mournful beauty the Love Glance Motive rises from the orchestra, he expires.

In all music there is no scene more deeply shaken with sorrow.

Tumultuous sounds are heard. A second ship has arrived. Marke and his suite have landed. Tristan's men, thinking the King has come in pursuit of Isolde, attack the new-comers, Kurwenal and his men are overpowered, and Kurwenal, having avenged Tristan by slaying Melot, sinks, himself mortally wounded, dying by Tristan's side. He reaches out for his dead master's hand, and his last words are: "Tristan, chide me not that faithfully I follow you."

When Brangäne rushes in and hurriedly announces that she has informed the King of the love-potion, and that he comes bringing forgiveness, Isolde heeds her not. As the Love-Death Motive rises softly over the orchestra and slowly swells into the impassioned Motive of Ecstasy, to reach its climax with a stupendous crash of instrumental forces, she gazes with growing transport upon her dead-246- lover, until, with rapture in her last glance, she sinks upon his corpse and expires.

In the Wagnerian version of the legend this love-death, for which Tristan and Isolde prayed and in which they are united, is more than a mere farewell together to life. It is tinged with Oriental philosophy, and symbolizes the taking up into and the absorption of by nature of all that is spiritual, and hence immortal, in lives rendered beautiful by love.


Opera in three acts, words and music by Richard Wagner. Produced, Munich, June 21, 1868, under direction of Hans von Bülow. London, Drury Lane, May 30, 1882, under Hans Richter; Covent Garden, July 13, 1889, in Italian; Manchester, in English, by the Carl Rosa Company, April 16, 1896. New York, Metropolitan Opera House, January 4, 1886, with Fischer (Hans Sachs), Seidl-Kraus (Eva), Marianne Brandt (Magdalena), Stritt (Walther), Kemlitz (Beckmesser); Conductor, Seidl. Sachs has also been sung by Édouard de Reszke, Van Rooy, and Whitehill; Walther by Jean de Reszke; Eva by Eames, Gadski, and Hempel; Beckmesser by Goritz; Magdalena by Schumann-Heink and Homer.


Hans Sachs, Cobbler}MastersingersBass
Veit Pogner, Goldsmith}Bass
Kunz Vogelgesang, Furrier}Tenor
Conrad Nachtigall, Buckle-Maker}Bass
Sixtus Beckmesser, Town Clerk}Bass
Fritz Kothner, Baker}Bass
Balthazar Zorn, Pewterer}Tenor
Ulrich Eislinger, Grocer}Tenor
August Moser, Tailor}Tenor
Hermann Ortel, Soap-boiler}Bass
Hans Schwarz, Stocking-Weaver}Bass
Hans Folz, Coppersmith}Bass
Walther Von Stolzing, a young Franconian knightTenor-247-
David, apprentice to Hans SachsTenor
A Night WatchmanBass
Eva, daughter of PognerSoprano
Magdalena, Eva's nurseMezzo-Soprano

Burghers of the Guilds, Journeymen, 'Prentices, Girls, and Populace.

Time—Middle of the Sixteenth Century.


Wagner's music-dramas are all unmistakably Wagner, yet they are wonderfully varied. The style of the music in each adapts itself plastically to the character of the story. Can one, for instance, imagine the music of "Tristan" wedded to the story of "The Mastersingers," or vice versa? A tragic passion, inflamed by the arts of sorcery inspired the former. The latter is a thoroughly human tale set to thoroughly human music. Indeed, while "Tristan" and "The Ring of the Nibelung" are tragic, and "Parsifal" is deeply religious, "The Mastersingers" is a comic work, even bordering in one scene on farce. Like Shakespeare, Wagner was equally at home in tragedy and comedy.

Walther von Stolzing is in love with Eva. Her father having promised her to the singer to whom at the coming midsummer festival the Mastersingers shall adjudge the prize, it becomes necessary for Walther to seek admission to their art union. He is, however, rejected, his song violating the rules to which the Mastersingers slavishly adhere. Beckmesser is also instrumental in securing Walther's rejection. The town clerk is the "marker" of the union. His duty is to mark all violations of the rules against a candidate. Beckmesser, being a suitor for Eva's hand, naturally makes the most of every chance to put down a mark against Walther.

Sachs alone among the Mastersingers has recognized the beauty of Walther's song. Its very freedom from rule and rote charms him, and he discovers in the young knight's untrammelled genius the power which, if properly directed,-248- will lead art from the beaten path of tradition toward a new and loftier ideal.

After Walther's failure before the Mastersingers the impetuous young knight persuades Eva to elope with him. But at night as they are preparing to escape, Beckmesser comes upon the scene to serenade Eva. Sachs, whose house is opposite Pogner's, has meanwhile brought his work bench out into the street and insists on "marking" what he considers Beckmesser's mistakes by bringing his hammer down upon his last with a resounding whack. The louder Beckmesser sings the louder Sachs whacks. Finally the neighbours are aroused. David, who is in love with Magdalena and thinks Beckmesser is serenading her, falls upon him with a cudgel. The whole neighbourhood turns out and a general mêlée ensues, during which Sachs separates Eva and Walther and draws the latter into his home.

The following morning Walther sings to Sachs a song which has come to him in a dream, Sachs transcribing the words and passing friendly criticism upon them and the music. The midsummer festival is to take place that afternoon, and through a ruse Sachs manages to get Walther's poem into Beckmesser's possession, who, thinking the words are by the popular cobbler-poet, feels sure he will be the chosen master. Eva, coming into the workshop to have her shoes fitted, finds Walther, and the lovers depart with Sachs, David, and Magdalena for the festival. Here Beckmesser, as Sachs had anticipated, makes a wretched failure, as he has utterly missed the spirit of the poem, and Walther, being called upon by Sachs to reveal its beauty in music, sings his prize song, winning at once the approbation of the Mastersingers and the populace. He is received into their art union and at the same time wins Eva as his bride.


Photo by Falk

Emil Fischer as Hans Sachs in “Die Meistersinger”

Weil and Goritz

Photo by White

Weil and Goritz as Hans Sachs and Beckmesser in “Die Meistersinger”

The Mastersingers were of burgher extraction. They flourished in Germany, chiefly in the imperial cities, during-249- the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. They did much to generate and preserve a love of art among the middle classes. Their musical competitions were judged according to a code of rules which distinguished by particular names thirty-two faults to be avoided. Scriptural or devotional subjects were usually selected and the judges or Merker (Markers) were, in Nuremburg, four in number, the first comparing the words with the Biblical text, the second criticizing the prosody, the third the rhymes, and the fourth the tune. He who had the fewest marks against him received the prize.

Hans Sachs, the most famous of the Mastersingers, born November 5, 1494, died January, 1576, in Nuremburg, is said to have been the author of some six thousand poems. He was a cobbler by trade—

Hans Sachs was a shoe-
Maker and poet too.

A monument was erected to him in the city of his birth in 1874.

"The Mastersingers" is a simple, human love story, simply told, with many touches of humour to enliven it, and its interest enhanced by highly picturesque, historical surroundings. As a drama it conveys also a perfect picture of the life and customs of Nuremburg of the time in which the story plays. Wagner must have made careful historical researches, but his book lore is not thrust upon us. The work is so spontaneous that the method and manner of its art are lost sight of in admiration of the result. Hans Sachs himself could not have left a more faithful portrait of life in Nuremburg in the middle of the sixteenth century.

"The Mastersingers" has a peculiarly Wagnerian interest. It is Wagner's protest against the narrow-minded critics and the prejudiced public who so long refused him recognition. Edward Hanslick, the bitterest of Wagner's critics,-250- regarded the libretto as a personal insult to himself. Being present by invitation at a private reading of the libretto, which Wagner gave in Vienna, Hanslick rose abruptly and left after the first act. Walther von Stolzing is the incarnation of new aspirations in art; the champion of a new art ideal, and continually chafing under the restraints imposed by traditional rules and methods. Hans Sachs is a conservative. But, while preserving what is best in art traditions, he is able to recognize the beautiful in what is new. He represents enlightened public opinion. Beckmesser and the other Mastersingers are the embodiment of rank prejudice—the critics. Walther's triumph is also Wagner's. Few of Wagner's dramatic creations equal in lifelike interest the character of Sachs. It is drawn with a strong, firm hand, and filled in with many delicate touches.

The Vorspiel gives a complete musical epitome of the story. It is full of life and action—pompous, impassioned, and jocose in turn, and without a suggestion of the overwrought or morbid. Its sentiment and its fun are purely human. In its technical construction it has long been recognized as a masterpiece.

In the sense that it precedes the rise of the curtain, this orchestral composition is a Vorspiel, or prelude. As a work, however, it is a full-fledged overture, rich in thematic material. These themes are Leading Motives heard many times, and in wonderful variety in the three acts of "The Mastersingers." To a great extent an analysis of this overture forecasts the work itself. Accordingly, again through the courtesy of G. Schirmer Inc., I avail myself of my Wagner's Music-Dramas Analysed, in the account of the Vorspiel and of the action and music that follow it.

The pompous Motive of the Mastersingers opens the Vorspiel. This theme gives capital musical expression to the characteristics of these dignitaries; eminently worthy but self-sufficient citizens who are slow to receive new-251- impressions and do not take kindly to innovations. Our term of old fogy describes them imperfectly, as it does not allow for their many excellent qualities. They are slow to act, but if they are once aroused their ponderous influence bears down all opposition. At first an obstacle to genuine reform, they are in the end the force which pushes it to success. Thus there is in the Motive of the Mastersingers a certain ponderous dignity which well emphasizes the idea of conservative power.



In great contrast to this is the Lyric Motive, which seems to express the striving after a poetic ideal untrammelled by old-fashioned restrictions, such as the rules of the Mastersingers impose.



But, the sturdy conservative forces are still unwilling to be persuaded of the worth of this new ideal. Hence the Lyric Motive is suddenly checked by the sonorous measures of the Mastersingers' March.



In this the majesty of law and order finds expression. It is followed by a phrase of noble breadth and beauty, obviously developed from portions of the Motive of the Mastersingers, and so typical of the goodwill which should exist-252- among the members of a fraternity that it may be called the Motive of the Art Brotherhood.



It reaches an eloquent climax in the Motive of the Ideal.



Opposed, however, to this guild of conservative masters is the restless spirit of progress. Hence, though stately the strains of the Mastersingers' March and of the Guild Motive, soon yield to a theme full of emotional energy and much like the Lyric Motive. Walther is the champion of this new ideal—not, however, from a purely artistic impulse, but rather through his love for Eva. Being ignorant of the rules and rote of the Mastersingers he sings, when he presents himself for admission to the fraternity, measures which soar untrammelled into realms of beauty beyond the imagination of the masters. But it was his love for Eva which impelled him to seek admission to the brotherhood, and love inspired his song. He is therefore a reformer only by accident; it is not his love of art, but his passion for Eva, which really brings about through his prize song a great musical reform. This is one of Wagner's finest dramatic touches—the love story is the mainspring of the action, the moral is pointed only incidentally. Hence all the motives in which the restless striving after a new ideal, or the struggles of a new art form to break through the barriers of conservative prejudice, find expression, are so many love motives, Eva being the incarnation of Walther's ideal. Therefore the motive which breaks in upon the-253- Mastersingers' March and Guild Motive with such emotional energy expresses Walther's desire to possess Eva, more than his yearning for a new ideal in art. So I call it the Motive of Longing.



A portion of "Walther's Prize Song," like a swiftly whispered declaration of love,



leads to a variation of one of the most beautiful themes of the work—the Motive of Spring.



And now Wagner has a fling at the old fogyism which was so long an obstacle to his success. He holds the masters up to ridicule in a delightfully humorous passage which parodies the Mastersingers' and Art Brotherhood motives, while the Spring Motive vainly strives to assert itself. In the bass, the following quotation is the Motive of Ridicule, the treble being a variant of the Art Brotherhood Motive.




When it is considered that the opposition Wagner encountered from prejudiced critics, not to mention a prejudiced public, was the bane of his career, it seems wonderful that he should have been content to protest against it with this pleasant raillery instead of with bitter invective. The passage is followed by the Motive of the Mastersingers, which in turn leads to an imposing combination of phrases. We hear the portion of the Prize Song already quoted—the Motive of the Mastersingers as bass—and in the middle voices portions of the Mastersingers' March; a little later the Motive of the Art Brotherhood and the Motive of Ridicule are added, this grand massing of orchestral forces reaching a powerful climax, with the Motive of the Ideal, while the Motive of the Mastersingers brings the Vorspiel to a fitting close. In this noble passage, in which the "Prize Song" soars above the various themes typical of the masters, the new ideal seems to be borne to its triumph upon the shoulders of the conservative forces which, won over at last, have espoused its cause with all their sturdy energy.

This concluding passage in the Vorspiel thus brings out with great eloquence the inner significance of "Die Meistersinger." In whatever the great author and composer of this work wrote for the stage, there always was an ethical meaning back of the words and music. Thus we draw our conclusion of the meaning of "Die Meistersinger" story from the wonderful combination of leading motives in the peroration of its Vorspiel.

In his fine book, The Orchestra and Orchestral Music, W.J. Henderson relates this anecdote:

"A professional musician was engaged in a discussion of Wagner in the corridor of the Metropolitan Opera House, while inside the orchestra was playing the 'Meistersinger' overture.

"'It is a pity,' said this wise man, in a condescending-255- manner, 'but Wagner knows absolutely nothing about counterpoint.'

"At that instant the orchestra was singing five different melodies at once; and, as Anton Seidl was the conductor, they were all audible."

In a rare book by J.C. Wagenseil, printed in Nuremburg in 1697, are given four "Prize Master Tones." Two of these Wagner has reproduced in modern garb, the former in the Mastersingers' March, the latter in the Motive of the Art Brotherhood.

Music Music
[Listen] [Listen]

Act I. The scene of this act is laid in the Church of St. Catherine, Nuremburg. The congregation is singing the final chorale of the service. Among the worshippers are Eva and her maid, Magdalena. Walther stands aside, and, by means of nods and gestures, communicates with Eva. This mimic conversation is expressively accompanied by interludes between the verses of the chorale, interludes expressively based on the Lyric, Spring, and Prize Song motives, and contrasting charmingly with the strains of the chorale.

The service over, the Motive of Spring, with an impetuous upward rush, seems to express the lovers' joy that the restraint is removed, and the Lyric Motive resounds exultingly as the congregation departs, leaving Eva, Magdalena, and Walther behind.

Eva, in order to gain a few words with Walther, sends Magdalena back to the pew to look for a kerchief and hymn-book, she has purposely left there. Magdalena urges Eva to return home, but just then David appears in the background and begins putting things to rights for the meeting of the Mastersingers. Magdalena is therefore-256- only too glad to linger. The Mastersinger and Guild motives, which naturally accompany David's activity, contrast soberly with the ardent phrases of the lovers. Magdalena explains to Walther that Eva is already affianced, though she herself does not know to whom. Her father wishes her to marry the singer to whom at the coming contest the Mastersingers shall award the prize; and, while she shall be at liberty to decline him, she may marry none but a master. Eva exclaims: "I will choose no one but my knight!" Very pretty and gay is the theme heard when David joins the group—the Apprentice Motive.



How capitally this motive expresses the light-heartedness of gay young people, in this case the youthful apprentices, among whom David was as gay and buoyant as any. Every melodious phrase—every motive—employed by Wagner appears to express exactly the character, circumstance, thing, or feeling, to which he applies it. The opening episodes of "Die Meistersinger" have a charm all their own.

The scene closes with a beautiful little terzet, after Magdalena has ordered David, under penalty of her displeasure, to instruct the knight in the art rules of the Mastersingers.

When the 'prentices enter, they proceed to erect the marker's platform, but stop at times to annoy the somewhat self-sufficient David, while he is endeavouring to instruct Walther in the rules of the Mastersingers. The merry Apprentice Motive runs through the scene and brings it to a close as the 'prentices sing and dance around the marker's box, suddenly, however, breaking off, for the Mastersingers appear.


There is a roll-call and then the fine passage for bass voice, in which Pogner offers Eva's hand in marriage to the winner of the coming song contest—with the proviso that Eva adds her consent. The passage is known on concert programmes as "Pogner's Address."

Walther is introduced by Pogner. The Knight Motive:



Beckmesser, jealous, and determined that Walther shall fail, enters the marker's box.

Kothner now begins reading off the rules of singing established by the masters, which is a capital take-off on old-fashioned forms of composition and never fails to raise a hearty laugh if delivered with considerable pomposity and unction. Unwillingly enough Walther takes his seat in the candidate's chair. Beckmesser shouts from the marker's box: "Now begin!" After a brilliant chord, followed by a superb ascending run on the violins, Walther, in ringing tones, enforced by a broad and noble chord, repeats Beckmesser's words. But such a change has come over the music that it seems as if that upward rushing run had swept away all restraint of ancient rule and rote, just as the spring wind whirling through the forest tears up the spread of dry, dead leaves, thus giving air and sun to the yearning mosses and flowers. In Walther's song the Spring Motive forms an ever-surging, swelling accompaniment, finally joining in the vocal melody and bearing it higher and higher to an impassioned climax. In his song, however, Walther is interrupted by the scratching made by Beck-258-messer as he chalks the singer's violations of the rules on the slate, and Walther, who is singing of love and spring, changes his theme to winter, which, lingering behind a thorny hedge, is plotting how it can mar the joy of the vernal season. The knight then rises from the chair and sings a second stanza with defiant enthusiasm. As he concludes it Beckmesser tears open the curtains which concealed him in the marker's box, and exhibits his board completely covered with chalk marks. Walther protests, but the masters, with the exception of Sachs and Pogner, refuse to listen further, and deride his singing. We have here the Motive of Derision.



Sachs protests that, while he found the knight's art method new, he did not find it formless. The Sachs Motive is here introduced.



The Sachs Motive betokens the genial nature of this sturdy, yet gentle man—the master spirit of the drama. He combines the force of a conservative character with the-259- tolerance of a progressive one, and is thus the incarnation of the idea which Wagner is working out in this drama, in which the union of a proper degree of conservative caution with progressive energy produces a new ideal in art. To Sachs's innuendo that Beckmessers' marking hardly could be considered just, as he is a candidate for Eva's hand, Beckmesser, by way of reply, chides Sachs for having delayed so long in finishing a pair of shoes for him, and as Sachs makes a humorously apologetic answer, the Cobbler Motive is heard.

The sturdy burgher calls to Walther to finish his song in spite of the masters. And now a finale of masterful construction begins. In short, excited phrases the masters chaff and deride Walther. His song, however, soars above all the hubbub. The 'prentices see their opportunity in the confusion, and joining hands they dance around the marker's box, singing as they do so. We now have combined with astounding skill Walther's song, the 'prentices' chorus, and the exclamations of the masters. The latter finally shout their verdict: "Rejected and outsung!" The knight, with a proud gesture of contempt, leaves the church. The 'prentices put the seats and benches back in their proper places, and in doing so greatly obstruct the masters as they crowd toward the doors. Sachs, who has lingered behind, gazes thoughtfully at the singer's empty chair, then, with a humorous gesture of discouragement, turns away.

Act II. The scene of this act represents a street in Nuremburg crossing the stage and intersected in the middle by a narrow, winding alley. There are thus two corner houses—on the right corner of the alley Pogner's, on the left Sachs's. Before the former is a linden-tree, before the latter an elder. It is a lovely summer evening.

The opening scene is a merry one. David and the 'prentices are closing shop. After a brisk introduction-260- based on the Midsummer Festival Motive the 'prentices quiz David on his love affair with Magdalena. The latter appears with a basket of dainties for her lover, but on learning that the knight has been rejected, she snatches the basket away from David and hurries back to the house. The 'prentices now mockingly congratulate David on his successful wooing. David loses his temper and shows fight, but Sachs, coming upon the scene, sends the 'prentices on their way and then enters his workshop with David. The music of this episode, especially the 'prentices' chorus, is bright and graceful.

Pogner and Eva, returning from an evening stroll, now come down the alley. Before retiring into the house the father questions the daughter as to her feelings concerning the duty she is to perform at the Mastersinging on the morrow. Her replies are discreetly evasive. The music beautifully reflects the affectionate relations between Pogner and Eva. When Pogner, his daughter seated beside him under the linden-tree, speaks of the morrow's festival and Eva's part in it in awarding the prize to the master of her choice before the assembled burghers of Nuremburg, the stately Nuremburg Motive is ushered in.



Magdalena appears at the door and signals to Eva. The latter persuades her father that it is too cool to remain outdoors and, as they enter the house, Eva learns from-261- Magdalena of Walther's failure before the masters. Magdalena advises her to seek counsel with Sachs after supper.

The Cobbler Motive shows us Sachs and David in the former's workshop. When the master has dismissed his 'prentice till morning, he yields to his poetic love of the balmy midsummer night and, laying down his work, leans over the half-door of his shop as if lost in reverie. The Cobbler Motive dies away to pp, and then there is wafted from over the orchestra like the sweet scent of the blooming elder the Spring Motive, while tender notes on the horn blossom beneath a nebulous veil of tremolo violins into memories of Walther's song. Its measures run through Sachs's head until, angered at the stupid conservatism of his associates, he resumes his work to the brusque measures of the Cobbler's Motive. As his ill humour yields again to the beauties of the night, this motive yields once more to that of spring, which, with reminiscences of Walther's first song before the masters, imbues this masterful monologue with poetic beauty of the highest order. The last words in praise of Walther ("The bird who sang today," etc.) are sung to a broad and expressive melody.

Eva now comes out into the street and, shyly approaching the shop, stands at the door unnoticed by Sachs until she speaks to him. The theme which pervades this scene seems to breathe forth the very spirit of lovely maidenhood which springs from the union of romantic aspirations, feminine reserve, and rare physical graces. It is the Eva Motive, which, with the delicate touch of a master, Wagner so varies that it follows the many subtle dramatic suggestions of the scene. The Eva Motive, in its original form, is as follows:




When at Eva's first words Sachs looks up, there is this elegant variation of the Eva Motive:



Then the scene being now fully ushered in, we have the Eva Motive itself. Eva leads the talk up to the morrow's festival, and when Sachs mentions Beckmesser as her chief wooer, roguishly hints, with evident reference to Sachs himself, that she might prefer a hearty widower to a bachelor of such disagreeable characteristics as the marker. There are sufficient indications that the sturdy master is not indifferent to Eva's charms, but, whole-souled, genuine friend that he is, his one idea is to further the love affair between his fair neighbour and Walther. The music of this passage is very suggestive. The melodic leading of the upper voice in the accompaniment, when Eva asks: "Could not a widower hope to win me?" is identical with a variation of the Isolde Motive in "Tristan and Isolde," while the Eva Motive, shyly pp, seems to indicate the artfulness of Eva's question. The reminiscence from "Tristan" can hardly be regarded as accidental, for Sachs afterwards boasts that he does not care to share the fate of poor King Marke. Eva now endeavours to glean particulars of Walther's experience in the morning, and we have the Motive of Envy, the Knight Motive, and the Motive of Ridicule. Eva does not appreciate the fine satire in Sachs's severe strictures on Walther's singing—he re-echoes not his own views, but those of the other masters, for whom, not for the knight, his strictures are really intended—and she leaves him in anger. This shows Sachs which way the-263- wind blows, and he forthwith resolves to do all in his power to bring Eva's and Walther's love affair to a successful conclusion. While Eva is engaged with Magdalena, who has come out to call her, he busies himself in closing the upper half of his shop door so far that only a gleam of light is visible, he himself being completely hidden. Eva learns from Magdalena of Beckmesser's intended serenade, and it is agreed that the maid shall personate Eva at the window.

Steps are heard coming down the alley. Eva recognizes Walther and flies to his arms, Magdalena discreetly hurrying into the house. The ensuing ardent scene between Eva and Walther brings familiar motives. The knight's excitement is comically broken in upon by the Night Watchman's cow-horn, and, as Eva lays her hand soothingly upon his arm and counsels that they retreat within the shadow of the linden-tree, there steals over the orchestra, like the fragrance of the summer night, a delicate variant of the Eva Motive—The Summer Night Motive.



Eva vanishes into the house to prepare to elope with Walther. The Night Watchman now goes up the stage intoning a mediæval chant. Coming in the midst of the beautiful modern music of "The Mastersingers," its effect is most quaint.

As Eva reappears and she and the knight are about to make their escape, Sachs, to prevent this precipitate and foolish step, throws open his shutters and allows his lamp to shed a streak of brilliant light across the street.

The lovers hesitate; and now Beckmesser sneaks in after the Night Watchman and, leaning against Sachs's house, begins to tune his lute, the peculiar twang of which, con-264-trasted with the rich orchestration, sounds irresistibly ridiculous.

Meanwhile, Eva and Walther have once more retreated into the shade of the linden-tree, and Sachs, who has placed his work bench in front of his door, begins hammering at the last and intones a song which is one of the rough diamonds of musical invention, for it is purposely brusque and rough, just such a song as a hearty, happy artisan might sing over his work. It is aptly introduced by the Cobbler Motive. Beckmesser, greatly disturbed lest his serenade be ruined, entreats Sachs to cease singing. The latter agrees, but with the proviso that he shall "mark" each of Beckmesser's mistakes with a hammer stroke. As if to bring out as sharply as possible the ridiculous character of the serenade, the orchestra breathes forth once more the summer night's music before Beckmesser begins his song, and this is set to a parody of the Lyric Motive. Wagner, with keen satire, seems to want to show how a beautiful melody may become absurd through old-fogy methods. Beckmesser has hardly begun before Sachs's hammer comes down on the last with a resounding whack, which makes the town clerk fairly jump with anger. He resumes, but soon is rudely interrupted again by a blow of Sachs's hammer. The whacks come faster and faster. Beckmesser, in order to make himself heard above them, sings louder and louder. Some of the neighbours are awakened by the noise and coming to their windows bid Beckmesser hold his peace. David, stung by jealousy as he sees Magdalena listening to the serenade, leaps from his room and falls upon the town clerk with a cudgel. The neighbours, male and female, run out into the street and a general mêlée ensues, the masters, who hurry upon the scene, seeking to restore quiet, while the 'prentices vent their high spirits by doing all in their power to add to the hubbub. All is now noise and disorder, pandemonium-265- seeming to have been let loose upon the dignified old town.

Musically this tumult finds expression in a fugue whose chief theme is the Cudgel Motive.



From beneath the hubbub of voices—those of the 'prentices and journeymen, delighted to take part in the shindy, of the women who are terrified at it, and of the masters who strive to stop it, is heard the theme of Beckmesser's song, the real cause of the row. This is another of those many instances in which Wagner vividly expresses in his music the significance of what transpires on the stage.

Sachs finally succeeds in shoving the 'prentices and journeymen out of the way. The street is cleared, but not before the cobbler-poet has pushed Eva, who was about to elope with Walther, into her father's arms and drawn Walther after him into his shop.

The street is quiet. And now, the rumpus subsided and all concerned in it gone, the Night Watchman appears, rubs his eyes and chants his mediæval call. The street is flooded with moonlight. The Watchman with his clumsy halberd lunges at his own shadow, then goes up the alley.

We have had hubbub, we have had humour, and now we have a musical ending elvish, roguish, and yet exquisite in sentiment. The effect is produced by the Cudgel Motive played with the utmost delicacy on the flute, while the theme of Beckmesser's serenade merrily runs after itself on clarinet and bassoon, and the muted violins softly breathe the Midsummer Festival Motive.


Act III. During this act the tender strain in Sachs's sturdy character is brought out in bold relief. Hence the prelude develops what may be called three Sachs themes, two of them expressive of his twofold nature as poet and cobbler, the third standing for the love which his fellow-burghers bear him.

The prelude opens with the Wahn Motive or Motive of Poetic Illusion. This reflects the deep thought and poetic aspirations of Sachs the poet. It is followed by the theme of the beautiful chorus, sung later in the act, in praise of Sachs: "Awake! draws nigh the break of day." This theme, among the three heard in the prelude, points to Sachs's popularity. The third consists of portions of the cobbler's song in the second act. This prelude has long been considered one of Wagner's masterpieces. The themes are treated with the utmost delicacy, so that we recognize through them both the tender, poetic side of Sachs's nature and his good-humoured brusqueness. The Motive of Poetic illusion is deeply reflective, and it might be preferable to name it the Motive of Poetic Thought, were it not that it is better to preserve the significance of the term Wahn Motive, which there is ample reason to believe originated with Wagner himself. The prelude is, in fact, a subtle analysis of character expressed in music.



How peaceful the scene on which the curtain rises. Sachs is sitting in an armchair in his sunny workshop, reading in a large folio. The Illusion Motive has not yet died away in the prelude, so that it seems to reflect the thoughts awakened in Sachs by what he is reading. David, dressed for the festival, enters just as the prelude ends.-267- There is a scene full of charming bonhomie between Sachs and his 'prentice, which is followed, when the latter has withdrawn, by Sachs's monologue: "Wahn! Wahn! Ueberall Wahn!" (Illusion, everywhere illusion.)

While the Illusion Motive seems to weave a poetic atmosphere about him, Sachs, buried in thought, rests his head upon his arm over the folio. The Illusion Motive is followed by the Spring Motive, which in turn yields to the Nuremburg Motive as Sachs sings the praises of the stately old town. At his reference to the tumult of the night before there are in the score corresponding allusions to the music of that episode. "A glowworm could not find its mate," he sings, referring to Walther and Eva. The Midsummer Festival, Lyric, and Nuremburg motives in union foreshadow the triumph of true art through love on Nuremburg soil, and thus bring the monologue to a stately conclusion.

Walther now enters from the chamber, which opens upon a gallery, and, descending into the workshop, is heartily greeted by Sachs with the Sachs Motive, which dominates the immediately ensuing scene. Very beautiful is the theme in which Sachs protests against Walther's derision of the masters; for they are, in spite of their many old-fogyish notions, the conservators of much that is true and beautiful in art.

Walther tells Sachs of a song which came to him in a dream during the night, and sings two stanzas of this "Prize Song," Sachs making friendly critical comments as he writes down the words. The Nuremburg Motive in sonorous and festive instrumentation closes this melodious episode.

When Sachs and Walther have retired Beckmesser is seen peeping into the shop. Observing that it is empty he enters hastily. He is ridiculously overdressed for the approaching festival, limps, and occasionally rubs his-268- muscles as if he were still stiff and sore from his drubbing. By chance his glance falls on the manuscript of the "Prize Song" in Sachs's handwriting on the table, when he breaks forth in wrathful exclamations, thinking now that he has in the popular master a rival for Eva's hand. Hearing the chamber door opening he hastily grabs the manuscript and thrusts it into his pocket. Sachs enters. Observing that the manuscript is no longer on the table, he realizes that Beckmesser has stolen it, and conceives the idea of allowing him to keep it, knowing that the marker will fail most wretchedly in attempting to give musical expression to Walther's inspiration.

The scene places Sachs in a new light. A fascinating trait of his character is the dash of scapegrace with which it is seasoned. Hence, when he thinks of allowing Beckmesser to use the poem the Sachs Motive takes on a somewhat facetious, roguish grace. There now ensues a charming dialogue between Sachs and Eva, who enters when Beckmesser has departed. This is accompanied by a transformation of the Eva Motive, which now reflects her shyness and hesitancy in taking Sachs into her confidence.

With it is joined the Cobbler Motive when Eva places her foot upon the stool while Sachs tries on the shoes she is to wear at the festival. When, with a cry of joy, she recognizes her lover as he appears upon the gallery, and remains motionless, gazing upon him as if spellbound, the lovely Summer Night Motive enhances the beauty of the tableau. While Sachs cobbles and chats away, pretending not to observe the lovers, the Motive of Maidenly Reserve passes through many modulations until there is heard a phrase from "Tristan and Isolde" (the Isolde Motive), an allusion which is explained below. The Lyric Motive introduces the third stanza of Walther's "Prize Song," with which he now greets Eva, while she, overcome with joy at seeing her lover, sinks upon Sachs's breast. The-269- Illusion Motive rhapsodizes the praises of the generous cobbler-poet, who seeks relief from his emotions in bantering remarks, until Eva glorifies him in a noble burst of love and gratitude in a melody derived from the Isolde Motive.

It is after this that Sachs, alluding to his own love of Eva, exclaims that he will have none of King Marke's triste experience; and the use of the King Marke Motive at this point shows that the previous echoes of the Isolde Motive were premeditated rather than accidental.

Magdalena and David now enter, and Sachs gives to Walther's "Prize Song" its musical baptism, utilizing chiefly the first and second lines of the chorale which opens the first act. David then kneels down and, according to the custom of the day, receives from Sachs a box on the ear in token that he is advanced from 'prentice to journeyman. Then follows the beautiful quintet, in which the "Prize Song," as a thematic germ, puts forth its loveliest blossoms. This is but one of many instances in which Wagner proved that when the dramatic situation called for it he could conceive and develop a melody of most exquisite fibre.

After the quintet the orchestra resumes the Nuremburg Motive and all depart for the festival. The stage is now shut off by a curtain behind which the scene is changed from Sachs's workshop to the meadow on the banks of the Pegnitz, near Nuremburg. After a tumultuous orchestral interlude, which portrays by means of motives already familiar, with the addition of the fanfare of the town musicians, the noise and bustle incidental to preparations for a great festival, the curtain rises upon a lively scene. Boats decked out in flags and bunting and full of festively clad members of the various guilds and their wives and children are constantly arriving. To the right is a platform decorated with the flags of the guilds which have already gathered. People are making merry under tents and-270- awnings where refreshments are served. The 'prentices are having a jolly time of it heralding and marshalling the guilds who disperse and mingle with the merrymakers after the standard bearers have planted their banners near the platform.

Soon after the curtain rises the cobblers arrive, and as they march down the meadow, conducted by the 'prentices, they sing in honour of St. Crispin, their patron saint, a chorus, based on the Cobbler Motive, to which a melody in popular style is added. The town watchmen, with trumpets and drums, the town pipers, lute makers, etc., and then the journeymen, with comical sounding toy instruments, march past, and are succeeded by the tailors, who sing a humorous chorus, telling how Nuremburg was saved from its ancient enemies by a tailor, who sewed a goatskin around him and pranced around on the town walls, to the terror of the hostile army, which took him for the devil. The bleating of a goat is capitally imitated in this chorus.

With the last chord of the tailors' chorus the bakers strike up their song and are greeted in turn by cobblers and tailors with their respective refrains. A boatful of young peasant girls in gay costumes now arrives, and the 'prentices make a rush for the bank. A charming dance in waltz time is struck up. The 'prentices with the girls dance down toward the journeymen, but as soon as these try to get hold of the girls, the 'prentices veer off with them in another direction. This veering should be timed to fall at the beginning of those periods of the dance to which Wagner has given, instead of eight measures, seven and nine, in order by this irregularity to emphasize the ruse of the 'prentices.

The dance is interrupted by the arrival of the masters, the 'prentices falling in to receive, the others making room for the procession. The Mastersingers advance to the stately strains of the Mastersinger Motive, which, when-271- Kothner appears bearing their standard with the figure of King David playing on his harp, goes over into the sturdy measures of the Mastersingers' March. Sachs rises and advances. At sight of him the populace intone the noblest of all choruses: "Awake! draws nigh the break of day," the words of which are a poem by the real Hans Sachs.

At its conclusion the populace break into shouts in praise of Sachs, who modestly yet most feelingly gives them thanks. When Beckmesser is led to the little mound of turf upon which the singer is obliged to stand, we have the humorous variation of the Mastersinger Motive from the Prelude. Beckmesser's attempt to sing Walther's poem ends, as Sachs had anticipated, in utter failure. The town clerk's effort is received with jeers. Before he rushes away, infuriated but utterly discomfited, he proclaims that Sachs is the author of the song they have derided. The cobbler-poet declares to the people that it is not by him; that it is a beautiful poem if sung to the proper melody and that he will show them the author of the poem, who will in song disclose its beauties. He then introduces Walther. The knight easily succeeds in winning over people and masters, who repeat the closing melody of his "Prize Song" in token of their joyous appreciation of his new and wondrous art. Pogner advances to decorate Walther with the insignia of the Mastersingers' Guild.



In more ways than one the "Prize Song" is a mainstay of "Die Meistersinger." It has been heard in the previous scene of the third act, not only when Walther rehearses it for-272- Sachs, but also in the quintet. Moreover, versions of it occur in the overture and indeed, throughout the work, adding greatly to the romantic sentiment of the score. For "Die Meistersinger" is a comedy of romance.

In measures easily recognized from the Prelude, to which the Nuremburg Motive is added, Sachs now praises the masters and explains their noble purpose as conservators of art. Eva takes the wreath with which Walther has been crowned, and with it crowns Sachs, who has meanwhile decorated the knight with the insignia. Pogner kneels, as if in homage, before Sachs, the masters point to the cobbler as to their chief, and Walther and Eva remain on either side of him, leaning gratefully upon his shoulders. The chorus repeats Sachs's final admonition to the closing measures of the Prelude.


Stage Dedication Festival Play (Bühnenweihfestspiel) in three acts, words and music by Richard Wagner. Produced Bayreuth, July 26, 1882. Save in concert form, the work was not given elsewhere until December 24, 1903, when it was produced at the Metropolitan Opera House at that time under the direction of Heinrich Conried.

At the Bayreuth performances there were alternating casts. Winckelmann was the Parsifal of the première, Gudehus of the second performance, Jäger of the third. The alternating Kundrys were Materna, Marianne Brandt, and Malten; Gurnemanz Scaria and Siehr; Amfortas Reichmann; Klingsor, Hill and Fuchs. Hermann Levi conducted.

In the New York cast Ternina was Kundry, Burgstaller Parsifal, Van Rooy Amfortas, Blass Gurnemanz, Goritz Klingsor, Journet Titurel, Miss Moran and Miss Braendle the first and second, Harden and Bayer the third and fourth Esquires, Bayer and Mühlmann two Knights of the Grail, Homer a Voice.


Amfortas, son of Titurel, ruler of the Kingdom of the GrailBaritone-Bass
Titurel, former rulerBass
Gurnemanz, a veteran Knight of the GrailBass
Klingsor, a magicianBass
First and Second KnightsTenor and Bass
Four EsquiresSopranos and Tenors
Six of Klingsor's Flower MaidensSopranos

Brotherhood of the Knights of the Grail; Youths and Boys; Flower Maidens (two choruses of sopranos and altos).

Time—The Middle Ages.

Place—Spain, near and in the Castle of the Holy Grail; in Klingsor's enchanted castle and in the garden of his castle.

Photographs of the First Performance of “Parsifal,” Bayreuth, 1882
The Grail-Bearer
Winckelmann and Materna Scaria
Photographs of the First Performance of “Parsifal,” Bayreuth, 1882
Winckelmann and Materna as
Parsifal and Kundry
Scaria as Gurnemanz

"Parsifal" is a familiar name to those who have heard "Lohengrin." Lohengrin, it will be remembered, tells Elsa that he is Parsifal's son and one of the knights of the Holy Grail. The name is written Percival in "Lohengrin," as well as in Tennyson's "Idyls of the King." Now, however, Wagner returns to the quainter and more "Teutonic" form of spelling. "Parsifal" deals with an earlier period in the history of the Grail knighthood than "Lohengrin." But there is a resemblance between the Grail music in "Parsifal" and the "Lohengrin" music—a resemblance not in melody, nor even in outline, but merely in the purity and spirituality that breathes through both.

Three legends supplied Wagner with the principal characters in this music-drama. They were "Percival le Galois; or Contes de Grail," by Chrétien de Troyes (1190); "Parsifal," by Wolfram von Eschenbach, and a manuscript of the fourteenth century called by scholars the "Mabinogion." As usual, Wagner has not held himself strictly to any one of these, but has combined them all, and revivified them through the alchemy of his own genius.

Into the keeping of Titurel and his band of Christian knights has been given the Holy Grail, the vessel from which the Saviour drank when He instituted the Last Supper. Into their hands, too, has been placed, as a weapon of defence against the ungodly, the Sacred Spear, the arm with which the Roman soldier wounded the Saviour's side.-274- The better to guard these sanctified relics Titurel, as King of the Grail knighthood, has reared a castle, Montsalvat, which, from its forest-clad height, facing Arabian Spain, forms a bulwark of Christendom against the pagan world and especially against Klingsor, a sorcerer and an enemy of the good. Yet time and again this Klingsor, whose stronghold is nearby, has succeeded in enticing champions of the Grail into his magic garden, with its lure of flower-maidens and its arch-enchantress Kundry, a rarely beautiful woman, and in making them his servitors against their one-time brothers-in-arms.

Even Amfortas, Titurel's son, to whom Titurel, grown old in service and honour, has confided his reign and wardship, has not escaped the thrall of Klingsor's sorcery. Eager to begin his reign by destroying Klingsor's power at one stroke, he penetrated into the garden to attack and slay him. But he failed to reckon with human frailty. Yielding to the snare so skilfully laid by the sorcerer and forgetting, at the feet of the enchantress, Kundry, the mission upon which he had sallied forth, he allowed the Sacred Spear to drop from his hand. It was seized by the evil-doer he had come to destroy, and he himself was grievously wounded with it before the knights who rushed to his rescue could bear him off.

This wound no skill has sufficed to heal. It is sapping Amfortas's strength. Indecision, gloom, have come over the once valiant brotherhood. Only the touch of the Sacred Spear that made the wound will avail to close it, but there is only one who can regain it from Klingsor. For to Amfortas, prostrate in supplication for a sign, a mystic voice from the sanctuary of the Grail replied:

By pity guided,
The guileless fool;
Wait for him,
My chosen tool.

This prophecy the knights construe to signify that their king's salvation can be wrought only by youth so "guile-275-less," so wholly ignorant of sin, that, instead of succumbing to the temptations of Klingsor's magic garden, he will become, through resisting them, cognizant of Amfortas's guilt, and, stirred by pity for him, make his redemption the mission of his life, regain the Spear and heal him with it. And so the Grail warders are waiting, waiting for the coming of the "guileless fool."

The working out of this prophecy forms the absorbing subject of the story of "Parsifal." The plot is allegorical. Parsifal is the personification of Christianity, Klingsor of Paganism, and the triumph of Parsifal over Klingsor is the triumph of Christianity over Paganism.

The character of Kundry is one of Wagner's most striking creations. She is a sort of female Ahasuerus—a wandering Jewess. In the Mabinogion manuscript she is no other than Herodias, condemned to wander for ever because she laughed at the head of John the Baptist. Here Wagner makes another change. According to him she is condemned for laughing in the face of the Saviour as he was bearing the cross. She seeks forgiveness by serving the Grail knights as messenger on her swift horse, but ever and anon she is driven by the curse hanging over her back to Klingsor, who changes her to a beautiful woman and places her in his garden to lure the Knights of the Grail. She can be freed only by one who resists her temptations. Finally she is freed by Parsifal and is baptized. In her character of Grail messenger she has much in common with the wild messengers of Walhalla, the Valkyrs. Indeed, in the Edda Saga, her name appears in the first part of the compound Gundryggja, which denotes the office of the Valkyrs.


The Vorspiel to "Parsifal" is based on three of the most deeply religious motives in the entire work. It opens with the Motive of the Sacrament, over which, when it is re-276-peated, arpeggios hover, as in the religious paintings of old masters angel forms float above the figure of virgin or saint.



Through this motive we gain insight into the office of the Knights of the Grail, who from time to time strengthen themselves for their spiritual duties by partaking of the communion, on which occasions the Grail itself is uncovered. This motive leads to the Grail Motive, effectively swelling to forte and then dying away in ethereal harmonies, like the soft light with which the Grail illumines the hall in which the knights gather to worship.



The trumpets then announce the Motive of Faith, severe but sturdy—portraying superbly the immutability of faith.


[Listen (MP3)]

The Grail Motive is heard again and then the Motive of Faith is repeated, its severity exquisitely softened, so that it conveys a sense of peace which "passeth all understanding."




The rest of the Vorspiel is agitated. That portion of the Motive of the Sacrament which appears later as the Spear Motive here assumes through a slight change a deeply sad character, and becomes typical throughout the work of the sorrow wrought by Amfortas's crime. I call it the Elegiac Motive.



Thus the Vorspiel depicts both the religious duties which play so prominent a part in the drama, and unhappiness which Amfortas's sinful forgetfulness of these duties has brought upon himself and his knights.

Act I. One of the sturdiest of the knights, the aged Gurnemanz, grey of head and beard, watches near the outskirts of the forest. One dawn finds him seated under a majestic tree. Two young Esquires lie in slumber at his feet. Far off, from the direction of the castle, sounds a solemn reveille.

"Hey! Ho!" Gurnemanz calls with brusque humour to the Esquires. "Not forest, but sleep warders I deem you!" The youths leap to their feet; then, hearing the solemn reveille, kneel in prayer. The Motive of Peace echoes their devotional thoughts. A wondrous peace seems to rest upon the scene. But the transgression of the King ever breaks the tranquil spell. For soon two Knights come in the van of the train that thus early bears the King from a bed of suffering to the forest lake nearby, in whose waters he would bathe his wound. They pause to parley with Gurnemanz, but are interrupted by outcries from the youths and sounds of rushing through air.

"Mark the wild horsewoman!"—"The mane of the devil's mare flies madly!"—"Aye, 'tis Kundry!"—"She has swung herself off," cry the Esquires as they watch the-278- approach of the strange creature that now rushes in—a woman clad in coarse, wild garb girdled high with a snake-skin, her thick black hair tumbling about her shoulders, her features swarthy, her dark eyes now flashing, now fixed and glassy. Precipitately she thrusts a small crystal flask into Gurnemanz's hand.

"Balsam—for the king!" There is a savagery in her manner that seems designed to ward off thanks, when Gurnemanz asks her whence she has brought the flask, and she replies: "From farther away than your thought can travel. If it fail, Arabia bears naught else that can ease his pain. Ask no further. I am weary."

Throwing herself upon the ground and resting her face on her hands, she watches the King borne in, replies to his thanks for the balsam with a wild, mocking laugh, and follows him with her eyes as they bear him on his litter toward the lake, while Gurnemanz and four Esquires remain behind.

Kundry's rapid approach on her wild horse is accompanied by a furious gallop in the orchestra.



Then, as she rushes upon the stage, the Kundry Motive—a headlong descent of the string instruments through four octaves—is heard.



Kundry's action in seeking balsam for the King's wound gives us insight into the two contradictory natures repre-279-sented by her character. For here is the woman who has brought all his suffering upon Amfortas striving to ease it when she is free from the evil sway of Klingsor. She is at times the faithful messenger of the Grail; at times the evil genius of its defenders.

When Amfortas is borne in upon a litter there is heard the Motive of Amfortas's Suffering, expressive of his physical and mental agony. It has a peculiar heavy, dragging rhythm, as if his wound slowly were sapping his life.



A beautiful idyl is played by the orchestra when the knights bear Amfortas to the forest lake.



One of the youths, who has remained with Gurnemanz, noting that Kundry still lies where she had flung herself upon the ground, calls out scornfully, "Why do you lie there like a savage beast?"

"Are not even the beasts here sacred?" she retorts, but harshly, and not as if pleading for sufferance. The other Esquires would have joined in harassing her had not Gurnemanz stayed them.


"Never has she done you harm. She serves the Grail, and only when she remains long away, none knows in what distant lands, does harm come to us." Then, turning to where she lies, he asks: "Where were you wandering when our leader lost the Sacred Spear? Why were you not here to help us then?"

"I never help!" is her sullen retort, although a tremor, as if caused by a pang of bitter reproach, passes over her frame.

"If she wants to serve the Grail, why not send her to recover the Sacred Spear!" exclaims one of the Esquires sarcastically; and the youths doubtless would have resumed their nagging of Kundry, had not mention of the holy weapon caused Gurnemanz to give voice to memories of the events that have led to its capture by Klingsor. Then, yielding to the pressing of the youths who gather at his feet beneath the tree, he tells them of Klingsor—how the sorcerer has sued for admission to the Grail brotherhood, which was denied him by Titurel, how in revenge he has sought its destruction and now, through possession of the Sacred Spear, hopes to compass it.

Prominent with other motives already heard, is a new one, the Klingsor Motive:



During this recital Kundry still lies upon the ground, a sullen, forbidding looking creature. At the point when Gurnemanz tells of the sorcerer's magic garden and of the enchantress who has lured Amfortas to his downfall, she turns in quick, angry unrest, as if she would away, but is held to the spot by some dark and compelling power. There is indeed something strange and contradictory in this wild creature, who serves the Grail by ranging distant-281- lands in search of balsam for the King's wound, yet abruptly, vindictively almost, repels proffered thanks, and is a sullen and unwilling listener to Gurnemanz's narrative. Furthermore, as Gurnemanz queried, where does she linger during those long absences, when harm has come to the warders of the Grail and now to their King? The Knights of the Grail do not know it, but it is none other than she who, changed by Klingsor into an enchantress, lures them into his magic garden.

Gurnemanz concludes by telling the Esquire that while Amfortas was praying for a sign as to who could heal him, phantom lips pronounced these words:

By pity lightened
The guileless fool;
Wait for him,
My chosen tool.

This introduces an important motive, that of the Prophecy, a phrase of simple beauty, as befits the significance of the words to which it is sung. Gurnemanz sings the entire motive and then the Esquires take it up.



They have sung only the first two lines when suddenly their prayerful voices are interrupted by shouts of dismay from the direction of the lake. A moment later a wounded swan, one of the sacred birds of the Grail brotherhood, flutters over the stage and falls dead near Gurnemanz. The knights follow in consternation. Two of them bring Parsifal, whom they have seized and accuse of murdering the sacred-282- bird. As he appears the magnificent Parsifal Motive rings out on the horns:



It is a buoyant and joyous motive, full of the wild spirit and freedom of this child of nature, who knows nothing of the Grail and its brotherhood or the sacredness of the swan, and freely boasts of his skilful marksmanship. During this episode the Swan Motive from "Lohengrin" is effectively introduced. Then follows Gurnemanz's noble reproof, sung to a broad and expressive melody. Even the animals are sacred in the region of the Grail and are protected from harm. Parsifal's gradual awakening to a sense of wrong is one of the most touching scenes of the music-drama. His childlike grief when he becomes conscious of the pain he has caused is so simple and pathetic that one cannot but be deeply affected.

After Gurnemanz has ascertained that Parsifal knows nothing of the wrong he committed in killing the swan he plies him with questions concerning his parentage. Parsifal is now gentle and tranquil. He tells of growing up in the woods, of running away from his mother to follow a cavalcade of knights who passed along the edge of the forest and-283- of never having seen her since. In vain he endeavours to recall the many pet names she gave him. These memories of his early days introduce the sad motive of his mother, Herzeleid (Heart's Sorrow) who has died in grief.



The old knight then proceeds to ply Parsifal with questions regarding his parentage, name, and native land. "I do not know," is the youth's invariable answer. His ignorance, coupled, however, with his naïve nobility of bearing and the fact that he has made his way to the Grail domain, engender in Gurnemanz the hope that here at last is the "guileless fool" for whom prayerfully they have been waiting, and the King, having been borne from the lake toward the castle where the holy rite of unveiling the Grail is to be celebrated that day, thither Gurnemanz in kindly accents bids the youth follow him.

Then occurs a dramatically effective change of scene. The scenery becomes a panorama drawn off toward the right, and as Parsifal and Gurnemanz face toward the left they appear to be walking in that direction. The forest disappears; a cave opens in rocky cliffs and conceals the two; they are then seen again in sloping passages which they appear to ascend. Long sustained trombone notes softly swell; approaching peals of bells are heard. At last they arrive at a mighty hall which loses itself overhead in a high vaulted dome, down from which alone the light streams in.

The change of scene is ushered in by the solemn Bell-284- Motive, which is the basis of the powerful orchestral interlude accompanying the panorama, and also of the scene in the hall of the Grail Castle.



As the communion, which is soon to be celebrated, is broken in upon by the violent grief and contrition of Amfortas, so the majestic sweep of this symphony is interrupted by the agonized Motive of Contrition, which graphically portrays the spiritual suffering of the King.

This subtly suggests the Elegiac Motive and the Motive of Amfortas's Suffering, but in greatly intensified degrees. For it is like an outcry of torture that affects both body and soul.

With the Motive of the Sacrament resounding solemnly upon the trombones, followed by the Bell Motive, sonorous and powerful, Gurnemanz and Parsifal enter the hall, the old knight giving the youth a position from which he can observe the proceedings. From the deep colonnades on either side in the rear the knights issue, march with stately tread, and arrange themselves at the horseshoe-shaped table, which incloses a raised couch. Then, while the orchestra plays a solemn processional based on the Bell Motive, they intone the chorus: "To the last love feast." After the first verse a line of pages crosses the stage and ascend into the dome. The graceful interlude here is based on the Bell Motive.




The chorus of knights closes with a glorious outburst of the Grail Motive as Amfortas is borne in, preceded by pages who bear the covered Grail. The King is lifted upon the couch and the holy vessel is placed upon the stone table in front of it. When the Grail Motive has died away amid the pealing of the bells, the youths in the gallery below the dome sing a chorus of penitence based upon the Motive of Contrition. Then the Motive of Faith floats down from the dome as an unaccompanied chorus for boys' voices—a passage of ethereal beauty—the orchestra whispering a brief postludium like a faint echo. This is, when sung as it was at Bayreuth, where I heard the first performance of "Parsifal" in 1882, the most exquisite effect of the whole score. For spirituality it is unsurpassed. It is an absolutely perfect example of religious music—a beautiful melody without the slightest worldly taint.

Titurel now summons Amfortas to perform his sacred office—to uncover the Grail. At first, tortured by contrition for his sin, of which the agony from his wound is a constant reminder, he refuses to obey his aged father's summons. In anguish he cries out that he is unworthy of the sacred office. But again ethereal voices float down from the dome. They now chant the prophecy of the "guileless fool" and, as if comforted by the hope of ultimate redemption, Amfortas uncovers the Grail. Dusk seems to spread over the hall. Then a ray of brilliant light darts down upon the sacred vessel, which shines with a soft purple radiance that diffuses itself through the hall. All are on their knees save the youth, who has stood motionless and obtuse to the significance of all he has heard and seen save that during Amfortas's anguish he has clutched his heart as if he too felt the pang. But when the rite is over—when the knights have partaken of communion—and the glow has faded, and the King, followed by his knights, has-286- been borne out, the youth remains behind, vigorous, handsome, but to all appearances a dolt.

"Do you know what you have witnessed?" Gurnemanz asks harshly, for he is grievously disappointed.

For answer the youth shakes his head.

"Just a fool, after all," exclaims the old knight, as he opens a side door to the hall. "Begone, but take my advice. In future leave our swans alone, and seek yourself, gander, a goose!" And with these harsh words he pushes the youth out and angrily slams the door behind him.

This jarring break upon the religious feeling awakened by the scene would be a rude ending for the act, but Wagner, with exquisite tact, allows the voices in the dome to be heard once more, and so the curtains close, amid the spiritual harmonies of the Prophecy of the Guileless Fool and of the Grail Motive.

Act II. This act plays in Klingsor's magic castle and garden. The Vorspiel opens with the threatful Klingsor motive, which is followed by the Magic and Contrition Motives, the wild Kundry Motive leading over to the first scene.

In the inner keep of his tower, stone steps leading up to the battlemented parapet and down into a deep pit at the back, stands Klingsor, looking into a metal mirror, whose surface, through his necromancy, reflects all that transpires within the environs of the fastness from which he ever threatens the warders of the Grail. Of all that just has happened in the Grail's domain it has made him aware; and he knows that of which Gurnemanz is ignorant—that the youth, whose approach the mirror divulges, once in his power, vain will be the prophecy of the "guileless fool" and his own triumph assured. For it is that same "guileless fool" the old knight impatiently has thrust out.

Klingsor turns toward the pit and imperiously waves his hand. A bluish vapour rises from the abyss and in it-287- floats the form of a beauteous woman—Kundry, not the Kundry of a few hours before, dishevelled and in coarse garb girdled with snake-skin; but a houri, her dark hair smooth and lustrous, her robe soft, rich Oriental draperies. Yet even as she floats she strives as though she would descend to where she has come from, while the sorcerer's harsh laugh greets her vain efforts. This then is the secret of her strange actions and her long disappearances from the Grail domain, during which so many of its warders have fallen into Klingsor's power! She is the snare he sets, she the arch-enchantress of his magic garden. Striving as he hints while he mocks her impotence, to expiate some sin committed by her during a previous existence in the dim past, by serving the brotherhood of the Grail knights, the sorcerer's power over her is such that at any moment he can summon her to aid him in their destruction.

Well she knows what the present summons means. Approaching the tower at this very moment is the youth whom she has seen in the Grail forest, and in whom she, like Klingsor, has recognized the only possible redeemer of Amfortas and of—herself. And now she must lure him to his doom and with it lose her last hope of salvation, now, aye, now—for even as he mocks her, Klingsor once more waves his hand, castle and keep vanish as if swallowed up by the earth, and in its place a garden heavy with the scent of gorgeous flowers fills the landscape.

The orchestra, with the Parsifal Motive, gives a spirited description of the brief combat between Parsifal and Klingsor's knights. It is amid the dark harmonies of the Klingsor Motive that the keep sinks out of sight and the magic garden, spreading out in all directions, with Parsifal standing on the wall and gazing with astonishment upon the brilliant scene, is disclosed.

The Flower Maidens in great trepidation for the fate of their lover knights rush in from all sides with cries of sorrow,-288- their confused exclamations and the orchestral accompaniment admirably enforcing their tumultuous actions.

The Parsifal Motive again introduces the next episode, as Parsifal, attracted by the grace and beauty of the girls, leaps down into the garden and seeks to mingle with them. It is repeated several times in the course of the scene. The girls, seeing that he does not seek to harm them, bedeck themselves with flowers and crowd about him with alluring gestures, finally circling around him as they sing this caressing melody:



The effect is enchanting, the music of this episode being a marvel of sensuous grace. Parsifal regards them with childlike, innocent joy. Then they seek to impress him more deeply with their charms, at the same time quarrelling among themselves over him. When their rivalry has reached its height, Kundry's voice—"Parsifal, tarry!"—is wafted from a flowery nook nearby.



"Parsifal!" In all the years of his wandering none has called him by his name; and now it floats toward him as if borne on the scent of roses. A beautiful woman, her arms stretched out to him, welcomes him from her couch of-289- brilliant, redolent flowers. Irresistibly drawn toward her, he approaches and kneels by her side; and she, whispering to him in tender accents, leans over him and presses a long kiss upon his lips. It is the lure that has sealed the fate of many a knight of the Grail. But in the youth it inspires a sudden change. The perilous subtlety of it, that is intended to destroy, transforms the "guileless fool" into a conscious man, and that man conscious of a mission. The scenes he has witnessed in the Grail castle, the stricken King whose wound ever bled afresh, the part he is to play, the peril of the temptation that has been placed in his path—all these things become revealed to him in the rapture of that unhallowed kiss. In vain the enchantress seeks to draw him toward her. He thrusts her from him. Maddened by the repulse, compelled through Klingsor's arts to see in the handsome youth before her lawful prey, she calls upon the sorcerer to aid her. At her outcry Klingsor appears on the castle wall, in his hand the Spear taken from Amfortas, and, as Parsifal faces him, hurls it full at him. But lo, it rises in its flight and remains suspended in the air over the head of him it was aimed to slay.

Reaching out and seizing it, Parsifal makes with it the sign of the cross. Castle and garden wall crumble into ruins, the garden shrivels away, leaving in its place a sere wilderness, through which Parsifal, leaving Kundry as one dead upon the ground, sets forth in search of the castle of the Grail, there to fulfil the mission with which now he knows himself charged.

Act III. Not until after long wanderings through the wilderness, however, is it that Parsifal once more finds himself on the outskirts of the Grail forest. Clad from head to foot in black armour, his visor closed, the Holy Spear in his hand, he approaches the spot where Gurnemanz, now grown very old, still holds watch, while Kundry, again in coarse garb, but grown strangely pale and gentle, humbly-290- serves the brotherhood. It is Good Friday morn, and peace rests upon the forest.

Kundry is the first to discern the approach of the black knight. From the tender exaltation of her mien, as she draws Gurnemanz's look toward the silent figure, it is apparent that she divines who it is and why he comes. To Gurnemanz, however, he is but an armed intruder on sanctified ground and upon a holy day, and, as the black knight seats himself on a little knoll near a spring and remains silent, the old warder chides him for his offence. Tranquilly the knight rises, thrusts the Spear he bears into the ground before him, lays down his sword and shield before it, opens his helmet, and, removing it from his head, places it with the other arms, and then himself kneels in silent prayer before the Spear. Surprise, recognition of man and weapon, and deep emotion succeed each other on Gurnemanz's face. Gently he raises Parsifal from his kneeling posture, once more seats him on the knoll by the spring, loosens his greaves and corselet, and then places upon him the coat of mail and mantle of the knights of the Grail, while Kundry, drawing a golden flask from her bosom anoints his feet and dries them with her loosened hair. Then Gurnemanz takes from her the flask, and, pouring its contents upon Parsifal's head, anoints him king of the knights of the Grail. The new king performs his first office by taking up water from the spring in the hollow of his hand and baptizing Kundry, whose eyes, suffused with tears, are raised to him in gentle rapture.

Here is heard the stately Motive of Baptism:




The "Good Friday Spell," one of Wagner's most beautiful mood paintings in tone color, is the most prominent episode in these scenes.



Once more Gurnemanz, Kundry now following, leads the way toward the castle of the Grail. Amfortas's aged father, Titurel, uncomforted by the vision of the Grail, which Amfortas, in his passionate contrition, deems himself too sullied to unveil, has died, and the knights having gathered in the great hall, Titurel's bier is borne in solemn procession and placed upon a catafalque before Amfortas's couch.

"Uncover the shrine!" shout the knights, pressing upon Amfortas. For answer, and in a paroxysm of despair, he springs up, tears his garments asunder and shows his open wound. "Slay me!" he cries. "Take up your weapons! Bury your sword-blades deep—deep in me, to the hilts! Kill me, and so kill the pain that tortures me!"

As Amfortas stands there in an ecstasy of pain, Parsifal enters, and, quietly advancing, touches the wound with the point of the Spear.

"One weapon only serves to staunch your wounded side—the one that struck it."

Amfortas's torture changes to highest rapture. The shrine is opened and Parsifal, taking the Grail, which again-292- radiates with light, waves it gently to and fro, as Amfortas and all the knights kneel in homage to him, while Kundry, gazing up to him in gratitude, sinks gently into the sleep of death and forgiveness for which she has longed.

The music of this entire scene floats upon ethereal arpeggios. The Motive of Faith especially is exquisitely accompanied, its spiritual harmonies finally appearing in this form.



There are also heard the Motives of Prophecy and of the Sacrament, as the knights on the stage and the youths and boys in the dome chant. The Grail Motive, which is prominent throughout the scene, rises as if in a spirit of gentle religious triumph and brings, with the Sacrament Motive, the work to a close.


Gioachino Antonio Rossini

IT would be difficult to persuade any one today that Rossini was a reformer of opera. But his instrumentation, excessively simple as it seems to us, was regarded, by his contemporaries, as distracting too much attention from the voices. This was one of the reasons his Semiramide was coolly received at its production in Venice, 1823.

But however simple, not to say primitive, the instrumentation of his Italian operas now strikes us, he made one great innovation in opera for which we readily can grant him recognition as a reformer. He dispensed with secco recitative, the so-called "dry" recitative, which I have mentioned as a drawback to the operatic scores of Mozart. For this Rossini substituted a more dramatic recital of the text leading up to the vocal numbers, and accompanied it with such instruments, or combinations of instruments even to full orchestra, as he considered necessary. We accept a well accompanied recitative in opera as a matter of course. But in its day it was a bold step forward, and Rossini should receive full credit for it. Indeed it will be found that nearly all composers, whose works survive in the repertoire, instead of tamely accepting the routine of workmanship in opera, as inherited from their predecessors, had ideas of their own, which they put into effect, sometimes at the temporary sacrifice of popularity. Gluck and Wagner, especially the latter, were extreme types of-294- the musical reformer. Compared with them Rossini was mild. But his merits should be conceded, and gratefully.

Rossini often is spoken of as the "Swan of Pesaro," where he was born. His mother sang buffa rôles in a travelling opera troupe, in the orchestra of which his father was a horn player. After previous musical instruction in Bologna, he was turned over to Angelo Tesei, sang in church and afterwards travelled with his parents both as singer and accompanist, thus gaining at first hand valuable experience in matters operatic. In 1807 he entered the Liceo (conservatory) at Bologna, studying 'cello under Cavedagni and composition with Padre Mattei. By 1810 already he was able to bring out in Venice, and with applause, a one act comedy opera, "La Cambiale di Matrimonio." During 1812 he received commissions for no less than five light operas, scoring, in 1813, with his "Tancredi" his first success in the grand manner. There was scarcely a year now that did not see a work from his pen, sometimes two, until his "Guillaume Tell" was produced in Paris, 1829. This was an entire change of style from his earlier works, possibly, however, foreshadowed by his "Comte Ory," a revision of a previous score, and produced, as was his "Tell," at the Grand Opéra.

"Guillaume Tell" not only is written to a French libretto; it is in the French style of grand opera, in which the vocal melody is less ornate and the instrumental portion of the score more carefully considered than in the Italian.

During the remaining thirty-nine years of his life not another opera did Rossini compose. He appears deliberately to have formed this resolution in 1836, after hearing "Les Huguenots" by Meyerbeer, as if he considered it useless for him to attempt to rival that composer. He resided in Bologna and Florence until 1855, then in Paris, or near there, dying at Ruelle.


He presents the strange spectacle of a successful composer of opera, who lived to be seventy-six, abruptly closing his dramatic career at thirty-seven.


Opera in two acts, by Rossini; text by Cesare Sterbini, founded on Beaumarchais. Produced, Argentina Theatre, Rome, February 5, 1816; London, King's Theatre, March 10, 1818. Paris, in Italian, 1819; in French, 1824. New York, in English, at the Park Theatre, May 3, 1819, with Thomas Phillipps and Miss Leesugg, as Almaviva and Rosina; in Italian, at the Park Theatre, November 29, 1825, with Manuel Garcia, the elder, as Almaviva; Manuel Garcia, the younger, Figaro; Signorina Garcia (afterwards the famous Malibran), Rosina; Signor Rosick, Dr. Bartolo; Signor Angrisani, Don Basilio; Signor Crivelli, the younger, Fiorello, and Signora Garcia, mère, Berta. (See concluding paragraphs of this article.) Adelina Patti, Melba, Sembrich, Tetrazzini are among the prima donnas who have been familiar to opera lovers in this country as Rosina. Galli-Curci appeared in this rôle in Chicago, January 1, 1917.


Count AlmavivaTenor
Doctor BartoloBass
Basilio, a Singing TeacherBass
Figaro, a BarberBaritone
Fiorello, servant to the CountBass
Ambrosio, servant to the DoctorBass
Rosina, the Doctor's wardSoprano
Berta (or Marcellina), Rosina's GovernessSoprano

Notary, Constable, Musicians and Soldiers.

Time—Seventeenth Century.

Place—Seville, Spain.

Upon episodes in Beaumarchais's trilogy of "Figaro" comedies two composers, Mozart and Rossini, based operas that have long maintained their hold upon the repertoire. The three Beaumarchais comedies are "Le Barbier de Séville," "Le Mariage de Figaro," and "La-296- Mère Coupable." Mozart selected the second of these, Rossini the first; so that although in point of composition Mozart's "Figaro" (May, 1786) antedates Rossini's "Barbiere" (February, 1816) by nearly thirty years, "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" precedes "Le Nozze di Figaro" in point of action. In both operas Figaro is a prominent character, and, while the composers were of wholly different nationality and race, their music is genuinely and equally sparkling and witty. To attempt to decide between them by the flip of a coin would be "heads I win, tails you lose."

There is much to say about the first performance of "Il Barbiere di Siviglia"; also about the overture, the origin of Almaviva's graceful solo, "Ecco ridente in cielo," and the music selected by prima donnas to sing in the "lesson scene" in the second act. But these details are better preceded by some information regarding the story and the music.

Act I, Scene 1. A street by Dr. Bartolo's house. Count Almaviva, a Grandee of Spain, is desperately in love with Rosina, the ward of Doctor Bartolo. Accompanied by his servant Fiorello and a band of lutists, he serenades her with the smooth, flowing measures of "Ecco ridente in cielo," (Lo, smiling in the Eastern sky).



Ecco ridente in cielo,

Just then Figaro, the barber, the general factotum and busybody of the town, dances in, singing the famous patter air, "Largo al factotum della città" (Room for the city's factotum).



Largo al factotum della città largo,


He is Dr. Bartolo's barber, and, learning from the Count of his heart's desire, immediately plots with him to bring about his introduction to Rosina. There are two clever duets between Figaro and the Count—one in which Almaviva promises money to the Barber; the other in praise of love and pleasure.

Rosina is strictly watched by her guardian, Doctor Bartolo, who himself plans to marry his ward, since she has both beauty and money. In this he is assisted by Basilio, a music-master. Rosina, however, returns the affection of the Count, and, in spite of the watchfulness of her guardian, she contrives to drop a letter from the balcony to Almaviva, who is still with Figaro below, declaring her passion, and at the same time requesting to know her lover's name.

Scene 2. Room in Dr. Bartolo's house. Rosina enters. She sings the brilliant "Una voce poco fa" (A little voice I heard just now),



Una voce poco fa qui nel cor mi risuonò

followed by "Io sono docile" (With mild and docile air).



Io sono docile, son rispettosa,

Figaro, who has left Almaviva and come in from the street, tells her that the Count is Signor Lindor, claims him as a cousin, and adds that the young man is deeply in love with her. Rosina is delighted. She gives him a note to convey to the supposed Signor Lindor. (Duet, Rosina and Figaro: "Dunque io son, tu non m'inganni?"—Am I his love, or dost thou mock me?)

Meanwhile Bartolo has made known to Basilio his sus-298-picions that Count Almaviva is in love with Rosina. Basilio advises to start a scandal about the Count and, in an aria ("La calunnia") remarkable for its descriptive crescendo, depicts how calumny may spread from the first breath to a tempest of scandal.



La calunnia è un venticello

To obtain an interview with Rosina, the Count disguises himself as a drunken soldier, and forces his way into Bartolo's house. The disguise of Almaviva is penetrated by the guardian, and the pretended soldier is placed under arrest, but is at once released upon secretly showing the officer his order as a Grandee of Spain. Chorus, preceded by the trio, for Rosina, Almaviva and Bartolo—"Fredda ed immobile" (Awestruck and immovable).

Act II. The Count again enters Bartolo's house. He is now disguised as a music teacher, and pretends that he has been sent by Basilio to give a lesson in music, on account of the illness of the latter. He obtains the confidence of Bartolo by producing Rosina's letter to himself, and offering to persuade Rosina that the letter has been given him by a mistress of the Count. In this manner he obtains the desired opportunity, under the guise of a music lesson—the "music lesson" scene, which is discussed below—to hold a whispered conversation with Rosina. Figaro also manages to obtain the keys of the balcony, an escape is determined on at midnight, and a private marriage arranged. Now, however, Basilio makes his appearance. The lovers are disconcerted, but manage, by persuading the music-master that he really is ill—an illness accelerated by a full purse slipped into his hand by Almaviva—to get rid of him. Duet for Rosina and Almaviva, "Buona sera, mio Signore" (Fare you well then, good Signore).


Copyright photo by Mishkin

Sammarco as Figaro in “The Barber of Seville”




(Count) Buona sera, mio Signore
(Rosina) Buona sera, buona sera;

When the Count and Figaro have gone, Bartolo, who possesses the letter Rosina wrote to Almaviva, succeeds, by producing it, and telling her he secured it from another lady-love of the Count, in exciting the jealousy of his ward. In her anger she discloses the plan of escape and agrees to marry her guardian. At the appointed time, however, Figaro and the Count make their appearance—the lovers are reconciled, and a notary, procured by Bartolo for his own marriage to Rosina, celebrates the marriage of the loving pair. When the guardian enters, with officers of justice, into whose hands he is about to consign Figaro and the Count, he is too late, but is reconciled by a promise that he shall receive the equivalent of his ward's dower.

Besides the music that has been mentioned, there should be reference to "the big quintet" of the arrival and departure of Basilio. Just before Almaviva and Figaro enter for the elopement there is a storm. The delicate trio for Almaviva, Rosina and Figaro, "Zitti, zitti, piano" (Softly, softly and in silence), bears, probably without intention, a resemblance to a passage in Haydn's "Seasons."



Zitti, zitti, piano, piano,

The first performance of "Il Barbiere di Siviglia," an opera that has held its own for over a century, was a scandalous failure, which, however, was not without its amusing incidents. Castil-Blaze, Giuseppe Carpani in his-300- "Rossiniane," and Stendhal in "Vie de Rossini" (a lot of it "cribbed" from Carpani) have told the story. Moreover the Rosina of the evening, Mme. Giorgi-Righetti, who was both pretty and popular, has communicated her reminiscences.

December 26, 1815, Duke Cesarini, manager of the Argentine Theatre, Rome, for whom Rossini had contracted to write two operas, brought out the first of these, "Torvaldo e Dorliska," which was poorly received. Thereupon Cesarini handed to the composer the libretto of "Il Barbiere di Siviglia," which Paisiello, who was still living, had set to music more than half a century before. A pleasant memory of the old master's work still lingered with the Roman public. The honorarium was 400 Roman crowns (about $400) and Rossini also was called upon to preside over the orchestra at the pianoforte at the first three performances. It is said that Rossini composed his score in a fortnight. Even if not strictly true, from December 26th to the February 5th following is but little more than a month. The young composer had too much sense not to honour Paisiello; or, at least, to appear to. He hastened to write to the old composer. The latter, although reported to have been intensely jealous of the young maestro (Rossini was only twenty-five) since the sensational success of the latter's "Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra" (Elizabeth, Queen of England), Naples, 1815, replied that he had no objection to another musician dealing with the subject of his opera. In reality, it is said, he counted on Rossini's making a glaring failure of the attempt. The libretto was rearranged by Sterbini, and Rossini wrote a preface, modest in tone, yet not without a hint that he considered the older score out of date. But he took the precaution to show Paisiello's letter to all the music lovers of Rome, and insisted on changing the title of the opera to "Almaviva, ossia l'Inutile Precauzione" (Almaviva, or the Useless Precaution).


Nevertheless, as soon as the rumour spread that Rossini was making over Paisiello's work, the young composer's enemies hastened to talk in the cafés about what they called his "underhand action." Paisiello himself, it is believed, was not foreign to these intrigues. A letter in his handwriting was shown to Rossini. In this he is said to have written from Naples to one of his friends in Rome urging him to neglect nothing that would make certain the failure of Rossini's opera.

Mme. Giorgi-Righetti reports that "hot-headed enemies" assembled at their posts as soon as the theatre opened, while Rossini's friends, disappointed by the recent ill luck of "Torvaldo e Dorliska" were timid in their support of the new work. Furthermore, according to Mme. Giorgi-Righetti, Rossini weakly yielded to a suggestion from Garcia, and permitted that artist, the Almaviva of the première, to substitute for the air which is sung under Rosina's balcony, a Spanish melody with guitar accompaniment. The scene being laid in Spain, this would aid in giving local colour to the work—such was the idea. But it went wrong. By an unfortunate oversight no one had tuned the guitar with which Almaviva was to accompany himself, and Garcia was obliged to do this on the stage. A string broke. The singer had to replace it, to an accompaniment of laughter and whistling. This was followed by Figaro's entrance air. The audience had settled down for this. But when they saw Zamboni, as Figaro, come on the stage with another guitar, another fit of laughing and whistling seized them, and the racket rendered the solo completely inaudible. Rosina appeared on the balcony. The public greatly admired Mme. Giorgi-Righetti and was disposed to applaud her. But, as if to cap the climax of absurdity, she sang: "Segui, o caro, deh segui così" (Continue my dear, do always so). Naturally the audience immediately thought of the two guitars, and went on laughing,-302- whistling, and hissing during the entire duet between Almaviva and Figaro. The work seemed doomed. Finally Rosina came on the stage and sang the "Una voce poco fa" (A little voice I heard just now) which had been awaited with impatience (and which today is still considered an operatic tour de force for soprano). The youthful charm of Mme. Giorgi-Righetti, the beauty of her voice, and the favour with which the public regarded her, "won her a sort of ovation" in this number. A triple round of prolonged applause raised hopes for the fate of the work. Rossini rose from his seat at the pianoforte, and bowed. But realizing that the applause was chiefly meant for the singer, he called to her in a whisper, "Oh, natura!" (Oh, human nature!)

"Give her thanks," replied the artiste, "since without her you would not have had occasion to rise from your seat."

What seemed a favourable turn of affairs did not, however, last long. The whistling was resumed louder than ever at the duet between Figaro and Rosina. "All the whistlers of Italy," says Castil-Blaze, "seemed to have given themselves a rendezvous for this performance." Finally, a stentorian voice shouted: "This is the funeral of Don Pollione," words which doubtless had much spice for Roman ears, since the cries, the hisses, the stamping, continued with increased vehemence. When the curtain fell on the first act Rossini turned toward the audience, slightly shrugged his shoulders, and clapped his hands. The audience, though greatly offended by this show of contemptuous disregard for its opinion, reserved its revenge for the second act, not a note of which it allowed to be heard.

At the conclusion of the outrage, for such it was, Rossini left the theatre with as much nonchalance as if the row had concerned the work of another. After they had gotten into their street clothes the singers hurried to his lodgings to condole with him. He was sound asleep!


Photo copyright, 1916, by Victor Georg

Galli-Curci as Rosina in “The Barber of Seville”


Copyright photo by Dupont

Sembrich as Rosina in “The Barber of Seville”


There have been three historic failures of opera. One was the "Tannhäuser" fiasco, Paris, 1861; another, the failure of "Carmen," Paris, 1875. The earliest I have just described.

For the second performance of "Il Barbiere" Rossini replaced the unlucky air introduced by Garcia with the "Ecco ridente in cielo," as it now stands. This cavatina he borrowed from an earlier opera of his own, "Aureliano in Palmira" (Aurelian in Palmyra). It also had figured in a cantata (not an opera) by Rossini, "Ciro in Babilonia" (Cyrus in Babylon)—so that measures first sung by a Persian king in the ancient capital of Nebuchadnezzar, and then by a Roman emperor and his followers in the city which flourished in an oasis in the Syrian desert, were found suitable to be intoned by a lovesick Spanish count of the seventeenth century as a serenade to his lady of Seville. It surely is amusing to discover in tracing this air to its original source, that "Ecco ridente in cielo" (Lo, smiles the morning in the sky) figured in "Aureliano in Palmira" as an address to Isis—"Sposa del grande Osiride" (Spouse of the great Osiris).

Equally amusing is the relation of the overture to the opera. The original is said to have been lost. The present one has nothing to do with the ever-ready Figaro, the coquettish Rosina, or the sentimental Almaviva, although there have been writers who have dilated upon it as reflecting the spirit of the opera and its characters. It came from the same source as "Lo, smiles the morning in the sky"—from "Aureliano," and in between had figured as the overture to "Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra." It is thus found to express in "Elisabetta" the conflict of love and pride in one of the most haughty souls of whom history records the memory, and in "Il Barbiere" the frolics of Figaro. But the Italians, prior to Verdi's later period, showed little concern over such unfitness of things, for it-304- is recorded that this overture, when played to "Il Barbiere," was much applauded.

"Ecco ridente in cielo," it is gravely pointed out by early writers on Rossini, is the "first example of modulation into the minor key later so frequently used by this master and his crowd of imitators." Also that "this ingenious way of avoiding the beaten path was not really a discovery of Rossini's, but belongs to Majo (an Italian who composed thirteen operas) and was used by several musicians before Rossini." What a delightful pother over a modulation that the veriest tyro would now consider hackneyed! However, "Ecco ridente," adapted in such haste to "Il Barbiere" after the failure of Garcia's Spanish ditty, was sung by that artist the evening of the second performance, and loudly applauded. Moreover, Rossini had eliminated from his score everything that seemed to him to have been reasonably disapproved of. Then, pretending to be indisposed, he went to bed in order to avoid appearing at the pianoforte. The public, while not over-enthusiastic, received the work well on this second evening; and before long Rossini was accompanied to his rooms in triumph several evenings in succession, by the light of a thousand torches in the hands of the same Romans who had hissed his opera but a little while before. The work was first given under the title Rossini had insisted on, but soon changed back to that of the original libretto, "Il Barbiere di Siviglia."

It is a singular fact that the reception of "Il Barbiere" in Paris was much the same as in Rome. The first performance in the Salle Louvois was coldly received. Newspapers compared Rossini's "Barber" unfavourably with that of Paisiello. Fortunately the opposition demanded a revival of Paisiello's work. Paër, musical director at the Théâtre Italien, not unwilling to spike Rossini's guns, pretended to yield to a public demand, and brought out the-305- earlier opera. But the opposite of what had been expected happened. The work was found to be superannuated. It was voted a bore. It scored a fiasco. Rossini triumphed. The elder Garcia, the Almaviva of the production in Rome, played the same rôle in Paris, as he also did in London, and at the first Italian performance of the work in New York.

Rossini had the reputation of being indolent in the extreme—when he had nothing to do. We have seen that when the overture to "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" was lost (if he really ever composed one), he did not take the trouble to compose another, but replaced it with an earlier one. In the music lesson scene in the second act the original score is said to have contained a trio, presumably for Rosina, Almaviva, and Bartolo. This is said to have been lost with the overture. As with the overture, Rossini did not attempt to recompose this number either. He simply let his prima donna sing anything she wanted to. "Rosina sings an air, ad libitum, for the occasion," reads the direction in the libretto. Perhaps it was Giorgi-Righetti who first selected "La Biondina in gondoletta," which was frequently sung in the lesson scene by Italian prima donnas. Later there was substituted the air "Di tanti palpiti" from the opera "Tancredi," which is known as the "aria dei rizzi," or "rice aria," because Rossini, who was a great gourmet, composed it while cooking his rice. Pauline Viardot-Garcia (Garcia's daughter), like her father in the unhappy première of the opera, sang a Spanish song. This may have been "La Calesera," which Adelina Patti also sang in Paris about 1867. Patti's other selections at this time included the laughing song, the so-called "L'Éclat de Rire" (Burst of Laughter) from Auber's "Manon Lescaut," as highly esteemed in Paris in years gone by as Massenet's "Manon" now is. In New York I have heard Patti sing, in this scene, the Arditi waltz, "Il Bacio" (The Kiss); the bolero of Hélène, from "Les Vêpres Siciliennes" (The Sicilian-306- Vespers), by Verdi; the "Shadow Dance" from Meyerbeer's "Dinorah"; and, in concluding the scene, "Home, Sweet Home," which never failed to bring down the house, although the naïveté with which she sang it was more affected than affecting.

Among prima donnas much earlier than Patti there were at least two, Grisi and Alboni (after whom boxes were named at the Academy of Music) who adapted a brilliant violin piece, Rode's "Air and Variations," to their powers of vocalization and sang it in the lesson scene. I mention this because the habit of singing an air with variations persisted until Mme. Sembrich's time. She sang those by Proch, a teacher of many prima donnas, among them Tietjens and Peschka-Leutner, who sang at the Peace Jubilee in Boston (1872) and was the first to make famous her teacher's coloratura variations, with "flauto concertante." Besides these variations, Mme. Sembrich sang Strauss's "Voce di Primavera" waltz, "Ah! non giunge," from "La Sonnambula," the bolero from "The Sicilian Vespers" and "O luce di quest'anima," from "Linda di Chamounix." The scene was charmingly brought to an end by her seating herself at the pianoforte and singing, to her own accompaniment, Chopin's "Maiden's Wish." Mme. Melba sang Arditi's waltz, "Se Saran Rose," Massenet's "Sevillana," and the mad scene from "Lucia," ending, like Mme. Sembrich, with a song to which she played her own accompaniment, her choice being Tosti's "Mattinata." Mme. Galli-Curci is apt to begin with the brilliant vengeance air from "The Magic Flute," her encores being "L'Éclat de Rire" by Auber and "Charmante Oiseau" (Pretty Bird) from David's "La Perle du Brésil" (The Pearl of Brazil). "Home, Sweet Home" and "The Last Rose of Summer," both sung by her to her own accompaniment, conclude this interesting "lesson," in which every Rosina, although supposedly a pupil receiving-307- a lesson, must be a most brilliant and accomplished prima donna.

The artifices of opera are remarkable. The most incongruous things happen. Yet because they do not occur in a drawing-room in real life, but on a stage separated from us by footlights, we lose all sense of their incongruity. The lesson scene occurs, for example, in an opera composed by Rossini in 1816. But the compositions now introduced into that scene not only are not by Rossini but, for the most, are modern waltz songs and compositions entirely different from the class that a voice pupil, at the time the opera was composed, could possibly have sung. But so convincing is the fiction of the stage, so delightfully lawless its artifices, that these things do not trouble us at all. Mme. Galli-Curci, however, by her choice of the "Magic Flute" aria shows that it is entirely possible to select a work that already was a classic at the time "Il Barbiere" was composed, yet satisfies the demand of a modern audience for brilliant vocalization in this scene.

There is evidence that in the early history of "Il Barbiere," Rossini's "Di tanti palpiti" (Ah! these heartbeats) from his opera "Tancredi" (Tancred), not only was invariably sung by prima donnas in the lesson scene, but that it almost became a tradition to use it in this scene. In September, 1821, but little more than five years after the work had its première, it was brought out in France (Grand Théâtre, Lyons) with French text by Castil-Blaze, who also superintended the publication of the score.

"I give this score," he says, "as Rossini wrote it. But as several pieces have been transposed to favour certain Italian opera singers, I do not consider it useless to point out these transpositions here.... Air No. 10, written in G, is sung in A." Air No. 10, published by Castil-Blaze as an integral part of the score of "Il Barbiere," occurs in the lesson scene. It is "Di tanti palpiti" from "Tancredi."




Di tanti palpiti e tante pene

Readers familiar with the history of opera, therefore aware that Alboni was a contralto, will wonder at her having appeared as Rosina, when that rôle is associated with prima donnas whose voices are extremely high and flexible. But the rôle was written for low voice. Giorgi-Righetti, the first Rosina, was a contralto. As it now is sung by high sopranos, the music of the rôle is transposed from the original to higher keys in order to give full scope for brilliant vocalization on high notes.

Many liberties have been taken by prima donnas in the way of vocal flourishes and a general decking out of the score of "Il Barbiere" with embellishments. The story goes that Patti once sang "Una voce poco fa," with her own frills added, to Rossini, in Paris.

"A very pretty song! Whose is it?" is said to have been the composer's cutting comment.

There is another anecdote about "Il Barbiere" which brings in Donizetti, who was asked if he believed that Rossini really had composed the opera in thirteen days.

"Why not? He's so lazy," is the reported reply.

If the story is true, Donizetti was a very forward young man. He was only nineteen when "Il Barbiere" was produced, and had not yet brought out his first opera.

The first performance in America of "The Barber of Seville" was in English at the Park Theatre, New York, May 3, 1819. (May 17th, cited by some authorities, was the date of the third performance, and is so announced in the advertisements.) Thomas Phillips was Almaviva and Miss Leesugg Rosina. "Report speaks in loud terms of the new opera called 'The Barber of Seville' which is announced for this evening. The music is said to be very-309- splendid and is expected to be most effective." This primitive bit of "publicity," remarkable for its day, appeared in The Evening Post, New York, Monday, May 3, 1819. The second performance took place May 7th. Much music was interpolated. Phillips, as Almaviva, introduced "The Soldier's Bride," "Robin Adair," "Pomposo, or a Receipt for an Italian Song," and "the favourite duet with Miss Leesugg, of 'I love thee.'" (One wonders what was left of Rossini's score.) In 1821 he appeared again with Miss Holman as Rosina.

That Phillips should have sung Figaro, a baritone rôle in "Le Nozze di Figaro," and Almaviva, a tenor part, in "Il Barbiere," may seem odd. But in the Mozart opera he appeared in Bishop's adaptation, in which the Figaro rôle is neither too high for a baritone, nor too low for a tenor. In fact the liberties Bishop took with Mozart's score are so great (and so outrageous) that Phillips need have hesitated at nothing.

On Tuesday, November 22, 1825, Manuel Garcia, the elder, issued the preliminary announcement of his season of Italian opera at the Park Theatre, New York. The printers appear to have had a struggle with the Italian titles of operas and names of Italian composers. For The Evening Post announces that "The Opera of 'H. Barbiora di Seviglia,' by Rosina, is now in rehearsal and will be given as soon as possible." That "soon as possible" was the evening of November 29th, and is regarded as the date of the first performance in this country of opera in Italian.


Opera in two acts by Rossini, words by Gaetana Rossi, founded on Voltaire's tragedy, "Sémiramis." Produced, February 3, 1823, Fenice Theatre, Venice; London, King's Theatre, July 15, 1824; Paris, July 9, 1860, as Sémiramis; New York, April 25, 1826; 1855 (with Grisi and Vestivalli); 1890 (with Patti and Scalchi).



Semiramide, Queen of BabylonSoprano
Arsaces, Commander of the Assyrian ArmyContralto
Ghost of NinusBass
Oroe, Chief of the MagiBass
Assur, a PrinceBaritone
Azema, a PrincessSoprano
Idrenus}of the royal house household{Tenor

Magi, Guards, Satraps, Slaves.



"Semiramide" seems to have had its day. Yet, were a soprano and a contralto, capable of doing justice to the rôles of Semiramide and Arsaces, to appear in conjunction in the operatic firmament the opera might be successfully revived, as it was for Patti and Scalchi. The latter, in her prime when she first appeared here, was one of the greatest of contraltos. I think that all, who, like myself, had the good fortune to hear that revival of "Semiramide," still consider the singing by Patti and Scalchi of the duet, "Giorno d'orrore" (Day of horror) the finest example of bel canto it has been their privilege to listen to. For beauty and purity of tone, smoothness of phrasing, elegance, and synchronization of embellishment it has not been equalled here since.

In the first act of the opera is a brilliant aria for Semiramide, "Bel raggio lusinghier" (Bright ray of hope),—the one piece that has kept the opera in the phonograph repertoire.



Bel raggio lusinghier

A priests' march and chorus, which leads up to the finale of the first act, is accompanied not only by orchestra, but also by full military band on the stage, the first instance of-311- the employment of the latter in Italian opera. The duet, "Giorno d'orrore," is in the second act.



For many years the overture to "Semiramide" was a favourite at popular concerts. It was admired for the broad, hymnlike air in the introduction, which in the opera becomes an effective chorus,



and for the graceful, lively melody, which is first announced on the clarinet. I call it "graceful" and "lively," and so it would be considered today.


[Listen (MP3)]

But in the opera it accompanies the cautious entrance of priests into a darkened temple where a deep mystery is impending, and, at the time the opera was produced, this music, which now we would describe as above, was supposed to be "shivery" and gruesome. In fact the scene was objected to by audiences of that now seemingly remote period, on the ground that the orchestra was too prominent and that, in the treatment of the instrumental score to his operas, Rossini was leaning too heavily toward German models! But this, remember, was in 1824.


The story of "Semiramide" can be briefly told. Semiramide, Queen of Babylon, has murdered her husband, Ninus, the King. In this deed she was assisted by Prince Assur, who expects to win her hand and the succession to the throne.

Semiramide, however, is enamoured of a comely youth, Arsaces, victorious commander of her army, and supposedly a Scythian, but in reality her own son, of which relationship only Oroe, the chief priest of the temple, is aware. Arsaces himself is in love with the royal Princess Azema.

At a gathering in the temple, the gates of the tomb of Ninus are opened as if by invisible hands. The shade of Ninus announces that Arsaces shall be his successor; and summons him to come to the tomb at midnight there to learn the secret of his assassination.

Enraged at the prophecy of the succession of Arsaces and knowing of his coming visit to the tomb of Ninus, Assur contrives to enter it; while Semiramide, who now knows that the young warrior is her son, comes to the tomb to warn him against Assur. The three principal personages in the drama are thus brought together at its climax. Assur makes what would be a fatal thrust at Arsaces. Semiramide interposes herself between the two men and receives the death wound. Arsaces then fights and kills Assur, ascends the throne and weds Azema.

According to legend, Semiramis, when a babe, was fed by doves; and, after reigning for forty-two years, disappeared or was changed into a dove and flew away. For the first New York performance Garcia announced the work as "La Figlia dell'Aria, or Semiramide" (The Daughter of the Air, etc.).


Opera by Rossini, originally in five acts, cut down to three by omitting the third act and condensing the fourth and fifth into one, then re-313-arranged in four; words by "Jouy" (V.J. Étienne), rearranged by Hippolyte and Armand Marast. Produced, Grand Opéra, Paris, August 3, 1829, Nourrit being the original Arnold; revived with Duprez, 1837. Italy, "Guglielmo Tell," at Lucca, September 17, 1831. London, Drury Lane, 1830, in English; Her Majesty's Theatre, 1839, in Italian. In New York the title rôle has been sung by Karl Formes, who made his first American tour in 1857. The interpreters of Arnold have included the Polish tenor Mierzwinski at the Academy of Music, and Tamagno.


William TellBaritone
Hedwiga, Tell's wifeSoprano
Jemmy, Tell's sonSoprano
Arnold, suitor of MatildaTenor
Melcthal, Arnold's fatherBass
Gessler, governor of Schwitz and UriBass
Matilda, Gessler's daughterSoprano
Rudolph, captain in Gessler's guardTenor
Walter FurstBass
Leuthold, a shepherdBass
Ruedi, a fishermanTenor

Peasants, Knights, Pages, Ladies, Hunters, Soldiers, Guards, and three Bridal Couples.

Time—Thirteenth Century.


Arnold, a Swiss patriot and son of the venerable Swiss leader, Melcthal, has saved from drowning Matilda, daughter of the Austrian tyrant Gessler, whom the Swiss abhor. Arnold and Matilda have fallen in love with each other.

Act I. A beautiful May morning has dawned over the Lake of Lucerne, on which Tell's house is situated. It is the day of the Shepherd Festival. According to ancient custom the grey-haired Melcthal blesses the loving couples among them. But his own son, Arnold, does not ask a blessing of the old man. Yet, although he loves Matilda, his heart also belongs to his native land. The festival is interrupted by the sound of horns. It is the train of Gessler, the hated tyrant. Leuthold rushes in, breathless. In order to protect-314- his daughter from dishonour, he has been obliged to kill one of Gessler's soldiers. He is pursued. To cross the lake is his only means of escape. But who will take him in the face of the storm that is coming up? Tell wastes no time in thinking. He acts. It is the last possible moment. Gessler's guards already are seen, Rudolph at their head. With Tell's aid the fugitive escapes them, but they turn to the country folk, and seize and carry off old Melcthal.

Act II. In a valley by a lake Arnold and Matilda meet and again pledge their love. Arnold learns from Tell and Walter that his father has been slain by Gessler's order. His thoughts turn to vengeance. The three men bind themselves by oath to free Switzerland. The cantons gather and swear to throw off the Austrian yoke.

Act III. The market-place in Altdorf. It is the hundredth anniversary of Austrian rule in Switzerland. Fittingly to celebrate the day Gessler has ordered his hat to be placed on top of a pole. The Swiss are commanded to make obeisance to the hat. Tell comes along holding his son Jemmy by the hand. He refuses to pay homage to the hat. As in him is also recognized the man who saved Leuthold, he must be punished. Gessler cynically orders him to shoot an apple from Jemmy's head. The shot succeeds. Fearless, as before, Tell informs Gessler that the second arrow was intended for him, had the first missed its mark. Tell's arrest is ordered, but the armed Swiss, who have risen against Austria, approach. Gessler falls by Tell's shot; the fight ends with the complete victory for the Swiss. Matilda who still loves Arnold finds refuge in his arms.

"Guillaume Tell" is the only opera by an Italian of which it can be said that the overture has gained world-wide fame, and justly so, while the opera itself is so rarely heard that it may almost be said to have passed out of the repertoire. Occasionally it is revived for the benefit of a high tenor like Tamagno. In point of fact, however, it is too good a work-315- to be made the vehicle of a single operatic star. It is a question if, with a fine ensemble, "Guillaume Tell" could not be restored to the list of operas regularly given. Or, is it one of those works more famous than effective; and is that why, at this point I am reminded of a passage in Whistler's "Ten O'clock"? The painter is writing of art and of how little its spirit is affected by the personality of the artist, or even by the character of a whole people.

"A whimsical goddess," he writes, "and a capricious, her strong sense of joy tolerates no dullness, and, live we never so spotlessly, still may she turn her back upon us.

"As, from time immemorial, has she done upon the Swiss in their mountains.

"What more worthy people! Whose every Alpine gap yawns with tradition, and is stocked with noble story; yet, the perverse and scornful one will none of it, and the sons of patriots are left with the clock that turns the mill, and the sudden cuckoo, with difficulty restrained in its box!"

Because we associate Switzerland with tourists, personally conducted and otherwise, with hotels, guides, and a personnel trained to welcome, entertain, and speed the departing guest, is it difficult for us to grasp the heroic strain in "Guillaume Tell"? Surely it is a picturesque opera; and Switzerland has a heroic past. Probably the real reasons for the lack of public interest in the opera are the clumsy libretto and the fact that Rossini, an Italian, was not wholly in his element in composing a grand opera in the French style, which "Guillaume Tell" is. It would be difficult to point out just how and where the style hampered the composer, but there constantly is an undefined feeling that it did—that the score is not as spontaneous as, for example, "The Barber of Seville"; and that, although "Guillaume Tell" is heroic, the "sudden cuckoo, with difficulty restrained in its box," may at any time pop out and join in the proceedings.


The care which Rossini bestowed on this work is seen in the layout and composition of the overture, which as an instrumental number is as fine a tour de force as his "Una voce poco fa," "Bel raggio," or "Giorno d'orrore" are for voice. The slow introduction denotes Alpine calm. There is a beautiful passage for violoncellos, which has been quoted in books on instrumentation. In it Rossini may well have harked back to his student years, when he was a pupil in violoncello playing at the conservatory in Bologna. The calm is followed by a storm and this, in turn, by a "Ranz des Vaches." The final section consists of a trumpet call, followed by a fast movement, which can be played so as to leave the hearer quite breathless. It is supposed to represent the call to arms and the uprising of the Swiss against their Austrian oppressors, whose yoke they threw off.

The most striking musical number in the first act of the opera, is Arnold's "Ah, Matilda."



Ah! Matilda, io t'amo, t'adoro

A tenor with powerful high tones in his voice always can render this with great effect. In fact it is so effective that its coming so early in the work is a fault of construction which in my opinion has been a factor in the non-success of the opera as a whole. Even a tenor like Mierzwinski, "a natural singer of short-lived celebrity," with remarkable high notes, in this number could rouse to a high pitch of enthusiasm an audience that remained comparatively calm the rest of the evening.

The climax of the second act is the trio between Arnold, Tell, and Walter, followed by the assembly of the cantons and the taking of the oath to conquer or die ("La gloria-317- infiammi—i nostri petti"—May glory our hearts with courage exalt).

Its most effective passage begins as follows:



Another striking musical number is Arnold's solo in the last act, at sight of his ruined home, "O muto asil" (O, silent abode).

The opera ends with a hymn to liberty, "I boschi, i monti" (Through forests wild, o'er mountain peaks).

At the initial performance of "Guillaume Tell" in Paris, there was no indication that the opera was not destined to remain for many years in the repertoire. It was given fifty-six times. Then, because of the great length of the opera, only the second act was performed in connection with some other work, until the sensational success of Duprez, in 1837, led to a revival.

"Guillaume Tell," given in full, would last nearly five hours. The poor quality of the original libretto by "Jouy" led to the revision by Bis, but even after that there had to be cuts.

"Ah, Maestro," exclaimed an enthusiastic admirer of Rossini to that master, "I heard your 'William Tell' at the Opera last night!"

"What?" asked Rossini. "The whole of it?"

Clever; but by his question Rossini unconsciously put his finger on the weak spot of the opera he intended to be his masterpiece. Be it never so well given, it is long-winded.


Vincenzo Bellini

BELLINI, born in Catania, Sicily, November 3, 1802, is the composer of "La Sonnambula," one of the most popular works of the old type of Italian opera still found in the repertoire. "I Puritani," another work by him, was given for the opening of two New York opera houses, Palmo's in 1844, and Hammerstein's Manhattan, in 1903. But it maintains itself only precariously. "Norma" is given still more rarely, although it contains "Casta diva," one of the most famous solos for soprano in the entire Italian repertory.

This composer died at the village of Puteaux, France, September 23, 1835, soon after the highly successful production of "I Puritani" in Paris, and while he was working on a commission to compose two operas for the San Carlo Theatre, Naples, which had come to him through the success of "Puritani." He was only thirty-two.

It is not unlikely that had this composer, with his facile and graceful gift for melody, lived longer he would have developed, as Verdi did, a maturer and broader style, and especially have paid more attention to the instrumentation of his operas, a detail which he sadly neglected.


Opera in three acts by Bellini, words by Felice Romani. Produced, Carcano Theatre, Milan, March 6, 1831. London, King's Theatre,-319- July 28, 1831; in English, Drury Lane, May 1, 1833. New York, Park Theatre, November 13, 1835, in English, with Brough, Richings, and Mr. and Mrs. Wood; in Italian, Palmo's Opera House, May 11, 1844; frequently sung by Gerster and by Adelina Patti at the Academy of Music, and at the Metropolitan Opera House by Sembrich; at the Manhattan Opera House by Tetrazzini.


Count Rodolpho, Lord of the castleBass
Teresa, proprietress of the millSoprano
Amina, her foster daughterSoprano
Lisa, proprietress of the village innSoprano
Elvino, a young farmerTenor
Alessio, a villagerBass

Notary, Villagers, etc.

Time—Early Nineteenth Century.

Place—A Village in Switzerland.

Act I. The village green. On one side an inn. In the background a water mill. In the distance mountains. As the curtain rises the villagers are making merry, for they are about to celebrate a nuptial contract between Amina, an orphan brought up as the foster-child of Teresa, the mistress of the village mill, and Elvino, a young landowner of the neighbourhood. These preparations, however, fill with jealousy the heart of Lisa, the proprietress of the inn. For she is in love with Elvino. Nor do Alessio's ill-timed attentions please her. Amina enters under the care of Teresa, and returns her thanks to her neighbours for their good wishes. She has two attractive solos. These are "Come per me sereno" (How, for me brightly shining)



Come per me sereno

and "Sovra il sen la man mi posa" (With this heart its joy revealing).




Sovra il sen la man mi posa,

Both are replete with grace and charm.

When the village Notary and Elvino appear the contract is signed and attested, and Elvino places a ring on Amina's finger. Duet: "Prendi, l'anel ti dono" (Take now the ring I give you), a composition in long-flowing expressive measures.

Then the village is startled by the crack of whips and the rumble of wheels. A handsome stranger in officer's fatigue uniform appears. He desires to have his horses watered and fed, before he proceeds to the castle. The road is bad, night is approaching. Counselled by the villagers, and urged by Lisa, the officer consents to remain the night at the inn.

The villagers know it not at this time, but the officer is Rodolpho, the lord of the castle. He looks about him and recalls the scenes of his youth: "Vi ravviso" (As I view).



Vi ravviso a luoghi ameni,

He then gallantly addresses himself to Amina in the charming air, "Tu non sai con quei begli occhi" (You know not, maid, the light your eyes within).



Tu non sai con quei begli occhi,

Elvino is piqued at the stranger's attentions to his bride, but Teresa warns all present to retire, for the village is said to be haunted by a phantom. The stranger treats the superstition lightly, and, ushered in by Lisa, retires to the-321- village inn. All then wend their several ways homeward. Elvino, however, finds time to upbraid Amina for seemingly having found much pleasure in the stranger's gallant speeches, but before they part there are mutual concessions and forgiveness.

Act II. Rodolpho's sleeping apartment at the inn. He enters, conducted by Lisa. She is coquettish, he quite willing to meet her halfway in taking liberties with her. He learns from her that his identity as the lord of the castle has now been discovered by the villagers, and that they will shortly come to the inn to offer their congratulations.

He is annoyed, but quite willing that Lisa's attractions shall atone therefor. At that moment, however, there is a noise without, and Lisa escapes into an adjoining room. In her haste she drops her handkerchief, which Rodolpho picks up and hangs over the bedpost. A few moments later he is amazed to see Amina, all in white, raise his window and enter his room. He realizes almost immediately that she is walking in her sleep, and that it is her somnambulism which has given rise to the superstition of the village phantom. In her sleep Amina speaks of her approaching marriage, of Elvino's jealousy, of their quarrel and reconciliation. Rodolpho, not wishing to embarrass her by his presence should she suddenly awaken, extinguishes the candles, steps out of the window and closes it lightly after him. Still asleep Amina sinks down upon the bed.

The villagers enter to greet Rodolpho. As the room is darkened, and, to their amusement, they see the figure of a woman on the bed, they are about to withdraw discreetly, when Lisa, who knows what has happened, enters with a light, brings in Elvino, and points out Amina to him. The light, the sounds, awaken her. Her natural confusion at the situation in which she finds herself is mistaken by Elvino for evidence of guilt. He casts her off. The others, save Teresa, share his suspicions. Teresa, in a simple, natural-322- way, takes the handkerchief hanging over the bedpost and places it around Amina's neck, and when the poor, grief-stricken girl swoons, as Elvino turns away from her, her foster-mother catches her in her arms.

In this scene, indeed in this act, the most striking musical number is the duet near the end. It is feelingly composed, and, as befits the situation of a girl mistakenly, yet none the less cruelly, accused by her lover, is almost wholly devoid of vocal embellishment. It begins with Amina's protestations of innocence: "D'un pensiero, e d'un accento" (Not in thought's remotest region).

When Elvino's voice joins hers there is no comfort for her in his words. He is still haunted by dark suspicions.



An unusual and beautiful effect is the closing of the duet with an expressive phrase for tenor alone: "Questo pianto del mio cor" (With what grief my heart is torn).



Act III, Scene 1. A shady valley between the village and the castle. The villagers are proceeding to the castle to beg Rodolpho to intercede with Elvino for Amina. Elvino meets Amina. Still enraged at what he considers her perfidy, he snatches from her finger the ring he gave her. Amina still loves him. She expresses her feelings in the air: "Ah! perchè non posso odiarti" (Ah! Why is it I cannot hate him).

Scene 2. The village, near Teresa's mill. Water runs through the race and the wheel turns rapidly. A slender wooden bridge, spanning the wheel, gives access from some-323- dormer lights in the millroof to an old stone flight of steps leading down to the foreground.

Lisa has been making hay while the sun shines. She has induced Elvino to promise to marry her. Preparations for the wedding are on foot. The villagers have assembled. Rodolpho endeavours to dissuade Elvino from the step he is about to take. He explains that Amina is a somnambulist. But Elvino has never heard of somnambulism. He remains utterly incredulous.

Teresa begs the villagers to make less disturbance, as poor Amina is asleep in the mill. The girl's foster-mother learns of Elvino's intention of marrying Lisa. Straightway she takes from her bosom Lisa's handkerchief, which she found hanging over Rodolpho's bedpost. Lisa is confused. Elvino feels that she, too, has betrayed him. Rodolpho again urges upon Elvino that Amina never was false to him—that she is the innocent victim of sleepwalking.

"Who can prove it?" Elvino asks in agonized tones.

"Who? She herself!—See there!" exclaims Rodolpho.

For at that very moment Amina, in her nightdress, lamp in hand, emerges from a window in the mill roof. She passes along, still asleep, to the lightly built bridge spanning the mill wheel, which is still turning round quickly. Now she sets foot on the narrow, insecure bridge. The villagers fall on their knees in prayer that she may cross safely. Rodolpho stands among them, head uncovered. As Amina crosses the bridge a rotting plank breaks under her footsteps. The lamp falls from her hand into the torrent beneath. She, however, reaches the other side, and gains the stone steps, which she descends. Still walking in her sleep, she advances to where stand the villagers and Rodolpho. She kneels and prays for Elvino. Then rising, she speaks of the ring he has taken from her, and draws from her bosom the flowers given to her by him on the previous day. "Ah! non credea-324- mirarti sì presto estinto, o fiore" (Scarcely could I believe it that so soon thou would'st wither, O blossoms).



Ah! non credea mirarti sì presto estinto, o fiore,

Gently Elvino replaces the ring upon her finger, and kneels before her. "Viva Amina!" cry the villagers. She awakens. Instead of sorrow, she sees joy all around her, and Elvino, with arms outstretched, waiting to beg her forgiveness and lead her to the altar.

"Ah! non giunge uman pensiero
Al contento ond'io son piena"
(Mingle not an earthly sorrow
With the rapture now o'er me stealing).



Ah! non giunge uman pensiero
Al contento ond'io son piena

It ends with this brilliant passage:



The "Ah! non giunge" is one of the show-pieces of Italian opera. Nor is its brilliance hard and glittering. It is the brightness of a tender soul rejoicing at being enabled to cast off sorrow. Indeed, there is about the entire opera a sweetness and a gentle charm, that go far to account for its having endured so long in the repertoire, out of which so many works far more ambitious have been dropped.


Opera-goers of the old Academy of Music days will recall the bell-like tones of Etelka Gerster's voice in "Ah! non giunge"; nor will they ever forget the bird-like, spontaneous singing in this rôle of Adelina Patti, gifted with a voice and an art such as those who had the privilege of hearing her in her prime have not heard since, nor are likely to hear again. Admirers of Mme. Sembrich's art also are justly numerous, and it is fortunate for habitués of the Metropolitan that she was so long in the company singing at that house. She was a charming Amina. Tetrazzini was brilliant in "La Sonnambula." Elvino is a stick of a rôle for tenor. Rodolpho has the redeeming grace of chivalry. Amina is gentle, charming, appealing.

The story of "Sonnambula" is simple and thoroughly intelligible, which cannot be said for all opera plots. The mainspring of the action is the interesting psycho-physical manifestation of somnambulism. This is effectively worked out. The crossing of the bridge in the last scene is a tense moment in the simple story. It calls for an interesting stage "property"—the plank that breaks without precipitating Amina, who sometimes may have more embonpoint than voice, into the mill-race. All these elements contribute to the success of "La Sonnambula," which, produced in 1831, still is a good evening's entertainment.

Amina was one of Jenny Lind's favourite rôles. There is a beautiful portrait of her in the character by Eichens. It shows her, in the last act, kneeling and singing "Ah! non credea," and is somewhat of a rarity. A copy of it is in the print department of the New York Public Library. It is far more interesting than her better known portraits.


Opera in two acts, by Bellini; words by Felice Romani, based on an old French story. Produced, December 26, 1831, Milan. King's Theatre, June 20, 1833, in Italian; Drury Lane, June 24, 1837, in Eng-326-lish. Paris, Théâtre des Italiens, 1833. New York, February 25, 1841, at the Park Theatre; October 2, 1854, for the opening of the Academy of Music, with Grisi, Mario, and Susini; December 19, 1891, Metropolitan Opera House, with Lilli Lehmann as Norma.


Pollione, Roman Pro-consul in GaulTenor
Oroveso, Archdruid, father of NormaBass
Norma, High-priestess of the druidical temple of EsusSoprano
Adalgisa, a virgin of the templeContralto
Clotilda, Norma's confidanteSoprano
Flavius, a centurionTenor

Priests, Officers of the Temple, Gallic Warriors, Priestesses and Virgins of the Temple, and Two Children of Norma and Pollione.

Time—Roman Occupation, about 50 B.C.


Act I. Sacred grove of the Druids. The high priest Oroveso comes with the Druids to the sacred grove to beg of the gods to rouse the people to war and aid them to accomplish the destruction of the Romans. Scarcely have they gone than the Roman Pro-consul Pollione appears and confides to his Centurion, Flavius, that he no longer loves Norma, although she has broken her vows of chastity for him and has borne him two sons. He has seen Adalgisa and loves her.

At the sound of the sacred instrument of bronze that calls the Druids to the temple, the Romans disappear. The priests and priestesses approach the altar. Norma, the high-priestess, daughter of Oroveso, ascends the steps of the altar. No one suspects her intimacy with the Roman enemy. But she loves the faithless man and therefore seeks to avert the danger that threatens him, should Gaul rise against the Romans, by prophesying that Rome will fall through its own weakness, and declaring that it is not yet the will of the gods that Gaul shall go to war. She also prays to the "chaste goddess" for the return of the Roman leader, who-327- has left her. Another priestess is kneeling in deep prayer. This is Adalgisa, who also loves Pollione.

The scene changes and shows Norma's dwelling. The priestess is steeped in deep sadness, for she knows that Pollione plans to desert her and their offspring, although she is not yet aware of her rival's identity. Adalgisa comes to her to unburden her heart to her superior. She confesses that to her faith she has become untrue through love—and love for a Roman. Norma, thinking of her own unfaithfulness to her vows, is about to free Adalgisa from hers, when Pollione appears. Now she learns who the beloved Roman of Adalgisa is. But the latter turns from Pollione. She loves Norma too well to go away with the betrayer of the high-priestess.

Act II. Norma, filled with despair, is beside the cradle of her little ones. An impulse to kill them comes over her. But motherhood triumphs over unrequited love. She will renounce her lover. Adalgisa shall become the happy spouse of Pollione, but shall promise to take the place of mother to her children. Adalgisa, however, will not hear of treachery to Norma. She goes to Pollione, but only to remind him of his duty.

The scene changes again to a wooded region of the temple in which the warriors of Gaul have gathered. Norma awaits the result of Adalgisa's plea to Pollione; then learns that she has failed and has come back to the grove to pass her life as a priestess. Norma's wrath is now beyond control. Three times she strikes the brazen shield; and, when the warriors have gathered, they joyfully hear her message: War against the Romans! But with their deep war song now mingles the sound of tumult from the temple. A Roman has broken into the sacred edifice. He has been captured. It is Pollione, who she knows has sought to carry off Adalgisa. The penalty for his intrusion is death. But Norma, moved by love to pity, and still hoping to save her-328- recreant lover, submits a new victim to the enraged Gauls—a perjured virgin of the priesthood.

"Speak, then, and name her!" they cry.

To their amazement she utters her own name, then confesses all to her father, and to his care confides her children.

A pyre has been erected. She mounts it, but not alone. Pollione, his love rekindled at the spectacle of her greatness of soul, joins her. In the flames he, too, will atone for their offences before God.

The ambition of every dramatic soprano of old was to don the robes of a priestess, bind her brow with the mystic vervain, take in her hand a golden sickle, and appear in the sacred grove of the Druids, there to invoke the chaste goddess of the moon in the famous "Casta diva." Prima donnas of a later period found further inspiration thereto in the beautiful portrait of Grisi as Norma. Perhaps the last to yield to the temptation was Lilli Lehmann, who, not content with having demonstrated her greatness as Brünnhilde and Isolde, desired in 1891, to demonstrate that she was also a great Norma, a demonstration which did not cause her audience to become unduly demonstrative. The fact is, it would be difficult to revive successfully "Norma" as a whole, although there is not the slightest doubt that "Casta diva, che in argenti" (Chaste goddess, may thy silver beam), is one of the most exquisite gems of Italian song.



Casta Diva,

It is followed immediately by "Ah! bello a me ritorna" (Beloved, return unto me), which, being an allegro, contrasts effectively with the long, flowing measures of "Casta diva."


Before this in the opera there has occurred another familiar number, the opening march and chorus of the Druids, "Dell'aura tua profetica" (With thy prophetic oracle).



There is a fine trio for Norma, Adalgisa, and Pollione, at the end of the first act, "Oh! di qual sei tu vittima" (O, how his art deceived you).



Oh! di qual sei tu vittima

In the scene between Norma and Adalgisa, in the second act, is the duet, "Mira, O, Norma!" (Hear me, Norma).



Mira, o, Norma! a' tuoi ginocchi,

Among the melodious passages in the opera, this is second in beauty only to "Casta diva."


Opera in three acts, by Bellini; words by Count Pepoli. Produced, Paris, Théâtre des Italiens, January 25, 1835, with Grisi as Elvira, Rubini as Arturo, Tamburini as Riccardo and Lablache as Giorgio. London, King's Theatre, May 21, 1835, in Italian (I Puritani ed i Cavalieri). New York, February 3, 1844; Academy of Music, 1883, with Gerster; Manhattan Opera House, December 3, 1906, with Bonci as Arturo, and Pinkert as Elvira; and in 1909 with Tetrazzini as Elvira.


Lord Gautier Walton of the PuritansBass
Sir George Walton, his brother, of the PuritansBass-330-
Lord Arthur Talbot, of the CavaliersTenor
Sir Richard Forth, of the PuritansBaritone
Sir Benno Robertson, of the PuritansTenor
Henrietta, of France, widow of Charles I.Soprano
Elvira, daughter of Lord WaltonSoprano

Puritans, Soldiers of the Commonwealth, Men-at-Arms, Women, Pages, etc.

Time—During the Wars between Cromwell and the Stuarts.

Place—Near Plymouth, England.

Act I is laid in a fortress near Plymouth, held by Lord Walton for Cromwell. Lord Walton's daughter, Elvira, is in love with Lord Arthur Talbot, a cavalier and adherent of the Stuarts, but her father has promised her hand to Sir Richard Forth, like himself a follower of Cromwell. He relents, however, and Elvira is bidden by her uncle, Sir George Walton, to prepare for her nuptials with Arthur, for whom a safe-conduct to the fortress has been provided.

Queen Henrietta, widow of Charles I., is a prisoner in the fortress. On discovering that she is under sentence of death, Arthur, loyal to the Stuarts, enables her to escape by draping her in Elvira's bridal veil and conducting her past the guards, as if she were the bride. There is one critical moment. They are met by Sir Richard, who had hoped to marry Elvira. The men draw their swords, but a disarrangement of the veil shows Sir Richard that the woman he supposes to be Lord Arthur's bride is not Elvira. He permits them to pass. When the escape is discovered, Elvira, believing herself deserted, loses her reason. Those who had gathered for the nuptials, now, in a stirring chorus, invoke maledictions upon Arthur's head.

Act II plays in another part of the fortress. It concerns itself chiefly with the exhibition of Elvira's madness. But it has also the famous martial duet, "Suoni la tromba" (Sound the trumpet), in which Sir George and Sir Richard announce their readiness to meet Arthur in battle and strive to avenge Elvira's sad plight.


Act III is laid in a grove near the fortress. Arthur, although proscribed, seeks out Elvira. Her joy at seeing him again temporarily lifts the clouds from her mind, but renewed evidence of her disturbed mental state alarms her lover. He hears men, whom he knows to be in pursuit of him, approaching, and is aware that capture means death, but he will not leave Elvira. He is apprehended and is about to be executed when a messenger arrives with news of the defeat of the Stuarts and a pardon for all prisoners. Arthur is freed. The sudden shock of joy restores Elvira's reason. The lovers are united.

As an opera "I Puritani" lacks the naïveté of "La Sonnambula," nor has it any one number of the serene beauty of the "Casta diva" in "Norma." Occasionally, however, it is revived for a tenor like Bonci, whose elegance of phrasing finds exceptional opportunity in the rôle of Arthur; or for some renowned prima donna of the brilliant coloratura type, for whom Elvira is a grateful part.

The principal musical numbers are, in act first, Sir Richard Forth's cavatina, "Ah! per sempre io ti perdei" (Ah! forever have I lost thee); Arthur's romance, "A te o cara" (To thee, beloved);



A te o cara, amor talora,

and Elvira's sparkling polacca, "Son vergin vezzosa" (I am a blithesome maiden).



Son vergin vezzosa, in vesto di sposa,


In the second act we have Elvira's mad scene, "Qui la voce sua soave" (It was here in sweetest accents).



Qui la voce sua soave

For Elvira there also is in this act the beautiful air, "Vien, diletto" (Come, dearest love).

The act closes with the duet for baritone and bass, between Sir Richard and Sir George, "Suoni la tromba," a fine proclamation of martial ardour, which "in sonorousness, majesty and dramatic intensity," as Mr. Upton writes, "hardly has an equal in Italian opera."



Suoni la tromba, e intrepido
Io pugnerò da forte;

"A una fonte afflitto e solo" (Sad and lonely by a fountain), a beautiful number for Elvira occurs in the third act.

There also is in this act the impassioned "Star teco ognor" (Still to abide), for Arthur, with Elvira's reply, "Caro, non ho parola" (All words, dear love are wanting).

It was in the duet at the end of Act II, on the occasion of the opera's revival for Gerster, that I heard break and go to pieces the voice of Antonio Galassi, the great baritone of the heyday of Italian opera at the Academy of Music. "Suoni la tromba!"—He could sound it no more. The career of a great artist was at an end.

"I Puritani" usually is given in Italian, several of the characters having Italian equivalents for English names—Arturo, Riccardo, Giorgio, Enrichetta, etc.

The first performance in New York of "I Puritani," which opened Palmo's Opera House, was preceded by a "public rehearsal," which was attended by "a large audience composed of the Boards of Aldermen, editors,-333- police officers, and musical people," etc. Signora Borghese and Signor Antognini "received vehement plaudits." Antognini, however, does not appear in the advertised cast of the opera. Signora Borghese was Elvira, Signor Perozzi Arturo, and Signor Valtellino Giorgio. The performance took place Friday, February 2, 1844.


Gaetano Donizetti

THE composer of "Lucia di Lammermoor," an opera produced in 1835, but seemingly with a long lease of life yet ahead of it, was born at Bergamo, November 29, 1797. He composed nearly seventy operas.

His first real success, "Anna Bolena," was brought out in Rome, in 1830. Even before that, however, thirty-one operas by him had been performed. Of his many works, the comparatively few still heard nowadays are, in the order of their production, "L'Elisire d'Amore," "Lucrezia Borgia," "Lucia di Lammermoor," "La Figlia del Reggimento," "La Favorita," "Linda di Chamounix," and "Don Pasquale." A clever little one-act comedy opera, "Il Campanello di Notte" (The Night Bell) was revived in New York in the spring of 1917.

With a gift for melody as facile as Bellini's, Donizetti is more dramatic, his harmonization less monotonous, and his orchestration more careful. This is shown by his choice of instruments for special effects, like the harp solo preceding the appearance of Lucia, the flute obligato in the mad scene in the opera of which she is the heroine, and the bassoons introducing "Una furtiva lagrima," in "L'Elisire d'Amore." He is a distinct factor in the evolution of Italian opera from Rossini to and including Verdi, from whom, in turn, the living Italian opera composers of note derive.

Donizetti's father was a weaver, who wished his son to-335- become a lawyer. But he finally was permitted to enter the conservatory at Bergamo, where, among other teachers, he had J.H. Mayr in harmony. He studied further, on Mayr's recommendation, with Padre Martini.

As his father wanted him to teach so that he would be self-supporting, he enlisted in the army, and was ordered to Venice. There in his leisure moments he composed his first opera, "Enrico di Borgogna," produced, Venice, 1818. In 1845 he was stricken with paralysis. He died at Bergamo, April 8, 1848.


Opera, in two acts. Music by Donizetti; words by Felice Romani. Produced, Milan, May 12, 1832; London, December 10, 1836; New Orleans, March 30, 1842; New York, Academy of Music, 1883-84, with Gerster; Metropolitan Opera House, 1904, with Sembrich, Caruso, Scotti, and Rossi.


Nemorino, a young peasantTenor
Adina, wealthy, and owner of a farmSoprano
Belcore, a sergeantBaritone
Dulcamara, a quack doctorBass
Giannetta, a peasant girlSoprano

Time—Nineteenth Century.

Place—A small Italian village.

Act I. Beauty and riches have made the young peasant woman, Adina, exacting. She laughs at the embarrassed courting of the true-hearted peasant lad, Nemorino; she laughs at the story of "Tristan and Isolde," and rejoices that there are now no more elixirs to bring the merry heart of woman into slavish dependence on love. Yet she does not seem so much indifferent to Nemorino as piqued over his lack of courage to come to the point.

Sergeant Belcore arrives in the village at the head of a-336- troop of soldiers. He seeks to win Adina's heart by storm. The villagers tease Nemorino about his soldier rival. The young peasant is almost driven to despair by their raillery. Enter the peripatetic quack, Dr. Dulcamara. For a ducat Nemorino eagerly buys of him a flask of cheap Bordeaux, which the quack assures him is an elixir of love, and that, within twenty-four hours, it will enable him to win Adina. Nemorino empties the flask at a draught. A certain effect shows itself at once. Under the influence of the Bordeaux he falls into extravagant mirth, sings, dances—and grieves no more about Adina, who becomes piqued and, to vex Nemorino, engages herself to marry Sergeant Belcore. An order comes to the troops to move. The Sergeant presses for an immediate marriage. To this Adina, still under the influence of pique, consents. Nemorino seeks to console himself by louder singing and livelier dancing.

Act II. The village is assembled on Adina's farm to celebrate her marriage with the Sergeant. But it is noticeable that she keeps putting off signing the marriage contract. Nemorino awaits the effect of the elixir. To make sure of it, he buys from Dulcamara a second bottle. Not having the money to pay for it, and Belcore being on the lookout for recruits, Nemorino enlists and, with the money he receives, pays Dulcamara. The fresh dose of the supposed elixir makes Nemorino livelier than ever. He pictures to himself the glory of a soldier's career. He also finds himself greatly admired by the village girls, for enlisting. Adina also realizes that he has joined the army out of devotion to her, and indicates that she favours him rather than Belcore. But he now has the exalted pleasure of treating her with indifference, so that she goes away very sad. He attributes his luck to the elixir.

Hempel and Caruso

Photo by White

Hempel (Adina) and Caruso (Nemorino) in “L’Elisir d’Amore”

The villagers have learned that his rich uncle is dead and has left a will making him his heir. But because this news has not yet been communicated to him, he thinks their-337- attentions due to the love-philtre, and believes the more firmly in its efficacy. In any event, Adina has perceived, upon the Sergeant's pressing her to sign the marriage contract, that she really prefers Nemorino. Like a shrewd little woman, she takes matters into her own hands, and buys back from Sergeant Belcore her lover's enlistment paper. Having thus set him free, she behaves so coyly that Nemorino threatens to seek death in battle, whereupon she faints right into his arms. The Sergeant bears this unlucky turn of affairs with the bravery of a soldier, while Dulcamara's fame becomes such that he can sell to the villagers his entire stock of Bordeaux for love elixir at a price that makes him rich.

The elixir of life of this "Elixir of Love" is the romance for tenor in the second act, "Una furtiva lagrima" (A furtive tear), which Nemorino sings as Adina sadly leaves him, when she thinks that he has become indifferent to her. It was because of Caruso's admirable rendition of this beautiful romance that the opera was revived at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, in 1904. Even the instrumental introduction to it, in which the bassoons carry the air, is captivating.



Una furtiva lagrima
Negl'occhi suoi spuntò;

Act I is laid on Adina's farm. Adina has a florid air, "Chiedi all'aura lusinghiera" (Go, demand of yon light zephyr), with which she turns aside from Nemorino's attentions.



Chiedi all'aura lusinghiera,

The scene then changes to a square in the village. Here Dr. Dulcamara makes his entry, singing his buffo air,-338- "Udite, udite, o rustici" (Give ear, now, ye rustic ones). There are two attractive duets in this scene. One is for Nemorino and Dr. Dulcamara, "Obbligato! obbligato!" (Thank you kindly! thank you kindly!).



The other, for Adina and Nemorino, is "Esulti pur la barbara per poco alle mie pene" (Tho' now th' exulting cruel one can thus deride my bitter pain).

Act II, which shows a room in Adina's farmhouse, opens with a bright chorus of rejoicing at her approaching wedding. Dulcamara brings out a piece of music, which he says is the latest thing from Venice, a barcarole for two voices. He and Adina sing it; a dainty duet, "Io son ricco, e tu sei bella" (I have riches, thou hast beauty) which figures in all the old potpourris of the opera.



Io son ricco, e tu sei bella;
Io ducati, e vezzi hai tu

There is a scene for Nemorino, Giannetta, and the peasants, in which Nemorino praises the elixir, "Dell'elisir mirabile" (Of this most potent elixir). Later comes another duet for Adina and Dulcamara, "Quanto amore!" (What affection!) in which Adina expresses her realization of the death of Nemorino's affection for her.

"The score of 'Elisire d'Amore,'" says the Dictionnaire des Opéras, "is one of the most pleasing that the Bergamo composer has written in the comic vein. It abounds in charming motifs and graceful melodies. In the first act the duet for tenor and bass between the young villager and Dr. Dulcamara is a little masterpiece of animation, the accompaniment of which is as interesting as the vocal parts.-339- The most striking passages of the second act are the chorus, 'Cantiamo, facciam brindisi'; the barcarole for two voices, 'Io son ricco, e tu sei bella'; the quartet, 'Dell'elisir mirabile'; the duet between Adina and Dulcamara, 'Quanto amore'; and finally the lovely and smoothly-flowing romance of Nemorino, 'Una furtiva lagrima,' which is one of the most remarkable inspirations of Donizetti."


Opera, in a prologue and two acts, by Donizetti; words by Felice Romani, after Victor Hugo. Produced, La Scala, Milan, 1834; Théâtre des Italiens, Paris, 1840; London, 1839; in English, 1843; New York, Astor Place Opera House, 1847; with Grisi, September 5, 1854; with Tietjens and Brignoli, 1876; Academy of Music, October 30, 1882; Metropolitan Opera House, with Caruso, 1902.


Alfonso d'Este, Duke of FerraraBaritone
Lucrezia BorgiaSoprano
Maffio OrsiniContralto
Gennaro}Young noblemen in the service of the Venetian Republic{Tenor
Rustighello, in the service of Don AlfonsoTenor
Gubetta}in the service of Lucrezia{Bass

Gentlemen-at-arms, officers, and nobles of the Venetian Republic; same, attached to court of Alfonso; ladies-in-waiting, Capuchin monks, etc.

Time—Early sixteenth century.

Place—Venice and Ferrara.

When an opera, without actually maintaining itself in the repertory, nevertheless is an object of occasional revival, it is sure to contain striking passages that seem to justify the experiment of bringing it forward again. "Lucrezia Borgia" has a male character, Maffio Orsini, sung by a contralto. Orsini's ballata, "Il segreto per esser felici"-340- (O the secret of bliss in perfection), is a famous contralto air which Ernestine Schumann-Heink, with her voice of extraordinary range, has made well known all over the United States.

I quote the lines from the Ditson libretto:

O the secret of bliss in perfection,
Is never to raise an objection,
Whether winter hang tears on the bushes,
Or the summer-kiss deck them with blushes.
Drink, and pity the fool who on sorrow,
Ever wastes the pale shade of a thought.
Never hope for one jot from the morrow,
Save a new day of joy by it brought!

The music has all the dash and abandon that the words suggest. Orsini sings it at a banquet in Ferrara. Suddenly from a neighbouring room comes the sound of monks' voices chanting a dirge. A door opens. The penitents, still chanting, enter. The lights grow dim and one by one go out. The central doors swing back. Lucrezia Borgia appears in the entrance. The banqueters are her enemies. She has poisoned the wine they have just quaffed to Orsini's song. They are doomed. The dirge is for them. But—what she did not know—among them is Gennaro, her illegitimate son, whom she dearly loves. She offers him an antidote, but in vain. He will not save himself, while his friends die. She then discloses the fact that she is his mother. But, even then, instead of accepting her proffered aid to save his life, he repulses her. Lucrezia herself then drains the poisoned cup from which he has quaffed, and sinks, dying, upon his prostrate form. Such is the sombre setting for the Brindisi—the drinking song—"the secret of bliss in perfection"—when heard in the opera.



Il segreto per esser felici
Sò per prova e l'insegno agli amici


The tenor rôle of Gennaro also has tempted to occasional revivals of the work. Mario introduced for this character as a substitute for a scene in the second act, a recitative and air by Lillo, "Com'è soave quest'ora di silenzio" (Oh! how delightful this pleasing hour of silence), a change which is sometimes followed.

Prologue. Terrace of the Grimani palace, Venice. Festival by night. Gennaro, weary, separates from his friends and falls asleep on a stone bench of the terrace. Here he is discovered by Lucrezia, who is masked. She regards him with deep affection. "Com'è bello quale incanto" (Holy beauty, child of nature) she sings.



Com'è bello quale incanto

Gennaro awakens. In answer to her questions he tells her that he has been brought up by a poor fisherman, "Di pescatore ignobile" (Deem'd of a fisher's lowly race).



Di pescatore ignobile

The youth's friends come upon the scene. Maffio Orsini tears the mask from Lucrezia's face, and in a dramatic concerted number he and his friends remind Lucrezia, for the benefit of Gennaro, who had been struck by her beauty and was unaware that she was the hated Borgia, how each has lost a brother or other relative through her. "Maffio Orsini, signora, son'io cui svenaste il dormente fratello" (Madam, I am Orsini. My brother you did poison, the while he was sleeping). And so each one in order.



Maffio Orsini, signora, son'io

Gennaro turns from her in loathing. She faints.


Act I. A public place in Ferrara. On one side a palace. Alfonso, who, incidentally, is Lucrezia's fourth husband, she having done away with his predecessors by poison, or other murderous means, is jealous of Gennaro. Like the youth himself, he is ignorant that Lucrezia is his mother, and is persuaded that he is her paramour. He has two solos. The first is "Vieni, la mia vendetta" (Haste then to glut a vengeance); the second, "Qualunque sia l'evento" (On this I stake my fortune).



Qualunque sia l'evento che può recar fortuna,

Gennaro and his friends come into the Plaza. They see the letters borgia under the escutcheon of the palace. Gennaro, to show his detestation of Lucrezia's crimes, rushes up the steps and with his sword hacks away the first letter of the name, leaving only orgia. At the command of the Duke, he is arrested.

Lucrezia, not knowing who has committed the outrage, demands of her husband that its perpetrator be put to death. Alfonso, with cynical readiness, consents. Gennaro is led in. Lucrezia now pleads for his life. The Duke is firm, even though Lucrezia quite casually reminds him that he is her fourth husband and may share the fate of the other three. ("Aye, though the fourth of my husbands, you lord it.") His comment is the command that Gennaro shall meet death by quaffing a goblet of poisoned wine handed to him by Lucrezia herself. There is here a strong trio for Lucrezia, Gennaro, and Alfonso, as Alfonso pours wine for himself and Lucrezia from a silver flagon, while he empties the poisoned contents of a gold vessel, "the Borgia wine," into Gennaro's cup. But Lucrezia has the antidote; and, the Duke having left her with Gennaro, in order that she shall have the pleasure of watching the death of the man of whom he suspects-343- her to be enamored, she gives it to Gennaro, and bids him flee from Ferrara.

Act II is laid in the Negroni palace, and is the scene of the banquet, which has already been described.

When "Lucrezia Borgia" was produced in Paris, in 1840, Victor Hugo, author of the drama upon which the libretto is based, objected. The French have long gone much further than we do in protecting the property rights of authors and artists in their creations. The producers of the opera were obliged to have the libretto rewritten. The title was changed to "La Rinegata" and the scene was transferred to Turkey.


Opera in three acts, by Donizetti; words by Salvatore Cammarano, after Scott's novel, "The Bride of Lammermoor." Produced, San Carlo Theatre, Naples, September 26, 1835, with Persiani as Lucia, and Duprez as Edgardo, the rôles having been especially composed for these artists. London, Her Majesty's Theatre, April 5, 1838, and, in English, at the Princess Theatre, January 19, 1848. Paris, 1839. New York in English, at the Park Theatre, November 17, 1845; and, in Italian, November 14, 1849. Among celebrated Lucias heard in this country, are Patti, Gerster, Melba, Sembrich, Tetrazzini and Galli-Curci (Chicago, November 21, 1916); among Edgardos, Italo Campanini and Caruso.


Lord Henry Ashton, of LammermoorBaritone
Lucy, his sisterSoprano
Edgar, Master of RavenswoodTenor
Lord Arthur BucklawTenor
Raymond, chaplain at LammermoorBass
Alice, companion to LucyMezzo-Soprano
Norman, follower of Lord AshtonTenor

Relatives, Retainers, and Friends of the House of Lammermoor.

Time—About 1700.


(Note. The characters in Italian are Enrico, Lucia, Edgardo, Arturo, Raimondo, Alisa, and Normanno.)


"Lucia di Lammermoor" is generally held to be Donizetti's finest work. "In it the vein of melody—now sparkling, now sentimental, now tragic—which embodies Donizetti's best claim on originality and immortality, finds, perhaps, freest and broadest development." These words are quoted from Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, a volume that rarely pauses to comment on an individual work. "Lucia" is indeed its composer's masterpiece; and a masterpiece of Italian opera in the older definition of that term. Its melodies are many and beautiful, and even when ornate in passages, are basically expressive of the part of the tragic story to which they relate. Moreover, the sextet at the end of the second act when Edgar of Ravenswood appears upon the scene just as Lucy with trembling hand has affixed her signature to the contract of marriage between Lord Bucklaw and herself, ranks as one of the finest pieces of dramatic music in all opera, and as a concerted number is rivalled, in Italian opera, by only one other composition, the quartet in "Rigoletto."

The sextet in "Lucia" rises to the full height of the dramatic situation that has been created. It does so because the music reflects the part each character plays in the action. It has "physiognomy"—individual aspect and phraseology for each participant in the drama; but, withal, an interdependence, which blends the voices, as they are swept along, into one grand, powerful, and dramatic climax.

Another number, the mad scene in the third act, gives coloratura sopranos an opportunity for technical display equal to that afforded by the lesson scene in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia"; and, unlike the latter, the music does not consist of interpolated selections, but of a complete scena with effective recitatives and brilliant solos, that belong to the score.

In the story of "Lucia," the heroine's brother, Lord Henry Ashton of Lammermoor, in order to retrieve his fallen-345- fortunes, and extricate himself from a perilous situation in which his participation in political movements directed against the King has placed him, arranges a marriage between his sister and Lord Arthur Bucklaw. Lucy herself knows nothing of this arrangement. Henry, on the other hand, is equally ignorant of an attachment which exists between Lucy and Edgar of Ravenswood, between whose family and his own there long has been a deadly feud. When he discovers it, he uses the most underhand methods to break it off.

Edgar of Ravenswood is the last of his race. While he is absent on a mission to France in the interests of Scotland, he despatches many letters to Lucy. These letters are intercepted by Henry who also arranges that a forged paper, tending to prove the infidelity of Edgar, is shown to Lucy. Urged by the necessities of her brother, and believing herself deserted by her lover, Lucy unwillingly consents to become the bride of Lord Arthur Bucklaw. But, just as she has signed the marriage contract, Edgar of Ravenswood suddenly appears. He has returned from France, and now comes to claim the hand of Lucy—but too late. Convinced that Lucy has betrayed his love, he casts the ring she gave him at her feet and invokes imprecations upon her and his ancient enemies, the House of Lammermoor.

At night he is sought out in his gloomy castle by Henry. They agree upon a duel to be fought near the tombs of the Ravenswoods, on the ensuing morning, when Edgar, weary of life, and the last of a doomed race, intends to throw himself on his adversary's weapon. But the burden of woe has proved too much for Lucy to bear. At night, after retiring, she goes out of her mind, slays her husband, and dies of her sorrows.

Edgar awaits his enemy in the churchyard of Ravenswood. But Ashton has fled. Instead, Edgar's solitude is interrupted by a train of mourners coming from the Castle of-346- Lammermoor. Upon hearing of Lucy's death he plunges his dagger into his breast, and sinks down lifeless in the churchyard where repose the remains of his ancestors.

On the stage this story is developed so that shortly after the curtain rises on Act I, showing a grove near the Castle of Lammermoor, Henry learns from Norman the latter's suspicions that Lucy and Edgar have been meeting secretly in the park of Lammermoor. Norman has despatched his huntsmen to discover, if they can, whether or not his suspicions are correct. "Cruda funesta smania" (each nerve with fury trembleth) sings Henry.

Returning, the hunters relate, in a brisk chorus, that

Long they wander'd o'er the mountain,
Search'd each cleft around the fountain,

finally to learn by questioning a falconer that the intruder upon the domain of Lammermoor was none other than Edgar of Ravenswood. Rage and the spirit of revenge are expressed in Henry's vigorous aria, "La pietade in suo favore" (From my breast I mercy banish).



La pietade in suo favore

The scene changes to the park near a fountain. What now occurs is usually as follows. The curtain rises, and shows the scene—evening and moonlight. There is played a beautiful harp solo, an unusual and charming effect in opera. Having prepared the mood for the scene which is to follow, it is promptly encored and played all over again. Then Lucy appears with her companion, Alice. To her she relates the legend of the fountain, "Regnava nel silenzio" (Silence o'er all was reigning).



Regnava nel silenzio


This number gives an idea of the characteristics of Lucy's principal solos. It is brilliant in passages, yet its melody is dreamy and reflective. Largely due to this combination of traits is the popularity of "Lucia di Lammermoor," in which, although there is comparatively little downright cheerful music, it is relieved of gloom by the technical brilliancy for which it often calls;—just as, in fact, Lucy's solo following the legend of the fountain, dispels the dark forebodings it inspired. This second solo for Lucy, one of the best-known operatic numbers for soprano, is the "Quando rapito" (Then swift as thought).



Quando rapito in estasi del più cocente ardore

Another beautiful and familiar number is the duet between Lucy and Edgar, who has come to tell her of his impending departure for France and to bid her farewell: "Verranno a te sull'aure" (My sighs shall on the balmy breeze).



Verranno a te sull'aure i miei sospiri ardenti

Act II. Apartment in the Castle of Lammermoor. "Il pallor funesto, orrendo" (See these cheeks so pale and haggard).



Il pallor funesto, orrendo

In this sad air Lucy protests to her brother against the marriage which he has arranged for her with Bucklaw. Henry then shows her the forged letter, which leads her to believe that she has been betrayed by her lover. "Soffriva nel pianto, languia nel dolore" (My sufferings and-348- sorrow I've borne without repining) begins the duet between Lucy and Henry with an especially effective cadenza—a dramatic number.

Though believing herself deserted by Edgar, Lucy still holds back from the thought of marriage with another, and yields only to save her brother from a traitor's death, and even then not until she has sought counsel from Raymond, the chaplain of Lammermoor, who adds his persuasions to Henry's.

The scene of the signing of the dower opens with a quick, bright chorus of guests who have assembled for the ceremony.



There is an interchange of courtesies between Henry and Arthur; and then Lucy enters. The sadness of her mien is explained by her brother to Arthur on the ground that she is still mourning the death of her mother. Desperate, yet reluctant, Lucy signs the contracts of dower; and at that moment, one of the most dramatic in opera, Edgar, a sombre figure, but labouring under evident though suppressed tension, appears at the head of the broad flight of steps in the background, and slowly comes forward.

The orchestra preludes briefly:




Photo by Mishkin

Caruso as Edgardo in “Lucia di Lammermoor”


Photo copyright, 1916, by Victor Georg

Galli-Curci as Lucia in “Lucia di Lammermoor”

The greatest ensemble number in Italian opera, the sextet, has begun. Edgardo: "Chi mi frena in tal momento? Chi-349- troncò dell'ire il corso?" (What restrains me at this moment? Why my sword do I not straightway draw?):



Chi mi frena in tal momento?

Because he sees Lucy "as a rose 'mid tempest bending":



Even Henry is moved to exclaim, "To my own blood I am a traitor":



The chorus swells the volume of sound, but Lucy's voice soars despairingly above all:




Lucy and Edgar—they are the victims of Henry's treachery, as will soon transpire.

Act III. The first scene is laid in Edgar's gloomy castle, whither at night comes Henry to challenge him to a duel at morn.

The scene then changes back to Lammermoor, where the wedding guests still are feasting. Their revels are halted by Raymond, who, horror-stricken, announces to them that Lucy has gone mad and slain her husband; and soon the unhappy bride herself appears. Then follows the mad scene, one of the greatest "show numbers" for soprano, with the further merit that it fits perfectly into the scheme of the work.

This is an elaborate scena. In an earlier part of the opera Donizetti made effective use of a harp. In the mad scene he introduces a flute obligato, which plays around the voice, joins with it, touches it with sharp, brilliant accentuations, and glides with it up and down the scale in mellifluous companionship.

In a brief article in The Musician, Thomas Tapper writes that "to perform the mad scene has been an inspiration and incentive to attainment for many singers. Its demands are severe. There must be the 'mood,' that is, the characterization of the mental state of Lucy must be evidenced both in vocal tone and physical movement. The aria requires an unusual degree of facility. Its transparency demands adherence to pitch that must not vary a shade from the truth (note the passage where voice and flute are in unison). The coloratura soprano is here afforded unusual opportunity to display fluency and flexibility of voice, to portray the character that is 'as Ophelia was'; the dramatic intensity is paramount and must be sustained at a lofty eminence. In brief, the aria is truly a tour de force."

One of the best things in the above is its insistence on the "mood," the emotional situation that underlies the-351- music. However brilliant the singing of the prima donna, something in her performance must yet convey to her hearers a sense of the sad fortunes of Lucy of Lammermoor.

To the accomplishment of this Donizetti lends a helping hand by introducing, as a mournful reminiscence, the theme of the first act love duet for Lucy and Edgar ("My sighs shall on the balmy breeze"); also by the dreaminess of the two melodies, "Alfin son tua" (Thine am I ever);



and "Spargi d'amaro pianto" (Shed thou a tear of sorrow).



Preceding the first of these, and also between the two, are dramatic recitatives, in which the flute, possibly introduced merely for musical effect, yet, with its clear, limpid notes, by no means untypical of Lucy's pure and spiritual personality, is prominent in the instrumental part of the score. Upon a brilliant phrase of vocalization, like "Yet shall we meet, dear Edgar, before the altar,"



Qui ricovriamo, Edgardo, a piè dell'ara

it follows with this phrase:




which simple, even commonplace, as it seems, nevertheless, in place, has the desired effect of ingenuousness and charm; while the passage beginning,



has decided dramatic significance.

I also give an example of a passage in which flute and voice combine in a manner that requires impeccable intonation on the singer's part.


[Listen (MP3)]

a noi sarà, la vita etc.

The scena ends with a stretto, a concluding passage taken in more rapid tempo in order to enhance the effect.

It is always interesting to me to hear this scene, when well rendered, and to note the simple means employed by the composer to produce the impression it makes.

The flute is an instrument that long has been the butt of humorists. "What is worse than one flute?"—"Two-353- flutes." This is a standard musical joke. The kind suggestion also has been volunteered that Lucy of Lammermoor went out of her head, not because she was deserted by Edgar, but because she was accompanied by a flute.

Nevertheless the flute is precisely the instrument required as an obligato to this scene. Italian composers, as a rule, pay little attention to instrumentation. Yet it is a fact that, when they make a special choice of an instrument in order to produce a desired effect, their selection usually proves a happy inspiration. The flute and the harp in "Lucia" are instances; the bassoons in the introduction to "Una furtiva lagrima" (A furtive tear) in "L'Elisire d'Amore" furnish another; and the wood-wind in the "Semiramide" duet, "Giorno d'orrore" (Dark day of horror) may also be mentioned.

There is a point in the mad scene where it is easy to modulate into the key of G major. Donizetti has written in that key the aria "Perchè non ho del vento" (Oh, for an eagle's pinions) which sopranos sometimes introduce during the scene, since it was composed for that purpose.

Probably the air is unfamiliar to opera-goers in this country. Lionel Mapleson, the librarian of the Metropolitan Opera House, never has heard it sung there, and was interested to know where I had found it. As it is a florid, brilliant piece of music, and well suited to the scene, I quote a line of it, as a possible hint to some prima donna.



Perchè non ho del vento l'infaticabil vole

During the finale of the opera, laid near the churchyard where lie the bones of Edgar's ancestors, Lucy's lover holds the stage. His final aria, "Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali"-354- (Tho' from earth thou'st flown before me), is a passage of mournful beauty, which has few equals in Italian opera.



Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali, o bell'alma innamorata

Of the singers of former days who have been heard here as Lucia, Adelina Patti interpreted the rôle with the least effort and the greatest brilliancy. Hers was a pure flexible soprano, which seemed to flow forth spontaneously from an inexhaustible reservoir of song. Unfortunately she was heard here by many long after her day had passed. She had too many "farewells." But those who heard her at her best, always will remember her as the possessor of a naturally beautiful voice, exquisitely trained.

Italo Campanini, a tenor who was in his prime when Mapleson was impresario at the Academy of Music, was one of the great Edgardos. He was an elder brother of Cleofante Campanini, orchestral conductor and director of the Chicago Opera Company.

As for Caruso, rarely have I witnessed such excitement as followed the singing of the sextet the evening of his first appearance as Edgardo at the Metropolitan Opera House. It is a fact that the policeman in the lobby, thinking a riot of some sort had broken loose in the auditorium, grabbed his night stick and pushed through the swinging doors—only to find an audience vociferously demanding an encore. Even granted that some of the excitement was "worked up," it was, nevertheless, a remarkable demonstration.

The rôle of Enrico, though, of course, of less importance than Edgardo, can be made very effective by a baritone of the first rank. Such, for example, was Antonio Galassi, who, like Campanini, was one of Mapleson's singers. He was a tall, well-put-up man; and when, in the sextet, at the words "È mio rosa inaridita" (Of thine own blood thou'rt-355- the betrayer), he came forward in one stride, and projected his voice into the proceedings, it seemed as if, no matter what happened to the others, he could take the entire affair on his broad shoulders and carry it through to success.


Opera in two acts, by Donizetti; words by Bayard and Jules H. Vernoy (Marquis St. Georges). Produced, Opéra Comique, Paris, as "La Fille du Régiment," February 11, 1840; Milan, October 30, 1840; London, in English, at the Surrey Theatre, December 21, 1847; the same season in Italian, with Jenny Lind. First American performance, New Orleans, March 7, 1843. Marie was a favorite rôle with Jenny Lind, Sontag, Lucca, and Patti, all of whom appeared in it in New York; also Sembrich, with Charles Gilibert as Sulpice, Metropolitan Opera House, 1902-03; and Hempel, with Scotti as Sulpice, same house, December 17, 1917. Tetrazzini, McCormack, and Gilibert, Manhattan Opera House, 1909. An opera with a slight hold on the repertoire, but liable to occasional revival for coloratura sopranos.


Marie, the "Daughter of the Regiment," but really
the daughter of the Marquise de Birkenfeld
Sulpice, Sergeant of French GrenadiersBass
Tonio, a Tyrolese peasant in love with Marie;
afterwards an officer of Grenadiers
Marquise de BirkenfeldSoprano
Hortensio, steward to the MarquiseBass

Soldiers, peasants, friends of the Marquise, etc.


Place—Mountains of the Swiss Tyrol.

Act I. A passage in the Tyrolese mountains. On the right is a cottage, on the left the first houses of a village. Heights in the background. Tyrolese peasants are grouped on rising ground, as if on the lookout. Their wives and daughters kneel before a shrine to the Virgin. The Mar-356-quise de Birkenfeld is seated on a rustic bench. Beside her stands Hortensio, her steward. They have been caught in the eddy of the war. An engagement is in progress not far away. The Tyrolese chorus sings valiantly, the women pray; the French are victorious. And why not? Is not the unbeaten Twenty-first Regiment of Grenadiers among them?

One of them is coming now, Sergeant Sulpice, an old grumbler. After him comes a pretty girl in uniform, a vivandière—Marie, the daughter of the regiment, found on the field of battle when she was a mere child, and brought up by a whole regiment of fathers, the spoiled darling of the grenadiers. She sings "Apparvi alla luce, sul campo guerrier"



Apparvi alla luce,
Sul campo guerrier,

(I first saw the light in the camp of my brave grenadiers), which ends in a brilliant cadenza.



This indicates why the revival of this opera attends the appearance upon the horizon of a coloratura star. It is typical of the requirements of the character.

The Sergeant puts her through a drill. Then they have a "Rataplan" duet, which may be called a repetition of Marie's solo with an accompaniment of rataplans. The drum is the music that is sweetest to her; and, indeed, Marie's manipulation of the drumsticks is a feature of the rôle.

But for a few days Marie has not been as cheerful as formerly. She has been seen with a young man. Sulpice-357- asks her about him. She tells the Sergeant that this young man saved her life by preventing her from falling over a precipice. That, however, establishes no claim upon her. The regiment has decreed that only a grenadier shall have her for wife.

There is a commotion. Some soldiers drag in Tonio, whom they charge as a spy. They have discovered him sneaking about the camp. His would have been short shrift had not Marie pleaded for him, for he is none other than her rescuer. As he wants to remain near Marie, he decides to become a soldier. The grenadiers celebrate his decision by drinking to his health and calling upon Marie to sing the "Song of the Regiment," a dapper tune, which is about the best-known number of the score: "Ciascun lo dice, ciascun lo sà! È il Reggimento, ch'egual non ha."

(All men confess it,
Go where we will!
Our gallant Regiment
Is welcome still.)



Ciascun lo dice,
Ciascun lo sà!
È il Reggimento
Ch'egual non ha.

There is then a love scene for Marie and Tonio, followed by a duet for them, "A voti così ardente" (No longer can I doubt it).

Afterwards the grenadiers sing a "Rataplan" chorus.



Rataplan, rataplan, rataplan,

But, alas, the Sergeant has been informed that the Marquise de Birkenfeld desires safe conduct. Birkenfeld! That is the very name to which were addressed certain papers-358- found on Marie when she was discovered as a baby on the battlefield. The Marquise examines the papers, declares that Marie is her niece and henceforth must live with her in the castle. Poor Tonio has become a grenadier in vain. The regiment cannot help him. It can only lament with him that their daughter is lost to them. She herself is none too happy. She sings a sad farewell, "Convien partir! o miei compagni d'arme" (Farewell, a long farewell, my dear companions).

Act II. In the castle of the Marquise. Marie is learning to dance the minuet and to sing classical airs. But in the midst of her singing she and Sulpice, whom the Marquise also has brought to the castle, break out into the "Song of the Regiment" and stirring "rataplans." Their liveliness, however, is only temporary, for poor Marie is to wed, at her aunt's command, a scion of the ducal house of Krakenthorp. The march of the grenadiers is heard. They come in, led by Tonio, who has been made a captain for valour. Sulpice can now see no reason why Marie should not marry him instead of the nobleman selected by her aunt. And, indeed, Marie and Tonio decide to elope. But the Marquise confesses to the Sergeant, in order to win his aid in influencing Marie, that the girl really is her daughter, born out of wedlock. Sulpice informs Marie, who now feels that she cannot go against her mother's wishes.

In the end, however, it is Marie herself who saves the situation. The guests have assembled for the signing of the wedding contract, when Marie, before them all, sings fondly of her childhood with the regiment, and of her life as a vivandière, "Quando il destino, in mezzo a strage ria" (When I was left, by all abandoned).

The society people are scandalized. But the Marquise is so touched that she leads Tonio to Marie and places the girl's hand in that of her lover. The opera ends with an ensemble, "Salute to France!"



Opera in four acts, by Donizetti; words by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Waez, adapted from the drama "Le Comte de Comminges," of Baculard-Darnaud. Produced at the Grand Opéra, Paris, December 2, 1840. London, in English, 1843; in Italian, 1847. New York, Park Theatre, October 4, 1848.


Alfonso XI., King of CastileBaritone
Ferdinand, a young novice of the Monastery of St. James of Compostella;
afterwards an officer
Don Gaspar, the King's MinisterTenor
Balthazar, Superior of the Monastery of St. JamesBass
Leonora di GusmannSoprano
Inez, her confidanteSoprano

Courtiers, guards, monks, ladies of the court, attendants.

Time—About 1340.

Place—Castile, Spain.

Leonora, with Campanini as Fernando, was, for a number of seasons, one of the principal rôles of Annie Louise Cary at the Academy of Music. Mantelli as Leonora, Cremonini as Fernando, Ancona as King Alfonso, and Plançon as Balthazar, appeared, 1895-96, at the Metropolitan, where "La Favorita" was heard again in 1905; but the work never became a fixture, as it had been at the Academy of Music. The fact is that since then American audiences, the most spoiled in the world, have established an operatic convention as irrevocable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. In opera the hero must be a tenor, the heroine a true soprano. "La Favorita" fulfils the first requisite, but not the second. The heroine is a rôle for contralto, or mezzo-soprano. Yet the opera contains some of Donizetti's finest music, both solo and ensemble. Pity 'tis not heard more frequently.

There is in "La Favorita" a strong, dramatic scene at the-360- end of the third act. As if to work up to this as gradually as possible, the opera opens quietly.

Ferdinand, a novice in the Monastery of St. James of Compostella, has chanced to see and has fallen in love with Leonora, the mistress of Alfonso, King of Castile. He neither knows her name, nor is he aware of her equivocal position. So deeply conceived is his passion, it causes him to renounce his novitiate and seek out its object.

Act I. The interior of the monastery. Ferdinand makes known to Balthazar, the Superior, that he desires to renounce his novitiate, because he has fallen in love, and cannot banish the woman of his affections from his thoughts. He describes her to the priest as "Una vergine, un angel di Dio" (A virgin, an angel of God).



Una vergine, un angel di Dio

Although this air bears no resemblance to "Celeste Aïda" its flowing measures and melodious beauty, combined with its position so early in the opera, recall the Verdi aria—and prepare for it the same fate—which is to be marred by the disturbance caused by late-comers and to remain unheard by those who come still later.

Balthazar's questions elicit from Ferdinand that his only knowledge of the woman, whose praises he has sung, is of her youth and beauty. Name and station are unknown to him, although he believes her to be of high rank. Balthazar, who had hoped that in time Ferdinand would become his successor as superior of the monastery, releases him reluctantly from his obligations, and prophesies, as the novice turns away from the peaceful shades of the cloister, that he will retrace his steps, disappointed and heart-broken, to seek refuge once more within the monastery's walls.

The scene changes to an idyllic prospect on the island of-361- St. Leon, where Leonora lives in splendour. She, in her turn, is deeply enamoured of Ferdinand, yet is convinced that, because of her relations with King Alfonso, he will despise her should he discover who she is. But so great is her love for him, that, without letting him learn her name or station, she has arranged that he shall be brought, blindfolded, to the island.

"Bei raggi lucenti" (Bright sunbeams, lightly dancing), a graceful solo and chorus for Inez, Leonora's confidante, and her woman companions, opens the scene.

It is followed by "Dolce zeffiro, il seconda" (Gentle zephyr, lightly wafted), which is sung by the chorus of women, as the boat conveying Ferdinand touches the island and he, after disembarking, has the bandage withdrawn from over his eyes, and looks in amazement upon the charming surroundings amid which he stands. He questions Inez regarding the name and station of her who holds gentle sway over the island, but in vain. Inez and her companions retire, as Leonora enters. She interrupts Ferdinand's delight at seeing her by telling him—but without giving her reasons—that their love can lead only to sorrow; that they must part. He protests vehemently. She, however, cannot be moved from her determination that he shall not be sacrificed to their love, and hands him a parchment, which she tells him will lead him to a career of honour.

He still protests. But at that moment Inez, entering hurriedly, announces the approach of the King. Leonora bids Ferdinand farewell and goes hastily to meet Alfonso. Ferdinand now believes that the woman with whom he has fallen in love is of rank so high that she cannot stoop to wed him, yet expresses her love for him by seeking to advance him. This is confirmed when, on reading the scroll she has given him, he discovers that it gratifies his highest ambition and confers upon him a commission in the army.-362- The act closes with his martial air, "Sì, che un tuo solo accento" (Oh, fame, thy voice inspiring).

He sees the path to glory open up before him, and with it the hope that some great deed may yet make him worthy to claim the hand of the woman he loves.

Act II. Gardens of the Palace of the Alcazar. Ferdinand's dream of glory has come true. We learn, through a brief colloquy between Alfonso and Don Gaspar, his minister, that the young officer has led the Spanish army to victory against the Moors. Indeed, this very palace of the Alcazar has been wrested from the enemy by the young hero.

Gaspar having retired, the King, who has no knowledge of the love between Ferdinand and Leonora, sings of his own passion for her in the expressive air, "Vien, Leonora, a' piedi tuoi" (Come, Leonora, before the kneeling).

The object of his love enters, accompanied by her confidante. The King has prepared a fête in celebration of Ferdinand's victory, but Leonora, while rejoicing in the honours destined to be his, is filled with foreboding because of the illicit relations between herself and the King, when she truly loves another. Moreover, these fears find justification in the return of Gaspar with a letter in Ferdinand's handwriting, and intended for Leonora, but which the minister has intercepted in the hand of Inez. The King's angry questions regarding the identity of the writer are interrupted by confused sounds from without. There enters Balthazar, preceded by a priest bearing a scroll with the Papal seal. He faces the King and Leonora while the lords and ladies, who have gathered for the fête, look on in apprehension, though not wholly without knowledge of what is impending.

For there is at the court of Alfonso a strong party that condemns the King's illicit passion for Leonora, so openly shown. This party has appealed to the Papal throne-363- against the King. The Pope has sent a Bull to Balthazar, in which the Superior of the Monastery of St. James is authorized to pronounce the interdict on the King if the latter refuses to dismiss his favourite from the Court and restore his legitimate wife to her rights. It is with this commission Balthazar has now appeared before the King, who at first is inclined to refuse obedience to the Papal summons. He wavers. Balthazar gives him time till the morrow, and until then withholds his anathema.

Balthazar's vigorous yet dignified denunciation of the King, "Ah paventa il furor d'un Dio vendicatore" (Do not call down the wrath of God, the avenger, upon thee), forms a broadly sonorous foundation for the finale of the act.



Ah paventa il furor d'un Dio vendicatore,

Act III. A salon in the Palace of the Alcazar. In a brief scene the King informs his minister that he has decided to heed the behest of the church and refrain from braving the Papal malediction. He bids Gaspar send Leonora to him, but, at the first opportunity, to arrest Inez, her accomplice.

It is at this juncture, as Gaspar departs, that Ferdinand appears at court, returning from the war, in which he has not only distinguished himself by his valour, but actually has saved the kingdom. Alfonso asks him to name the prize which he desires as recompense for his services. Leonora enters. Ferdinand, seeing her, at once asks for the bestowal of her hand upon him in marriage. The King, who loves her deeply, and has nearly risked the wrath of the Pope for her sake, nevertheless, because immediately aware of the passion between the two, gives his assent, but with reluctance, as indeed appears from the irony that pervades his solo, "A tanto amor" (Thou flow'r belov'd).


He then retires with Ferdinand.

Leonora, touched by the King's magnanimity, inspired by her love for Ferdinand, yet shaken by doubts and fears, because aware that he knows nothing of her past, now expresses these conflicting feelings in her principal air, "O, mio Fernando," one of the great Italian airs for mezzo-soprano.



O, mio Fernando, della terra il trono

She considers that their future happiness depends upon Ferdinand's being truthfully informed of what her relations have been with the King, thus giving him full opportunity to decide whether, with this knowledge of her guilt, he will marry her, or not. Accordingly she despatches Inez with a letter to him. Inez, as she is on her way to deliver this letter, is intercepted by Gaspar, who carries out the King's command and orders her arrest. She is therefore unable to place in Ferdinand's hands the letter of Leonora.

Into the presence of the assembled nobles the King now brings Ferdinand, decorates him with a rich chain, and announces that he has created him Count of Zamora. The jealous lords whisper among themselves about the scandal of Ferdinand's coming marriage with the mistress of the King; but Leonora, who enters in bridal attire, finds Ferdinand eagerly awaiting her, and ready to wed her, notwithstanding, as she believes, his receipt of her communication and complete knowledge of her past.

While the ceremony is being performed in another apartment, the nobles discuss further the disgrace to Ferdinand in this marriage. That Leonora was the mistress of the King is, of course, a familiar fact at court, and the nobles regard Ferdinand's elevation to the rank of nobility as a reward, not only for his defeat of the Moors, but also for-365- accommodatingly taking Leonora off the hands of the King, when the latter is threatened with the malediction of Rome. They cannot imagine that the young officer is ignorant of the relations that existed between his bride and the King.

Ferdinand re-enters. In high spirits he approaches the courtiers, offers them his hand, which they refuse. Balthazar now comes to learn the decision of the King. Ferdinand, confused by the taunting words and actions of the courtiers, hastens to greet Balthazar, who, not having seen him since he has returned victorious and loaded with honours, embraces him, until he hears Gaspar's ironical exclamation, "Leonora's bridegroom!" Balthazar starts back, and it is then Ferdinand learns that he has just been wedded "alla bella del Re"—to the mistress of the King.

At this moment, when Ferdinand has but just been informed of what he can only interpret as his betrayal by the King and the royal favourite, Alfonso enters, leading Leonora, followed by her attendants. In a stirring scene, the dramatic climax of the opera, Ferdinand tears from his neck the chain Alfonso has bestowed upon him, and throws it contemptuously upon the floor, breaks his sword and casts it at the King's feet, then departs with Balthazar, the nobles now making a passage for them, and saluting, while they sing

"Ferdinand, the truly brave,
We salute, and pardon crave!"

Act IV. The cloisters of the Monastery of St. James. Ceremony of Ferdinand's entry into the order. "Splendon più belle in ciel le stelle" (Behold the stars in splendour celestial), a distinguished solo and chorus for Balthazar and the monks.


Left alone, Ferdinand gives vent to his sorrow, which still persists, in the romance, "Spirto gentil" (Spirit of Light), one of the most exquisite tenor solos in the Italian repertory.



Spirto gentil, ne' sogni miei brillasti un dì, ma ti perdei

In 1882, thirty-four years after Donizetti's death, there was produced in Rome an opera by him entitled "Il Duca d'Alba" (The Duke of Alba). Scribe wrote the libretto for Rossini, who does not appear to have used it. So it was passed on to Donizetti, who composed, but never produced it. "Spirto gentil" was in this opera, from which Donizetti simply transferred it.

Balthazar and the monks return. With them Ferdinand enters the chapel. Leonora, disguised as a novice, comes upon the scene. She hears the chanting of the monks, Ferdinand's voice enunciating his vows. He comes out from the chapel, recognizes Leonora, bids her be gone. "Ah! va, t'invola! e questa terra" (These cloisters fly, etc.).

She, however, tells him of her unsuccessful effort to let him know of her past, and craves his forgiveness for the seeming wrong she has wrought upon him. "Clemente al par di Dio" (Forgiveness through God I crave of thee).

All of Ferdinand's former love returns for her. "Vieni, ah! vieni," etc. (Joy once more fills my breast).

He would bear her away to other climes and there happily pass his days with her. But it is too late. Leonora dies in his arms. "By tomorrow my soul, too, will want your prayers," are Ferdinand's words to Balthazar, who, approaching, has drawn Leonora's cowl over her dishevelled hair. He calls upon the monks to pray for a departed soul.



Opera, in three acts, by Donizetti; words by Rossi. Produced, May 19, 1842, Theatre near the Carinthian Gate (Kärnthnerthor), Vienna. London, June, 1843. New York, Palma's Opera House, January 4, 1847, with Clothilda Barili; Academy of Music, March 9, 1861, with Clara Louise Kellogg, later with Patti as Linda and Galassi as Antonio; Metropolitan Opera House, April 23, 1890, with Patti.


Marquis de BoisfleuryBass
Charles, Vicomte de SirvalTenor

Peasant men and women, Savoyards, etc.

Time—1760, during the reign of Louis XV.

Place—Chamounix and Paris.

"Linda di Chamounix" contains an air for soprano without which no collection of opera arias is complete. This is Linda's aria in the first act, "O luce di quest'anima" (Oh! star that guid'st my fervent love). When Donizetti was composing "Linda di Chamounix" for Vienna, with this air and its fluent embellishments, he also was writing for the Imperial chapel a "Miserere" and an "Ave Maria" which were highly praised for a style as severe and restrained as "O luce di quest'anima" is light and graceful.

"Linda di Chamounix" is in three acts, entitled "The Departure," "Paris," "The Return." The story is somewhat naïve, as its exposition will show.

Act I. The village of Chamounix. On one side a farmhouse. On an eminence a church. Antonio and Madeline-368- are poor villagers. Linda is their daughter. She has fallen in love with an artist, Charles, who really is the Viscount de Sirval, but has not yet disclosed his identity to her. When the opera opens Linda's parents are in fear of being dispossessed by the Marquis de Boisfleury, who is Charles's uncle, but knows nothing of his nephew's presence in Chamounix, or of his love for Linda. She, it may be remarked, is one of those pure, sweet, unsophisticated creatures, who exist only on the stage, and possibly only in opera.

When the opera opens, Antonio returns from a visit to the Marquis's agent, the Intendant. Hopes have been held out to him that the Marquis will relent. Antonio communicates these hopes to his wife in the beautiful solo, "Ambo nati in questa valle" (We were both in this valley nurtured).



Ambo nati in questa valle,

There are shouts of "Viva!" without. The Marquis has arrived. He seems kindness itself to the old couple. He asks for Linda, but she has gone to prayers in the chapel. We learn from an aside between the Marquis and his Intendant, that the Marquis's apparent benevolence is merely part of a libidinous scheme which involves Linda, whose beauty has attracted the titled roué.

After this scene, Linda comes on alone and sings "O luce di quest'anima."



O luce di quest'anima,
Delizia, amore e vita;

I also quote the concluding phrase:



Unita nostra sorte,
In ciel, in ciel sarà.


Savoyards are preparing to depart for Paris to go to work there. Among them is Pierrot, with his hurdy-gurdy. He sings a charming ballad, "Per sua madre andò una figlia" (Once a better fortune seeking).

There is then a love scene between Linda and Charles, with the effective duet, "A consolarmi affrettisi" (Oh! that the blessed day were come, when standing by my side), a phrase which is heard again with significant effect in the third act.



A consolarmi affrettisi,
Tal giorno sospirato,

Antonio then learns from the good Prefect of the village that the latter suspects the Marquis of sinister intentions toward Linda. Indeed at that moment Linda comes in with a paper from the Marquis, which assures to her parents their home; but, she adds, naïvely, that she has been invited by the Marquis to the castle. Parents and Prefect are alarmed for her safety. The Prefect has a brother in Paris. To his protection it is decided that Linda shall go with her Savoyard friends, who even now are preparing to depart.

Act II. Room in a handsome, well-furnished apartment in Paris. This apartment is Linda's. In it she has been installed by Charles. The natural supposition, that it has been paid for by her virtue, is in this instance a mistake, but one, I am sure, made by nine people out of ten of those who see the opera, since the explanation of how she got there consists merely of a few incidental lines in recitative.

Linda herself, but for her incredible naïveté would realize the impossibility of the situation.

A voice singing in the street she recognizes as Pierrot's, calls him up to her, and assists him with money, of which she appears to have plenty. She tells him that the Pre-370-fect's brother, in whose house she was to have found protection, had died. She was obliged to support herself by singing in the street. Fortunately she had by chance met Charles, who disclosed to her his identity as the Viscount de Sirval. He is not ready to marry her yet on account of certain family complications, but meanwhile has placed her in this apartment, where he provides for her. There is a duet, in which Linda and Pierrot sing of her happiness.

Pierrot having left, the Marquis, who has discovered her retreat, but does not know that it is provided by his nephew Charles, calls to force his unwelcome attentions upon her. He laughs, as is not unnatural, at her protestations that she is supported here in innocence; but when she threatens him with possible violence from her intended, he has a neat little solo of precaution, ending "Guardati, pensaci, marchese mio" (Be cautious—ponder well, Marquis most valiant).

The Marquis, having prudently taken his departure, Linda having gone to another room, and Charles having come in, we learn from his recitative and air that his mother, the Marquise de Sirval, has selected a wife for him, whom she insists he shall marry. He hopes to escape from this marriage, but, as his mother has heard of Linda and also insists that he shall give her up, he has come to explain matters to her and temporarily to part from her. But when he sees her, her beauty so moves him that his courage fails him, although, as he goes, there is a sadness in his manner that fills her with sad forebodings.

For three months Linda has heard nothing from her parents. Letters, with money, which she has sent them, have remained unanswered—another of the situations in which this most artless heroine of opera discovers herself, without seeking the simple and obvious way of relieving the suspense.

In any event, her parents have become impoverished through the Marquis de Boisfleury's disfavour, for at this moment her father, in the condition of a mendicant, comes-371- in to beg the intercession in his behalf of the Viscount de Sirval (Charles). Not recognizing Linda, he mistakes her for Charles's wife. She bestows bounteous alms upon him, but hesitates to make herself known, until, when he bends over to kiss her hand she cannot refrain from disclosing herself. Her surroundings arouse his suspicions, which are confirmed by Pierrot, who comes running in with the news that he has learned of preparations for the marriage of Charles to a lady of his mother's choice. In a scene (which a fine singer like Galassi was able to invest with real power) Antonio hurls the alms Linda has given him at her feet, denounces her, and departs. Pierrot seeks to comfort her. But alas! her father's denunciation of her, and, above all, what she believes to be Charles's desertion, have unseated her reason.

Act III. The village of Chamounix. The Savoyards are returning and are joyfully greeted. Charles, who has been able to persuade his mother to permit him to wed Linda, has come in search of her. Incidentally he has brought solace for Antonio and Madeline. The De Sirvals are the real owners of the farm, the Marquis, Charles's uncle, being only their representative. Linda's parents are to remain in undisturbed possession of the farm;—but where is she?

Pierrot is heard singing. Whenever he sings he is able to persuade Linda to follow him. Thus her faithful friend gradually has led her back to Chamounix. And when Charles chants for her a phrase of their first act duet, "O consolarmi affrettisi," her reason returns, and it is "Ah! di tue pene sparve il sogno" (Ah! the vision of my sorrow fades).

In this drama of naïveté, an artlessness which I mention again because I think it is not so much the music as the libretto that has become old-fashioned, even the Marquis comes in for a good word. For when he too offers his congratulations, what does Linda do but refer to the old liber-372-tine, who has sought her ruin, as "him who will be my uncle dear."


Opera, in three acts, by Donizetti; words by Salvatore Cammarano, adapted from his earlier libretto, "Ser Marc'Antonio," which Stefano Pavesi had set to music in 1813. Produced, Paris, January 4, 1843, Théâtre des Italiens. London, June 30, 1843. New York, March 9, 1846, in English; 1849, in Italian; revived for Bonci (with di Pasquali, Scotti, and Pini-Corsi) at the New Theatre, December 23, 1909; given also at the Metropolitan Opera House with Sembrich as Norina.


Don Pasquale, an old bachelorBass
Dr. Malatesta, his friendBaritone
Ernesto, nephew of Don PasqualeTenor
Norina, a young widow, affianced to ErnestoSoprano
A NotaryBaritone

Valets, chambermaids, majordomo, dress-makers, hairdresser.

Time—Early nineteenth century.


"Don Pasquale" concerns an old man about to marry. He also is wealthy. Though determined himself to have a wife, on the other hand he is very angry with his nephew, Ernesto, for wishing to marry, and threatens to disinherit him. Ernesto is greatly disturbed by these threats. So is his lady-love, the sprightly young widow, Norina, when he reports them to her.

Pasquale's friend, Dr. Malatesta, not being able to dissuade him from marriage, pretends to acquiesce in it. He proposes that his sister shall be the bride, and describes her as a timid, naïve, ingenuous girl, brought up, he says, in a convent. She is, however, none other than Norina, the clever young widow, who is in no degree related to Malatesta. She quickly enters into the plot, which involves a mock marriage with Don Pasquale. An interview takes place. The modest graces of the supposed convent girl-373- charm the old man. The marriage—a mock ceremony, of course—is hurriedly celebrated, so hurriedly that there is no time to inform the distracted Ernesto that the proceedings are bogus.

Norina now displays toward Don Pasquale an ungovernable temper. Moreover she spends money like water, and devotes all her energies to nearly driving the old man crazy. When he protests, she boxes his ears. He is on the point of suicide. Then at last Malatesta lets him know that he has been duped. Notary and contract are fictitious. He is free. With joy he transfers to Ernesto his conjugal burden—and an income.

Act I plays in a room in Don Pasquale's house and later in a room in Norina's, where she is reading a romance. She is singing "Quel guardo" (Glances so soft) and "So anch'io la virtù magica" (I, too, thy magic virtues know) in which she appears to be echoing in thought what she has been reading about in the book.



So anch'io la virtù magica
D'un guardo a tempo e loco

The duet, in which she and Malatesta agree upon the plot—the "duet of the rehearsal"—is one of the sprightly numbers of the score.

Act II is in a richly furnished salon of Don Pasquale's house. This is the scene of the mock marriage, of Norina's assumed display of temper and extravagance, Don Pasquale's distraction, Ernesto's amazement and enlightenment, and Malatesta's amused co-operation. In this act occur the duet of the box on the ears, and the quartet, which begins with Pasquale's "Son ardito" (I am betrayed). It is the finale of the act and considered a masterpiece.

Act III is in two scenes, the first in Don Pasquale's house, where everything is in confusion; the second in his-374- garden, where Ernesto sings to Norina the beautiful serenade, "Com'è gentil" (Soft beams the light).



Com'è gentil, la notte a mezzo April,

Don Pasquale, who has suspected Norina of having a rendezvous in the garden, rushes out of concealment with Malatesta. But Ernesto is quick to hide, and Norina pretends no one has been with her. This is too much for Don Pasquale, and Malatesta now makes it the occasion for bringing about the dénouement, and secures the old man's most willing consent to the marriage between Ernesto and Norina.

When the opera had its original production in Paris, Lablache was Don Pasquale, Mario Ernesto, Tamburini Malatesta, and Grisi Norina. Notwithstanding this brilliant cast, the work did not seem to be going well at the rehearsals. After one of these, Donizetti asked the music publisher, Dormoy, to go with him to his lodgings. There he rummaged among a lot of manuscripts until, finding what he was looking for, he handed it to Dormoy.

"There," he said, "give this to Mario and tell him to sing it in the last scene in the garden as a serenade to Norina."

When the opera was performed Mario sang it, while Lablache, behind the scenes, played an accompaniment on the lute. It was the serenade. Thus was there introduced into the opera that air to which, more than any other feature of the work, it owes its occasional resuscitation.

A one-act comedy opera by Donizetti, "Il Campanello di Notte" (The Night Bell) was produced in Naples in 1836. It would hardly be worth referring to but for the fact that it is in the repertoire of the Society of American Singers, who gave it, in an English version by Sydney Rosenfeld, at the Lyceum Theatre, New York, May 7, 1917. This little work turns on the attempts of a lover, who has been-375- thrown over, to prevent his successful rival, an apothecary, from going to bed on the night of his marriage. He succeeds by adopting various disguises, ringing the night bell, and asking for medicine. In the American first performance David Bispham was the apothecary, called in the adaptation, Don Hannibal Pistacchio. Miss Gates, the Serafina, interpolated "O luce di quest'anima," from "Linda di Chamounix." Mr. Reiss was Enrico, the lover.


Giuseppe Verdi

VERDI ranks as the greatest Italian composer of opera. There is a marked distinction between his career and those of Bellini and Donizetti. The two earlier composers, after reaching a certain point of development, failed to advance. No later opera by Bellini equals "La Sonnambula"; none other by Donizetti ranks with "Lucia di Lammermoor."

But Verdi, despite the great success of "Ernani," showed seven years later, with "Rigoletto," an amazing progress in dramatic expression and skill in ensemble work. "Il Trovatore" and "La Traviata" were other works of the period ushered in by "Rigoletto." Eighteen years later the composer, then fifty-eight years old, gave evidence of another and even more notable advance by producing "Aïda," a work which marks the beginning of a new period in Italian opera. Still not satisfied, Verdi brought forward "Otello" (1887) and "Falstaff" (1893), scores which more nearly resemble music-drama than opera.

Thus the steady forging ahead of Verdi, the unhalting development of his genius, is the really great feature of his career. In fact no Italian composer since Verdi has caught up with "Falstaff," which may be as profitably studied as "Le Nozze di Figaro," "Il Barbiere di Siviglia," "Die Meistersinger," and "Der Rosenkavalier." Insert "Falstaff" in this list, in its proper place between "Meister-377-singer" and "Rosenkavalier," and you have the succession of great operas conceived in the divine spirit of comedy, from 1786 to 1911.

In the article on "Un Ballo in Maschera," the political use made of the letters of Verdi's name is pointed out. See p. 428.

Verdi was born at Roncole, near Busseto, October 9, 1813. He died at Rome, January 27, 1901. There remains to be said that, at eighteen, he was refused admission to the Milan Conservatory "on the score of lack of musical talent."

What fools these mortals be!


Opera, in four acts, by Verdi; words by Francesco Maria Piave, after Victor Hugo's drama, "Hernani." Produced, Fenice Theatre, Venice, March 9, 1844; London, Her Majesty's Theatre, March 8, 1845; New York, 1846, at the Astor Place Theatre. Patti, at the Academy of Music, Sembrich at the Metropolitan Opera House, have been notable interpreters of the rôle of Elvira.


Don Carlos, King of CastileBaritone
Don Ruy Gomez di Silva, Grandee of SpainBass
Ernani, or John of Aragon, a bandit chiefTenor
Don Riccardo, esquire to the KingTenor
Jago, esquire to SilvaBass
Elvira, kinswoman to SilvaSoprano
Giovanna, in Elvira's serviceSoprano

Mountaineers and bandits, followers of Silva, ladies of Elvira, followers of Don Carlos, electors and pages.

Time—Early sixteenth century.


John of Aragon has become a bandit. His father, the Duke of Segovia, had been slain by order of Don Carlos's father. John, proscribed and pursued by the emissaries of the King, has taken refuge in the fastnesses of the mountains of Aragon, where, under the name of Ernani, he has become leader of a large band of rebel mountaineers. Ernani is in-378- love with Donna Elvira, who, although she is about to be united to her relative, the aged Ruy Gomez di Silva, a grandee of Spain, is deeply enamoured of the handsome, chivalrous bandit chief.

Don Carlos, afterwards Emperor Charles V., also has fallen violently in love with Elvira. By watching her windows he has discovered that at dead of night a young cavalier (Ernani) gains admission to her apartments. He imitates her lover's signal, gains admission to her chamber, and declares his passion. Being repulsed, he is about to drag her off by force, when a secret panel opens, and he finds himself confronted by Ernani. In the midst of a violent scene Silva enters. To allay his jealousy and anger, naturally aroused by finding two men, apparently rival suitors, in the apartment of his affianced, the King, whom Silva has not recognized, reveals himself, and pretends to have come in disguise to consult him about his approaching election to the empire, and a conspiracy that is on foot against his life. Then the King, pointing to Ernani, says to Silva, "It doth please us that this, our follower, depart," thus insuring Ernani's temporary safety—for a Spaniard does not hand an enemy over to the vengeance of another.

Believing a rumour that Ernani has been run down and killed by the King's soldiers, Elvira at last consents to give her hand in marriage to Silva. On the eve of the wedding, however, Ernani, pursued by the King with a detachment of troops, seeks refuge in Silva's castle, in the disguise of a pilgrim. Although not known to Silva, he is, under Spanish tradition, his guest, and from that moment entitled to his protection.

Elvira enters in her bridal attire. Ernani is thus made aware that her nuptials with Don Silva are to be celebrated on the morrow. Tearing off his disguise, he reveals himself to Silva, and demands to be delivered up to the King, preferring death to life without Elvira. But true to his-379- honour as a Spanish host, Silva refuses. Even his enemy, Ernani, is safe in his castle. Indeed he goes so far as to order his guards to man the towers and prepare to defend the castle, should the King seek forcible entry. He leaves the apartment to make sure his orders are being carried out. The lovers find themselves alone. When Silva returns they are in each other's arms. But as the King is at the castle gates, he has no time to give vent to his wrath. He gives orders to admit the King and his men, bids Elvira retire, and hides Ernani in a secret cabinet. The King demands that Silva give up the bandit. The grandee proudly refuses. Ernani is his guest. The King's wrath then turns against Silva. He demands the surrender of his sword and threatens him with death, when Elvira interposes. The King pardons Silva, but bears away Elvira as hostage for the loyalty of her kinsman.

The King has gone. From the wall Silva takes down two swords, releases his guest from his hiding place, and bids him cross swords with him to the death. Ernani refuses. His host has just protected his life at the danger of his own. But, if Silva insists upon vengeance, let grandee and bandit first unite against the King, with whom the honour of Elvira is unsafe. Elvira rescued, Ernani will give himself up to Silva, to whom, handing him his hunting horn, he avows himself ready to die, whenever a blast upon it shall be sounded from the lip of the implacable grandee. Silva, who has been in entire ignorance of the King's passion for Elvira, grants the reprieve, and summons his men to horse.

He sets on foot a conspiracy against the King. A meeting of the conspirators is held in the Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle, in the vault, within which stands the tomb of Charlemagne. Here it is resolved to murder the King. A ballot decides who shall do the deed. Ernani's name is drawn.

The King, however, has received information of the time-380- and place of this meeting. From the tomb he has been an unobserved witness of the meeting and purpose of the conspirators. Booming of cannon outside tells him of his choice as head of the Holy Roman Empire. Emerging from the tomb, he shows himself to the awed conspirators, who imagine they see Charlemagne issuing forth to combat them. At the same moment the doors open. The electors of the Empire enter to pay homage to Charles V.

"The herd to the dungeon, the nobles to the headsman," he commands.

Ernani advances, discovers himself as John of Aragon, and claims the right to die with the nobles—"to fall, covered, before the King." But upon Elvira's fervent plea, the King, now also Emperor, commences his reign with an act of grace. He pardons the conspirators, restores to Ernani his titles and estates, and unites him with Elvira.

Silva, thwarted in his desire to marry Elvira, waits until Ernani and Elvira, after their nuptials, are upon the terrace of Ernani's castle in Aragon. At their most blissful moment he sounds the fatal horn. Ernani, too chivalrous to evade his promise, stabs himself in the presence of the grim avenger and of Elvira who falls prostrate upon his lifeless body.

In the opera, this plot develops as follows: Act I opens in the camp of the bandits in the mountains of Aragon. In the distance is seen the Moorish castle of Silva. The time is near sunset. Of Ernani's followers, some are eating and drinking, or are at play, while others are arranging their weapons. They sing, "Allegri, beviamo" (Haste! Clink we our glasses).

Ernani sings Elvira's praise in the air, "Come rugiada al cespite" (Balmier than dew to drooping bud).



Come rugiada al cespite


This expressive number is followed by one in faster time, "O tu, che l'alma adora" (O thou toward whom, adoring soul).



O tu, che l'alma adora,
Vien, vien, la mia vita infiora,

Enthusiastically volunteering to share any danger Ernani may incur in seeking to carry off Elvira, the bandits, with their chief at their head, go off in the direction of Silva's castle.

The scene changes to Elvira's apartment in the castle. It is night. She is meditating upon Ernani. When she thinks of Silva, "the frozen, withered spectre," and contrasts with him Ernani, who "in her heart ever reigneth," she voices her thoughts in that famous air for sopranos, one of Verdi's loveliest inspirations, "Ernani! involami" (Ernani! fly with me).



Ernani! Ernani! involami
All'abborrito amplesso.

It ends with a brilliant cadenza, "Un Eden quegli antri a me" (An Eden that opens to me).



un Eden quegli antri a me.

Young maidens bearing wedding gifts enter. They sing a chorus of congratulation. To this Elvira responds with a graceful air, the sentiment of which, however, is expressed as an aside, since it refers to her longing for her young, handsome and chivalrous lover. "Tutto sprezzo che d'Ernani" (Words that breathe thy name Ernani).



Tutto sprezzo che d'Ernani


The young women go. Enter Don Carlos, the King. There is a colloquy, in which Elvira protests against his presence; and then a duet, which the King begins, "Da quel dì che t'ho veduta" (From the day, when first thy beauty).

A secret panel opens. The King is confronted by Ernani, and by Elvira, who has snatched a dagger from his belt. She interposes between the two men. Silva enters. What he beholds draws from him the melancholy reflections—"Infelice! e tu credevi" (Unhappy me! and I believed thee),



Infelice! e tu credevi

an exceptionally fine bass solo. He follows it with the vindictive "Infin, che un brando vindice" (In fine a swift, unerring blade).

Men and women of the castle and the King's suite have come on. The monarch is recognized by Silva, who does him obeisance, and, at the King's command, is obliged to let Ernani depart. An ensemble brings the act to a close.

Act II. Grand hall in Silva's castle. Doors lead to various apartments. Portraits of the Silva family, surmounted by ducal coronets and coats-of-arms, are hung on the walls. Near each portrait is a complete suit of equestrian armour, corresponding in period to that in which lived the ancestor represented in the portrait. A large table and a ducal chair of carved oak.

The persistent chorus of ladies, though doubtless aware that Elvira is not thrilled at the prospect of marriage with her "frosty" kinsman, and has consented to marry him only because she believes Ernani dead, enters and sings "Esultiamo!" (Exultation!), then pays tribute to the many virtues and graces of the bride.

To Silva, in the full costume of a Grandee of Spain, and-383- seated in the ducal chair, is brought in Ernani, disguised as a monk. He is welcomed as a guest; but, upon the appearance of Elvira in bridal array, throws off his disguise and offers his life, a sacrifice to Silva's vengeance, as the first gift for the wedding. Silva, however, learning that he is pursued by the King, offers him the protection due a guest under the roof of a Spaniard.

"Ah, morir potessi adesso" (Ah, to die would be a blessing) is the impassioned duet sung by Elvira and Ernani, when Silva leaves them together.



Ah, morir potessi adesso
O mio Ernani sul tuo petto

Silva, even when he returns and discovers Elvira in Ernani's arms, will not break the law of Spanish hospitality, preferring to wreak vengeance in his own way. He therefore hides Ernani so securely that the King's followers, after searching the castle, are obliged to report their complete failure to discover a trace of him. Chorus: "Fu esplorato del castello" (We have now explored the castle).

Then come the important episodes described—the King's demand for the surrender of Silva's sword and threat to execute him; Elvira's interposition; and the King's sinister action in carrying her off as a hostage, after he has sung the significant air, "Vieni meco, sol di rose" (Come with me, a brighter dawning waits for thee).



Vieni meco, sol di rose

Ernani's handing of his hunting horn to Silva, and his arousal of the grandee to an understanding of the danger that threatens Elvira from the King, is followed by the finale, a spirited call to arms by Silva, Ernani, and chorus,-384- "In arcione, in arcione, cavalieri!" (To horse, to horse, cavaliers!).

Silva and Ernani distribute weapons among the men, which they brandish as they rush from the hall.

Act III. The scene is a sepulchral vault, enclosing the tomb of Charlemagne in the Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle. The tomb is entered by a heavy door of bronze, upon which is carved in large characters the word "Charlemagne." Steps lead to the great door of the vault. Other and smaller tombs are seen and other doors that give on other passageways. Two lamps, suspended from the roof, shed a faint light.

It is into this sombre but grandiose place the King has come in order to overhear, from within the tomb of his greatest ancestor, the plotting of the conspirators. His soliloquy, "Oh, de' verd'anni miei" (Oh, for my youthful years once more), derives impressiveness both from the solemnity of the situation and the music's flowing measure.



Oh de' verd'anni miei

The principal detail in the meeting of the conspirators is their chorus, "Si ridesti il Leon di Castiglia" (Let the lion awake in Castilia). Dramatically effective, too, in the midst of the plotting, is the sudden booming of distant cannon. It startles the conspirators. Cannon boom again. The bronze door of the tomb swings open.

Then the King presents himself at the entrance of the tomb. Three times he strikes the door of bronze with the hilt of his dagger. The principal entrance to the vault opens. To the sound of trumpets six Electors enter, dressed in cloth of gold. They are followed by pages carrying, upon velvet cushions, the sceptre, crown, and other imperial insignia. Courtiers surround the Emperor. Elvira approaches. The banners of the Empire are displayed.-385- Many torches borne by soldiers illuminate the scene. The act closes with the pardon granted by the King, and the stirring finale, "Oh, sommo Carlo!" (Charlemagne!)

Act IV, on the terrace of Ernani's castle, is brief, and there is nothing to add to what has been said of its action. Ernani asks Silva to spare him till his lips have tasted the chalice filled by love. He recounts his sad life: "Solingo, errante, misero" (To linger in exiled misery).

Silva's grim reply is to offer him his choice between a cup of poison and a dagger. He takes the latter. "Ferma, crudele, estinguere" (Stay thee, my lord, for me at least) cries Elvira, wishing to share his fate. In the end there is left only the implacable avenger, to gloat over Ernani, dead, and Elvira prostrate upon his form.

"Ernani," brought out in 1844, is the earliest work by Verdi that maintains a foothold in the modern repertoire, though by no means a very firm one. And yet "Ernani" is in many respects a fine opera. One wonders why it has not lasted better. Hanslick, the Viennese critic, made a discriminating criticism upon it. He pointed out that whereas in Victor Hugo's drama the mournful blast upon the hunting horn, when heard in the last act, thrills the listener with tragic forebodings, in the opera, after listening to solos, choruses, and a full orchestra all the evening, the audience is but little impressed by the sounding of a note upon a single instrument. That comment, however, presupposes considerable subtlety, so far undiscovered, on the part of operatic audiences.

The fact is, that since 1844 the whirligig of time has made one—two—three—perhaps even four revolutions, and with each revolution the public taste that prevailed, when the first audience that heard the work in the Teatro Fenice, went wild over "Ernani Involami" and "Sommo Carlo," has become more remote and undergone more and more-386- changes. To turn back operatic time in its flight requires in the case of "Ernani," a soprano of unusual voice and personality for Elvira, a tenor of the same qualities for the picturesque rôle of Ernani, a fine baritone for Don Carlos, and a sonorous basso, who doesn't look too much like a meal bag, for Don Ruy Gomez di Silva, Grandee of Spain.

Early in its career the opera experienced various vicissitudes. The conspiracy scene had to be toned down for political reasons before the production of the work was permitted. Even then the chorus, "Let the lion awake in Castilia," caused a political demonstration. In Paris, Victor Hugo, as author of the drama on which the libretto is based, raised objections to its representation, and it was produced in the French capital as "Il Proscritto" (The Proscribed) with the characters changed to Italians. Victor Hugo's "Hernani" was a famous play in Sarah Bernhardt's repertoire during her early engagements in this country. Her Doña Sol (Elvira in the opera) was one of her finest achievements. On seeing the play, with her in it, I put to test Hanslick's theory. The horn was thrilling in the play. It certainly is less so in the opera.


Opera in three acts, by Verdi; words by Francesco Maria Piave, founded on Victor Hugo's play, "Le Roi s'Amuse." Produced, Fenice Theatre, Venice, March 11, 1851; London, Covent Garden, May 14, 1853; Paris, Théâtre des Italiens, January 19, 1857; New York, Academy of Music, November 4, 1857, with Bignardi and Frezzolini. Caruso made his début in America at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, as the Duke in "Rigoletto," November 23, 1903; Galli-Curci hers, as Gilda, Chicago, November 18, 1916.


The Duke of MantuaTenor
Rigoletto, his jester, a hunchbackBaritone
Count Ceprano}Nobles{Bass
Count Monterone}{Baritone
Sparafucile, a bravoBass-387-
Borsa, in the Duke's serviceTenor
Countess CepranoSoprano
Gilda, daughter of RigolettoSoprano
Giovanni, her duennaSoprano
Maddalena, sister to SparafucileContralto

Courtiers, nobles, pages, servants.

Time—Sixteenth century.


"Rigoletto" is a distinguished opera. Composed in forty days in 1851, nearing three-quarters of a century of life before the footlights, it still retains its vitality. Twenty years, with all they imply in experience and artistic growth, lie between "Rigoletto" and "Aïda." Yet the earlier opera, composed so rapidly as to constitute a tour de force of musical creation, seems destined to remain a close second in popularity to the more mature work of its great composer.

There are several reasons for the public's abiding interest in "Rigoletto." It is based upon a most effective play by Victor Hugo, "Le Roi s'Amuse," known to English playgoers in Tom Taylor's adaptation as "The Fool's Revenge." The jester was one of Edwin Booth's great rôles. This rôle of the deformed court jester, Rigoletto, the hunchback, not only figures in the opera, but has been vividly characterized by Verdi in his music. It is a vital, centralizing force in the opera, concentrating and holding attention, a character creation that appeals strongly both to the singer who enacts it and to the audience who sees and hears it. The rôle has appealed to famous artists. Ronconi (who taught singing in New York for a few years, beginning in 1867) was a notable Rigoletto; so was Galassi, whose intensely dramatic performance still is vividly recalled by the older opera-goers; Renaud at the Manhattan Opera House, Titta Ruffo at the Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, both made their American débuts as Rigoletto.


But the opera offers other rôles of distinction. Mario was a famous Duke in other days. Caruso made his sensational début at the Metropolitan in the character of the volatile Duca di Mantua, November 23, 1903. We have had as Gilda Adelina Patti, Melba, and Tetrazzini, to mention but a few; and the heroine of the opera is one of the rôles of Galli-Curci, who appeared in it in Chicago, November 18, 1916. No coloratura soprano can, so to speak, afford to be without it.

Thus the opera has plot, a central character of vital dramatic importance, and at least two other characters of strong interest. But there is even more to be said in its behalf. For, next to the sextet in "Lucia," the quartet in the last act of "Rigoletto" is the finest piece of concerted music in Italian opera—and many people will object to my placing it only "next" to that other famous ensemble, instead of on complete equality with, or even ahead of it.

The "argument" of "Rigoletto" deals with the amatory escapades of the Duke of Mantua. In these he is aided by Rigoletto, his jester, a hunchback. Rigoletto, both by his caustic wit and unscrupulous conduct, has made many enemies at court. Count Monterone, who comes to the court to demand the restoration of his daughter, who has been dishonoured by the Duke, is met by the jester with laughter and derision. The Count curses Rigoletto, who is stricken with superstitious terror.

For Rigoletto has a daughter, Gilda, whom he keeps in strict seclusion. But the Duke, without being aware who she is, has seen her, unknown to her father, and fallen in love with her. Count Ceprano, who many times has suffered under Rigoletto's biting tongue, knowing that she is in some way connected with the jester, in fact believing her to be his mistress, and glad of any opportunity of doing him an injury, forms a plan to carry off the young girl, and so-389- arranges it that Rigoletto unwittingly assists in her abduction. When he finds that it is his own daughter whom he has aided to place in the power of the Duke, he determines to murder his master, and engages Sparafucile, a bravo, to do so. This man has a sister, Maddalena, who entices the Duke to a lonely inn. She becomes fascinated with him, however, and begs her brother to spare his life. This he consents to do if before midnight any one shall arrive at the inn whom he can kill and pass off as the murdered Duke. Rigoletto, who has recovered his daughter, brings her to the inn so that, by being a witness of the Duke's inconstancy, she may be cured of her unhappy love. She overhears the plot to murder her lover, and Sparafucile's promise to his sister. Determined to save the Duke, she knocks for admittance, and is stabbed on entering. Rigoletto comes at the appointed time for the body. Sparafucile brings it out in a sack. The jester is about to throw it into the water, sack and all, when he hears the Duke singing. He tears open the sack, only to find his own daughter, at the point of death.

Act I opens in a salon in the Duke's palace. A suite of other apartments is seen extending into the background. All are brilliantly lighted for the fête that is in progress. Courtiers and ladies are moving about in all directions. Pages are passing to and fro. From an adjoining salon music is heard and bursts of merriment.



There is effervescent gayety in the orchestral accompaniment to the scene. A minuet played by an orchestra on the-390- stage is curiously reminiscent of the minuet in Mozart's "Don Giovanni." The Duke and Borsa enter from the back. They are conversing about an "unknown charmer"—none other than Gilda—whom the Duke has seen at church. He says that he will pursue the adventure to the end, although a mysterious man visits her nightly.

Among a group of his guests the Duke sees the Countess Ceprano, whom he has been wooing quite openly, in spite of the Count's visible annoyance. The dashing gallant cares nothing about what anyone may think of his escapades, least of all the husbands or other relatives of the ladies. "Questa o quella per me pari sono" (This one, or that one, to me 'tis the same).



This music floats on air. It gives at once the cue to the Duke's character. Like Don Giovanni he is indifferent to fate, flits from one affair to another, and is found as fascinating as he is dangerous by all women, of whatever degree, upon whom he confers his doubtful favours.

Rigoletto, hunchbacked but agile, sidles in. He is in cap and bells, and carries the jester's bauble. The immediate object of his satire is Count Ceprano, who is watching his wife, as she is being led off on the Duke's arm. Rigoletto then goes out looking for other victims. Marullo joins the nobles. He tells them that Rigoletto, despite his hump, has an inamorata. The statement makes a visible impression upon Count Ceprano, and when the nobles, after another sally from the jester, who has returned with the Duke, inveigh against his bitter tongue, the Count bids them meet him at night on the morrow and he will guarantee them revenge upon the hunchback for the gibes they have been obliged to endure from him.


The gay music, which forms a restless background to the recitatives of which I have given the gist,



trips buoyantly along, to be suddenly broken in upon by the voice of one struggling without, and who, having freed himself from those evidently striving to hold him back, bursts in upon the scene. It is the aged Count Monterone. His daughter has been dishonoured by the Duke, and he denounces the ruler of Mantua before the whole assembly. His arrest is ordered. Rigoletto mocks him until, drawing himself up to his full height, the old noble not only denounces him, but calls down upon him a father's curse.

Rigoletto is strangely affrighted. He cowers before Monterone's malediction. It is the first time since he has appeared at the gathering that he is not gibing at someone. Not only is he subdued; he is terror-stricken.

Monterone is led off between halberdiers. The gay music again breaks in. The crowd follows the Duke. But Rigoletto?

The scene changes to the street outside of his house. It is secluded in a courtyard, from which a door leads into the street. In the courtyard are a tall tree and a marble seat. There is also seen at the end of the street, which has no thoroughfare, the gable end of Count Ceprano's palace. It is night.

As Rigoletto enters, he speaks of Monterone's curse. His entrance to the house is interrupted by the appearance of Sparafucile, an assassin for hire. In a colloquy, to which the orchestra supplies an accompaniment, interesting because in keeping with the scene, he offers to Rigoletto his-392- services, should they be needed, in putting enemies out of the way—and his charges are reasonable.



Rigoletto has no immediate need of him, but ascertains where he can be found.

Sparafucile goes. Rigoletto has a soliloquy, beginning, "How like are we!—the tongue, my weapon, the dagger his! to make others laugh is my vocation,—his to make them weep!... Tears, the common solace of humanity, are to me denied.... 'Amuse me buffoon'—and I must obey." His mind still dwells on the curse—a father's curse, pronounced upon him, a father to whom his daughter is a jewel. He refers to it, even as he unlocks the door that leads to his house, and also to his daughter, who, as he enters, throws herself into his arms.

He cautions her about going out. She says she never ventures beyond the courtyard save to go to church. He grieves over the death of his wife—Gilda's mother—that left her to his care while she was still an infant. "Deh non parlare al misero" (Speak not of one whose loss to me).



Deh non parlare al misero

He charges her attendant, Giovanna, carefully to guard her. Gilda endeavours to dispel his fears. The result is the duet for Rigoletto and Gilda, beginning with his words to Giovanna, "Veglia, o donna, questo fiore" (Safely guard this tender blossom).


Photo copyright, 1916, by Victor Georg

Galli-Curci as Gilda in “Rigoletto”


Copyright photo by Dupont

Caruso as the Duke in “Rigoletto”

Rigoletto hears footsteps in the street and goes out through-393- the door of the courtyard to see who may be there. As the door swings out, the Duke, for it is he, in the guise of a student, whose stealthy footsteps have been heard by the jester, conceals himself behind it, then slips into the courtyard, tosses a purse to Giovanna, and hides in the shadow of the tree. Rigoletto reappears for a brief moment to say good-bye to Gilda and once more to warn Giovanna to guard her carefully.

When he has gone Gilda worries because fear drove her to refrain from revealing to her father that a handsome youth has several times followed her from church. This youth's image is installed in her heart. "I long to say to him 'I lo—'"

The Duke steps out of the tree's shadow, motions to Giovanna to retire and, throwing himself at Gilda's feet, takes the words out of her mouth by exclaiming, "I love thee!"

No doubt taken by surprise, yet also thrilled with joy, she hearkens to him rapturously as he declares, "È il sol dell'anima, la vita è amore" (Love is the sun by which passion is kindled).



È il sol dell'anima, la vita è amore,

The meeting is brief, for again there are footsteps outside. But their farewell is an impassioned duet, "Addio speranza ed anima" (Farewell, my hope, my soul, farewell).

He has told her that he is a student, by name Walter Maldè. When he has gone, she muses upon the name, and, when she has lighted a candle and is ascending the steps to her room, she sings the enchanting coloratura air, "Caro nome che il mio cor" (Dear name, my heart enshrines).



Caro nome che il mio cor
Festi primo palpitar,


If the Gilda be reasonably slender and pretty, the scene, with the courtyard, the steps leading up to the room, and the young maiden gracefully and tenderly expressing her heart's first romance, is charming, and in itself sufficient to account for the attraction which the rôle holds for prima donnas.

Tiptoeing through the darkness outside come Marullo, Ceprano, Borsa, and other nobles and courtiers, intent upon seeking revenge for the gibes Rigoletto at various times has aimed at them, by carrying off the damsel, whom they assume to be his inamorata. At that moment, however, the jester himself appears. They tell him they have come to abduct the Countess Ceprano and bear her to the Ducal palace. To substantiate this statement Marullo quickly has the keys to Ceprano's house passed to him by the Count, and in the darkness holds them out to Rigoletto, who, his suspicions allayed because he can feel the Ceprano crest in basso-relievo on the keys, volunteers to aid in the escapade. Marullo gives him a mask and, as if to fasten it securely, ties it with a handkerchief, which he passes over the piercings for the eyes. Rigoletto, confused, holds a ladder against what he believes to be the wall of Ceprano's house. By it, the abductors climb his own wall, enter his house, gag, seize, and carry away Gilda, making their exit from the courtyard, but in their hurry failing to observe a scarf that has fluttered from their precious burden.

Rigoletto is left alone in the darkness and silence. He tears off his mask. The door to his courtyard is open. Before him lies Gilda's scarf. He rushes into the house, into her room; reappears, staggering under the weight of the disaster, which, through his own unwitting connivance, has befallen him.

"Ah! La maledizione!" he cries out. It is Monterone's curse.

Act II has its scene laid in the ducal palace. This salon-395- has large folding doors in the background and smaller ones on each side, above which are portraits of the Duke and of the Duchess, a lady who, whether from a sense of delicacy or merely to serve the convenience of the stage, does not otherwise appear in the opera.

The Duke is disconsolate. He has returned to Rigoletto's house, found it empty. The bird had flown. The scamp mourns his loss—in affecting language and music, "Parmi veder le lagrime" (Fair maid, each tear of mine that flows).

In a capital chorus he is told by Marullo and the others that they have abducted Rigoletto's inamorata.



Scorrendo uniti remota via

The Duke well knows that she is the very one whose charms are the latest that have enraptured him. "Possente amor mi chiama" (To her I love with rapture).

He learns from the courtiers that they have brought her to the palace. He hastens to her, "to console her," in his own way. It is at this moment Rigoletto enters. He knows his daughter is in the palace. He has come to search for her. Aware that he is in the presence of those who took advantage of him and thus secured his aid in the abduction of the night before, he yet, in order to accomplish his purpose, must appear light-hearted, question craftily, and be diplomatic, although at times he cannot prevent his real feelings breaking through. It is the ability of Verdi to give expression to such varied emotions which make this scene one of the most significant in his operas. It is dominated by an orchestral motive, that of the clown who jests while his heart is breaking.



La rà, la rà, la la, la rà, la rà, la rà, la rà etc.


Finally he turns upon the crowd that taunts him, hurls invective upon them; and, when a door opens and Gilda, whose story can be read in her aspect of despair, rushes into his arms, he orders the courtiers out of sight with a sense of outrage so justified that, in spite of the flippant words with which they comment upon his command, they obey it.

Father and daughter are alone. She tells him her story—of the handsome youth, who followed her from church—"Tutte le feste al tempio" (One very festal morning).

Then follows her account of their meeting, his pretence that he was a poor student, when, in reality, he was the Duke—to whose chamber she was borne after her abduction. It is from there she has just come. Her father strives to comfort her—"Piangi, fanciulla" (Weep, my child).

At this moment he is again reminded of the curse pronounced upon him by the father whose grief with him had been but the subject of ribald jest. Count Monterone, between guards, is conducted through the apartment to the prison where he is to be executed for denouncing the Duke. Then Rigoletto vows vengeance upon the betrayer of Gilda.

But such is the fascination which the Duke exerts over women that Gilda, fearing for the life of her despoiler, pleads with her father to "pardon him, as we ourselves the pardon of heaven hope to gain," adding, in an aside, "I dare not say how much I love him."

It was a corrupt, carefree age. Victor Hugo created a debonair character—a libertine who took life lightly and flitted from pleasure to pleasure. And so Verdi lets him flit from tune to tune—gay, melodious, sentimental. There still are plenty of men like the Duke, and plenty of women like Gilda to love them; and other women, be it recalled, as-397- discreet as the Duchess, who does not appear in this opera save as a portrait on the wall, from which she calmly looks down upon a jester invoking vengeance upon her husband, because of the wrong he has done the girl, who weeps on the breast of her hunchback father.

To Act III might be given as a sub-title, "The Fool's Revenge," the title of Tom Taylor's adaptation into English of Victor Hugo's play. The scene shows a desolate spot on the banks of the Mincio. On the right, with its front to the audience, is a house two stories high, in a very dilapidated state, but still used as an inn. The doors and walls are so full of crevices that whatever is going on within can be seen from without. In front are the road and the river; in the distance is the city of Mantua. It is night.

The house is that of Sparafucile. With him lives his sister, Maddalena, a handsome young gypsy woman, who lures men to the inn, there to be robbed—or killed, if there is more money to be had for murder than for robbery. Sparafucile is seen within, cleaning his belt and sharpening his sword.

Outside are Rigoletto and Gilda. She cannot banish the image of her despoiler from her heart. Hither the hunchback has brought her to prove to her the faithlessness of the Duke. She sees him in the garb of a soldier coming along the city wall. He descends, enters the inn, and calls for wine and a room for the night. Shuffling a pack of cards, which he finds on the table, and pouring out the wine, he sings of woman. This is the famous "La donna è mobile" (Fickle is woman fair).



La donna è mobile
Qual piuma al vento,

It has been highly praised and violently criticized; and usually gets as many encores as the singer cares to give.-398- As for the criticisms, the cadenzas so ostentatiously introduced by singers for the sake of catching applause, are no more Verdi's than is the high C in "Il Trovatore." The song is perfectly in keeping with the Duke's character. It has grace, verve, and buoyancy; and, what is an essential point in the development of the action from this point on, it is easily remembered. In any event I am glad that among my operatic experiences I can count having heard "La donna è mobile" sung by such great artists as Campanini, Caruso, and Bonci, the last two upon their first appearances in the rôle in this country.

At a signal from Sparafucile, Maddalena joins the Duke. He presses his love upon her. With professional coyness she pretends to repulse him. This leads to the quartet, with its dramatic interpretation of the different emotions of the four participants. The Duke is gallantly urgent and pleading: "Bella figlia dell'amore" (Fairest daughter of the graces).



Maddalena laughingly resists his advances: "I am proof, my gentle wooer, 'gainst your vain and empty nothings."



Gilda is moved to despair: "Ah, thus to me of love he spoke."




Rigoletto mutters of vengeance.

It is the Duke who begins the quartet; Maddalena who first joins in by coyly mocking him; Gilda whose voice next falls upon the night with despairing accents; Rigoletto whose threats of vengeance then are heard. With the return of the theme, after the first cadence, the varied elements are combined.

They continue so to the end. Gilda's voice, in brief cries of grief, rising twice to effective climaxes, then becoming even more poignant through the syncopation of the rhythm.

Rising to a beautiful and highly dramatic climax, the quartet ends pianissimo.

This quartet usually is sung as the pièce de résistance of the opera, and is supposed to be the great event of the performance. I cannot recall a representation of the work with Nilsson and Campanini in which this was not the case, and it was so at the Manhattan when "Rigoletto" was sung there by Melba and Bonci. But at the Metropolitan, since Caruso's advent, "Rigoletto" has become a "Caruso opera," and the stress is laid on "La donna è mobile," for which numerous encores are demanded, while with the quartet, the encore is deliberately side-stepped—a most interesting process for the initiated to watch.

Rigoletto quartet

Photo by Hall

The Quartet in “Rigoletto”
The Duke (Sheehan), Maddalena (Albright), Gilda (Easton), Rigoletto (Goff)

After the quartet, Sparafucile comes out and receives from Rigoletto half of his fee to murder the Duke, the balance to be paid when the body, in a sack, is delivered to the hunchback. Sparafucile offers to throw the sack into the river, but that does not suit the fool's desire for revenge.-400- He wants the grim satisfaction of doing so himself. Satisfied that Gilda has seen enough of the Duke's perfidy, he sends her home, where, for safety, she is to don male attire and start on the way to Verona, where he will join her. He himself also goes out.

A storm now gathers. There are flashes of lightning; distant rumblings of thunder. The wind moans. (Indicated by the chorus, à bouche fermée, behind the scenes.) The Duke has gone to his room, after whispering a few words to Maddalena. He lays down his hat and sword, throws himself on the bed, sings a few snatches of "La donna è mobile," and in a short time falls asleep. Maddalena, below, stands by the table. Sparafucile finishes the contents of the bottle left by the Duke. Both remain silent for awhile.

Maddalena, fascinated by the Duke, begins to plead for his life. The storm is now at its height. Lightning plays vividly across the sky, thunder crashes, wind howls, rain falls in torrents. Through this uproar of the elements, to which night adds its terrors, comes Gilda, drawn as by a magnet to the spot where she knows her false lover to be. Through the crevices in the wall of the house she can hear Maddalena pleading with Sparafucile to spare the Duke's life. "Kill the hunchback," she counsels, "when he comes with the balance of the money." But there is honour even among assassins as among thieves. The bravo will not betray a customer.

Maddalena pleads yet more urgently. Well—Sparafucile will give the handsome youth one desperate chance for life: Should any other man arrive at the inn before midnight, that man will he kill and put in the sack to be thrown into the river, in place of Maddalena's temporary favourite. A clock strikes the half-hour. Gilda is in male attire. She determines to save the Duke's life—to sacrifice hers for his. She knocks. There is a moment of surprised suspense within. Then everything is made ready. Maddalena opens the-401- door, and runs forward to close the outer one. Gilda enters. For a moment one senses her form in the darkness. A half-stifled outcry. Then all is buried in silence and gloom.

The storm is abating. The rain has ceased; the lightning become fitful, the thunder distant and intermittent. Rigoletto returns. "At last the hour of my vengeance is nigh." A bell tolls midnight. He knocks at the door. Sparafucile brings out the sack, receives the balance of his money, and retires into the house. "This sack his winding sheet!" exclaims the hunchback, as he gloats over it. The night has cleared. He must hurry and throw it into the river.

Out of the second story of the house and on to the wall steps the figure of a man and proceeds along the wall toward the city. Rigoletto starts to drag the sack with the body toward the stream. Lightly upon the night fall the notes of a familiar voice singing:

La donna è mobile
Qual piuma al vento;
Muta d'accento,
E di pensiero.

(Fickle is woman fair,
Like feather wafted;
Changeable ever,
Constant, ah, never.)

It is the Duke. Furiously the hunchback tears open the sack. In it he beholds his daughter. Not yet quite dead, she is able to whisper, "Too much I loved him—now I die for him." There is a duet: Gilda, "Lassù in cielo" (From yonder sky); Rigoletto, "Non morir" (Ah, perish not).

"Maledizione!"—The music of Monterone's curse upon the ribald jester, now bending over the corpse of his own despoiled daughter, resounds on the orchestra. The fool has had his revenge.

For political reasons the performance of Victor Hugo's-402- "Le Roi s'Amuse" was forbidden in France after the first representation. In Hugo's play the principal character is Triboulet, the jester of François I. The King, of course, also is a leading character; and there is a pen-portrait of Saint-Vallier. It was considered unsafe, after the revolutionary uprisings in Europe in 1848, to present on the stage so licentious a story involving a monarch. Therefore, to avoid political complications, and copyright ones possibly later, the Italian librettist laid the scene in Mantua. Triboulet became Rigoletto; François I. the Duke, and Saint-Vallier the Count Monterone. Early in its career the opera also was given under the title of "Viscardello."


Opera in four acts, by Verdi; words by Salvatore Cammarano, based on the Spanish drama of the same title by Antonio Garcia Gutierrez. Produced, Apollo Theatre, Rome, January 19, 1853. Paris, Théâtre des Italiens, December 23, 1854; Grand Opéra, in French as "Le Trouvère," January 12, 1857. London, Covent Garden, May 17, 1855; in English, as "The Gypsy's Vengeance," Drury Lane, March 24, 1856. America: New York, April 30, 1855, with Brignoli (Manrico), Steffanone (Leonora), Amodio (Count di Luna), and Vestvali (Azucena); Philadelphia, Walnut Street Theatre, January 14, 1856, and Academy of Music, February 25, 1857; New Orleans, April 13, 1857. Metropolitan Opera House, New York, in German, 1889; 1908, Caruso, Eames, and Homer. Frequently performed at the Academy of Music, New York, with Campanini (Manrico), Nilsson (Leonora), and Annie Louise Cary (Azucena); and Del Puente or Galassi as Count di Luna.


Count di Luna, a young noble of AragonBaritone
Ferrando, di Luna's captain of the guardBass
Manrico, a chieftain under the Prince of Biscay, and reputed son of AzucenaTenor
Ruiz, a soldier in Manrico's serviceTenor
An Old GypsyBaritone-403-
Duchess Leonora, lady-in-waiting to a Princess of AragonSoprano
Inez, confidante of LeonoraSoprano
Azucena, a Biscayan gypsy womanMezzo-Soprano

Followers of Count di Luna and of Manrico; messenger, gaoler, soldiers, nuns, gypsies.

Time—Fifteenth century.

Place—Biscay and Aragon.


Copyright photo by Dupont

Riccardo Martin as Manrico in “Il Trovatore”

For many years "Il Trovatore" has been an opera of world-wide popularity, and for a long time could be accounted the most popular work in the operatic repertoire of practically every land. While it cannot be said to retain its former vogue in this country, it is still a good drawing card, and, with special excellences of cast, an exceptional one.

The libretto of "Il Trovatore" is considered the acme of absurdity; and the popularity of the opera, notwithstanding, is believed to be entirely due to the almost unbroken melodiousness of Verdi's score.

While it is true, however, that the story of this opera seems to be a good deal of a mix-up, it is also a fact that, under the spur of Verdi's music, even a person who has not a clear grasp of the plot can sense the dramatic power of many of the scenes. It is an opera of immense verve, of temperament almost unbridled, of genius for the melodramatic so unerring that its composer has taken dance rhythms, like those of mazurka and waltz, and on them developed melodies most passionate in expression and dramatic in effect. Swift, spontaneous, and stirring is the music of "Il Trovatore." Absurdities, complexities, unintelligibilities of story are swept away in its unrelenting progress. "Il Trovatore" is the Verdi of forty working at white heat.

One reason why the plot of "Il Trovatore" seems such a jumbled-up affair is that a considerable part of the story is supposed to have transpired before the curtain goes up. These events are narrated by Ferrando, the Count di Luna's-404- captain of the guard, soon after the opera begins. But as even spoken narrative on the stage makes little impression, narrative when sung may be said to make none at all. Could the audience know what Ferrando is singing about, the subsequent proceedings would not appear so hopelessly involved, or appeal so strongly to humorous rhymesters, who usually begin their parodies on the opera with,

This is the story
of "Il Trovatore."

What is supposed to have happened before the curtain goes up on the opera is as follows: The old Count di Luna, sometime deceased, had two sons nearly of the same age. One night, when they still were infants, and asleep, in a nurse's charge in an apartment in the old Count's castle, a gypsy hag, having gained stealthy entrance into the chamber, was discovered leaning over the cradle of the younger child, Garzia. Though she was instantly driven away, the child's health began to fail and she was believed to have bewitched it. She was pursued, apprehended and burned alive at the stake.

Her daughter, Azucena, at that time a young gypsy woman with a child of her own in her arms, was a witness to the death of her mother, which she swore to avenge. During the following night she stole into the castle, snatched the younger child of the Count di Luna from its cradle, and hurried back to the scene of execution, intending to throw the baby boy into the flames that still raged over the spot where they had consumed her mother. Almost bereft of her senses, however, by her memory of the horrible scene she had witnessed, she seized and hurled into the flames her own child, instead of the young Count (thus preserving, with an almost supernatural instinct for opera, the baby that was destined to grow up into a tenor with a voice high enough to sing "Di quella pira").


Thwarted for the moment in her vengeance, Azucena was not to be completely baffled. With the infant Count in her arms she fled and rejoined her tribe, entrusting her secret to no one, but bringing him up—Manrico, the Troubadour—as her own son; and always with the thought that through him she might wreak vengeance upon his own kindred.

When the opera opens, Manrico has grown up; she has become old and wrinkled, but is still unrelenting in her quest of vengeance. The old Count has died, leaving the elder son, Count di Luna of the opera, sole heir to his title and possessions, but always doubting the death of the younger, despite the heap of infant's bones found among the ashes about the stake.

"After this preliminary knowledge," quaintly says the English libretto, "we now come to the actual business of the piece." Each of the four acts of this "piece" has a title: Act I, "Il Duello" (The Duel); Act II, "La Gitana" (The Gypsy); Act III, "Il Figlio della Zingara" (The Gypsy's Son); Act IV, "Il Supplizio" (The Penalty).

Act I. Atrium of the palace of Aliaferia, with a door leading to the apartments of the Count di Luna. Ferrando, the captain of the guard, and retainers, are reclining near the door. Armed men are standing guard in the background. It is night. The men are on guard because Count di Luna desires to apprehend a minstrel knight, a troubadour, who has been heard on several occasions to be serenading from the palace garden, the Duchess Leonora, for whom a deep, but unrequited passion sways the Count.

Weary of the watch, the retainers beg Ferrando to tell them the story of the Count's brother, the stolen child. This Ferrando proceeds to do in the ballad, "Abbietta zingara" (Sat there a gypsy hag).

Ferrando's gruesome ballad and the comments of the horror-stricken chorus dominate the opening of the opera.-406- The scene is an unusually effective one for a subordinate character like Ferrando. But in "Il Trovatore" Verdi is lavish with his melodies—more so, perhaps, than in any of his other operas.

The scene changes to the gardens of the palace. On one side a flight of marble steps leads to Leonora's apartment. Heavy clouds obscure the moon. Leonora and Inez are in the garden. From the confidante's questions and Leonora's answers it is gathered that Leonora is enamoured of an unknown but valiant knight who, lately entering a tourney, won all contests and was crowned victor by her hand. She knows her love is requited, for at night she has heard her Troubadour singing below her window. In the course of this narrative Leonora has two solos. The first of these is the romantic "Tacea la notte placida" (The night calmly and peacefully in beauty seemed reposing).



Tacea la notte placida,
E bella in ciel sereno;

It is followed by the graceful and engaging "Di tale amor che dirsi" (Of such a love how vainly),



Di tale amor che dirsi

with its brilliant cadenza.

Leonora and Inez then ascend the steps and retire into the palace. The Count di Luna now comes into the garden. He has hardly entered before the voice of the Troubadour, accompanied on a lute, is heard from a nearby thicket singing the familiar romanza, "Deserto sulla terra" (Lonely on earth abiding).



Deserto sulla terra


From the palace comes Leonora. Mistaking the Count in the shadow of the trees for her Troubadour, she hastens toward him. The moon emerging from a cloud, she sees the figure of a masked cavalier, recognizes it as that of her lover, and turns from the Count toward the Troubadour. Unmasking, the Troubadour now discloses his identity as Manrico, one who, as a follower of the Prince of Biscay, is proscribed in Aragon. The men draw their swords. There is a trio that fairly seethes with passion—"Di geloso amor sprezzato" (Fires of jealous, despised affection).



These are the words, in which the Count begins the trio. It continues with "Un istante almen dia loco" (One brief moment thy fury restraining).



Un istante almen dia loco

The men rush off to fight their duel. Leonora faints.

Act II. An encampment of gypsies. There is a ruined house at the foot of a mountain in Biscay; the interior partly exposed to view; within a great fire is lighted. Day begins to dawn.

Azucena is seated near the fire. Manrico, enveloped in his mantle, is lying upon a mattress; his helmet is at his feet; in his hand he holds a sword, which he regards fixedly. A band of gypsies are sitting in scattered groups around them.

Since an almost unbroken sequence of melodies is a characteristic of "Il Trovatore," it is not surprising to find at the opening of this act two famous numbers in quick succession;—the famous "Anvil Chorus,"




in which the gypsies, working at the forges, swing their hammers and bring them down on clanking metal in rhythm with the music; the chorus being followed immediately by Azucena's equally famous "Stride la vampa" (Upward the flames roll).



Stride la vampa!

In this air, which the old gypsy woman sings as a weird, but impassioned upwelling of memories and hatreds, while the tribe gathers about her, she relates the story of her mother's death. "Avenge thou me!" she murmurs to Manrico, when she has concluded.

The corps de ballet which, in the absence of a regular ballet in "Il Trovatore," utilizes this scene and the music of the "Anvil Chorus" for its picturesque saltations, dances off. The gypsies now depart, singing their chorus. With a pretty effect it dies away in the distance.



Swept along by the emotional stress under which she labours, Azucena concludes her narrative of the tragic events at the pyre, voice and orchestral accompaniment uniting in a vivid musical setting of her memories. Naturally, her words arouse doubts in Manrico's mind as to whether he really is her son. She hastens to dispel these; they were but wandering thoughts she uttered. Moreover, after the recent battle of Petilla, between the forces of Biscay and Aragon, when he was reported slain, did she not search for and find him, and has she not been tenderly nursing him back to strength?

The forces of Aragon were led by Count di Luna, who but a short time before had been overcome by Manrico in a-409- duel in the palace garden;—why, on that occasion, asks the gypsy, did he spare the Count's life?

Manrico's reply is couched in a bold, martial air, "Mal reggendo all'aspro assalto" (Ill sustaining the furious encounter).

But at the end it dies away to pp, when he tells how, when the Count's life was his for a thrust, a voice, as if from heaven, bade him spare it—a suggestion, of course, that although neither Manrico nor the Count know that they are brothers, Manrico unconsciously was swayed by the relationship, a touch of psychology rare in Italian opera librettos, most unexpected in this, and, of course, completely lost upon those who have not familiarized themselves with the plot of "Il Trovatore." Incidentally, however, it accounts for a musical effect—the pp, the sudden softening of the expression, at the end of the martial description of the duel.

Enter now Ruiz, a messenger from the Prince of Biscay, who orders Manrico to take command of the forces defending the stronghold of Castellor, and at the same time informs him that Leonora, believing reports of his death at Petilla, is about to take the veil in a convent near the castle.

The scene changes to the cloister of this convent. It is night. The Count and his followers, led by Ferrando, and heavily cloaked, advance cautiously. It is the Count's plan to carry off Leonora before she becomes a nun. He sings of his love for her in the air, "Il Balen" (The Smile)—"Il balen del suo sorriso" (Of her smile, the radiant gleaming)—which is justly regarded as one of the most chaste and beautiful baritone solos in Italian opera.



Il balen del suo sorriso


It is followed by an air alla marcia, also for the Count, "Per me ora fatale" (Oh, fatal hour impending).



Per me ora fatale,

A chorus of nuns is heard from within the convent. Leonora, with Inez, and her ladies, come upon the scene. They are about to proceed from the cloister into the convent when the Count interposes. But before he can seize Leonora, another figure stands between them. It is Manrico. With him are Ruiz and his followers. The Count is foiled.

"E deggio!—e posso crederlo?" (And can I still my eyes believe!) exclaims Leonora, as she beholds before her Manrico, whom she had thought dead. It is here that begins the impassioned finale, an ensemble consisting of a trio for Leonora, Manrico, and the Count di Luna, with chorus.

Act III. The camp of Count di Luna, who is laying siege to Castellor, whither Manrico has safely borne Leonora. There is a stirring chorus for Ferrando and the soldiers.



The Count comes from his tent. He casts a lowering gaze at the stronghold from where his rival defies him. There is a commotion. Soldiers have captured a gypsy woman found prowling about the camp. They drag her in. She is Azucena. Questioned, she sings that she is a poor wanderer, who means no harm. "Giorni poveri vivea" (I was poor, yet uncomplaining).


Copyright photo by Dupont

Schumann-Heink as Azucena in “Il Trovatore”

But Ferrando, though she thought herself masked by the grey hairs and wrinkles of age, recognizes her as the gypsy-411- who, to avenge her mother, gave over the infant brother of the Count to the flames. In the vehemence of her denials, she cries out to Manrico, whom she names as her son, to come to her rescue. This still further enrages the Count. He orders that she be cast into prison and then burned at the stake. She is dragged away.

The scene changes to a hall adjoining the chapel in the stronghold of Castellor. Leonora is about to become the bride of Manrico, who sings the beautiful lyric, "Amor—sublime amore" ('Tis love, sublime emotion).

Its serenity makes all the more effective the tumultuous scene that follows. It assists in giving to that episode, one of the most famous in Italian opera, its true significance as a dramatic climax.

Just as Manrico takes Leonora's hand to lead her to the altar of the chapel, Ruiz rushes in with word that Azucena has been captured by the besiegers and is about to be burned to death. Already through the windows of Castellor the glow of flames can be seen. Her peril would render delay fatal. Dropping the hand of his bride, Manrico, draws his sword, and, as his men gather, sings "Di quella pira l'orrendo foco" (See the pyre blazing, oh, sight of horror), and rushes forth at the head of his soldiers to attempt to save Azucena.



The line, "O teco almeno, corro a morir" (Or, all else failing, to die with thee), contains the famous high C.



O teco almeno corro a morir


This is a tour de force, which has been condemned as vulgar and ostentatious, but which undoubtedly adds to the effectiveness of the number. There is, it should be remarked, no high C in the score of "Di quella pira." In no way is Verdi responsible for it. It was introduced by a tenor, who saw a chance to make an effect with it, and succeeded so well that it became a fixture. A tenor now content to sing "O teco almeno" as Verdi wrote it



would never be asked to sing it.

Dr. Frank E. Miller, author of The Voice and Vocal Art Science, the latter the most complete exposition of the psycho-physical functions involved in voice-production, informs me that a series of photographs have been made (by an apparatus too complicated to describe) of the vibrations of Caruso's voice as he takes and holds the high C in "Di quella pira." The record measures fifty-eight feet. While it might not be correct to say that Caruso's high C is fifty-eight feet long, the record is evidence of its being superbly taken and held.

Not infrequently the high C in "Di quella pira" is faked for tenors who cannot reach it, yet have to sing the rôle of Manrico, or who, having been able to reach it in their younger days and at the height of their prime, still wish to maintain their fame as robust tenors. For such the number is transposed. The tenor, instead of singing high C, sings B-flat, a tone and a half lower, and much easier to take. By flourishing his sword and looking very fierce he usually manages to get away with it. Transpositions of operatic airs, requiring unusually high voices, are not infrequently-413- made for singers, both male and female, no longer in their prime, but still good for two or three more "farewell" tours. All they have to do is to step up to the footlights with an air of perfect confidence, which indicates that the great moment in the performance has arrived, deliver, with a certain assumption of effort—the semblance of a real tour de force—the note which has conveniently been transposed, and receive the enthusiastic plaudits of their devoted admirers. But the assumption of effort must not be omitted. The tenor who sings the high C in "Di quella pira" without getting red in the face will hardly be credited with having sung it at all.

Act IV. Manrico's sortie to rescue his supposed mother failed. His men were repulsed, and he himself was captured and thrown into the dungeon tower of Aliaferia, where Azucena was already enchained. The scene shows a wing of the palace of Aliaferia. In the angle is a tower with window secured by iron bars. It is night, dark and clouded.

Leonora enters with Ruiz, who points out to her the place of Manrico's confinement, and retires. That she has conceived a desperate plan to save her lover appears from the fact that she wears a poison ring, a ring with a swift poison concealed under the jewel, so that she can take her own life, if driven thereto.

Unknown to Manrico, she is near him. Her thoughts wander to him;—"D'amor sull'ali rosee" (On rosy wings of love depart).



D'amor sull'ali rosee

It is followed by the "Miserere," which was for many years and perhaps still is the world over the most popular of all melodies from opera, although at the present time-414- it appears to have been superseded by the "Intermezzo" from "Cavalleria Rusticana."

The "Miserere" is chanted by a chorus within.



Against this as a sombre background are projected the heart-broken ejaculations of Leonora.



Then Manrico's voice in the tower intones "Ah! che la morte ognora" (Ah! how death still delayeth).



One of the most characteristic phrases, suggestions of which occur also in "La Traviata" and even in "Aïda," is the following:



a chi desia, a chi desia morir!

Familiarity may breed contempt, and nothing could well be more familiar than the "Miserere" from "Il Trovatore." Yet, well sung, it never fails of effect; and the gaoler always has to let Manrico come out of the tower and acknowledge the applause of an excited house, while Leonora stands by and pretends not to see him, one of those little-415- fictions and absurdities of old-fashioned opera that really add to its charm.

The Count enters, to be confronted by Leonora. She promises to become his wife if he will free Manrico. Di Luna's passion for her is so intense that he agrees. There is a solo for Leonora, "Mira, di acerbe lagrime" (Witness the tears of agony), followed by a duet between her and the Count, who little suspects that, Manrico once freed, she will escape a hated union with himself by taking the poison in her ring.

The scene changes to the interior of the tower. Manrico and Azucena sing a duet of mournful beauty, "Ai nostri monti" (Back to our mountains).

Ai nostri montiRiposa o madre, io prono e muto

Leonora enters and bids him escape. But he suspects the price she has paid; and his suspicions are confirmed by herself, when the poison she has drained from beneath the jewel in her ring begins to take effect and she feels herself sinking in death, while Azucena, in her sleep, croons dreamily, "Back to our mountains."

The Count di Luna, coming upon the scene, finds Leonora dead in her lover's arms. He orders Manrico to be led to the block at once and drags Azucena to the window to witness the death of her supposed son.

"It is over!" exclaims Di Luna, when the executioner has done his work.

"The victim was thy brother!" shrieks the gypsy hag. "Thou art avenged, O mother!"

She falls near the window.

"And I still live!" exclaims the Count.

With that exclamation the cumulative horrors, set to the most tuneful score in Italian opera, are over.



Opera in three acts by Verdi; words by Francesco Maria Piave, after the play "La Dame aux Camélias," by Alexandre Dumas, fils. Produced Fenice Theatre, Venice, March 6, 1853. London, May 24, 1856, with Piccolomini. Paris, in French, December 6, 1856; in Italian, October 27, 1864, with Christine Nilsson. New York, Academy of Music, December 3, 1856, with La Grange (Violetta), Brignoli (Alfredo), and Amodio (Germont, père). Nilsson, Patti, Melba, Sembrich and Tetrazzini have been among famous interpreters of the rôle of Violetta in America. Galli-Curci first sang Violetta in this country in Chicago, December 1, 1916.


Alfredo Germont, lover of ViolettaTenor
Giorgio Germont, his fatherBaritone
Gastone de LetorièresTenor
Baron Douphol, a rival of AlfredoBass
Marquis d'ObignyBass
Doctor GrenvilBass
Giuseppe, servant to ViolettaTenor
Violetta Valéry, a courtesanSoprano
Flora Bervoix, her friendMezzo-Soprano
Annina, confidante of ViolettaSoprano

Ladies and gentlemen who are friends and guests in the houses of Violetta and Flora; servants and masks; dancers and guests as matadors, picadors, and gypsies.

TimeLouis XIV.

Place—Paris and vicinity.


Copyright photo by Mishkin

Galli-Curci as Violetta in “La Traviata”

At its production in Venice in 1853 "La Traviata" was a failure, for which various reasons can be advanced. The younger Dumas's play, "La Dame aux Camélias," familiar to English playgoers under the incorrect title of "Camille," is a study of modern life and played in modern costume. When Piave reduced his "Traviata" libretto from the play, he retained the modern period. This is said to have nonplussed an audience accustomed to operas laid in the past and given in "costume." But the chief blame for the fiasco-417- appears to have rested with the singers. Graziani, the Alfredo, was hoarse. Salvini-Donatelli, the Violetta, was inordinately stout. The result was that the scene of her death as a consumptive was received with derision. Varesi, the baritone, who sang Giorgio Germont, who does not appear until the second act, and is of no importance save in that part of the opera, considered the rôle beneath his reputation—notwithstanding Germont's beautiful solo, "Di Provenza"—and was none too cheerful over it. There is evidence in Verdi's correspondence that the composer had complete confidence in the merits of his score, and attributed its failure to its interpreters.

When the opera was brought forward again a year later, the same city which had decried it as a failure acclaimed it a success. On this occasion, however, the period of the action differed from that of the play. It was set back to the time of Louis XIV., and costumed accordingly. There is, however, no other opera today in which this matter of costume is so much a go-as-you-please affair for the principals, as it is in "La Traviata." I do not recall if Christine Nilsson dressed Violetta according to the Louis XIV. period, or not; but certainly Adelina Patti and Marcella Sembrich, both of whom I heard many times in the rôle (and each of them the first time they sang it here) wore the conventional evening gown of modern times. To do this has become entirely permissible for prima donnas in this character. Meanwhile the Alfredo may dress according to the Louis XIV. period, or wear the swallow-tail costume of today, or compromise, as some do, and wear the swallow-tail coat and modern waistcoat with knee-breeches and black silk stockings. As if even this diversity were not yet quite enough, the most notable Germont of recent years, Renaud, who, at the Manhattan Opera House, sang the rôle with the most exquisite refinement, giving a portrayal as finished as a genre painting by Meissonnier, wore the costume of a gentleman of Pro-418-vence of, perhaps, the middle of the last century. But, as I have hinted before, in old-fashioned opera, these incongruities, which would be severely condemned in a modern work, don't amount to a row of pins. Given plenty of melody, beautifully sung, and everything else can go hang.

Act I. A salon in the house of Violetta. In the back scene is a door, which opens into another salon. There are also side doors. On the left is a fireplace, over which is a mirror. In the centre of the apartment is a dining-table, elegantly laid. Violetta, seated on a couch, is conversing with Dr. Grenvil and some friends. Others are receiving the guests who arrive, among whom are Baron Douphol and Flora on the arm of the Marquis.

The opera opens with a brisk ensemble. Violetta is a courtesan (traviata). Her house is the scene of a revel. Early in the festivities Gaston, who has come in with Alfred, informs Violetta that his friend is seriously in love with her. She treats the matter with outward levity, but it is apparent that she is touched by Alfred's devotion. Already, too, in this scene, there are slight indications, more emphasized as the opera progresses, that consumption has undermined Violetta's health.

First in the order of solos in this act is a spirited drinking song for Alfred, which is repeated by Violetta. After each measure the chorus joins in. This is the "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" (Let us quaff from the wine cup o'erflowing).



Libiamo, libiamo ne' lieti calici

Music is heard from an adjoining salon, toward which the guests proceed. Violetta is about to follow, but is seized with a coughing-spell and sinks upon a lounge to recover. Alfred has remained behind. She asks him why he has not joined the others. He protests his love for her. At first-419- taking his words in banter, she becomes more serious, as she begins to realize the depth of his affection for her. How long has he loved her? A year, he answers. "Un dì felice, eterea" (One day a rapture ethereal), he sings.

In this the words, "Di quell'amor ch'è palpito" (Ah, 'tis with love that palpitates) are set to a phrase which Violetta repeats in the famous "Ah, fors'è lui," just as she has previously repeated the drinking song.

Verdi thus seems to intend to indicate in his score the effect upon her of Alfred's genuine affection. She repeated his drinking song. Now she repeats, like an echo of heartbeats, his tribute to a love of which she is the object.

It is when Alfred and the other guests have retired that Violetta, lost in contemplation, her heart touched for the first time, sings "Ah fors'è lui che l'anima" (For him, perchance, my longing soul).



Ah, fors'è lui che l'anima solinga ne' tumulti, solinga ne' tumulti

Then she repeats, in the nature of a refrain, the measures already sung by Alfred. Suddenly she changes, as if there were no hope of lasting love for woman of her character, and dashes into the brilliant "Sempre libera degg'io folleggiare di gioja in gioja" (Ever free shall I still hasten madly on from pleasure to pleasure).



Sempre libera degg'io folleggiare

With this solo the act closes.

Act II. Salon on the ground floor of a country house near Paris, occupied by Alfred and Violetta, who for him has deserted the allurements of her former life. Alfred enters in sporting costume. He sings of his joy in possessing-420- Violetta: "Di miei bollenti spiriti" (Wild my dream of ecstasy).

From Annina, the maid of Violetta, he learns that the expenses of keeping up the country house are much greater than Violetta has told him, and that, in order to meet the cost, which is beyond his own means, she has been selling her jewels. He immediately leaves for Paris, his intention being to try to raise money there so that he may be able to reimburse her.

After he has gone, Violetta comes in. She has a note from Flora inviting her to some festivities at her house that night. She smiles at the absurdity of the idea that she should return, even for an evening, to the scenes of her former life. Just then a visitor is announced. She supposes he is a business agent, whom she is expecting. But, instead, the man who enters announces that he is Alfred's father. His dignity, his courteous yet restrained manner, at once fill her with apprehension. She has foreseen separation from the man she loves. She now senses that the dread moment is impending.

The elder Germont's plea that she leave Alfred is based both upon the blight threatened his career by his liaison with her, and upon another misfortune that will result to the family. There is not only the son; there is a daughter. "Pura siccome un angelo" (Pure as an angel) sings Germont, in the familiar air:



Pura siccome un angelo


Copyright photo by Dupont

Farrar as Violetta in “La Traviata”


Photo by Mishkin

Scotti as Germont in “La Traviata”

Should the scandal of Alfred's liaison with Violetta continue, the family of a youth, whom the daughter is to marry, threaten to break off the alliance. Therefore it is not only on behalf of his son, it is also for the future of his daughter, that the elder Germont pleads. As in-421- the play, so in the opera, the reason why the rôle of the heroine so strongly appeals to us is that she makes the sacrifice demanded of her—though she is aware that among other unhappy consequences to her, it will aggravate the disease of which she is a victim and hasten her death, wherein, indeed, she even sees a solace. She cannot yield at once. She prays, as it were, for mercy: "Non sapete" (Ah, you know not).

Finally she yields: "Dite alla giovine" (Say to thy daughter); then "Imponete" (Now command me); and, after that, "Morrò—la mia memoria" (I shall die—but may my memory).

Germont retires. Violetta writes a note, rings for Annina, and hands it to her. From the maid's surprise as she reads the address, it can be judged to be for Flora, and, presumably, an acceptance of her invitation. When Annina has gone, she writes to Alfred informing him that she is returning to her old life, and that she will look to Baron Douphol to maintain her. Alfred enters. She conceals the letter about her person. He tells her that he has received word from his father that the latter is coming to see him in an attempt to separate him from her. Pretending that she leaves, so as not to be present during the interview, she takes of him a tearful farewell.

Alfred is left alone. He picks up a book and reads listlessly. A messenger enters and hands him a note. The address is in Violetta's handwriting. He breaks the seal, begins to read, staggers as he realizes the import, and would collapse, but that his father, who has quietly entered from the garden, holds out his arms, in which the youth, believing himself betrayed by the woman he loves, finds refuge.

"Di Provenza il mar, il suol chi dal cor ti cancellò" (From fair Provence's sea and soil, who hath won thy-422- heart away), sings the elder Germont, in an effort to soften the blow that has fallen upon his son.



Di Provenza il mar, il suol

Alfred rouses himself. Looking about vaguely, he sees Flora's letter, glances at the contents, and at once concludes that Violetta's first plunge into the vortex of gayety, to return to which she has, as he supposes, abandoned him, will be at Flora's fête.

"Thither will I hasten, and avenge myself!" he exclaims, and departs precipitately, followed by his father.

The scene changes to a richly furnished and brilliantly lighted salon in Flora's palace. The fête is in full swing. There is a ballet of women gypsies, who sing as they dance "Noi siamo zingarelle" (We're gypsies gay and youthful).

Gaston and his friends appear as matadors and others as picadors. Gaston sings, while the others dance, "È Piquillo, un bel gagliardo" ('Twas Piquillo, so young and so daring).

It is a lively scene, upon which there enters Alfred, to be followed soon by Baron Douphol with Violetta on his arm. Alfred is seated at a card table. He is steadily winning. "Unlucky in love, lucky in gambling!" he exclaims. Violetta winces. The Baron shows evidence of anger at Alfred's words and is with difficulty restrained by Violetta. The Baron, with assumed nonchalance, goes to the gaming table and stakes against Alfred. Again the latter's winnings are large. A servant's announcement that the banquet is ready is an evident relief to the Baron. All retire to an adjoining salon. For a brief moment the stage is empty.

Violetta enters. She has asked for an interview with Alfred. He joins her. She begs him to leave. She fears-423- the Baron's anger will lead him to challenge Alfred to a duel. The latter sneers at her apprehensions; intimates that it is the Baron she fears for. Is it not the Baron Douphol for whom he, Alfred, has been cast off by her? Violetta's emotions almost betray her, but she remembers her promise to the elder Germont, and exclaims that she loves the Baron.

Alfred tears open the doors to the salon where the banquet is in progress. "Come hither, all!" he shouts.

They crowd upon the scene. Violetta, almost fainting, leans against the table for support. Facing her, Alfred hurls at her invective after invective. Finally, in payment of what she has spent to help him maintain the house near Paris in which they have lived together, he furiously casts at her feet all his winnings at the gaming table. She faints in the arms of Flora and Dr. Grenvil.

The elder Germont enters in search of his son. He alone knows the real significance of the scene, but for the sake of his son and daughter cannot disclose it. A dramatic ensemble, in which Violetta sings, "Alfredo, Alfredo, di questo core non puoi comprendere tutto l'amore" (Alfred, Alfred, little canst thou fathom the love within my heart for thee) brings the act to a close.

Act III. Violetta's bedroom. At the back is a bed with the curtains partly drawn. A window is shut in by inside shutters. Near the bed stands a tabouret with a bottle of water, a crystal cup, and different kinds of medicine on it. In the middle of the room is a toilet-table and settee. A little apart from this is another piece of furniture upon which a night-lamp is burning. On the left is a fireplace with a fire in it.

Violetta awakens. In a weak voice she calls Annina, who, waking up confusedly, opens the shutters and looks down into the street, which is gay with carnival preparations. Dr. Grenvil is at the door. Violetta endeavours to rise, but falls back again. Then, supported by Annina,-424- she walks slowly toward the settee. The doctor enters in time to assist her. Annina places cushions about her. To Violetta the physician cheerfully holds out hope of recovery, but to Annina he whispers, as he is leaving, that her mistress has but few hours more to live.

Violetta has received a letter from the elder Germont telling her that Alfred has been apprised by him of her sacrifice and has been sent for to come to her bedside as quickly as possible. But she has little hope that he will arrive in time. She senses the near approach of death. "Addio del passato" (Farewell to bright visions) she sighs. For this solo,



Addio del passato bei sogni ridenti,

when sung in the correct interpretive mood, should be like a sigh from the depths of a once frail, but now purified soul.

A bacchanalian chorus of carnival revellers floats up from the street. Annina, who had gone out with some money which Violetta had given her to distribute as alms, returns. Her manner is excited. Violetta is quick to perceive it and divine its significance. Annina has seen Alfred. He is waiting to be announced. The dying woman bids Annina hasten to admit him. A moment later he holds Violetta in his arms. Approaching death is forgotten. Nothing again shall part them. They will leave Paris for some quiet retreat. "Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo" (We shall fly from Paris, beloved), they sing.



Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo

But it is too late. The hand of death is upon the woman's brow. "Gran Dio! morir sì giovine" (O, God! to die so young).


The elder Germont and Dr. Grenvil have come in. There is nothing to be done. The cough that racked the poor frail body has ceased. La traviata is dead.

Not only were "Il Trovatore" and "La Traviata" produced in the same year, but "La Traviata" was written between the date of "Trovatore's" première at Rome (January 19th) and March 6th. Only four weeks in all are said to have been devoted to it, and part of the time Verdi was working on "Trovatore" as well. Nothing could better illustrate the fecundity of his genius, the facility with which he composed. But it was not the fatal facility that sacrifices real merit for temporary success. There are a few echoes of "Trovatore" in "Traviata"; but the remarkable achievement of Verdi is not in having written so beautiful an opera as "La Traviata" in so short a time, but in having produced in it a work in a style wholly different from "Il Trovatore." The latter palpitates with the passions of love, hatred, and vengeance. The setting of the action encourages these. It consists of palace gardens, castles, dungeons. But "La Traviata" plays in drawing-rooms. The music corresponds with these surroundings. It is vivacious, graceful, gentle. When it palpitates, it is with sorrow. The opera also contains a notably beautiful instrumental number—the introduction to the third act. This was a favourite piece with Theodore Thomas. Several times—years ago—I heard it conducted by him at his Popular Concerts.

Oddly enough, although "Il Trovatore" is by far the more robust and at one time was, as I have stated, the most popular opera in the world, I believe that today the advantage lies with "La Traviata," and that, as between the two, there belongs to that opera the ultimate chance of survival. I explain this on the ground that, in "Il Trovatore" the hero and heroine are purely musical creations, the real character drawing, dramatically and musically, being in the-426- rôle of Azucena, which, while a principal rôle, has not the prominence of Leonora or Manrico. In "La Traviata," on the other hand, we have in the original of Violetta—the Marguerite Gauthier of Alexandre Dumas, fils—one of the great creations of modern drama, the frail woman redeemed by the touch of an artist. Piave, in his libretto, preserves the character. In the opera, as in the play, one comprehends the injunction, "Let him who is not guilty throw the first stone." For Verdi has clothed Violetta in music that brings out the character so vividly and so beautifully that whenever I see "Traviata" I recall the first performance in America of the Dumas play by Bernhardt, then in her slender and supple prime, and the first American appearance in it of Duse, with her exquisite intonation and restraint of gesture.

In fact, operas survive because the librettist has known how to create a character and the composer how to match it with his musical genius. Recall the dashing Don Giovanni; the resourceful Figaro, both in the Mozart and the Rossini opera; the real interpretive quality of a mild and gracious order in the heroine of "La Sonnambula"—innocence personified; the gloomy figure of Edgardo stalking through "Lucia di Lammermoor"; the hunchback and the titled gallant in "Rigoletto," and you can understand why these very old operas have lived so long. They are not make-believe; they are real.


Opera in three acts, by Verdi; words by Somma, based on Scribe's libretto for Auber's opera, "Gustave III., ou Le Bal Masqué" (Gustavus III., or the Masked Ball). Produced, Apollo Theatre, Rome, February 17, 1859. Paris, Théâtre des Italiens, January 13, 1861. London, June 15, 1861. New York, February 11, 1861. Revivals, Metropolitan Opera House, N.Y., with Jean de Reszke, 1903; with Caruso, Eames,-427- Homer, Scotti, Plançon, and Journet, February 6, 1905; with Caruso, Destinn, Matzenauer, Hempel, and Amato, November 22, 1913.


Richard, Count of Warwick and Governor of Boston
(or Riccardo, Duke of Olivares and Governor of Naples)
Amelia (Adelia)Soprano
Reinhart (Renato), secretary to the Governor and husband of AmeliaBaritone
Samuel}enemies of the GovernorBass
Tom (Tommaso)}
Silvan, a sailorSoprano
Oscar (Edgardo), a pageSoprano
Ulrica, a negress astrologerContralto

A judge, a servant of Amelia, populace, guards, etc., conspirators, maskers, and dancing couples.

Place—Boston, or Naples.

Time—Late seventeenth or middle eighteenth century.

The English libretto of "Un Ballo in Maschera," literally "A Masked Ball," but always called by us "The Masked Ball," has the following note:

"The scene of Verdi's 'Ballo in Maschera' was, by the author of the libretto, originally laid in one of the European cities. But the government censors objected to this, probably, because the plot contained the record of a successful conspiracy against an established prince or governor. By a change of scene to the distant, and, to the author, little-known, city of Boston, in America, this difficulty seems to have been obviated. The fact should be borne in mind by Bostonians and others, who may be somewhat astonished at the events which are supposed to have taken place in the old Puritan city."

Certainly the events in "The Masked Ball" are amazing for the Boston of Puritan or any other time, and it was only through necessity that the scene of the opera was laid there. Now that political reasons for this no longer exist, it is usually played with the scene laid in Naples.


Auber produced, in 1833, an opera on a libretto by Scribe, entitled "Gustave III., ou Le Bal Masqué." Upon this Scribe libretto the book of "Un Ballo in Maschera" is based. Verdi's opera was originally called "Gustavo III.," and, like the Scribe-Auber work, was written around the assassination of Gustavus III., of Sweden, who, March 16, 1792, was shot in the back during a masked ball at Stockholm.

Verdi composed the work for the San Carlo Theatre, Naples, where it was to have been produced for the carnival of 1858. But January 14th of that year, and while the rehearsals were in progress, Felice Orsini, an Italian revolutionist, made his attempt on the life of Napoleon III. In consequence the authorities forbade the performance of a work dealing with the assassination of a king. The suggestion that Verdi adapt his music to an entirely different libretto was put aside by the composer, and the work was withdrawn, with the result that a revolution nearly broke out in Naples. People paraded the street, and by shouting "Viva Verdi!" proclaimed, under guise of the initials of the popular composer's name, that they favoured the cause of a united Italy, with Victor Emanuel as King; viz.: Vittorio Emmanuele Re D'Italia (Victor Emanuel, King of Italy). Finally the censor in Rome suggested, as a way out of the difficulty, that the title of the opera be changed to "Un Ballo in Maschera" and the scene transferred to Boston. For however nervous the authorities were about having a king murdered on the stage, they regarded the assassination of an English governor in far-off America as a quite harmless diversion. So, indeed, it proved to be, the only excitement evinced by the audience of the Apollo Theatre, Rome, on the evening of February 18, 1859, being the result of its enthusiasm over the various musical numbers of the work, this enthusiasm not being at all dampened by the fact that, with the transfer to Boston, two of the conspirators,-429- Samuel and Tommaso, became negroes, and the astrologer who figures in the opera, a negress.

The sensible change of scene from Boston to Naples is said to have been initiated in Paris upon the instance of Mario, who "would never have consented to sing his ballad in the second act in short pantaloons, silk stockings, red dress, and big epaulettes of gold lace. He would never have been satisfied with the title of Earl of Warwick and the office of governor. He preferred to be a grandee of Spain, to call himself the Duke of Olivares, and to disguise himself as a Neapolitan fisherman, besides paying little attention to the strict accuracy of the rôle, but rather adapting it to his own gifts as an artist." The ballad referred to in this quotation undoubtedly is Richard's barcarolle, "Di' tu se fedele il flutto m'aspetta" (Declare if the waves will faithfully bear me).

Act I. Reception hall in the Governor's house. Richard, Earl of Warwick, is giving an audience. Oscar, a page, brings him the list of guests invited to a masked ball. Richard is especially delighted at seeing on it the name of Amelia, the wife of his secretary, Reinhart, although his conscience bitterly reproaches him for loving Amelia, for Reinhart is his most faithful friend, ever ready to defend him. The secretary also has discovered a conspiracy against his master; but as yet has been unable to learn the names of the conspirators.

At the audience a judge is announced, who brings for signature the sentence of banishment against an old fortune teller, the negress Ulrica. Oscar, however, intercedes for the old woman. Richard decides to visit her in disguise and test her powers of divination.

The scene changes to Ulrica's hut, which Richard enters disguised as a fisherman. Without his knowledge, Amelia also comes to consult the negress. Concealed by a curtain he hears her ask for a magic herb to cure her of the love-430- which she, a married woman, bears to Richard. The old woman tells her of such an herb, but Amelia must gather it herself at midnight in the place where stands the gibbet. Richard thus learns that she loves him, and of her purpose to be at the place of the gibbet at midnight. When she has gone he comes out of his concealment and has his fortune told. Ulrica predicts that he will die by the hand of a friend. The conspirators, who are in his retinue, whisper among themselves that they are discovered. "Who will be the slayer?" asks Richard. The answer is, "Whoever first shall shake your hand." At this moment Reinhart enters, greets his friend with a vigorous shake of the hand, and Richard laughs at the evil prophecy. His retinue and the populace rejoice with him.

Act II. Midnight, beside the gallows. Amelia, deeply veiled, comes to pluck the magic herb. Richard arrives to protect her. Amelia is unable to conceal her love for him. But who comes there? It is Reinhart. Concern for his master has called him to the spot. The conspirators are lying in wait for him nearby. Richard exacts from Reinhart a promise to escort back to the city the deeply veiled woman, without making an attempt to learn who she is, while he himself returns by an unfrequented path. Reinhart and his companion fall into the hands of the conspirators. The latter do not harm the secretary, but want at least to learn who the Governor's sweetheart is. They lift the veil. Reinhart sees his own wife. Rage grips his soul. He bids the leaders of the conspiracy to meet with him at his house in the morning.

Act III. A study in Reinhart's dwelling. For the disgrace he has suffered he intends to kill Amelia. Upon her plea she is allowed to embrace her son once more. He reflects that, after all, Richard is much the more guilty of the two. He refrains from killing her, but when he and the conspirators draw lots to determine who shall kill Richard,-431- he calls her in, and, at his command, she draws a piece of paper from an urn. It bears her husband's name, drawn unwittingly by her to indicate the person who is to slay the man she loves. Partly to remove Amelia's suspicions, Reinhart accepts the invitation to the masked ball which Oscar brings him, Richard, of course, knowing nothing of what has transpired.

In the brilliant crowd of maskers, the scene having changed to that of the masked ball, Reinhart learns from Oscar what disguise is worn by Richard. Amelia, who, with the eyes of apprehensive love, also has recognized Richard, implores him to flee the danger that threatens him. But Richard knows no fear. In order that the honour of his friend shall remain secure, he has determined to send him as an envoy to England, accompanied by his wife. Her, he tells Amelia, he will never see again. "Once more I bid thee farewell, for the last time, farewell."

"And thus receive thou my farewell!" exclaims Reinhart, stabbing him in the side.

With his last words Richard assures Reinhart of the guiltlessness of Amelia, and admonishes all to seek to avenge his death on no one.

It is hardly necessary to point out how astonishing these proceedings are when supposed to take place in Colonial Boston. Even the one episode of Richard, Earl of Warwick, singing a barcarolle in the hut of a negress who tells fortunes is so impossible that it affects the whole story with incredibility. But Naples—well, anything will go there. In fact, as truth is stranger than fiction, we even can regard the events of "The Masked Ball" as occurring more naturally in an Italian city than in Stockholm, where the assassination of Gustavus III. at a masquerade actually occurred.

Although the opera is a subject of only occasional revival, it contains a considerable amount of good music and a quintet of exceptional quality.


Early in the first act comes Richard's solo, "La rivedrà nell'estasi" (I shall again her face behold).



La rivedrà nell'estasi

This is followed by the faithful Reinhart's "Alla vita che t'arride" (To thy life with joy abounding), with horn solo.

Strikingly effective is Oscar's song, in which the page vouches for the fortune-teller. "Volta la terrea fronte alle stelle" (Lift up thine earthly gaze to where the stars are shining).



Volta la terrea fronte alle stelle

In the scene in the fortune-teller's hut are a trio for Amelia, Ulrica, and Richard, while the latter overhears Amelia's welcome confession of love for himself, and Richard's charming barcarolle addressed to the sorceress, a Neapolitan melody, "Di' tu se fedele il flutto m'aspetta" (Declare if the waves will faithfully bear me).



Di' tu se fedele il flutto m'aspetta,

The quintet begins with Richard's laughing disbelief in Ulrica's prophecy regarding himself, "È scherzo od è follia" ('Tis an idle folly).

Concluding the scene is the chorus, in which, after the people have recognized Richard, they sing what has been called, "a kind of 'God Save the King' tribute to his worth"—"O figlio d'Inghilterra" (O son of mighty England).


The second act opens with a beautiful air for Amelia, "Ma dall'arido stelo divulsa" (From the stem, dry and withered, dissevered).

An impassioned duet occurs during the meeting at the place of the gibbet between Richard and Amelia: "O qual soave brivido" (Oh, what delightful ecstasies).

The act ends with a quartet for Amelia, Reinhart, Samuel, and Tom.

In the last act is Amelia's touching supplication to her husband, in which "The weeping of the violoncello and the veiled key of E-flat minor stretch to the last limits of grief this prayer of the wife and mother,"—"Morrò, ma prima in grazia" (I die, but first in mercy).

"O dolcezze perdute!" (O delights now lost for ever) sings her husband, in a musical inspiration prefaced by harp and flute.

During the masked ball there is a quintet for Amelia, Oscar, Reinhart, Samuel, and Tom, from which the sprightly butterfly allegro of Oscar, "Di che fulgor, che musiche" (What brilliant lights, what music gay) detaches itself, while later on the Page has a buoyant "tra-la-la" solo, beginning, in reply to Reinhart's question concerning Richard's disguise, "Saper vorreste di che si veste" (You'd fain be hearing what mask he's wearing).

There is a colloquy between Richard and Amelia. Then the catastrophe.


Prior to proceeding to a consideration of "Aïda," I will refer briefly to certain works by Verdi, which, although not requiring a complete account of story and music, should not be omitted from a book on opera.

At the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, December 8, 1849, Verdi brought out the three-act opera "Luisa Miller,"-434- based on a play by Schiller, "Kabale und Liebe" (Love and Intrigue). It appears to have been Verdi's first real success since "Ernani" and to have led up to that achieved by "Rigoletto" a year later, and to the successes of "Il Trovatore" and "La Traviata." "Luisa Miller" was given at the Academy of Music, New York, October 20, 1886, by Angelo's Italian Opera Company. Giulia Valda was Luisa and Vicini Rodolfo.

The story is a gloomy one. The first act is entitled "Love," the second "Intrigue," the third "Poison."


Count WalterBass
Rodolfo, his sonTenor
Miller, an old soldierBass
Luisa, his daughterSoprano
Frederica, Duchess of Ostheim, Walter's nieceContralto
Laura, a peasant girlContralto

Ladies attending the Duchess, pages, servants, archers, and villagers.

Luisa is the daughter of Miller, an old soldier. There is ardent love between her and Rodolfo, the son of Count Walter, who has concealed his real name and rank from her and her father and is known to them as a peasant named Carlo. Old Miller, however, has a presentiment that evil will result from their attachment. This is confirmed on his being informed by Wurm that Carlo is Rodolfo, his master's son. Wurm is himself in love with Luisa.

The Duchess Frederica, Count Walter's niece, arrives at the castle. She had been brought up there with Rodolfo, and has from childhood cherished a deep affection for him; but, compelled by her father to marry the Duke d'Ostheim, has not seen Rodolfo for some years. The Duke, however, having died, she is now a widow, and, on the invitation of Count Walter, who has, unknown to Rodolfo, made proposals of marriage to her on his son's behalf, she arrives-435- at the castle, expecting to marry at once the love of her childhood. The Count having been informed by Wurm of his son's love for Luisa, resolves to break off their intimacy. Rodolfo reveals to the Duchess that he loves another. He also discloses his real name and position to Luisa and her father. The Count interrupts this interview between the lovers. Enraged at his son's persistence in preferring a union with Luisa, he calls in the guard and is about to consign her and her father to prison, when he is, for the moment, deterred and appalled by Rodolfo's threat to reveal that the Count, aided by Wurm, assassinated his predecessor, in order to obtain possession of the title and estates.

Luisa's father has been seized and imprisoned by the Count's order. She, to save his life, consents, at the instigation of Wurm, to write a letter in which she states that she had never really loved Rodolfo, but only encouraged him on account of his rank and fortune, of which she was always aware; and finally offering to fly with Wurm. This letter, as the Count and his steward have arranged, falls into the hands of Rodolfo, who, enraged by the supposed treachery of the woman he loves, consents to marry the Duchess, but ultimately resolves to kill Luisa and himself.

Luisa also has determined to put an end to her existence. Rodolfo enters her home in the absence of Miller, and, after extracting from Luisa's own lips the avowal that she did write the letter, he pours poison into a cup. She unwittingly offers it to him to quench his thirst. Afterwards, at his request, she tastes it herself. She had sworn to Wurm that she would never reveal the fact of the compulsion under which she had written the letter, but feeling herself released from her oath by fast approaching death, she confesses the truth to Rodolfo. The lovers die in the presence of their horror-stricken parents.

The principal musical numbers include Luisa's graceful-436- and brilliant solo in the first act—"Lo vidi, e'l primo palpito" (I saw him and my beating heart). Besides there is Old Miller's air, "Sacra la scelta è d'un consorte" (Firm are the links that are forged at the altar), a broad and beautiful melody, which, were the opera better known, would be included in most of the operatic anthologies for bass.

There also should be mentioned Luisa's air in the last act, "La tomba è un letto sparso di fiori" (The tomb a couch is, covered with roses).

"I Vespri Siciliani" (The Sicilian Vespers) had its first performance at the Grand Opéra, Paris, under the French title, "Les Vêpres Siciliennes," June 13, 1855. It was given at La Scala, Milan, 1856; London, Drury Lane, 1859; New York, Academy of Music, November 7, 1859; and revived there November, 1868. The work also has been presented under the title of "Giovanna di Guzman." The libretto is by Scribe and deals with the massacre of the French invaders of Sicily, at vespers, on Easter Monday, 1282. The principal characters are Guy de Montford, French Viceroy, baritone; Arrigo, a Sicilian officer, tenor; Duchess Hélène, a prisoner, soprano; Giovanni di Procida, a native conspirator, bass. Arrigo, who afterwards is discovered to be the brutal Guy de Montford's son, is in love with Hélène. The plot turns upon his efforts to rescue her.

There is one famous number in the "The Sicilian Vespers." This is the "Bolero," sung by Hélène—"Mercé, dilette amiche" (My thanks, beloved companions).

At Petrograd, November 10, 1862, there was brought out Verdi's opera in four acts, "La Forza del Destino" (The Force of Destiny). London heard it in June, 1867; New York, February 2, 1865, and, with the last act revised by the composer, at the Academy of Music in 1880, with-437- Annie Louise Cary, Campanini, Galassi, and Del Puente. The principal characters are Marquis di Calatrava, bass; Donna Leonora and Don Carlo, his children, soprano and baritone; Don Alvaro, tenor; Abbot of the Franciscan Friars, bass. There are muleteers, peasants, soldiers, friars, etc. The scenes are laid in Spain and Italy; the period is the middle of the eighteenth century. The libretto is based on the play, "Don Alvaro o La Fuerza de Sino" by the Duke of Rivas.

Don Alvaro is about to elope with Donna Leonora, daughter of the Marquis, when the latter comes upon them and is accidentally killed by Don Alvaro. The Marquis curses his daughter with his dying breath and invokes the vengeance of his son, Don Carlo, upon her and her lover. She escapes in male attire to a monastery, confesses to the Abbot, and is conducted by him to a cave, where he assures her of absolute safety.

Don Alvaro and Don Carlo meet before the cave. They fight a duel in which Don Alvaro mortally wounds Don Carlo. Donna Leonora, coming out of the cave and finding her brother dying, goes to him. With a last effort he stabs her in the heart. Don Alvaro throws himself over a nearby precipice.

"Madre, pietosa Vergine" (Oh, holy Virgin) is one of the principal numbers of the opera. It is sung by Donna Leonora, kneeling in the moonlight near the convent, while from within is heard the chant of the priests.

The "Madre pietosa" also is utilized as a theme in the overture.

"Don Carlos," produced at the Grand Opéra, Paris, March 11, 1867, during the Universal Exposition, was the last opera composed by Verdi before he took the musical world by storm with "Aïda." The work is in four acts, the libretto, by Méry and du Locle, having been reduced from Schiller's tragedy of the same title as the opera.


The characters are Philip II., of Spain, bass; Don Carlos, his son, tenor; Rodrigo, Marquis de Posa, baritone; Grand Inquisitor, bass; Elizabeth de Valois, Queen of Philip II., and stepmother of Don Carlos, soprano; Princess Eboli, soprano. In the original production the fine rôle of Rodrigo was taken by Faure.

Don Carlos and Elizabeth de Valois have been in love with each other, but for reasons of state Elizabeth has been obliged to marry Philip II., Don Carlos's father. The son is counselled by Rodrigo to absent himself from Spain by obtaining from his father a commission to go to the Netherlands, there to mitigate the cruelties practised by the Spaniards upon the Flemings. Don Carlos seeks an audience with Elizabeth, in order to gain her intercession with Philip. The result, however, of the meeting, is that their passion for each other returns with even greater intensity than before. Princess Eboli, who is in love with Don Carlos, becomes cognizant of the Queen's affection for her stepson, and informs the King. Don Carlos is thrown into prison. Rodrigo, who visits him there, is shot by order of Philip, who suspects him of aiding Spain's enemies in the Low Countries. Don Carlos, having been freed, makes a tryst with the Queen. Discovered by the King, he is handed over by him to the Inquisition to be put to death.

"La Forza del Destino" and "Don Carlos" lie between Verdi's middle period, ranging from "Luisa Miller" to "Un Ballo in Maschera" and including "Rigoletto," "Il Trovatore," and "La Traviata," and his final period, which began with "Aïda." It can be said that in "La Forza" and "Don Carlos" Verdi had absorbed considerable of Meyerbeer and Gounod, while in "Aïda," in addition to these, he had assimilated as much of Wagner as is good for an Italian. The enrichment of the orchestration in the two immediate predecessors of "Aïda" is apparent, but not-439- so much so as in that masterpiece of operatic composition. He produced in "Aïda" a far more finished score than in "La Forza" or "Don Carlos," sought and obtained many exquisite instrumental effects, but always remained true to the Italian principle of the supremacy of melody in the voice.


Grand opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi. Plot by Mariette Bey. Written in French prose by Camille du Locle. Translated into Italian verse by Antonio Ghislanzoni.

Produced in Cairo, Egypt, December 24, 1871; La Scala, Milan, under the composer's direction, February 8, 1872; Théâtre Italien, Paris, April 22, 1876; Covent Garden, London, June 22, 1876; Academy of Music, New York, November 26, 1873; Grand Opéra, Paris, March 22, 1880; Metropolitan Opera House, with Caruso, 1904.


Aïda, an Ethiopian slaveSoprano
Amneris, daughter of the King of EgyptContralto
Amonasro, King of Ethiopia, father of AïdaBaritone
Rhadames, captain of the GuardTenor
Ramphis, High PriestBass
King of EgyptBass

Priests, soldiers, Ethiopian slaves, prisoners, Egyptians, etc.

Time—Epoch of the Pharaohs.

Place—Memphis and Thebes.

"Aïda" was commissioned by Ismail Pacha, Khedive of Egypt, for the Italian Theatre in Cairo, which opened in November, 1869. The opera was produced there December 24, 1871; not at the opening of the house, as sometimes is erroneously stated. Its success was sensational.

Equally enthusiastic was its reception when brought out at La Scala, Milan, February 7, 1872, under the direction of Verdi himself, who was recalled thirty-two times and presented with an ivory baton and diamond star with the name of Aïda in rubies and his own in other precious stones.


It is an interesting fact that "Aïda" reached New York before it did any of the great European opera houses save La Scala. It was produced at the Academy of Music under the direction of Max Strakosch, November 26, 1873. I am glad to have heard that performance and several other performances of it that season. For the artists who appeared in it gave a representation that for brilliancy has not been surpassed if, indeed, it has been equalled. In support of this statement it is only necessary to say that Italo Campanini was Rhadames, Victor Maurel Amonasro, and Annie Louise Cary Amneris. No greater artists have appeared in these rôles in this country. Mlle. Torriani, the Aïda, while not so distinguished, was entirely adequate. Nannetti as Ramphis, the high priest, Scolara as the King, and Boy as the Messenger, completed the cast.

I recall some of the early comment on the opera. It was said to be Wagnerian. In point of fact "Aïda" is Wagnerian only as compared with Verdi's earlier operas. Compared with Wagner himself, it is Verdian—purely Italian. It was said that the fine melody for the trumpets on the stage in the pageant scene was plagiarized from a theme in the Coronation March of Meyerbeer's "Prophète." Slightly reminiscent the passage is, and, of course, stylistically the entire scene is on Meyerbeerian lines; but these resemblances no longer are of importance.

Paris failed to hear "Aïda" until April, 1876, and then at the Théâtre Italien, instead of at the Grand Opéra, where it was not heard until March, 1880, when Maurel was the Amonasro and Édouard de Reszke, later a favourite basso at the Metropolitan Opera House, the King. In 1855 Verdi's opera, "Les Vêpres Siciliennes" (The Sicilian Vespers) had been produced at the Grand Opéra and occurrences at the rehearsals had greatly angered the composer. The orchestra clearly showed a disinclination to follow the composer's minute directions regarding the manner in-441- which he wished his work interpreted. When, after a conversation with the chef d'orchestre, the only result was plainly an attempt to annoy him, he put on his hat, left the theatre, and did not return. In 1867 his "Don Carlos" met only with a succès d'estime at the Opéra. He had not forgotten these circumstances, when the Opéra wanted to give "Aïda." He withheld permission until 1880. But when at last this was given, he assisted at the production, and the public authorities vied in atoning for the slights put upon him so many years before. The President of France gave a banquet in his honour and he was created a Grand Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour.

When the Khedive asked Verdi to compose a new opera especially for the new opera house at Cairo, and inquired what the composer's terms would be, Verdi demanded $20,000. This was agreed upon and he was then given the subject he was to treat, "Aïda," which had been suggested to the Khedive by Mariette Bey, the great French Egyptologist. The composer received the rough draft of the story. From this Camille du Locle, a former director of the Opéra Comique, who happened to be visiting Verdi at Busseto, wrote a libretto in French prose, "scene by scene, sentence by sentence," as he has said, adding that the composer showed the liveliest interest in the work and himself suggested the double scene in the finale of the opera. The French prose libretto was translated into Italian verse by Antonio Ghislanzoni, who wrote more than sixty opera librettos, "Aïda" being the most famous. Mariette Bey brought his archeological knowledge to bear upon the production. "He revived Egyptian life of the time of the Pharaohs; he rebuilt ancient Thebes, Memphis, the Temple of Phtah; he designed the costumes and arranged the scenery. And under these exceptional circumstances, Verdi's new opera was produced."


Verdi's score was ready a year before the work had its première. The production was delayed by force of circumstances. Scenery and costumes were made by French artists. Before these accessories could be shipped to Cairo, the Franco-Prussian war broke out. They could not be gotten out of Paris. Their delivery was delayed accordingly.

Does the score of "Aïda" owe any of its charm, passion, and dramatic stress to the opportunity thus afforded Verdi of going over it and carefully revising it, after he had considered it finished? Quite possibly. For we know that he made changes, eliminating, for instance, a chorus in the style of Palestrina, which he did not consider suitable to the priesthood of Isis. Even this one change resulted in condensation, a valuable quality, and in leaving the exotic music of the temple scene entirely free to exert to the full its fascination of local colour and atmosphere.

The story is unfolded in four acts and seven scenes.

Act I. Scene 1. After a very brief prelude, the curtain rises on a hall in the King's palace in Memphis. Through a high gateway at the back are seen the temples and palaces of Memphis and the pyramids.

It had been supposed that, after the invasion of Ethiopia by the Egyptians, the Ethiopians would be a long time in recovering from their defeat. But Amonasro, their king, has swiftly rallied the remnants of his defeated army, gathered new levies to his standard, and crossed the frontier—all this with such extraordinary rapidity that the first news of it has reached the Egyptian court in Memphis through a messenger hot-foot from Thebes with the startling word that the sacred city itself is threatened.


Copyright photo by Dupont

Emma Eames as Aïda


Copyright photo by Dupont

Saléza as Rhadames in “Aïda”

While the priests are sacrificing to Isis in order to learn from the goddess whom she advises them to choose as leader of the Egyptian forces, Rhadames, a young warrior, indulges in the hope that he may be the choice. To this hope he-443- joins the further one that, returning victorious, he may ask the hand in marriage of Aïda, an Ethiopian slave of the Egyptian King's daughter, Amneris. To these aspirations he gives expression in the romance, "Celeste Aïda" (Radiant Aïda).



Celeste Aïda

It ends effectively with the following phrase:



un trono vicino al sol, un trono vicino al sol

He little knows that Aïda is of royal birth or that Amneris herself, the Princess Royal, is in love with him and, having noted the glances he has cast upon Aïda, is fiercely jealous of her—a jealousy that forms the mainspring of the story and leads to its tragic dénouement.

A premonition of the emotional forces at work in the plot is given in the "Vieni, O diletta" (Come dearest friend), beginning as a duet between Amneris and Aïda and later becoming a trio for them and Rhadames. In this the Princess feigns friendship for Aïda, but, in asides, discloses her jealous hatred of her.

Meanwhile the Egyptian hosts have gathered before the temple. There the King announces that the priests of Isis have learned from the lips of that goddess the name of the warrior who is to lead the army—Rhadames! It is the Princess herself who, at this great moment in his career, places the royal standard in his hands. But amid the acclaims that follow, as Rhadames, to the strains of march and chorus, is conducted by the priests to the temple of Phtah to be invested with the consecrated armour, Amneris notes the fiery look he casts upon Aïda. Is this the reason Rhadames,-444- young, handsome, brave, has failed to respond to her own guarded advances? Is she, a princess, to find a successful rival in her own slave?

Meanwhile Aïda herself is torn by conflicting emotions. She loves Rhadames. When the multitude shouts "Return victorious!" she joins in the acclamation. Yet it is against her own people he is going to give battle, and the Ethiopians are led by their king, Amonasro, her father. For she, too, is a princess, as proud a princess in her own land as Amneris, and it is because she is a captive and a slave that her father has so swiftly rallied his army and invaded Egypt in a desperate effort to rescue her, facts which for obvious reasons she carefully has concealed from her captors.

It is easy to imagine Aïda's agonized feelings since Rhadames has been chosen head of the Egyptian army. If she prays to her gods for the triumph of the Ethiopian arms, she is betraying her lover. If she asks the gods of victory to smile upon Rhadames, she is a traitress to her father, who has taken up arms to free her, and to her own people. Small wonder if she exclaims, as she contemplates her own wretched state:

"Never on earth was heart torn by more cruel agonies. The sacred names of father, lover, I can neither utter nor remember. For the one—for the other—I would weep, I would pray!"

This scene for Aïda, beginning "Ritorna vincitor" (Return victorious), in which she echoes the acclamation of the martial chorus immediately preceding, is one of the very fine passages of the score. The lines to which it is set also have been highly praised. They furnished the composer with opportunity, of which he made full use, to express conflicting emotions in music of dramatic force and, in its concluding passage, "Numi pietà" (Pity, kind heaven), of great beauty.




Numi pietà
Del mio soffrir!
Speme non v'ha pel mio dolor.

Scene 2. Ramphis, the high priest, at the foot of the altar; priests and priestesses; and afterwards Rhadames are shown in the Temple of Vulcan at Memphis. A mysterious light descends from above. A long row of columns, one behind the other, is lost in the darkness; statues of various deities are visible; in the middle of the scene, above a platform rises the altar, surmounted by sacred emblems. From golden tripods comes the smoke of incense.

A chant of the priestesses, accompanied by harps, is heard from the interior. Rhadames enters unarmed. While he approaches the altar, the priestesses execute a sacred dance. On the head of Rhadames is placed a silver veil. He is invested with consecrated armor, while the priests and priestesses resume the religious chant and dance.

The entire scene is saturated with local colour. Piquant, exotic, it is as Egyptian to the ear as to the eye. You see the temple, you hear the music of its devotees, and that music sounds as distinctively Egyptian as if Mariette Bey had unearthed two examples of ancient Egyptian temple music and placed them at the composer's disposal. It is more likely, however, that the themes are original with Verdi and that the Oriental tone colour, which makes the music of the scene so fascinating, is due to his employment of certain intervals peculiar to the music of Eastern people. The interval, which, falling upon Western ears, gives an Oriental clang to the scale, consists of three semi-tones. In the very Eastern sounding themes in the temple scenes in "Aïda," these intervals are G to F-flat, and D to C-flat.


The sacred chant,



twice employs the interval between D and C-flat, the first time descending, the second time ascending, in which latter it sounds more characteristic to us, because we regard the scale as having an upward tendency, whereas in Oriental systems the scale seems to have been regarded as tending downward.

In the sacred dance,



the interval is from G to F-flat. The intervals, where employed in the two music examples just cited, are bracketed. The interval of three semi-tones—the characteristic of the Oriental scale—could not be more clearly shown than it is under the second bracket of the sacred dance.

Act II. Scene 1. In this scene, which takes place in a hall in the apartments of Amneris, the Princess adopts strategy to discover if Aïda returns the passion which she suspects in Rhadames. Messengers have arrived from the front with news that Rhadames has put the Ethiopians to utter rout and is returning with many trophies and captives. Naturally Aïda is distraught. Is her lover safe? Was her father slain? It is while Aïda's mind and heart are agitated by these questions that Amneris chooses the moment to test her feelings and wrest from her the secret she longs yet dreads to fathom. The Princess is reclining on a couch-447- in her apartment in the palace at Thebes, whither the court has repaired to welcome the triumphant Egyptian army. Slaves are adorning her for the festival or agitating the air with large feather fans. Moorish slave boys dance for her delectation and her attendants sing:

While on thy tresses rain
Laurels and flowers interwoven,
Let songs of glory mingle
With strains of tender love.

In the midst of these festive preparations Aïda enters, and Amneris, craftily feigning sympathy for her lest she be grieving over the defeat of her people and the possible loss in battle of someone dear to her, affects to console her by telling her that Rhadames, the leader of the Egyptians, has been slain.

It is not necessary for the Princess to watch the girl intently in order to note the effect upon her of the sudden and cruelly contrived announcement. Almost as suddenly, having feasted her eyes on the slave girl's grief, the Princess exclaims: "I have deceived you; Rhadames lives!"

"He lives!" Tears of gratitude instead of despair now moisten Aïda's eyes as she raises them to Heaven.

"You love him; you cannot deny it!" cries Amneris, forgetting in her furious jealousy her dignity as a Princess. "But know, you have a rival. Yes—in me. You, my slave, have a rival in your mistress, a daughter of the Pharaohs!"

Having fathomed her slave's secret, she vents the refined cruelty of her jealous nature upon the unfortunate girl by commanding her to be present at the approaching triumphant entry of Rhadames and the Egyptian army:

"Come, follow me, and you shall learn if you can contend with me—you, prostrate in the dust, I on the throne beside the king!"


What has just been described is formulated by Verdi in a duet for Amneris and Aïda, "Amore! gaudio tormento" (Oh, love! Oh, joy and sorrow!), which expresses the craftiness and subtlety of the Egyptian Princess, the conflicting emotions of Aïda, and the dramatic stress of the whole episode.

This phrase especially seems to express the combined haughtiness and jealousy in the attitude of Amneris toward Aïda:



Scene 2. Brilliant indeed is the spectacle to which Aïda is compelled to proceed with the Princess. It is near a group of palms at the entrance to the city of Thebes that the King has elected to give Rhadames his triumph. Here stands the temple of Ammon. Beyond it a triumphal gate has been erected. When the King enters to the cheers of the multitude and followed by his gaudily clad court, he takes his seat on the throne surmounted by a purple canopy. To his left sits Amneris, singling out for her disdainful glances the most unhappy of her slaves.

A blast of trumpets, and the victorious army begins its defile past the throne. After the foot soldiers come the chariots of war; then the bearers of the sacred vases and statues of the gods, and a troupe of dancing girls carrying the loot of victory. A great flourish of trumpets, an outburst of acclaim, and Rhadames, proudly standing under a canopy borne high on the shoulders of twelve of his officers, is carried through the triumphal gate and into the presence of his King. As the young hero descends from the canopy, the monarch, too, comes down from the throne and embracing him exclaims:

"Savior of your country, I salute you. My daughter with her own hand shall place the crown of laurels upon-449- your brow." And when Amneris, suiting her action to her father's words, crowns Rhadames, the King continues: "Now ask of me whatever you most desire. I swear by my crown and by the sacred gods that nothing shall be denied to you this day!"


Copyright photo by Dupont

Louise Homer as Amneris in “Aïda”


Copyright photo by Mishkin

Rosina Galli in the Ballet of “Aïda”

But although no wish is nearer the heart of Rhadames than to obtain freedom for Aïda, he does not consider the moment as yet opportune. Therefore he requests that first the prisoners of war be brought before the King. When they enter, one of them, by his proud mien and spirited carriage, easily stands forth from the rest. Hardly has Aïda set eyes upon him than she utters the startled exclamation, "My father!"

It is indeed none other than Amonasro, the Ethiopian king, who, his identity unknown to the Egyptians, has been made captive by them. Swiftly gliding over to where Aïda stands, he whispers to her not to betray his rank to his captors. Then, turning to the Egyptian monarch, he craftily describes how he has seen the king of Ethiopia dead at his feet from many wounds, and concludes by entreating clemency for the conquered. Not only do the other captives and Aïda join in his prayer, but the people, moved by his words and by his noble aspect, beg their king to spare the prisoners. The priests, however, protest. The gods have delivered these enemies into the hands of Egypt; let them be put to death lest, emboldened by a pardon so easily obtained, they should rush to arms again.

Meanwhile Rhadames has had eyes only for Aïda, while Amneris notes with rising jealousy the glances he turns upon her hated slave. At last Rhadames, carried away by his feelings, himself joins in the appeal for clemency. "Oh, King," he exclaims, "by the sacred gods and by the splendour of your crown, you swore to grant my wish this day! Let it be life and liberty for the Ethiopian prisoners." But the high priest urges that even if freedom is granted-450- to the others, Aïda and her father be detained as hostages and this is agreed upon. Then the King, as a crowning act of glory for Rhadames, leads Amneris forth, and addressing the young warrior, says:

"Rhadames, the country owes everything to you. Your reward shall be the hand of Amneris. With her one day you shall reign over Egypt."

A great shout goes up from the multitude. Unexpectedly Amneris sees herself triumphant over her rival, the dream of her heart fulfilled, and Aïda bereft of hope, since for Rhadames to refuse the hand of his king's daughter would mean treason and death. And so while all seemingly are rejoicing, two hearts are sad and bewildered. For Aïda, the man she adores appears lost to her forever and all that is left to her, the tears of hopeless love; while to Rhadames the heart of Aïda is worth more than the throne of Egypt, and its gift, with the hand of Amneris, is like the unjust vengeance of the gods descending upon his head.

This is the finale of the second act. It has been well said that not only is it the greatest effort of the composer, but also one of the grandest conceptions of modern musical and specifically operatic art. The importance of the staging, the magnificence of the spectacle, the diversity of characterization, and the strength of action of the drama all conspire to keep at an unusually high level the inspiration of the composer. The triumphal chorus, "Gloria all'Egitto" (Glory to Egypt), is sonorous and can be rendered with splendid effect.

It is preceded by a march.




Then comes the chorus of triumph.



Voices of women join in the acclaim.



The trumpets of the Egyptian troops execute a most brilliant modulation from A-flat to B-natural.

The reference here is to the long, straight trumpets with three valves (only one of which, however, is used). These trumpets, in groups of three, precede the divisions of the Egyptian troops. The trumpets of the first group are tuned in A-flat.


[Listen (MP3)]

When the second group enters and intones the same stirring march theme in B-natural, the enharmonic modulation to a tone higher gives an immediate and vastly effective "lift" to the music and the scene.


[Listen (MP3)]

The entrance of Rhadames, borne on high under a canopy by twelve officers, is a dramatic climax to the spectacle. But a more emotional one is to follow.


The recognition of King Amonasro by his daughter; the supplication of the captives; the plea of Rhadames and the people in their favour; the vehement protests of the priests who, in the name of the gods of Egypt, demand their death; the diverse passions which agitate Rhadames, Aïda, and Amneris; the hope of vengeance that Amonasro cherishes—all these conflicting feelings are musically expressed with complete success. The structure is reared upon Amonasro's plea to the King for mercy for the Ethiopian captives, "Ma tu, re, tu signore possente" (But thou, O king, thou puissant lord).



When the singer who takes the rôle of Amonasro also is a good actor, he will know how to convey, between the lines of this supplication, his secret thoughts and unavowed hope for the reconquest of his freedom and his country. After the Egyptian King has bestowed upon Rhadames the hand of Amneris, the chorus, "Gloria all'Egitto," is heard again, and, above its sonorous measures, Aïda's cry:

What hope now remains to me?
To him, glory and the throne;
To me, oblivion—the tears
Of hopeless love.

It is largely due to Verdi's management of the score to this elaborate scene that "Aïda" not only has superseded all spectacular operas that came before it, but has held its own against and survived practically all those that have come since. The others were merely spectacular. In "Aïda" the surface radiates and glows because beneath it seethe the fires of conflicting human passion. In other operas spectacle is merely spectacle. In "Aïda" it clothes in brilliant habiliments the forces of impending and on-rushing tragedy.


Act III. That tragedy further advances toward its consummation in the present act.

It is a beautiful moonlight night on the banks of the Nile—moonlight whose silvery rays are no more exquisite than the music that seems steeped in them.



Half concealed in the foliage is the temple of Isis, from which issues the sound of women's voices, softly chanting. A boat approaches the shore and out of it steps Amneris and the high priest, with a train of closely veiled women and several guards. The Princess is about to enter upon a vigil in the temple to implore the favour of the goddess before her nuptials with Rhadames.

For a while after they have entered the temple, the shore seems deserted. But from the shadow of a grove of palms Aïda cautiously emerges into the moonlight. In song she breathes forth memories of her native land: Oh, patria mia!—O cieli azzurri! (Oh, native land!—Oh, skies of tender blue!).



O cieli azzurri, o dolci aure native,

The phrase, O patria mia! mai più ti rivedrò (Oh, native land! I ne'er shall see thee more)—a little further on—recalls the famous "Non ti scordar" from the "Miserere" in "Trovatore." Here Rhadames has bid Aïda meet him. Is it for a last farewell? If so, the Nile shall be her grave. She hears a swift footfall, and turning, in expectation of seeing Rhadames, beholds her father. He has fathomed her secret and divined that she is here to meet Rhadames—the betrothed of Amneris! Cunningly Amonasro works upon her feelings. Would she triumph over her rival? The-454- Ethiopians again are in arms. Again Rhadames is to lead the Egyptians against them. Let her draw from him the path which he intends to take with his army and that path shall be converted into a fatal ambuscade.

At first the thought is abhorrent to Aïda; but her father by craftily inciting her love of country and no less her jealousy and despair, at last is able to wrest consent from her; then draws back into the shadow as he hears Rhadames approaching.

This duet of Aïda and Amonasro is and will remain one of the beautiful dramatic efforts of the Italian repertory. The situation is one of those in which Verdi delights; he is in his element.

It is difficult to bring Aïda to make the designs of her father agree with her love for the young Egyptian chief. But the subtlety of the score, its warmth, its varied and ably managed expression, almost make plausible the submission of the young girl to the adjurations of Amonasro, and excusable a decision of which she does not foresee the consequences. To restore the crown to her father, to view again her own country, to escape an ignominious servitude, to prevent her lover becoming the husband of Amneris, her rival,—such are the thoughts which assail her during this duet, and they are quite capable of disturbing for a moment her better reason. Amonasro sings these phrases, so charming in the Italian:

Rivedrai le foreste imbalsamate,
Le fresche valli, i nostri templi d'or!
Sposa felice a lui che amasti tanto,
Tripudii immensi ivi potrai gioir!...

(Thou shalt see again the balmy forests,
The green valleys, and our golden temples.
Happy bride of him thou lovest so much,
Great rejoicing thenceforth shall be thine.)


As she still is reluctant to lure from her lover the secret of the route by which, in the newly planned invasion of her country, the Egyptians expect to enter Ethiopia, Amonasro changes his tactics and conjures up for her in music a vision of the carnage among her people, and finally invokes her mother's ghost, until, in pianissimo, dramatically contrasting with the force of her father's savage imprecation, she whispers, O patria! quanto mi costi! (Oh, native land! how much thou demandest of me!).

Amonasro leaves. Aïda awaits her lover. When she somewhat coldly meets Rhadames's renewed declaration of love with the bitter protest that the rites of another love are awaiting him, he unfolds his plan to her. He will lead the Egyptians to victory and on returning with these fresh laurels, he will prostrate himself before the King, lay bare his heart to him, and ask for the hand of Aïda as a reward for his services to his country. But Aïda is well aware of the power of Amneris and that her vengeance would swiftly fall upon them both. She can see but one course to safety—that Rhadames join her in flight to her native land, where, amid forest groves and the scent of flowers, and all forgetful of the world, they will dream away their lives in love. This is the beginning of the dreamy yet impassioned love duet—"Fuggiam gli ardori inospiti" (Ah, fly with me). She implores him in passionate accents to escape with her. Enthralled by the rapture in her voice, thrilled by the vision of happiness she conjures up before him, he forgets for the moment country, duty, all else save love; and exclaiming, "Love shall be our guide!" turns to fly with her.

This duet, charged with exotic rapture, opens with recitativo phrases for Aïda. I have selected three passages for quotation: "Là tra foreste vergini" (There 'mid the virgin forest groves); "Di fiori profumate" (And 'mid the scent of-456- flowers); and "In estasi la terra scorderem" (In ecstasy the world forgotten).



Là tra foreste vergini,



In estasi beate la terra scorderem,



in estasi la terra scorderem,

But Aïda, feigning alarm, asks:

"By what road shall we avoid the Egyptian host?"

"The path by which our troops plan to fall upon the enemy will be deserted until tomorrow."

"And that path?"

"The pass of Napata."

A voice echoes his words, "The pass of Napata."

"Who hears us?" exclaims Rhadames.

"The father of Aïda and king of the Ethiopians," and Amonasro issues forth from his hiding place. He has uncovered the plan of the Egyptian invasion, but the delay has been fatal. For at the same moment there is a cry of "Traitor!" from the temple.

It is the voice of Amneris, who with the high priest has overheard all. Amonasro, baring a dagger, would throw himself upon his daughter's rival, but Rhadames places himself between them and bids the Ethiopian fly with Aïda. Amonasro, drawing his daughter away with him, disappears in the darkness; while Rhadames, with the words, "Priest, I remain with you," delivers himself a prisoner into his hands.

Act IV. Scene 1. In a hall of the Royal Palace Amneris-457- awaits the passage, under guard, of Rhadames to the dungeon where the priests are to sit in judgment upon him. There is a duet between Rhadames and this woman, who now bitterly repents the doom her jealousy is about to bring upon the man she loves. She implores him to exculpate himself. But Rhadames refuses. Not being able to possess Aïda he will die.

He is conducted to the dungeon, from where, as from the bowels of the earth, she hears the sombre voices of the priests.

Ramfis. (Nel sotterraneo.) Radames—Radames: tu rivelasti
Della patria i segreti allo straniero....

Sacer. Discolpati!

Ramfis. Egli tace.

Tutti. Traditor!

Ramphis. (In the subterranean hall.) Rhadames, Rhadames, thou didst reveal
The country's secrets to the foreigner....

Priests. Defend thyself!

Ramphis. He is silent.

All. Traitor!

The dramatically condemnatory "Traditor!" is a death knell for her lover in the ears of Amneris. And after each accusation, silence by Rhadames, and cry by the priests of "Traitor!" Amneris realizes only too well that his approaching doom is to be entombed alive! Her revulsions of feeling from hatred to love and despair find vent in highly dramatic musical phrases. In fact Amneris dominates this scene, which is one of the most powerful passages for mezzo-soprano in all opera.

Scene 2. This is the famous double scene. The stage setting is divided into two floors. The upper floor represents the interior of the Temple of Vulcan, resplendent with light and gold; the lower floor a subterranean hall and long rows of arcades which are lost in the darkness. A colossal-458- statue of Osiris, with the hands crossed, sustains the pilasters of the vault.

In the temple Amneris and the priestesses kneel in prayer. And Rhadames? Immured in the dungeon and, as he thought, to perish alone, a form slowly takes shape in the darkness, and his own name, uttered by the tender accents of a familiar voice, falls upon his ear. It is Aïda. Anticipating the death to which he will be sentenced, she has secretly made her way into the dungeon before his trial and there hidden herself to find reunion with him in death. And so, while in the temple above them the unhappy Amneris kneels and implores the gods to vouchsafe Heaven to him whose death she has compassed, Rhadames and Aïda, blissful in their mutual sacrifice, await the end.

From "Celeste Aïda," Rhadames's apostrophe to his beloved, with which the opera opens, to "O, terra, addio; addio, valle di pianti!" (Oh, earth, farewell! Farewell, vale of tears!),



O terra addio; addio valle di pianti

which is the swan-song of Rhadames and Aïda, united in death in the stone-sealed vault,—such is the tragic fate of love, as set forth in this beautiful and eloquent score by Giuseppe Verdi.


Opera in four acts, by Verdi. Words by Arrigo Boïto, after Shakespeare. Produced, La Scala, Milan, February 5, 1887, with Tamagno (Otello), and Maurel (Iago). London, Lyceum Theatre, July 5, 1889. New York, Academy of Music, under management of Italo Campanini, April 16, 1888, with Marconi, Tetrazzini, Galassi, and Scalchi. (Later in the engagement Marconi was succeeded by Campanini.); Metropolitan Opera House, 1894, with Tamagno, Albani, Maurel; 1902, Alvarez, Eames, and Scotti; later with Slezak, Alda, and Scotti; Manhattan Opera House, with Zenatello, Melba, and Sammarco.



Othello, a Moor, general in the army of VeniceTenor
Iago, ancient to OthelloBaritone
Cassio, lieutenant to OthelloTenor
Roderigo, a VenetianTenor
Lodovico, Venetian ambassadorBass
Montano, Othello's predecessor in the government of CyprusBass
A HeraldBass
Desdemona, wife of OthelloSoprano
Emilia, wife of IagoMezzo-Soprano

Soldiers and sailors of the Republic of Venice; men, women, and children of Venice and of Cyprus; heralds; soldiers of Greece, Dalmatia, and Albania; innkeeper and servants.

Time—End of fifteenth century.

Place—A port of the island of Cyprus.

Three years after the success of "Aïda," Verdi produced at Milan his "Manzoni Requiem"; but nearly sixteen years were to elapse between "Aïda" and his next work for the lyric stage. "Aïda," with its far richer instrumentation than that of any earlier work by Verdi, yet is in form an opera. "Otello" more nearly approaches a music-drama, but still is far from being one. It is only when Verdi is compared with his earlier self that he appears Wagnerian. Compared with Wagner, he remains characteristically Italian—true to himself, in fact, as genius should be.

Nowhere, perhaps, is this matter summed up as happily as in Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians: "Undoubtedly influenced by his contemporaries Meyerbeer, Gounod, and Wagner in his treatment of the orchestra, Verdi's dramatic style nevertheless shows a natural and individual development, and has remained essentially Italian as an orchestral accompaniment of vocal melody; but his later instrumentation is far more careful in detail and luxuriant than that of the earlier Italian school, and his melody more passionate and poignant in expression."


"Otello" is a well-balanced score, composed to a libretto by a distinguished poet and musician—the composer of "Mefistofele." It has vocal melodies, which are rounded off and constitute separate "numbers" (to employ an expression commonly applied to operatic airs), and its recitatives are set to a well thought out instrumental accompaniment.

It is difficult to explain the comparative lack of success with the public of Verdi's last two scores for the lyric stage, "Otello" and "Falstaff." Musicians fully appreciate them. Indeed "Falstaff," which followed "Otello," is considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of opera. Yet it is rarely given, and even "Otello" has already reached the "revival" stage, while "Aïda," "Rigoletto," "La Traviata," and "Il Trovatore" are fixtures, although "Rigoletto" was composed thirty-six years before "Otello" and forty-two before "Falstaff." Can it be that critics (including myself) and professional musicians have been admiring the finished workmanship of Verdi's last two scores, while the public has discovered in them a halting inspiration, a too frequent substitution of miraculous skill for the old-time flair, and a lack of that careless but attractive occasional laissez faire aller of genius, which no technical perfection can replace? Time alone can answer.

When "Otello" opens, Desdemona has preceded her husband to Cyprus and is living in the castle overlooking the port. There are a few bars of introduction.


Photo by White

Alda as Desdemona in “Otello”

Act I. In the background a quay and the sea; a tavern with an arbour; it is evening.

Through a heavy storm Othello's ship is seen to be making port. Among the crowd of watchers, who exclaim upon the danger to the vessel, are Iago and Roderigo. Othello ascends the steps to the quay, is acclaimed by the crowd, and proceeds to the castle followed by Cassio, Montano, and-461- soldiers. The people start a wood fire and gather about it dancing and singing.

It transpires in talk between Iago and Roderigo that Iago hates Othello because he has advanced Cassio over him, and that Roderigo is in love with Desdemona.

The fire dies out, the storm has ceased. Cassio has returned from the castle. Now comes the scene in which Iago purposely makes him drunk, in order to cause his undoing. They, with others, are grouped around the table outside the tavern. Iago sings his drinking song, "Inaffia l'ugola! trinca tracanna" (Then let me quaff the noble wine, from the can I'll drink it).



Inaffia l'ugola! trinca, tracanna,

Under the influence of the liquor Cassio resents the taunts of Roderigo, instigated by Iago. Montano tries to quiet him. Cassio draws. There follows the fight in which Montano is wounded. The tumult, swelled by alarums and the ringing of bells, brings Othello with Desdemona to the scene. Cassio is dismissed from the Moor's service. Iago has scored his first triumph.

The people disperse. Quiet settles upon the scene. Othello and Desdemona are alone. The act closes with their love duet, which Desdemona begins with "Quando narravi" (When thou dids't speak).



Act II. A hall on the ground floor of the castle. Iago, planning to make Othello jealous of Desdemona, counsels-462- Cassio to induce the Moor's wife to plead for his reinstatement. Cassio goes into a large garden at the back. Iago sings his famous "Credo in un Dio che m'ha creato" (I believe in a God, who has created me in his image). This is justly regarded as a masterpiece of invective. It does not appear in Shakespeare, so that the lines are as original with Boïto as the music is with Verdi. Trumpets, employed in what may be termed a declamatory manner, are conspicuous in the accompaniment.

Iago, seeing Othello approach, leans against a column and looks fixedly in the direction of Desdemona and Cassio, exclaiming, as Othello enters, "I like not that!" As in the corresponding scene in the play, this leads up to the questioning of him by Othello and to Iago's crafty answers, which not only apply the match to, but also fan the flame of Othello's jealousy, as he watches his wife with Cassio.

Children, women, and Cypriot and Albanian sailors now are seen with Desdemona. They bring her flowers and other gifts. Accompanying themselves on the cornemuse, and small harps, they sing a mandolinata, "Dove guardi splendono" (Wheresoe'er thy glances fall). This is followed by a graceful chorus for the sailors, who bring shells and corals.

The scene and Desdemona's beauty deeply move the Moor. He cannot believe her other than innocent. But, unwittingly, she plays into Iago's hand. For her first words on joining Othello are a plea for Cassio. All the Moor's jealousy is re-aroused. When she would apply her handkerchief to his heated brow, he tears it from her hand, and throws it to the ground. Emilia picks it up, but Iago takes it from her. The scene is brought to a close by a quartet for Desdemona, Othello, Iago, and Emilia.

Othello and Iago are left together again. Othello voices the grief that shakes his whole being, in what Mr. Upton happily describes as "a pathetic but stirring melody." In-463- it he bids farewell, not only to love and trust, but to the glories of war and battle. The trumpet is effectively employed in the accompaniment to this outburst of grief, which begins, "Addio sante memorie" (Farewell, O sacred memories).



Addio sante memorie, addio sublimi incanti del pensier

To such a fury is the Moor aroused that he seizes Iago, hurls him to the ground, and threatens to kill him should his accusations against Desdemona prove false. There is a dramatic duet in which Iago pledges his aid to Othello in proving beyond doubt the falseness of Desdemona.

Act III. The great hall of the castle. At the back a terrace. After a brief scene in which the approach of a galley with the Venetian ambassadors is announced, Desdemona enters. Wholly unaware of the cause of Othello's strange actions toward her, she again begins to plead for Cassio's restoration to favour. Iago has pretended to Othello that Desdemona's handkerchief (of which he surreptitiously possessed himself) had been given by her to Cassio, and this has still further fanned the flame of the Moor's jealousy. The scene, for Othello, is one of mingled wrath and irony. Upon her knees Desdemona vows her constancy: "Esterrefatta fisso lo sguardo tuo tremendo" (Upon my knees before thee, beneath thy glance I tremble). I quote the phrase, "Io prego il cielo per te con questo pianto" (I pray my sighs rise to heaven with prayer).



Io prego il cielo per te con questo pianto


Othello pushes her out of the room. He soliloquizes: "Dio! mi potevi scagliar tutti i mali della miseria" (Heav'n had it pleased thee to try me with affliction).

Iago, entering, bids Othello conceal himself; then brings in Cassio, who mentions Desdemona to Iago, and also is led by Iago into light comments on other matters, all of which Othello, but half hearing them from his place of concealment, construes as referring to his wife. Iago also plays the trick with the handkerchief, which, having been conveyed by him to Cassio, he now induces the latter (within sight of Othello) to draw from his doublet. There is a trio for Othello (still in concealment), Iago, and Cassio.

The last-named having gone, and the Moor having asked for poison with which to kill Desdemona, Iago counsels that Othello strangle her in bed that night, while he goes forth and slays Cassio. For this counsel Othello makes Iago his lieutenant.

The Venetian ambassadors arrive. There follows the scene in which the recall of Othello to Venice and the appointment of Cassio as Governor of Cyprus are announced. This is the scene in which, also, the Moor strikes down Desdemona in the presence of the ambassadors, and she begs for mercy—"A terra—sì—nel livido fango" (Yea, prostrate here, I lie in the dust); and "Quel sol sereno e vivido che allieta il cielo e il mare" (The sun who from his cloudless sky illumes the heavens and sea).



Quel Sol sereno e vivido che allieta il cielo e il mare

After this there is a dramatic sextet.


All leave, save the Moor and his newly created lieutenant. Overcome by rage, Othello falls in a swoon. The people, believing that the Moor, upon his return to Venice, is to receive new honours from the republic, shout from outside, "Hail, Othello! Hail to the lion of Venice!"

"There lies the lion!" is Iago's comment of malignant triumph and contempt, as the curtain falls.

Act IV. The scene is Desdemona's bedchamber. There is an orchestral introduction of much beauty. Then, as in the play, with which I am supposing the reader to be at least fairly familiar, comes the brief dialogue between Desdemona and Emilia. Desdemona sings the pathetic little willow song, said to be a genuine Italian folk tune handed down through many centuries.



Piangea cantando nell'erma landa, piangea la mesta.... O Salce!

Emilia goes, and Desdemona at her prie-Dieu, before the image of the Virgin, intones an exquisite "Ave Maria," beginning and ending in pathetic monotone, with an appealing melody between.



Prega per chi adorando a te si prostra, Ave! Amen!

Othello's entrance is accompanied by a powerful passage on the double basses.

Then follows the scene of the strangling, through which-466- are heard mournfully reminiscent strains of the love duet that ended the first act. Emilia discloses Iago's perfidy. Othello kills himself.


Opera in three acts, by Verdi; words by Arrigo Boïto, after Shakespeare's "Merry Wives of Windsor" and "King Henry IV." Produced, La Scala, Milan, March 12, 1893. Paris, Opéra Comique, April 18, 1894. London, May 19, 1894. New York, Metropolitan Opera House, February 4, 1895. This was the first performance of "Falstaff" in North America. It had been heard in Buenos Aires, July 19, 1893. The Metropolitan cast included Maurel as Falstaff, Eames as Mistress Ford, Zélie de Lussan as Nannetta (Anne), Scalchi as Dame Quickly, Campanini as Ford, Russitano as Fenton. Scotti, Destinn, Alda, and Gay also have appeared at the Metropolitan in "Falstaff." The London production was at Covent Garden.


Sir John FalstaffBaritone
Fenton, a young gentlemanTenor
Ford, a wealthy burgherBaritone
Dr. CajusTenor
Bardolph}followers of Falstaff{Tenor
Robin, a page in Ford's household
Mistress FordSoprano
Anne, her daughterSoprano
Mistress PageMezzo-Soprano
Dame QuicklyMezzo-Soprano

Burghers and street-folk, Ford's servants, maskers, as elves, fairies, witches, etc.

Time—Reign of Henry IV.


Note. In the Shakespeare comedy Anne Ford is Anne Page.

Shakespeare's comedy, "The Merry Wives of Windsor," did not have its first lyric adaptation when the composer of "Rigoletto" and "Aïda," influenced probably by his distinguished librettist, penned the score of his last work for the stage. "Falstaff," by Salieri, was produced in Vienna-467- in 1798; another "Falstaff," by Balfe, came out in London in 1838. Otto Nicolai's opera "The Merry Wives of Windsor" is mentioned on p. 80 of this book. The character of Falstaff also appears in "Le Songe d'une Nuit d'Été" (The Midsummer Night's Dream) by Ambroise Thomas, Paris, 1850, "where the type is treated with an adept's hand, especially in the first act, which is a masterpiece of pure comedy in music." "Le Songe d'une Nuit d'Été" was, in fact, Thomas's first significant success. A one-act piece, "Falstaff," by Adolphe Adam, was produced at the Théâtre Lyrique in 1856.

The comedy of the "Merry Wives," however, was not the only Shakespeare play put under contribution by Boïto. At the head of the "Falstaff" score is this note: "The present comedy is taken from 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' and from several passages in 'Henry IV.' by Shakespeare."

Falstaff, it should be noted, is a historic figure; he was a brave soldier; served in France; was governor of Honfleur; took an important part in the battle of Agincourt, and was in all the engagements before the walls of Orleans, where the English finally were obliged to retreat before Joan of Arc. Sir John Falstaff died at the age of eighty-two years in county Norfolk, his native shire, after numerous valiant exploits, and having occupied his old age in caring for the interests of the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge, to the foundat