In three acts by FELIX DRAESEKE.
The first representation of Herrat took place in Dresden on the 10th of
March 1892. Its author is long known as one of the first living
composers, but his music is so serious, so extremely difficult in its
execution, that this is probably the cause, why his operas have been
almost unknown hitherto. Like Wagner he did the libretto himself, like
him he chose
is subject from the old "Heldensaga", but here all
likeness ends; there is no relation between Draeseke and Wagner;
each goes his own way, each is an original genius.
The Amelungenlied a translation of which has appeared from Simrock,
bears great likeness to the Nibelungen; we even find in part the same
persons. The subject is a bloody-one; love and heroism are the poles
which move it. The music is grand, stern, sometimes sublime, but we
look vainly for grace and sweetness. The libretto is rather poor, the
rhymes unmelodious and uneven; nevertheless the musical effect is deep
and lasting; the breath of a master-genius has brought it to life.
The first scene is laid in Etzel's (Attila's) castle Gran. The King of
the Hun's best vassal, Dietrich of Bern has been severely wounded, and
sent by his Sire to Gran, that he might be tended by Queen Heike,
Etzel's wife. Instead of taking care of the hero, she leaves him to
her maid Herlinde, who has nought but water at her disposition, while
the Queen nurses her kinsman Dietrich der Reusse, a prisoner of war.
The consequence of this is, that Etzel coming home finds his friend
sicker than before, while his enemy is well and strong. Full of wrath
he orders the Queen to keep Dietrich den Reussen prisoner, without
leaving her any guards; should he escape, she is to be beheaded.
After Etzel's departure to the army Dietrich der Reusse escapes
notwithstanding the Queen's entreaties.--In her distress Heike turns to
the sore wounded Dietrich von Bern, who, though bitterly cursing
her ingratitude rises from his sick-bed in order to pursue the fugitive.
In the second act Dietrich of Reuss arrives on foot at Saben's castle
in Esthonia. (Saben is a usurper, who has dispossessed King Nentwin
and taken possession of his castle and his daughter Herrat.)
Dietrich's steed is dead, but hearing his pursuer close upon his heels
he takes refuge in an adjacent wood. Herrat standing on a balcony, has
recognized him. She sees him vanish with regret, because a prediction
told her, that a Dietrich would be her deliverer, but when another hero
comes up, she directs him to the wood, to which Dietrich has flown.
She hears the combat going on between the two, and soon the pursuer
comes back, telling her that his enemy is dead and begging for rest and
shelter. When he tells her his name, she starts back, well knowing
that Saben, who has slain Dietrich's relatives, will not receive him
graciously. She however accompanies him to a room, and determined to
protect him against Saben's wiles, she binds up his wounds and nurses
him tenderly. Saben entering recognizes the Berner by his celebrated
helmet; he leaves the room telling Herrat to look well after such a
famous guest. But Herrat's mind misgives her, she tries to rouse the
hero, who has sunk into the sleep of exhaustion, and not succeeding,
places his arms well within his reach. When she is about to withdraw,
she sees Saben return with a band of assassins. Their murmurs rouse
Dietrich, who defends himself bravely, slaying one after another.
But his strength is failing, when suddenly a disguised youth rushes to
his assistance with eight well-armed companions. Saben's men are
slain, Saben himself falls a victim to Dietrich's sword. When the
youth unmasks Dietrich recognizes in his deliverer Herrat his sweet
nurse, whose likeness to his own dead wife Gotlinde has moved him from
the first. She offers him her father's kingdom, which he though full
of love and gratitude, is loth to accept, as he only claims her heart
and hand. But ambition urges him to accept her offer, and so he not
only obtains her hand but is proclaimed King of Esthonia.
The third act presents the camp of the Huns, pitched southwards of Gran
near the Danube. Etzel has already twice granted respite to the Queen,
but as there is no trace of the two Dietrichs, Heike is now to be
executed. Old Hildebrand, one of the Berner's followers is
particularly inimical to her, because he believes her to be the cause
of his beloved master's death.
Suddenly everybody's attention is attracted to a ship approaching the
camp. Hildebrand, perceiving on it a hero in disguise, wearing
Dietrich's helmet, with Waldemar and Ilias, Etzel's enemies on his
side, calls the people to arms. But when the foreign knight disembarks
and unmasking shows the face of Dietrich von Bern, everybody is full of
joy. He brings the two hostile Kings as prisoners to Etzel and lays
the two crowns of Esthonia and of the Wiking country at his feet.
Etzel's brow however remains somber; he sternly asks after
Dietrich von Reuss. The Berner unwilling to sing his own praise, is
silent, when his wife Herrat steps forth, relating how her hero killed
his antagonist in Saben's woods. Now at last Etzel relents; he draws
his wife to his breast in forgiveness, and all sing hail to Etzel and
Dietrich and to their Queens.