Martha





In four acts by FLOTOW.



Text by W. FRIEDRICH.





This charming opera finally established the renown of its composer, who

had first found his way to public favor through "Stradella".--It

ranks high among our comic operas, and has become as much liked as

those of Lortzing and Nicolai.



Not the least of its merits lies in the text, which Friedrich worked

out dexterously, and which is amusing and interesting throughout.



Lady Harriet Durham, tired of the pleasures and splendours of Court,

determines to seek elsewhere for a pastime, and hoping to find it in a

sphere different from her own, disguises herself and her confidant

Nancy as peasant-girls, in which garb they visit the Fair at Richmond,

accompanied by Lord Tristan, who is hopelessly enamoured of Lady

Harriet and unwillingly complies with her wish to escort them to the

adventure in the attire of a peasant.--They join the servant-girls, who

are there to seek employment, and are hired by a tenant Plumkett and

his foster-brother Lionel, a youth of somewhat extraordinary behaviour,

his air being noble and melancholy and much too refined for a

country-squire, while the other, though somewhat rough, is frank and

jolly in his manner.



The disguised ladies take the handsel from them, without knowing that

they are bound by it, until the sheriff arrives to confirm the bargain.

Now the joke becomes reality and they hear that they are actually hired

as servants for a whole year.



Notwithstanding Lord Tristan's protestations, the ladies are carried

off by their masters, who know them under the names of Martha and Julia.



In the second act we find the ladies in the company of the tenants, who

set them instantly to work. Of course they are totally ignorant

of household-work, and as their wheels will not go round, Plumkett

shows them how to spin. In his rough but kind way he always commands

and turns to Nancy, with whom he falls in love, but Lionel only asks

softly when he wishes anything done. He has lost his heart to Lady

Harriet and declares his love to her. Though she is pleased by his

gentle behaviour, she is by no means willing to accept a country-squire

and wounds him by her mockery. Meanwhile Plumkett has sought Nancy for

the same purpose, but she hides herself and at last the girls are sent

to bed very anxious and perplexed at the turn their adventure has

taken. But Lord Tristan comes to their rescue in a coach and they take

flight, vainly pursued by the tenants.--Plumkett swears to catch and

punish them, but Lionel sinks into deep melancholy, from which nothing

can arouse him.



In the third act we meet them at a Court-hunt, where they recognize

their hired servants in two of the lady-hunters. They assert their

right, but the Ladies disown them haughtily, and when Lionel, whose

reason almost gives way under the burden of grief and shame, which

overwhelms him at thinking himself deceived by Martha, tells the whole

story to the astonished Court, the Ladies pronounce him insane and Lord

Tristan sends him to prison for his insolence, notwithstanding Lady

Harriet and Nancy's prayer for his pardon.



Lionel gives a ring to Plumkett, asking him to show it to the

Queen, his dying father having told him that it would protect him from

every danger.



In the fourth act Lady Harriet feels remorse for the sad consequences

of her haughtiness. She visits the prisoner to crave his pardon. She

tells him that she has herself carried his ring to the Queen and that

he has been recognized by it as Lord Derby's son, once banished from

Court, but whose innocence is now proved.



Then the proud Lady offers hand and heart to Lionel, but he rejects

her, believing himself duped. Lady Harriet, however who loves Lionel,

resolves to win him against his will. She disappears, and dressing

herself and Nancy in the former peasant's attire, she goes once more to

the Fair at Richmond, where Lionel is also brought by his friend

Plumkett. He sees his beloved Martha advance towards him, promising to

renounce all splendors and live only for him; then his melancholy

vanishes; and he weds her, his name and possessions being restored to

him, while Plumkett obtains the hand of pretty Nancy, alias Julia.





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