In three acts by CHARLES GOLDMARK.
Text by SIEGFRIED LIPINER.
This latest creation of the talented composer at once proved itself a
success, when produced for the first time in the Opera-House in Vienna.
Since then it has quickly passed to all the larger stages.
Merlin surpasses the Queen of Sheba in dramatic value and is equal to
it in glowing coloring and brilliant orchestration. Goldmark is quite
the reverse of Wagner. Though equally master of modern
instrumentation, he abounds in melodies. Airs, duets and
choruses meet us of surpassing beauty and sweetness. The text is
highly fantastic, but interesting and poetical.
King Artus is attacked by the Saxons and almost succumbs.--In his need
he sends Lancelot to Merlin, an enchanter and seer, but at the same
time the King's best friend and a Knight of his table.
Merlin, offspring of the Prince of Hell and of a pure virgin, has power
over the demons, whom however he only employs in the service of Heaven,
his good mother's spirit protecting him. Merlin calls up a demon, whom
he forces to blind the heathen Saxons, so that the Britons may be
victorious. The demon obeys unwillingly and after Merlin's departure
he calls up the fairy Morgana who knows all the secrets of the world.
Morgana tells the demon, that if Merlin loves an earthly woman, his
power will be gone and the demon resolves to tempt Merlin with the most
beautiful woman on earth. He vanishes and the Britons return
victorious, Merlin with prophetic insight recognizing the knight, who
had betrayed his people to the Saxons. While he sings a passionate
chant in honor of his King and his country, Vivien, a Duke's daughter,
appears and they are at once attracted to each other. But Merlin
vanquishes his love and refuses to accept the crown of oak-leaves,
which his King offers him by the hand of Vivien. Then Artus takes his
own crown and puts it on Merlin's curls.
The second act begins with a conspiracy headed by Modred, Artus'
nephew, against his uncle. Lancelot openly accuses him of treason, and
the King sends to Merlin, for judgment. But alas, Merlin's love has
already blinded his understanding; he fails to detect the culpable
Modred, and declares that he is not able to find fault in him. King
Artus and his knights depart to seek new laurels, leaving the country
in Modred's hands. Merlin stays in his sanctum, to where the demon now
leads Vivien who has lost her way. The doors of the temple open by
themselves at Vivien's request, and she finds a rosy, glittering veil,
which, thrown into the air, causes various charming apparitions to
present themselves.--When Merlin comes, the whole charm vanishes into
air. Vivien tells him of her delightful adventure, but Merlin,
frightened, informs her that who ever is touched by the veil, will be
in the power of demons, chained to a rock for ever. Love conquers, and
the short hour succeeding is for both filled with earth's greatest
bliss. The news of Modred's treachery to King Artus awakes Merlin from
his dream. He tears himself from his love, vowing to shun her for ever
and to return to the well of grace. But Vivien, finding all her
prayers vain, throws the fatal veil over him to hinder his flight. The
dreadful effect becomes instantly apparent; the rose-garden disappears,
mighty rocks enclose the vale on all sides, and Merlin is held down by
While Vivien is consumed by self-reproach and pain, the fairy
Morgana appears, telling her that love, which is stronger than death,
can bring Merlin eternal grace. Vivien is led away by her maid, and
Lancelot enters with the knights to seek Merlin's help against the
Seeing Merlin in this pitiful state, he sadly turns from him, but
Merlin in despair promises his soul to the demon, if he but assist to
deliver his King and his country. The demon breaks the chains and
Merlin rushes with the knights into battle. During his absence Vivien
prepares herself to receive her hero, but though she sees him return
victorious he is wounded to death. The demon comes up to claim his
victim, but Vivien, remembering Morgana's words, sacrifices herself
piercing her heart at Merlin's feet. The demon disappears cursing
heaven and earth, while Artus and his knights, though they sadly mourn
for their hero, yet praise the victory of true love.
Next: The Merry Wives Of Windsor