In four acts by ROBERT SCHUMANN.
Text after HEBBEL and TIECK.
The music of this opera is surpassingly delightful. Though Schumann's
genius was not that of a dramatist of a very high order, this opera
deserves to be known and esteemed universally. Nowhere can melodies be
found finer or more poetical and touching than in this noble musical
composition, the libretto of which may
also be called interesting,
though it is faulty in its want of action.
It is the old legend of Genoveva somewhat altered. Siegfried, Count of
the Palatinate, is ordered by the Emperor Charles Martell to join him
in the war with the infidels, who broke out of Spain under Abdurrhaman.
The noble Count recommends his wife Genoveva and all he possesses, to
the protection of his friend Golo, who is however secretly in love with
his master's wife. After Siegfried has said farewell she falls into a
swoon, which Golo takes advantage of to kiss her, thereby still further
exciting his flaming passion. Genoveva finally awakes and goes away to
mourn in silence for her husband.
Golo being alone, an old hag Margaretha, whom he takes for his nurse,
comes to console him.
She is in reality his mother and has great schemes for her son's future
happiness. She insinuates to him that Genoveva, being alone, needs
consolation and will easily be led on to accept more tender attentions,
and she promises him her assistance. The second act show Genoveva's
room. She longs sadly for her husband and sees with pain and disgust
the insolent behavior of the servants, whose wild songs penetrate into
her silent chamber.
Golo enters to bring her the news of a great victory over Abdurrhaman,
news, which fill her heart with joy.
She bids Golo sing and sweetly accompanies his song, which so fires his
passion that he falls upon his knees and frightens her by glowing
words. Vainly she bids him leave her; he only grows more excited, till
she repulses him with the word "bastard". Now his love turns into
hatred, and when Drago, the faithful steward comes to announce that the
servants begin to be more and more insolent, daring even to insult the
good name of the Countess, Golo asserts that they speak the truth about
her. He persuades the incredulous Drago to hide himself in Genoveva's
room, the latter having retired for the night's rest.
Margaretha, listening at the door, hears everything. She tells Golo
that Count Siegfried lies wounded at Strassbourg; she has intercepted
his letter to the Countess and prepares to leave for that town,
in order to nurse the Count and kill him slowly by some deadly poison.
Then Golo calls quickly for the servants, who all assemble to penetrate
into their mistress' room. She repulses them full of wounded pride,
but at last she yields, and herself taking the candle to light the room
proceeds to search, when Drago is found behind the curtains and at once
silenced by Golo, who runs his dagger through his heart. Genoveva is
led into the prison of the castle.
The third act takes place at Strassbourg, where Siegfried is being
nursed by Margaretha. His strength defies her perfidy, and he is full
of impatience to return to his loving wife, when Golo enters bringing
him the news of her faithlessness.
Siegfried in despair bids Golo kill her with his own sword. He decides
to fly into the wilderness, but before fulfilling his design, he goes
once more to Margaretha, who has promised to show him all that passed
at home during his absence. He sees Genoveva in a magic looking-glass,
exchanging kindly words with Drago, but there is no appearance of guilt
in their intercourse. The third image shows Genoveva sleeping on her
couch, and Drago approaching her. With an imprecation Siegfried starts
up, bidding Golo avenge him, but at the same instant the glass flies in
pieces with a terrible crash, and Drago's ghost stands before
Margaretha, commanding her to tell Siegfried the truth.
In the fourth act Genoveva is being led into the wilderness by two
ruffians, who have orders to murder her. Before this is done, Golo
approaches her once more, showing her Siegfried's ring and sword, with
which he has been bidden kill her. He tries hard to win her, but she
turns from him with scorn and loathing, preferring death to dishonor.
At length relinquishing his attempts, he beckons to the murderers to do
their work and hands them Count Siegfried's weapon. Genoveva in her
extreme need seizes the cross of the Saviour, praying fervently, and
detains the ruffians till at the last moment Siegfried appears, led by
the repentant Margaretha. There ensues a touching scene of
forgiveness, while Golo rushes away to meet his fate by falling over a