In four acts by WEBER.
Text by ERNST PASQUE.
This opera was left unfinished by Weber. It has however recently been
completed, the text by Ernest Pasque, and the music by Ferdinand
Langer, who rearranged the manuscript with loving care, interweaving
different compositions from Weber, as for instance his "Invitation a la
valse", and his "Polonaise", which are dexterously introduced into the
ballet of the second act.
The action is taken from an old German legend which comes to us from
the land of the Rhine. There we may still find the ruins of the two
castles Sternberg and Liebenstein.
Of these our legend says, that they belonged to two brothers, who hated
each other, for the one, Boland, loved his brother's bride and was
refused by her. By way of revenge he slew his brother and burnt down
his castle. But in this fray the wife he coveted disappeared with her
child and both were supposed to have perished in the flames.
Since then Boland has fallen into deep melancholy and the consequences
of his dreadful deed have never ceased to torment him. His only son,
who lost his mother in early childhood, has grown up solitary, knowing
nothing of woman's sweetness, of peace and happiness. His only passion
is the hunt. He has grown into manhood and his father as well as
his vassals wish him to marry, by [Transcriber's note: but?] never yet
has he found a woman, who has touched his heart with love.
In the beginning of the first act we see him hunting in the forest. He
has lost his way and his companions and finds himself in a spot, which
he has never before seen. A beautiful maiden comes out of a small
cottage and both fall in love at first sight. The returning collier
would fain keep his only child, who has not yet seen anything of the
world; but the nymph of the forest, Silvana's protectrice, beckons him
away. When at length the Count's fellow-hunters find him, he presents
Silvana to them as his bride. The unfortunate collier is made drunk
with wine, and during his sleep they take his daughter away to the
castle of the old Rhinegrave.
But Silvana is protected in the new world into which she enters, by the
nymph, who follows her in the guise of a young minstrel. The old
Count, hearing of his son's resolution, is quite willing to receive the
bride and even consents to go to the peasant's festival, and look at
the dancing and frolicking, given in honor of his son's bridal.
There we find Ratto, the collier, who seeks his daughter Silvana,
telling everybody that robbers took her away from him, and beseeching
help to discover her. Meanwhile Silvana arrives in rich and costly
attire between Gerold, the young Count and the old Rhinegrave. The
latter, attracted by her fairness and innocence has welcomed her as his
daughter without asking for antecedents. When the dances of the
villagers have ended, the nymph enters in the guise of a minstrel,
asking to be allowed to sing to the hearers, as was the custom on the
banks of the Rhine.
She begins her ballad, the contents of which terrify the Rhinegrave,
for it is his own awful deed, which he hears. Springing up, he draws
his sword against the minstrel, but Silvana rises, protecting him with
outstretched arms. All are stupefied; Gerold looks with suspicion on
his bride, hanging on the breast of the stranger. He asks for an
explanation, but Silvana is silent. It is part of her trial, not to
betray the nymph. At the same moment Ratto, the collier, recognizes
and claims Silvana as his daughter. Everybody now looks with contempt
on the low-born maiden, and the Rhinegrave commands them to be put into
prison; but Gerold believing in his bride's innocence though
appearances are against her, entreats her once more to defend herself.
Silvana only asserts her innocence and her love for Gerold, but will
give no proofs. So the collier with his daughter and the minstrel are
taken to prison. But when the keeper opens the door in the morning,
the minstrel has disappeared.
The old Count, disgusted at the idea of his son's union with a
collier's daughter accuses her of being a sorceress. He compels her to
confess that she seduced his son by magic arts, and Silvana consents to
say anything rather than injure her lover.--She is conducted
before a court and condemned to the funeral pile. Gerold, not once
doubting her, is resolved to share her death, when in the last critical
moment the minstrel once more raises his voice and finishes the ballad,
which the Rhinegrave had interrupted so violently. He tells the
astonished hearers, that the wife and daughter of the Count, who was
slain by his brother, were not burnt in the castle, but escaped to the
forest, finding kindly refuge in a poor collier's hut where the mother
died, leaving her child, Silvana, under his protection.
The Rhinegrave, full of remorse, embraces Silvana, beseeching her
forgiveness, and the lovers are united.
Next: La Somnambula