Hans Heiling

In three acts with a prelude, by HEINRICH MARSCHNER.


The text to this opera, which was written by the celebrated actor and

sent to Marschner anonymously, so struck the composer by its beauty

that he adapted music to it, music which ought to be heard much oftener

on our stages, on account of its freshness and of its healthy dramatic

action, which never f
ags, but continues to interest and move the

hearer with ever-increasing effect till the end is reached.

The contents are as follows:

Hans Heiling, King of the gnomes, has fallen in love with a daughter of

the earth; the charming Anna. This maiden, a poor country-girl in the

first freshness of youth, has been induced by her mother to consent to

a betrothal with the rich stranger, whom she esteems, but nothing more,

her heart not yet having been touched by love.

In the prelude we are introduced into the depths of earth, where the

gnomes work and toil incessantly carrying glittering stones, gold and

silver and accumulating all the treasures, on which men's hearts are


Their King announces to them, that he will no longer be one of theirs;

he loves, and therefore he resigns his crown. All the passionate

entreatings of his mother and of the gnomes are of no avail. At

the Queen's bidding he takes with him a magic book, without which he

should lose his power over the gnomes, and after giving to her beloved

son a set of luminous diamonds mother and son part, Heiling with joy in

his heart, the mother in tears and sorrow.

In the first act Heiling arises from the earth, for ever closing the

entrance to the gnomes.

Anna greets him joyously and Gertrud, her mother, heartily seconds the

welcome. Heiling gives to his bride a golden chain, and Anna adorning

herself, thinks with pleasure, how much she will be looked at and

envied by her companions. She fain would show herself at once and begs

Heiling to visit a public festival with her. But Heiling by nature

serious and almost taciturn, refuses her request. Anna pouts, but she

soon forgets her grief, when she sees the curious signs of erudition in

her lover's room. Looking over the magic book, the leaves begin to

turn by themselves, quicker and quicker, the strange signs seem to

grow, to threaten her, until stricken with horrible fear Anna cries

out, and Heiling, turning to her, sees too late what she has done.

Angry at her curiosity, he pushes her away, but she clings to him with

fervent entreaties to destroy the dreadful book. His love conquers his

reason; and he throws the last link which connects him with his past

into the fire. A deep thunder-peal is heard. Anna thanks him

heartily, but from this hour the seed of fear and distrust grows in her


Heiling, seeing her still uneasy, agrees to visit the festival with her

upon condition that she refrains from dancing. She gladly promises,

but as soon as they come to the festival, Anna is surrounded by the

village-lads, who entreat her to dance. They dislike the stranger, who

has won the fairest maiden of the village, and Conrad the hunter, who

has long loved Anna, is particularly hard on his rival. He mocks him,

feeling that Heiling is not what he seems, and tries to lure Anna away

from his side. At last Heiling grows angry, forbidding Anna once more

to dance. She is wounded by his words and telling him abruptly, that

she is not married yet and that she never will be his slave, she leaves


In despair Heiling sees her go away with Conrad, dancing and frolicking.

In the second act we find Anna in the forest. She is in a deep

reverie; her heart has spoken, but alas, not for her bridegroom, whom

she now fears; it only beats for Conrad, who has owned his love to her.

Darkness comes on and the gnomes appear with their Queen, who reveals

to the frightened girl the origin of her bridegroom and entreats her to

give back the son to his poor bereft mother. When the gnomes have

disappeared, Conrad overtakes Anna, and she tells him all, asking his

help against her mysterious bridegroom. Conrad, seeing that she

returns his love, is happy. He has just obtained a good situation and

will now be able to wed her.

He accompanies her home, where Gertrud welcomes them joyously, having

feared that Anna had met with an accident in the forest.

While the lovers are together, Heiling enters, bringing the bridal

jewels. Mother Gertrud is dazzled, but Anna shrinks from her

bridegroom. When he asks for an explanation, she tells him that she

knows of his origin. Then all his hopes die within him, but determined

that his rival shall not be happy at his cost, he hurls his dagger at

Conrad and takes flight.

In the last act Heiling is alone in a ravine in the mountains. He has

sacrificed everything and gained nothing. Sadly he decides to return

to the gnomes. They appear at his bidding, but they make him feel that

he no longer has any power over them, and by way of adding still

further to his sorrows they tell him that his rival lives and is about

to wed Anna. Then indeed all seems lost to the poor dethroned King.

In despair and repentance he casts himself to the earth. But the

gnomes, seeing that he really has abandoned all earthly hopes, swear

fealty to him once more and return with him to their Queen, by whom he

is received with open arms.

Meanwhile Conrad, who only received a slight wound from Heiling's

dagger and has speedily recovered, has fixed his wedding-day and we see

Anna, the happy bride in the midst of her companions, prepared to go to

church with her lover. But when she looks about her, Heiling is at her

side, come to take revenge. Conrad would fain aid her, but his

sword breaks before it touches Heiling, who invokes the help of his

gnomes. They appear, but at the same moment the Queen is seen,

exhorting her son to pardon and to forget. He willingly follows her

away into his kingdom of night and darkness, never to see earth's

surface again. The anxious peasants once more breathe freely and join

in common thanks to God.