Henry The Lion





In four acts by EDMUND KRETSCHMER.





This opera has not had the same success as "The Folkungs", which may be

attributed in part to the subject, which is less attractive.

Nevertheless it has great merit, and has found its way to the larger

stages of Germany. The libretto is written by Kretschmer himself. The

background is in this instance also historical.



The scene which takes us back to the middle of the 12th century is

laid, in the first act, in Rome, in the second and fourth in Henry the

Lion's castle and in the third act on the coast of Ancona.



In the first act Henry's praise is sung; he has gained the victory for

his Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, over the Italians. Frederick

enters, thanking the Duke heartily for his fidelity and fortitude. A

stranger, named Astoc, comes, prophesying an unhappy end to the

Emperor, if he continues to seek his laurels in strange lands. To the

anger of everybody Henry seconds him, entreating his Master to

return into his own country, where his presence is necessary. The

Emperor rebukes him sternly, Henry grows hot, and is finally by order

of Frederick fettered and led away.



The second act shows the park in Henry's castle. His lovely wife

Clementina, whose veil he wears on his helmet as a talisman, receives

the country-people, who come to congratulate her on the first

anniversary of her wedding-day. Irmgard, sister-in-law of Duke Henry,

sees with envy how much Clementina is loved by everyone; she had

herself hoped to become Duchess of Saxony, and from the time when Henry

brought home his lovely bride, Irmgard has hated her. Conrad von

Wettin, Henry's friend, appears in pilgrim's garb, to announce to the

lonely wife the sad news of her husband's captivity and she at once

resolves to travel to Ancona in order to entreat the Emperor's pardon.



Irmgard, thinking she sees in the disguised pilgrim, whose gait she

recognizes to be that of a knight, a lover of Clementina's, believes

that already the day of revenge is dawning.



In the third act the Emperor mourns the loss of his bravest hero, who

firmly refuses to retract his rash words. A German song is heard, and

Conrad von Wettin presents a young minstrel to the homesick Prince.

The former begs for the favor of celebrating the coming festival in a

German song. This is permitted and the festival begins. The

Anconites, whom Frederick delivered from their captivity, appear, to

thank him, then Henry the Lion is conducted to his presence and ordered

to ask his forgiveness. But Henry repeats that he did nothing wrong in

telling the truth. The Emperor decides to give him an hour for

reflection, after which if Henry does not bend his will, he shall be

banished.



When this hard sentence is heard, Clementina in minstrel's guise sings

her song of the German's fidelity to his Prince and his country, and of

his wife's faithfulness, and her highest glory.



The song so touches the Emperor, that he bids her ask a favor. She

takes Henry the Lion's sword and buckler, which are lying near, and

handing them to the captive, entreats the Emperor to give him his

liberty and to pardon him. Her request is granted by Frederick; and

Henry, shamed by his Prince's magnanimity, bends his knee, swearing

eternal fidelity to him. From Henry the young minstrel only asks a

piece of the veil fastened round his helmet, in memory of his

deliverance.



The last act carries us back to Henry's castle, where the wife receives

her husband full of joy. Clementina asks for the missing piece of

veil, and Henry tells her how he gave it away. In the midst of this

intercourse horns sound and the Emperor appears with his whole suite.

He comes to recompense his hero, who has again won for him honor and

glory, with the duchy of Bavaria. Henry presents his consort, as the

best and most faithful of wives, when Irmgard steps forth,

accusing her sister-in law of faithlessness, and relating that she left

the castle with a young knight in pilgrim's attire, and only returned

when the news spread, that the Duke would come home victorious.

Clementina is too proud, to defend herself and forbids even Conrad von

Wettin to speak.



Everybody is convinced of her innocence, but her husband, always rash

and violent, turns from her, when she refuses to say nay, and banishing

her from his castle, casts his glove before Conrad von Wettin.



Clementina silently goes away, but soon reappears in her minstrel's

garb; with the piece of veil in her hand she sings the song, which they

heard in Ancona. Now she is at once recognized and the opera ends with

a paean of praise to the faithfulness of German wives.





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