The Plague Of Darkness





FEUERSNOT



A Lyric Poem (Singgedicht) in one act by ERNST VON WOLZOGEN.



Music by RICHARD STRAUSS.





The new Opera of the highly gifted young Bavarian composer was

represented for the first time in Dresden on November 21st 1901.



This absolutely original composition was received with acclamation, and

it deserves it. The musical part is so difficult, that it can only be

performed on a few very first rate stages, and it wants many hearings

to take in all its charm of instrumentation and its eminently modern

harmonies and intervals.



The text is very witty and very clever, and quite worthy of the music.

The story is taken from an old Dutch legend of rather free conception.

The scene is laid in Munich; it takes place at the summer solstice in

the far away middle-ages, or, as the author calls it "fabulous no-time."







The title has a double meaning as the explanation of the plot will show.



A band of merry children wanders from house to house, singing and

demanding wood for the bonfires of the summer solstice. After having

got a plentiful supply at the burgomaster's house, they cross over to

the opposite house, an old decayed building, called the Wizard's house.

Its inmate at first takes no notice of the children's noisy summons; at

last he appears at the door.



He, Kunrad, is a young dreamer, who has forgotten the outside world

over his books and studies. But the merry songs wake him suddenly to

life and sunshine. He gives up his whole house to the uproarious band,

beginning himself to tear down the battered shutters. The children set

to work to carry off every piece of wood, that is not too firmly

riveted, and Kunrad helps them full of glee.



Suddenly he perceives, Diemuth, the burgomaster's lovely daughter. His

hitherto perfectly untouched heart catches fire, and all at once he

steps up to her, presses her to his heart and kissing her he

passionately explains: "I will leap through the fire; wilt thou leap

after me?!"



Diemuth, who has all the time been gazing at the stranger like one in a

trance wakes up and turns from him with a cry of shame and indignation.



Kunrad is now attacked on all sides for his impertinence and Diemuth,

turning to her maiden friends, who secretly envy her for the adoration,

the noble stranger has shown her, whispers into their ears, that

she will revenge herself for the disgrace he has brought upon her.



While the evening is setting in the citizens begin to wander out of

town to see the bonfires.



The burgomaster is obliged to walk away alone, after having vainly

tried to persuade his daughter to accompany him.



Diemuth steps into the house, and soon appears on the balcony, combing

her heir. Kunrad standing at his battered house-door renews his

protestations of love and begs her in passionate terms to let him in.

At first she refuses tartly but by and by she seems to relent, and

pointing to the large basket in which the wood had been let down to the

children she invites him to get into it and says that she will draw him

up.--Kunrad complies with her wish.



While she slowly winds the basket up her three companions peep round

the corner and perceive with delight, that Diemuth's trick is

successful, and that the bird is caught. The tercet of the maidens is

one of the loveliest pieces of music ever written.



Before the basket reaches the balcony, Diemuth pretends that her

strength is failing. At his entreaties she loosens and lets down her

long hair, but when he tries to grasp it she jerks it back with a cry

of pain and rates him harshly.--At last he perceives, that she has been

fooling him all the time. He is helplessly caught in the trap and the

returning citizens seeing him hanging between heaven and earth

deride him, congratulating Diemuth on having caught such a fine bird.



Then Kunrad rises in a towering rage. Loudly invoking the help of his

friend and master, the mighty sorcerer, he suddenly plunges the whole

town into utter darkness. When the good citizens of Munich find

themselves deprived of fire and light, they break out into loud

lamentation; the frightened children wail and the head officials of the

town vow to hang Kunrad for his insolence and his witchcraft.



At this moment the moon shining through the clouds throws her light

upon Kunrad, who has swung himself on to the balcony, and smiling down

upon the people he pronounces a powerful oration upon their

narrowmindedness.



He reminds them, that the owner of his house, whom they drove out of

the town, Richard Wagner was one of the greatest masters the world had

ever seen and who would have brought them fame and greatness, if they

had not rejected him. He, Kunrad (Richard Strauss) claims to be his

successor, who is to carry on the great work nothing daunted, and in

spite of all the small minds of the world.



For his helpmate he has chosen Diemuth, but she too has failed to

understand, that love is higher than even virtue and morality, and for

this reason he has extinguished their lights and fire, to show them,

that all light comes, from love, and that without love the world is

dark and cold.







As soon as he has ended, Diemuth softly opens her door and draws Kunrad

in. The citizens, convinced by his burning words begin to praise him

and acknowledge his high courage and good words. Meanwhile the windows

of Diemuth's chamber begin to gleam faintly; Diemuth and Kunrad have

fulfilled the law of love and all at once, the flames of the bonfires

leap up and the windows and streets are again aglow with the light,

that is given back to the city.





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