Second Part of the Tetralogy: The Odyssey.
Musical Tragedy in three acts and a Prologue by AUGUST BUNGERT.
The first representation of Nausikaa took place in Dresden on March
20th 1901.--The reception was much warmer than that given to Kirke.
Naturally the charming episode of the Phaeakean Princess is far better
adapted to the composer's lyric genuis.
Though the whole music is polyphoneous the easy flow of its melodies is
hardly ever interrupted except in the highly dramatic moments.
There are real pearls of lyric melody in this tragedy, which, totally
different from Kirke's selfish passion glorifies Nausikaa's pure love
for Odysseus, her death of sacrifice and the hero's resignation;--it
might be called a hymn of renunciation.
The sirens' songs in the Prologue are most enticing, the choruses of
Nausikaa's companions treading their dances are lovely; also Odysseus'
"home motive" which expresses his longing for hearth and home, is
very expressive, but Nausikaa's "love motives" surpass all the other
parts in sweetness.
The contents of the libretto are as follows:
Across the calm blue sea in the distance a ship passes. In it can be
seen the figures of Odysseus and his companions. They can be heard
lamenting their long absence from home and praying the gods to send
them favourable winds and a speedy return to their native land.
In the foreground is the rocky coast of an island. Partly hidden by
the high cliffs, sirens may presently be seen looking out for their
prey. Brilliant, many coloured lights cast a lurid glare over their
hideous den that is full of dead men's bones, out of which roses,
poppies and other flowers have sprung into bloom. The sirens try to
attract Odysseus and his companions by singing sweetly, and playing
enticing music on weird instruments made out of the bones of their
Odysseus, however, is on his guard. He causes his men to stop their
ears with wax, and to bind him fast to the mast of his ship. The
attempt to lure them is unsuccessful. Though Persephoneia herself
rises from the depths to aid the sirens, Odysseus' ship sails safely
past and the sirens and their rocks sink into the sea.
But the hostile god Poseidon pursues Odysseus in rage. Seated in his
cart drawn by sea-horses he strikes the ship with his trident,
and it goes down in the now stormy sea.
Zeus and the friendly gods now interpose. Poseidon is forced to
withdraw, and, though his companions perish and the ship is wrecked,
the nymph Leukothea brings a magic veil which ensures the hero's safety
and he swims to the shore.
Odysseus has landed in the country of the Pheacians. In the first part
of this act he is lying asleep hidden among the shrubs and trees in the
Nausikaa, the King's daughter has come at the bidding of Athene with
her companions to wash the linen and garments of her family. While the
clothes are drying in the sun the maidens dance and play at ball.
Their voices and laughter awake Odysseus who rises and shows himself
through the foliage. Seeing a nearly naked man the girls run away
screaming; only Nausikaa stands still and asks the stranger fearlessly
who he is. Odysseus tells her his piteous story and his cruel fate.
Nausikaa calls to her maidens to bring raiment for the hero whose name
however she has not yet heard. A sudden and tender love fills her
heart for the outcast wanderer. Odysseus too feels drawn towards the
noble maiden, for a moment he forgets his wife and child at home.
Nausikaa invites him to follow her to her father's court and promises
him a kindly reception there.
As the procession is starting, the sound of horns is heard and King
Alkinous and his followers come up. Among them are his son Leodamus,
and Prince Euryalos, a would-be suitor of Nausikaa. The King welcomes
the stranger kindly and invites him to come and stay in his palace.
Euryalos, however, regards Odysseus with suspicion and hostility; he
sees in him at once a favoured rival. With songs of welcome Odysseus
is greeted by the men and maidens and by the King's side he moves
towards the palace.
This scene takes place in front of the palace of King Alkinous. The
gardens and terraces extend downwards to the shore of the sea that
forms the background. It is evening. Youths and maidens are busy
decking pillars and statues with garlands of flowers and making wreaths
to crown the victors in the next day's games.
Odysseus comes out of the palace; he cannot sleep; he thinks of his
home, his father, his wife and child. He sees a temple to Athene on
the right and resolves to spend the night there praying to the gods to
restore him to his home. He passes across the stage and goes into the
Nausikaa now comes out of the palace with some of her companions. She
presently dismisses them and remains alone in the moonlight. She prays
to Aphrodite to deliver her from the importunate wooing of
Euryalos and to grant her the love of the stranger.
The vision of Aphrodite appears; with a threatening gesture she seems
to refuse Nausikaa's request. While Nausikaa sinks fainting on the
steps of the terrace the voice of Euryalos is heard in the background
singing a love song, and soon after he comes forward and stormily
declares his love to Nausikaa who rushes away from him with a cry into
the temple of Athene. As the bold youth is about to follow Odysseus
appears at the door of the temple and forces Euryalos to retire. The
baffled suitor rushes upon Odysseus with his drawn sword in blind rage;
but Odysseus instantly disarms him, breaks the sword, and Euryalos
vowing vengeance goes into the palace.
Though deeply moved by Nausikaa's passionate gratitude and affection
for her protector, Odysseus remains faithful to the memory of his wife
and child and prays the gods to help him to be strong.
In a great court in front of the gymnasium where games and wrestling
matches are going on a procession of priests and young boys enter
singing; they offer prayers and burn incense before the altars of the
gods, particularly before that of Poseidon the special patron of the
Phaeakens. Girls and matrons follow in a like procession and deck the
statue and altar of Athene with flowers. The shouts of the people in
the gymnasium greeting the victors in the games are heard at intervals.
Among the maidens is Nausikaa. Her brother Leodamus enters soon
afterwards in great excitement and begs his sister to come and witness
the feats of Euryalos who is victor in all the games. But she coldly
asks if the stranger has entered into competition with him, and hearing
he has not done so she refuses to go into the gymnasium.
Queen Arete enters and Nausikaa throws herself into her mother's arms.
Arete guesses the truth that her daughter loves the stranger; she
tenderly warns Nausikaa that life is full of disappointments--of
The King now enters from the gymnasium; beside him walks Odysseus who
had at last been persuaded to wrestle with Euryalos and had entirely
vanquished him. The people hail Odysseus as victor. Nausikaa hastens
to him and crowns him with the victor's wreath; she shows her
preference for him in such a marked manner that Euryalos is beside
himself with rage and draws his sword upon Odysseus who in selfdefence
wounds Euryalos severely.
Odysseus then turns to the King and implores him to give him a ship
that he may go back to his own country and family. These words fall
like a knell upon the heart of Nausikaa; she is led out fainting by her
The aged poet Homer now enters. All hail him with joy; the King bids
him sing them a song about Troy. The blind poet sings the tragic
story--the people join in the chorus. Odysseus listens; at last
he can keep quiet no longer. Springing up he goes on with the story
giving his own share in it with such vividness that Nausikaa, who has
stolen back again, rushes forward and cries: "Thou art Odysseus
himself!" He acknowledges with tears that he is that unhappy man. The
people greet him with joy and wonder; the King embraces him warmly.
Odysseus relates his sorrows, his wanderings; he speaks of his wife and
child; he implores the King to give him a ship that he may return home.
The King readily promises his help, he gives orders that a ship shall
immediately be prepared and filled with costly gifts.
But the priests see in Odysseus the enemy of their god Poseidon; they
press the King to slay Odysseus--but the King sternly refuses to do so
and orders the High Priest to be bound till Odysseus is safely gone.
Nausikaa's hopes are dashed to the ground; heartbroken she murmurs to
herself her mother's words: "Each human life is a sacrifice, a death
for the dearest in the world." She slowly goes away and is seen later
standing on a high wall of Athene's temple overlooking the sea.
In the meantime all is ready, the King, Queen and Laodamus accompany
Odysseus to the ship and take leave of him; he goes on board and the
ship moves off. At this moment the sky is overcast and Poseidon
appears in his car and threatens Odysseus with his trident.
Nausikaa calls to Poseidon to take her for a victim and with a
cry springs into the sea. The nymphs bear her dead body to Poseidon.
Zeus suddenly appears and drives Poseidon away, while Athene hovers
over Odysseus with shield and lance. He sails away in safety.