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A King Against His Will
A Night's Rest At Granada
Abu Hassan
Aida
Alessandro Stradella
Armida
Ballo In Maschera
Bearskin
Benvenuto Cellini
By Order Of His Highness
Carmen
Cavalleria Rusticana
Cosi Fan Tutte
Delila
Der Freischuetz
Djamileh
Don Carlos
Don Juan
Don Pasquale
Donna Diana
Elektra
Ernani
Eugene Onegin
Euryanthe
Falstaff
Fidelio
Flauto Solo
Fra Diavolo
Frauenlob
Friend Fritz
Genoveva
Guglielmo Tell
Gustavus The Third
Hamlet
Hans Heiling
Hansel And Gretel
Henry The Lion
Herrat
Hoffmann's Tales
Idle Hans
Idomeneus
Il Barbiere Di Seviglia
Il Demonio
Il Seraglio
Il Trovatore
Ingrid
Iphigenia In Aulis
Iphigenia In Tauris
Jean De Paris
Jessonda
Joseph In Egypt
Junker Heinz Sir Harry
Kirke Circe
L'africaine
La Boheme
La Dame Blanche
La Figlia Del Reggimento
La Juive The Jewess
La Muette De Portici
La Somnambula
La Traviata
Le Domino Noir
Le Nozze Di Figaro
Le Prophete
Les Huguenots
Little Bare Foot
Lohengrin
Lorle
Love's Battle
Lucia Di Lammermoor
Lucrezia Borgia
Madame Butterfly
Manon
Manru
Marga
Marguerite
Martha
Melusine
Merlin
Mignon
Moloch
Nausikaa
Norma
Oberon
Odysseus' Death
Odysseus' Return
Orfeo E Eurydice
Othello
Pagliacci
Philemon And Baucis
Preciosa
Rienzi The Last Of The Tribunes
Rigoletto
Robert Le Diable
Romeo E Giulietta
Salome
Sealed
Siegfried
Silvana
Tannhaeuser
The Alpine King And The Misanthrope
The Apothecary
The Armorer
The Barber Of Bagdad
The Beauties Of Fogaras
The Bell Of The Hermit
The Cid
The Cricket On The Hearth
The Departure
The Devil's Part
The Dusk Of The Gods
The Evangelimann
The Fledermaus The Bat
The Flying Dutchman
The Folkungs
The Golden Cross
The King Has Said It
The Lowlands
The Maccabees
The Magic Flute
The Maidens Of Schilda
The Master-singers Of Nueremberg
The Master-thief
The Merry Wives Of Windsor
The Nibelungen Ring
The Nuremberg Doll
The Piper Of Hameln
The Plague Of Darkness
The Poacher
The Postilion Of Longjumeau
The Queen Of Sheba
The Sold Bride
The Taming Of The Shrew
The Templar And The Jewess
The Three Pintos
The Trumpeter Of Saekkingen
The Two Grenadiers
The Two Peters
The Vampire
The Walkyrie
Tosca
Tristan And Isolda
Undine
Urvasi
Wedding's Morning
Werther
Will O' The Wisp
Zampa


The Standard Operaglass

A King Against His Will
A Night's Rest At Granada
Abu Hassan
Aida
Alessandro Stradella
Armida
Ballo In Maschera
By Order Of His Highness
Cosi Fan Tutte
Der Freischuetz
Djamileh
Don Pasquale
Donna Diana
Elektra
Ernani
Eugene Onegin
Euryanthe
Falstaff
Fra Diavolo
Friend Fritz
Guglielmo Tell
Gustavus The Third
Hamlet
Hans Heiling
Hansel And Gretel
Herrat
Hoffmann's Tales
Il Barbiere Di Seviglia
Il Demonio
Iphigenia In Aulis
Jean De Paris
Kirke Circe
La Dame Blanche
La Figlia Del Reggimento
La Juive The Jewess
La Muette De Portici
Le Domino Noir
Le Nozze Di Figaro
Les Huguenots
Lohengrin
Lucia Di Lammermoor
Lucrezia Borgia
Martha
Melusine
Moloch
Norma
Oberon
Odysseus' Return
Pagliacci
Preciosa
Rienzi The Last Of The Tribunes
Romeo E Giulietta
Sealed
Siegfried
Silvana
Tannhaeuser
The Apothecary
The Armorer
The Barber Of Bagdad
The Beauties Of Fogaras
The Bell Of The Hermit
The Cid
The Departure
The Devil's Part
The Evangelimann
The Fledermaus The Bat
The Flying Dutchman
The Folkungs
The King Has Said It
The Lowlands
The Maidens Of Schilda
The Merry Wives Of Windsor
The Nibelungen Ring
The Nuremberg Doll
The Plague Of Darkness
The Poacher
The Postilion Of Longjumeau
The Queen Of Sheba
The Sold Bride
The Taming Of The Shrew
The Three Pintos
The Two Grenadiers
The Two Peters
The Vampire
Tosca
Tristan And Isolda
Undine
Werther



Bearskin








(DER BAeRENHAeUTER).

In three acts by SIEGFRIED WAGNER.


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

The third act takes place three years later.

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

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

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

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

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





Next: The Cid

Previous: Odysseus' Return



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