In two acts by HEINRICH MARSCHNER.
Text by W. A. WOHLBRUeCK.
This opera had long fallen into oblivion, when Hofrath Schuch of
Dresden was struck with the happy idea of resuscitating it. And indeed
its music well deserves to be heard. It is both beautiful and
characteristic and particularly the drinking-scenes in the second act,
the soft and graceful airs sung by Emma and Edgar Aubry belong to the
best of Marschner's work. He is, it is true, not quite original and
often reminds one of Weber, but that cannot well be called a fault,
almost every genius having greater prototype. This opera was so long
neglected on account of its libretto, the subject of which is not
only unusual, but far too romantic and ghastly for modern taste. It is
taken from Lord Byron's tale of the same name and written by
Marschner's own brother-in-law. The scene is laid in Scotland in the
seventeenth century and illustrates the old Scottish legend of the
Vampire, a phantom-monster which can only exist by sucking the
heart-blood of sleeping mortals.
Lord Ruthven is such a Vampire. He victimizes young maidens in
particular. His soul is sold to Satan, but the demons have granted him
a respite of a year, on condition of his bringing them three brides
young and pure. His first victim is Janthe, daughter of Sir John
Berkley. She loves the monster and together they disappear into a
cavern. Her father assembles followers and goes in search of her.
They hear dreadful waitings, followed by mocking laughter proceeding
from the ill-fated Vampire, and entering they find Janthe lifeless.
The despairing father stabs Ruthven, who wounded to death knows that he
cannot survive but by drawing life from the rays of the moon, which
shines on the mountains. Unable to move, he is saved by Edgar Aubry, a
relative to the Laird of Davenant, who accidentally comes to the spot.
Lord Ruthven, after having received a promise of secrecy from Aubry,
tells him who he is and implores him to carry him to the hills as the
last favor to a dying man.
Aubry complies with the Vampire's request and then hastily flies from
the spot. Ruthven revives and follows him, in order to win the
love of Malwina, daughter of the Laird of Davenant and Aubry's
His respite now waxing short, he tries at the same time to gain the
affections of John Perth's the steward's daughter Emma.
Malwina meanwhile greets her beloved Aubry, who has returned after a
long absence. Both are full of joy, when Malwina's father enters to
announce to his daughter her future husband, whom he has chosen in the
person of the Earl of Marsden. Great is Malwina's sorrow, and she now
for the first time dares to tell her father, that her heart has already
spoken and to present Aubry to him. The Laird's pride however does not
allow him to retract his word, and when the Earl of Marsden arrives, he
presents him to his daughter. In the supposed Earl, Aubry at once
recognizes Lord Ruthven, but the villain stoutly denies his identity,
giving Lord Ruthven out as a brother, who has been travelling for a
long time. Aubry however recognizes the Vampire by a scar on his hand,
but he is bound to secrecy by his oath, and so Ruthven triumphs, having
the Laird of Davenant's promise that he will be betrothed before
midnight to Malwina, as he declares that he is bound to depart for
Madrid the following morning as Ambassador.
In the second act all are drinking and frolicking on the green, where
the bridal is to take place.
Emma awaits her lover George Dibdin, who is in Davenant's service.
While she sings the ghastly romance of the Vampire, Lord Ruthven
approaches, and by his sweet flattery and promise to help the lovers,
he easily causes the simple maiden to grant him a kiss in token of her
gratitude. In giving this kiss she is forfeited to the Evil One.
George, who has seen all, is very jealous, though Emma tells him that
the future son-in-law of the Laird of Davenant will make him his
Meanwhile Aubry vainly tries to make Ruthven renounce Malwina. Ruthven
threatens that Aubry himself will be condemned to be a Vampire, if he
breaks his oath, and depicts in glowing colors the torments of a spirit
so cursed. While Aubry hesitates as to what he shall do, Ruthven once
more approaches Emma and succeeds in winning her consent to follow him
to his den, where he murders her.
In the last scene Malwina, unable any longer to resist her father's
will, has consented to the hateful marriage. Ruthven has kept away
rather long and comes very late to his wedding. Aubry implores them to
wait for the coming day, but in vain. Then he forgets his own danger
and only sees that of his beloved, and when Ruthven is leading the
bride to the altar, he loudly proclaims Ruthven to be a Vampire. At
this moment a thunder-peal is heard and a flash of lightning destroys
Ruthven, whose time of respite has ended at midnight. The old Laird,
witnessing Heaven's punishment, repents his error and gladly
gives Malwina to her lover, while all praise the Almighty, who has
turned evil into good.
Next: The Walkyrie