"THE VOICE OF NATURE"
Text after a comedy by KOTZEBUE.
The music of this opera is so fresh, so full of gaiety and of charming
melodies, that it might be compared with Lortzing's "Czar and
Zimmermann", if only the text were as well done. Unhappily it lacks
all the advantages which characterize the opera just named, as it is
frivolous, without possessing the grace and "esprit", which distinguish
French composition of a similar kind.
Nevertheless the good music prevails over the bad text, and the opera
holds its own with success in every German theatre.
The contents of the libretto are the following:
A schoolmaster, Baculus by name, has had the misfortune unintentionally
to shoot a roe-buck, belonging to the forest of his master, Count of
Eberbach. Baculus, who is on the eve of his wedding with a young girl,
named Gretchen, is much afraid, when the consequences of his unlucky
shot show themselves in the shape of a summons to the castle, where he
is looked on as a poacher, and is in danger of losing his position.
His bride offers to entreat the Count to pardon him, but the jealous
old schoolmaster will not allow it. In this embarrassing
position the Baroness Freimann, a young widow appears, disguised in the
suit of a student, and accompanied by her chambermaid Nanette, who is
dressed as her famulus or valet. Hearing of the schoolmaster's
misfortune, she proposes to put on Gretchen's clothes and to crave the
Count's pardon under the bride's name. Baculus gladly accepts the
student's proposal and accompanies him to the castle. Everybody is
charmed by the graces and naivete of the country-girl. The Count tries
to make love to her, while Baron Kronthal, who is present, is so much
enamoured, that he thinks of marrying her despite her low birth.
Kronthal is the Countess of Eberbach's brother, but she does not know
him as such, though she feels herself greatly attracted by him. In
order to save the girl from persecution, the Countess takes her with
her into her room. Meanwhile the Count offers the sum of 5000 thalers
to Baculus for the renunciation of his bride. The silly schoolmaster
accepts the offer, thinking that the Count wishes to win the real
Gretchen. By waking the latter's vanity, he succeeds in turning her
affection to the Count, but great is his perplexity, when the Count
rejects his bride and scornfully asks for the other Gretchen. Baculus
avows at last, that the latter is a disguised student. Baron Kronthal,
full of wrath, asks for satisfaction, the student having passed the
night in his sister's room. On this occasion the others for the first
time hear that the Countess is the Baron's sister. He demands an
explanation and then it is discovered that the student is the Baroness
Freimann, sister of the Count of Eberbach. Everybody is content, for
the Count, who was detected in the act of kissing the country-girl,
declares, that with him it was the voice of nature that spoke, and the
Countess, to whom he now presents Kronthal as her brother, makes a like
statement. The unhappy Baculus receives full pardon from the Count, on
condition that he will, henceforth teach the children of the village,
instead of shooting game.
Next: The Postilion Of Longjumeau
Previous: The Piper Of Hameln