The Piper Of Hameln
In five acts by VICTOR NESSLER.
Text by FR. HOFMANN from JULIUS WOLFF'S legend of the same name.
Without any preliminary introduction to the musical world Nessler wrote
this opera and at once became, not only known, but a universal
favorite; so much so that there is scarcely a theatre in Germany, in
which this work of his is not now given.
The subject of the libretto is a most favorable one, like that of
Nessler's later composition, "the Trumpeter of Saekkingen"; the
principal personage Singuf, being particularly well suited for a
first-rate stage hero.
Then Wolff's poetical songs are music in themselves, and it was
therefore not difficult to work out interesting melodies, of which as a
matter of fact we find many in this opera.
The scene of the following events is the old town of Hameln on the
Weser in the year 1284. The citizens are assembled to hold council, as
to how the rat-plague of the town is to be got rid of. No one is able
to suggest a remedy when suddenly the clerk of the senate, Ethelerus,
announces a stranger, who offers to destroy all the rats and mice in
the place, solely by the might of his pipe. Hunold Singuf, a
wandering Bohemian, enters and repeats his offer, asking one hundred
Marks in silver as his reward and forbidding anybody listen or to be
present, while he works his charm.
The senators comply with his request, promising him in addition a drink
from the town-cellar, when the last rat shall have disappeared, which
is to be when the moon is full.
In the following scene the Burgomaster's daughter Regina is with her
old cousin Dorothea. She expects her bridegroom, the architect of the
town and son of the chief magistrate, Heribert Sunneborn, who has just
returned home from a long stay abroad. While the lovers greet each
other, Ethelerus, who has wooed Regina in vain, stands aside greatly
The second act opens in an inn, where Hunold makes the people dance and
sing to his wonderful melodies. There he first sees the maid, who has
appeared to him in his dreams. She is Gertrud, a fishermaiden and: To
look is to love--they are attracted to each other as by a magic spell.
Wulf, the smith, who loves Gertrud, sees it with distrust, but Hunold
begins to sing his finest songs. In the evening the lovers meet before
Gertrud's hut, and full of anxious forebodings, she tries to turn him
from his designs and is only half-quieted, when he assures her that no
fiendish craft is at work and that he will do it for the last time.
In the third act Ethelerus holds council with magister Rhynperg as to
the means, by which they can best succeed in teasing and
provoking the proud Sunneborn. Hunold enters, and agreeable to an
invitation of theirs, sits down to drink a bottle of wine. They make
him drink and sing a good deal, and he boasts of being able to make the
maidens all fall in love with him, if he chooses. Rhynperg suggests
that he must omit the Burgomaster's daughter Regina, and he succeeds in
making Hunold accept a wager, that he will obtain a kiss from her
before his departure.
The following night Hunold accomplishes the exorcism of the rats, which
may be seen running towards him from every part of the town and
precipitating themselves into the river. Unhappily, Wulf, standing in
a recess, has seen and heard all and coming forward to threaten Hunold,
the latter hurls his dagger after him, upon which Wulf takes flight.
In the fourth act the whole town is assembled to rejoice in its
deliverance from the awful plague, but when Hunold asks for his reward,
the Burgomaster tells him, that a so-called rat-king, a beast with five
heads, has been seen in his (the Burgomaster's) cellar, to which
complaint Hunold replies, that it is the smith's fault, who listened
against his express prohibition. He promises to destroy the rat-king
on the same day and once more claims his due, together with the
promised parting gift, which he begs to be, not a drink of wine, but a
kiss from Regina's lips. Of course everybody is astounded at his
insolence, and the angry Burgomaster bids him leave the town at
once, without his money. But Hunold, nothing daunted, begins to sing
so beautifully that the hearts of all the women yearn towards him, he
continues still more passionately, addressing himself directly to
Regina, and never stops, till the maiden, carried away by a passion
unconquerable, offers her lips for a kiss, swearing to be his own for
ever. A great tumult arises and Hunold is taken to prison,
notwithstanding the remonstrances of Ethelerus, who bitterly repents
having had anything to do with Rhynperg's bad joke.
The fifth act takes us to the banks of the Weser, where Gertrud sits in
despair. She deems herself betrayed by Hunold, but resolves
nevertheless to save his life.
Hunold is brought before the judges and condemned to be burnt alive as
a sorcerer, when Gertrud steps forth, claiming his life. In pursuance
of an old privilege, Hunold is free when a maid of the town claims him,
but he is banished from the country and Gertrud with him.
Hunold promises never to return, but Gertrud throws herself into the
Then Hunold swears to avenge the death of his bride. While the
citizens are in church, he lures away their children by playing on his
pipe; all follow him, both great and small. When he has led them
safely over the bridge, he calls the people from church. All gather on
the banks of the stream, but they are only just in time to see
the bridge fall into the river, while the mountain opposite opens,
swallowing up Hunold and the children for ever.
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