Melusine





In three acts by CARL GRAMMANN.



Text after C. CAMP'S poem of the same name.



Tableaux and mise en scene after SCHWIND'S composition.





The composer of this opera is known in the musical world as the author

of many other fine works. He has given us several operas worthy of

mention, "St. Andrew's Night", and "Thusnelda" among others, which were

brought on the stage in Dresden some years ago.--



Melusine was first represented in Wiesbaden in 1874 with but small

success.--Since then the opera has been rewritten and in part

completely changed by the author, and in this new garb has found its

first representation in the Dresden Opera-house, on the 23rd of May

1891.







Neither music nor libretto are strikingly original; both remind vividly

of Wagner.--Nevertheless the opera met with warm applause, the

principal part being splendidly rendered by Teresa Malten, and the mise

en scene justifying the highest expectations. The beauty of the music

lies principally in its coloring which is often very fine. Its best

parts are the tender songs of the nymphs, those parts which lead into

the realm of dream and of fairy-land.--Once only it soars to a higher

dramatic style; it is in the second act (the one which has undergone an

entire revision), when Bertram, the natural son, bewails his father.--



On the whole the weak libretto forbids every deeper impression. It is

neither natural nor dramatic, and leaves our innermost feelings as cold

as the watery element, from which it springs.



The scene is laid in a French Department on the Upper Rhine, where a

Duchy of Lusignan can never have existed, about the time of the first

Crusade.--The first act shows a forest, peopled by water-nymphs and

fairies, who enjoy their dances in the light of the

full-moon.--Melusine, their princess emerges from her grotto. While

they sing and dance, a hunter's bugle is heard and Count Raymond of

Lusignan appears with Bertram, his half-brother, seeking anxiously for

their father.--Both search on opposite sides; Bertram disappears, while

Raymond, hearing a loud outcry for help, rushes into the bushes whence

it comes, not heeding Melusine's warning, who watches the

proceedings half hidden in her grotto. The nymphs, foreseeing what is

going to happen, break out into lamentations, while Melusine sings an

old tale of the bloody strife of two brothers. She is already in love

with Raymond, whose misfortune she bewails. When he hurries back in

wild despair at having slain his father, whose life he tried to save

from the tusks of a wild boar,--his sword piercing the old man instead

of the beast, (a deed decreed by fate,)--he finds the lovely nymph

ready to console him. She presents him with a draught from the magic

well, which instantly brings him forgetfulness of the past (compare

Nibelung's-ring).--The Count drinks it, and immediately glowing with

love for the beautiful maiden wooes her as his wife. Melusine consents

to the union under the condition that he pledges himself by a solemn

oath, never to blame her, nor to spy her out, should she leave him in

the full-moon nights. Raymond promises, and the sun having risen, the

hunters find him in his bride's company. He presents their future

mistress to them, and all render homage; only Bertram, struck to the

heart by Melusine's loveliness, which is not for him, stands scornfully

aside.



The first scene of the second act represents the sepulchral crypt of

the Lusignan family. The old Duke has been found dead in the forest,

and a choir of monks sings the Requiem. Bertram's mournful song and

the lament of the women are of surpassing beauty; also the contrasting

sounds from merry music of Raymond's wedding procession, now and

then heard, cause an excellent musical effect. A hermit, Peter von

Amiens, now entering comforts the widowed Duchess and warns them all of

Melusine. He relates the legend of the water-fairy, who with sweet

voice and mien entices and seduces human beings. The poor mother

implores Heaven to save her son, while Bertram invokes Hell to avenge

his father on the murderer.



The scene changes into the park belonging to Raymond's palace. Raymond

and Melusine enjoy their nuptial bliss, until the rising of the

full-moon awakes in Melusine the irresistible longing for her native

element. Notwithstanding her husband's entreaties, she tears herself

from him, and Raymond, mindful of his oath, retires. But Melusine's

steps are interrupted by Bertram, who has tracked her and now declares

his love. She scornfully rejects him, and he, enraged and jealous,

threatens to betray Raymond, whose bloody sword he has found at the

spot, where their father was murdered. But Melusine escapes to the

gray temple in the garden and she prophesies, that Raymond will be

happy as long as he keeps her faith, and then vanishes into the

interior. Bertram remains motionless and stunned, until he hears

Raymond's voice, who is waiting for his wife.--Spurred by every evil

feeling of hate and envy he peremptorily asks Raymond to surrender all

his possessions, his wife Melusine, even his life, deeming that his

brother has forfeited every right through the murder.--But

Raymond oblivious of the deed through the effect of the magic draught,

draws his sword, when his mother interferes. The Duchess repeats to

her son the suspicion expressed by the hermit in regard to Melusine and

Raymond anxiously calls for her to refuse the accusation.--But instead

of his wife, sweet songs are heard from the temple, he forgets his

oath, spies into its interior through a cleft and perceives the place

of the nixies, with Melusine in their midst. Recognizing his fate,

Raymond sinks back with a despairing cry.



In the third act the fishermen and women assemble on the banks of the

Rhine at day-break, preparing for their daily work. They also know the

Count's wife to be a mer-maid, and they sing a ballad of the

water-nymph. Suddenly Melusine appears and they take flight.

Melusine, finding the gates of her husband's castle closed, vainly

calls for him.--His mother answers in his stead, charging her with

witchcraft and refusing to admit her. Melusine, sure of Raymond's love

undauntedly answers that only Raymond's want of faith could undo

her.--In the meantime a herald announces the arrival of Crusaders with

Peter von Amiens.--The latter exhorts Count Raymond to join the holy

army in order to expiate his father's murder. Raymond is willing to

go, when Melusine entreats him not to leave her. All present press

around to insult her, only Bertram steps forth as her protector, once

more showing Raymond's bloody sword, an act, which she alone

understands. She kneels to him, in order to save her husband,

but Raymond, misunderstanding her movements, accuses her of secret

intercourse with Bertram and in a fit of jealousy disowns her.

Scarcely have the luckless words escaped his lips, than a violent sound

of thunder is heard. Melusine curses the palace, and throws her

husband's ring at his feet. She disappears in the Rhine, Bertram

leaping after her, the stream overflows its banks, and a flash of

lightning destroys the castle. Gradually the scene changes to the one

of sylvan solitude in the first act. Raymond appears in pilgrim's garb

to seek for his lost love (see Tannhaeuser), Melusine once more emerges

from her grotto to comfort him, but also to bring him death. Happy, he

dies in her embrace, she buries him under water-lilies and returns to

her watery domains.





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