Rienzi The Last Of The Tribunes





In five acts by RICHARD WAGNER.





In this first opera of Wagner's one hardly recognizes the great master

of later times.--But though Wagner himself disowned this early child of

his muse, there is a grand energy in it, which preserves it from

triviality. The orchestration is brilliant, the brass instruments

predominating, and here and there one may find traces of the peculiar

power which led up to the greatness of after-years, and which sometimes

make one think of Tannhaeuser.



The libretto, taken by Wagner from Bulwer's novel, is attractive and

powerful.



The hero, a pontifical notary, is a man of lofty ambition, dreaming in

the midst of the depravity of the 14th century of reerecting the old

Roma, and making her once more the Sovereign of the world. He receives

help and encouragement from the church; Cardinal Raimondo even bids him

try all means, in order to attain his end. The clergy as well as

the people are oppressed by the almighty and insolent nobles.



In the first scene we witness an act of brutality, directed against

Rienzi's sister Irene, who is however liberated by Adriano, son of the

noble Colonna. A Colonna it was, who murdered Rienzi's little brother

in sheer wantonness.--Rienzi has sworn vengeance, but, seeing Adriano

good and brave and in love with his sister, he wins him to his cause.



The nobles having left Rome to fight out a quarrel, which had been

started among them, are forbidden to reenter the town.--Rienzi calls

the people to arms and is victorious. The strongholds of the nobles

are burnt, and they are only admitted into Rome, on promising

submission to the new laws, made and represented by Rienzi, who has

been created Tribune of Rome.



The hostile parties of Colonna and Orsini then join to destroy the

hated plebeian. In the midst of the festivity in the Capitol, Orsini

makes an attempt to murder Rienzi, but the latter wears a shirt of mail

under his garments and besides he is warned by Adriano, who has

overheard the conspiracy. The whole plot fails and the nobles who have

taken part in it are unanimously condemned to death. But Adriano full

of remorse on account of his treason against his own father, implores

Rienzi to save their lives, and as Irene joins her prayers to those of

her lover, the culprits are pardoned and obliged to renew their oath of

fidelity. From this time on Rienzi's star begins to pale. The

nobles do not adhere to their oath; in the third act they again give

battle, and though Rienzi is again victorious, it is only at the cost

of severe sacrifices. The nobles are slain, and now Adriano, who had

in vain begged for peace, turns against Rienzi.



In the fourth act Adriano denounces him as a traitor; the people easily

misled, begin to mistrust him, and when even the church, which has

assisted him up to this time anathematises him on account of his last

bloody deed, all desert him. Irene alone clings to her brother and

repulses her lover scornfully, when he tries to take her from Rienzi's

side. Both brother and sister retire into the Capitol, where Adriano

once more vainly implores Irene to fly with him. For the last time

Rienzi attempts to reassert his power, but his words are drowned in the

general uproar. They are greeted by a hail of stones, the Capitol is

set on fire, and they perish like heroes in the flames, through which

Adriano makes his way at the last moment and thus finds a common grave

with his bride and her brother, the last of the Tribunes.





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