In three acts by REINHOLD BECKER.
Text by FRANZ KOPPEL-ELLFELD.
Becker, the well-known Dresden composer, has long won name and fame by
his beautiful songs, which may be heard all over the continent. He is
a first-rate "Liedermeister", and great was the excitement, with which
his friends looked forward to his first opera.
Their expectations were not deceived, for
he opera was put on the
stage in Dresden on Dec. 8th 1892, and was received with unanimous
Becker is not one of those high-flown artists who elevate us to the
skies; he rather lacks dramatic strength; the lyric element is his
strong point. By the Lied he finds his way direct to the hearts of his
hearers, and where ever this could be woven into the action of his
opera, he has done it with subtle taste. Tilda's dancing-air in the
first act, the evening-song, sung while the people are gliding down the
Rhine in boats, whose lovely variations remind us of quaint old airs of
bye-gone days,--the chorus of the stone-masons in the second act, and
the love-duet in the third are brilliant gems in Becker's music.
The libretto rivals the best of its kind.
The scene is laid near and in Maintz in the year 1308; it takes place
during the reign of Ludwig, Emperor of Bavaria.
Heinrich Frauenlob, the famous minstrel, who had won his name by his
songs in women's praise, is by birth a knight, Dietherr zur Meise.
Years ago he slew the Truchsess of Maintz in self-defence, and having
therefore become an outlaw, had entered the service of the Emperor. In
the beginning of the opera we find him however near Maintz, where he
stays as a guest at his friend's Wolf's castle. He takes part in the
people's festival on Midsummer day, deeming himself unknown.
When the customary St. John's fire is lighted, no one dares leap over
it for fear of an old gipsy's prophesy, which threatened with sudden
death the first who should attempt it. Frauenlob, disregarding the
prophesy, persuades Hildegund, Ottker von Scharfenstein's fair ward, to
venture through the fire with him. Hildegund is the slain Truchsess'
daughter, and has sworn, to wed the avenger of her father's death, but
each lover is unconscious of the other's name. The gipsy Sizyga alone,
who had been betrayed in her youth by Frauenlob's father, recognizes
the young knight, and though he has only just saved the old hag from
the people's fury, she wishes to avenge her wrongs on him. To this end
she betrays the secret of Frauenlob's birth to Hildegund's suitor,
Servazio di Bologna, who is highly jealous of this new rival, and
determines to lay hands on him, as soon as he enters the gates of
Maintz.--Frauenlob, though warned by Sizyga, enters Maintz attracted by
Hildegund's sweet graces; he is determined to confess everything, and
then to fly with her, should she be willing to follow him.
The second act opens with a fine song of the warder of the tower. The
city awakes, the stonemasons assemble, ready to greet the Emperor,
whose arrival is expected. Tilda, Hildegund's friend, and daughter to
Klas, chief of the stone-masons is going to church, but on her way she
is accosted by the knight Wolf, who has lost his heart to her, and now,
forgetting his plan to look for Frauenlob, follows the lovely
damsel.--When Frauenlob comes up, and sees again the well-known places
of his youth, he is deeply touched, but seeing his lady love step on
the balcony and soon after come down to enter the dome, he waylays her,
imploring her, to fly with him. At this moment Servazio, who has lain
in wait, steps forth with officers, who capture Frauenlob. Servazio
now reveals the singer's secret and Hildegund hears that her lover is
her father's murderer. Though Frauenlob tells Hildegund, that he
killed her father in self-defence, she turns from him shuddering.
Feeling that all hopes of his future happiness are at an end, he wishes
to atone for his deed by death, refusing the help of Wolf, who comes up
with his men, to release him. But the stone-masons, having recognized
the celebrated minstrel, with whose song they are about to greet the
Emperor, decide to invoke the latter's clemency.
In the third act the citizens of Maintz hail the Emperor, after which
Frauenlob's cause is brought before him. The whole population demands
his pardon, and the monarch, who loves the singer, would fain
liberate him, had not Servazio roughly insisted on the culprit's
punishment. Uncertain, what to do, the Emperor receives a long
procession of ladies with Tilda at its head, who all beseech pardon for
Frauenlob. At last the Emperor calls for Hildegund, leaving in her
hands the destiny of the prisoner. Left alone with him the latter,
prepared to die, only craves her pardon. After a hard struggle with
her conscience, love conquers and she grants him pardon. When the
Emperor reenters with his suite, to hear the sentence, they find the
lovers in close embrace. To the joy of everybody the Monarch sanctions
the union and orders the nuptials to be celebrated at once. Another
pair, Wolf and Tilda are also made happy. But Servazio vows vengeance.
Sizyga, having secretly slipped a powder into his hands, he pours it
into a cup of wine, which he presents to Frauenlob as a drink of
reconciliation. The Emperor handing the goblet to Hildegund, bids her
drink to her lover. Testing it, she at once feels its deadly effect.
Frauenlob, seeing his love stagger, snatches the cup from her emptying
it at one draught. He dies, still praising the Emperor and women,
breathing the name of his bride with his last breath. Servazio is
captured, and while Hildegund's body is strewn with roses, the wailing
women of Maintz carry their beloved minstrel to his grave.--