Henry The Lion
In four acts by EDMUND KRETSCHMER.
This opera has not had the same success as "The Folkungs", which may be
attributed in part to the subject, which is less attractive.
Nevertheless it has great merit, and has found its way to the larger
stages of Germany. The libretto is written by Kretschmer himself. The
background is in this instance also historical.
The scene which takes us back to the middle of the 12th century is
laid, in the first act, in Rome, in the second and fourth in Henry the
Lion's castle and in the third act on the coast of Ancona.
In the first act Henry's praise is sung; he has gained the victory for
his Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, over the Italians. Frederick
enters, thanking the Duke heartily for his fidelity and fortitude. A
stranger, named Astoc, comes, prophesying an unhappy end to the
Emperor, if he continues to seek his laurels in strange lands. To the
anger of everybody Henry seconds him, entreating his Master to
return into his own country, where his presence is necessary. The
Emperor rebukes him sternly, Henry grows hot, and is finally by order
of Frederick fettered and led away.
The second act shows the park in Henry's castle. His lovely wife
Clementina, whose veil he wears on his helmet as a talisman, receives
the country-people, who come to congratulate her on the first
anniversary of her wedding-day. Irmgard, sister-in-law of Duke Henry,
sees with envy how much Clementina is loved by everyone; she had
herself hoped to become Duchess of Saxony, and from the time when Henry
brought home his lovely bride, Irmgard has hated her. Conrad von
Wettin, Henry's friend, appears in pilgrim's garb, to announce to the
lonely wife the sad news of her husband's captivity and she at once
resolves to travel to Ancona in order to entreat the Emperor's pardon.
Irmgard, thinking she sees in the disguised pilgrim, whose gait she
recognizes to be that of a knight, a lover of Clementina's, believes
that already the day of revenge is dawning.
In the third act the Emperor mourns the loss of his bravest hero, who
firmly refuses to retract his rash words. A German song is heard, and
Conrad von Wettin presents a young minstrel to the homesick Prince.
The former begs for the favor of celebrating the coming festival in a
German song. This is permitted and the festival begins. The
Anconites, whom Frederick delivered from their captivity, appear, to
thank him, then Henry the Lion is conducted to his presence and ordered
to ask his forgiveness. But Henry repeats that he did nothing wrong in
telling the truth. The Emperor decides to give him an hour for
reflection, after which if Henry does not bend his will, he shall be
When this hard sentence is heard, Clementina in minstrel's guise sings
her song of the German's fidelity to his Prince and his country, and of
his wife's faithfulness, and her highest glory.
The song so touches the Emperor, that he bids her ask a favor. She
takes Henry the Lion's sword and buckler, which are lying near, and
handing them to the captive, entreats the Emperor to give him his
liberty and to pardon him. Her request is granted by Frederick; and
Henry, shamed by his Prince's magnanimity, bends his knee, swearing
eternal fidelity to him. From Henry the young minstrel only asks a
piece of the veil fastened round his helmet, in memory of his
The last act carries us back to Henry's castle, where the wife receives
her husband full of joy. Clementina asks for the missing piece of
veil, and Henry tells her how he gave it away. In the midst of this
intercourse horns sound and the Emperor appears with his whole suite.
He comes to recompense his hero, who has again won for him honor and
glory, with the duchy of Bavaria. Henry presents his consort, as the
best and most faithful of wives, when Irmgard steps forth,
accusing her sister-in law of faithlessness, and relating that she left
the castle with a young knight in pilgrim's attire, and only returned
when the news spread, that the Duke would come home victorious.
Clementina is too proud, to defend herself and forbids even Conrad von
Wettin to speak.
Everybody is convinced of her innocence, but her husband, always rash
and violent, turns from her, when she refuses to say nay, and banishing
her from his castle, casts his glove before Conrad von Wettin.
Clementina silently goes away, but soon reappears in her minstrel's
garb; with the piece of veil in her hand she sings the song, which they
heard in Ancona. Now she is at once recognized and the opera ends with
a paean of praise to the faithfulness of German wives.
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