In two acts and a Prologue.
Music and Text by R. LEONCAVALLO.
Translated into the German by LUDWIG HARTMANN.
In the summer of the year 1892 a rumour was going through the musical
world, that Mascagni had found his equal, nay his superior in the
person of another young Italian composer. When the "Pagliacci" by
Leoncavallo was executed in Italy, it excited a transport of enthusiasm
almost surpassing that of "Cavalleria", so that Berlin and Leipsic
brought the opera on the stage as quickly as possible, and Dresden
followed their example on January 22nd 1893, with the same great
The opera is indeed eminently qualified to produce an impression.
Though less condensed in its tragic depths than Cavalleria, the music
is nobler without being less realistic. In Leoncavallo the feeling of
artistic form is more developed. Though of southern temper he never
lets passion get the better of the beautiful and true harmony, also he
is Mascagni's senior by four years.
Leoncavallo's excellent musical education is as unmistakable as the
influence of Wagner's music on his genius.--He, too, introduces the
"Leading Motives", but he is far from imitating his great predecessor.
Like Wagner he did his text himself, and it must be owned, that it is
very good. The idea was suggested to him by an event, which he
witnessed at Montalto in Calabria during the summer 1865, and which
impressed him deeply.
In the Prologue, a wonderful piece of music, Tonio the Fool announces
to the public the deep tragic sense which often is hidden behind a
farce, and prepares them for the sad end of the lovers in this comedy.
The introduction with its wonderful Largo is like a mournful
lamentation; then the curtain opens, showing the entry of a troop of
wandering actors, so common in southern Italy. They are received with
high glee by the peasants, and Canio, the owner of the troop, invites
them all to the evening's play. Canio looks somewhat gloomy, and he
very much resents the taunts of the peasants, who court his beautiful
wife Nedda, and make remarks about the Fool's attentions to her.
Nevertheless Canio gives way to his friends' invitation for a glass of
Chianti wine, and he takes leave of his wife with a kiss, which however
does not quite restore her peace of mind, Nedda's conscience being
somewhat disturbed. But soon she casts aside all evil forebodings and
vies with the birds in warbling pretty songs, which, though reminding
the hearer of Wagner's Siegfried are of surpassing harmony and
sweetness. Tonio the Fool, spying the moment to find Nedda alone,
approaches her with a declaration of love, but she haughtily turns from
him, and as he only grows more obtrusive and even tries to embrace her
she seizes a whip and slaps him in the face. Provoked to fury he
swears to avenge himself. Hardly has he turned away when the
peasant Silvio appears on the wall. He is Nedda's lover, and having
seen Canio sitting in the tavern, he entreats her to separate herself
from the husband she never loved and take flight with him. Nedda
hesitates between duty and passion, and at last the latter prevails,
and she sinks into his arms. This love-duet is wonderful in style and
harmony. Tonio unfortunately has spied out the lovers and returns with
Canio. But on perceiving the latter's approach Silvio has leapt over
the wall, his sweetheart's body covering his own person, so that Canio
is unable to recognize his rival; he once more reminds Nedda to be
ready that night and than takes flight. With an inarticulate cry Canio
rushes after him and Nedda falls on her knees to pray for her lover's
escape, while Tonio the Fool triumphs over her misery. The husband
however returns defeated; panting he claims the lover's name, and
Nedda's lips remaining sealed, he is about to stab his wife, when Beppo
the Harlequin intervenes, and, wrenching the dagger from his
unfortunate master's hands intimates, that it is time to prepare for
the play. While Nedda retires, Canio breaks out into a bitter wail of
his hard lot, which compels him to take part in the farce, which for
him is bitter reality. With this air the tragic height of the opera is
In the second act the spectators throng before the small stage, each of
them eager to get the best seat. Nedda appears, dressed as Colombine,
and while she is collecting the money, she finds time to warn
Silvio of her husband's wrath. The curtain opens, and Nedda is seen
alone on the stage, listening to the sentimental songs of Arlequin, her
lover in the play. Before she has given him the sign to enter, Tonio,
in the play called Taddeo the Fool enters, bringing the food which his
mistress has ordered for herself and Arlequin. Just as it really
happened in the morning, the poor Fool now makes love to her in play;
but when scornfully repulsed he humbly retires, swearing to the
goodness and pureness of his lady-love. Arlequin entering through the
window, the two begin to dine merrily, but Taddeo reenters in mocking
fright, to announce the arrival of the husband Bajazzo (Canio). The
latter however is in terrible earnest, and when he hoarsely exacts the
lover's name, the lookers-on, who hitherto have heartily applauded
every scene, begin to feel the awful tragedy hidden behind the comedy.
Nedda remains outwardly calm and mockingly she names innocent Arlequin
as the one who had dined with her. Then Bajazzo begins by reminding
her, how he found her in the street a poor waif and stray, whom he
nursed, petted and loved, and Nedda remaining cold, his wrath rises to
fury and he wildly curses her, shrieking "the name, I will know his
name!" But Nedda, though false is no traitress. "Should it cost my
life, I will never betray him" she cries, at the same time trying to
save her life, by hurrying from the stage amongst the spectators. Too
late alas; Canio already has reached and stabbed her, and Silvio,
who rushes forward, also receives his death-stroke from the hands of
the deceived husband, who has heard his name slip from the dying lips
of his wife. All around stand petrified, nobody dares to touch the
avenger of his honor, who stands by his wife's corpse limp and
brokenhearted: "Go", says he, "go, the farce is ended."
A festival Drama by RICHARD WAGNER.
Though Parsifal is never to be given on any stage except in Baireuth
(by Wagner's express wish), it must find its place here, by dint of
being the master's last and most perfect composition.
In Parsifal the heavenly greatness of the Christian idea of God, which
is at the foundation of the legend of the holy Grail, finds grand
expression. There scarcely exists another composition of such lofty
and religious spirit, as finds expression in the Communion-scene. It
is not possible to imagine a more vivid contrast than that between the
saintly melodies and those of the fascinating fairies, which latter,
glowing with poetry and ravishing music captivate all senses.
The contents are those of the ancient German legend. The first scene
is laid in a forest on the grounds of the keepers of the Grail near
Castle Monsalvat. Old Gurnemanz awakes two young Squires for their
morning prayer, and bids two Knights prepare a bath for the sick
King Amfortas who suffers cruelly from a wound, dealt him by the
sorcerer Klingsor, the deadly foe of the holy Grail. The Grail is a
sacred cup, from which Christ drank at the last Passover and which also
received his holy blood. Titurel, Amfortas' father has built the
castle to shield it, and appointed holy men for its service. While
Gurnemanz speaks with the Knights about their poor master's sufferings,
in rushes Kundry, a sorceress in Klingsor's service, condemned to laugh
eternally as a punishment for having derided Christ, while he was
suffering on the cross. She it was who with her beauty seduced
Amfortas, and deprived him of his holy strength, so that Klingsor was
enabled to wring from the King his holy spear Longinus, with which he
afterwards wounded him. Kundry is in the garb of a servant of the
Grail; she brings balm for the King, who is carried on to the stage in
a litter, but it avails him not: "a guileless fool" with a child's pure
heart; who will bring back the holy spear and touch him with it, can
alone heal his wound.
Suddenly a dying swan sinks to the ground, and Parsifal, a young
knight, appears. Gurnemanz reproaches him severely for having shot the
bird, but he appears to be quite ignorant of the fact that it was
wrong, and, when questioned, proves to know nothing about his own
origin. He only knows his mother's name "Herzeleid", (heart's
affliction), and Kundry, who recognizes him, relates, that his father
Gamuret perished in battle, and that his mother reared him, a
guileless fool, in the desert. When Kundry mentions that his mother is
dead, and has sent her last blessing to her son, Parsifal is almost
stunned by this, his first grief. Gurnemanz conducts him to the
castle, where the Knights of the Grail are assembled in a lofty hall.
Amfortas is laid on a raised couch, and from behind, Titurel's voice is
heard, imploring his son to efface his guilt in godly works. Amfortas,
writhing with pain, is comforted by the prophesy:
"By pity lightened, the guileless fool"--
"Wait for him,--my chosen tool."
The Grail is uncovered, the blessing given, and the repast of love
begins. Amfortas' hope revives, but towards the end his wound bursts
out afresh. Parsifal, on hearing Amfortas' cry of agony clutches at
his heart, without however understanding his own feelings.
The second act reveals Klingsor's magic castle.
Kundry, not as a demon now, but as a woman of imperious beauty, is
awakened by Klingsor to seduce Parsifal. She yearns for pardon, for
sleep and death, but she struggles in vain against the fiendish
The tower gradually sinks; a beautiful garden rises, into which
Parsifal gazes with rapture and astonishment. Lovely maidens rush
towards him, accusing him of having destroyed their lovers. Parsival
surprised answers, that he slew them, because they checked his approach
to their charms. But when their tenderness waxes hotter, he gently
repulses the damsels and at last tries to escape. He is detained
however by Kundry, who tells him again of his beloved mother, and when
Parsifal is sorrow-stricken at having forgotten her in his thoughtless
rambles, she consoles him, pressing his lips with a fervent kiss. This
rouses the dreamy youth, he awakes to his duty, he feels the King's
spear-wound burning; the unconscious fool is a fool no longer, but
conscious of his mission and distinguishing right from wrong. He calls
to the Saviour to save him from a guilty passion, and at last he starts
up, spurning Kundry. She tells him of her own crime, of Amfortas' fall
and curses all paths and ways, which would lead him from her.
Klingsor, appearing at her cry, flings the holy spear at Parsifal, but
it remains floating over his head, and the youth, grasping it, destroys
the magic by the sign of the cross.
In the third act Gurnemanz awakes Kundry from a death-like sleep, and
is astonished to find her changed. She is penitent and serves the
Grail. Parsifal enters from the woods. Gurnemanz recognizes and
greets him, after his wanderings in search of the Grail which have
extended over long years. Kundry washes his feet and dries them with
her own hair. Parsifal, seeing her so humble, baptizes her with some
water from the spring, and the dreadful laugh is taken from her; then
she weeps bitterly. Parsifal, conducted to the King, touches his side
with the holy spear and the wound is closed. Old Titurel, brought on
the stage in his coffin, revives once more a moment, raising his
hands in benediction. The Grail is revealed, pouring a halo of glory
over all. Kundry, with her eyes fixed on Parsival, sinks dead to the
ground, while Amfortas and Gurnemanz render homage to their new King.
Next: Philemon And Baucis