Idle Hans

In one act by A. RITTER.


Text after a poetic tale by FELIX DAHN.

The composer of this hitherto unknown opera is no young man. He is

over sixty, and his well deserved fame reaches him but tardily.

Alexander Ritter, a relation and a true friend of Wagner's, was

one of the few, who gave his help to the latter when he fled to

oor and abandoned. Though a warm admirer of Wagner's

music, Ritter is not his echo. His music, saturated with the modern

spirit is absolutely independant and original. His compositions are

not numerous; two operas and a few songs are almost all he did for

immortality, but they all wear the stamp of a remarkable talent. "Idle

Hans" is a dramatic fairy-tale of poetical conception. Its strength

lies in the orchestra, which is wonderfully in tune with the different

situations. After having been represented in Weimar ten years ago, the

opera fell in oblivion, from which it has now come forth, and was given

on the Dresden stage on Nov. 9th 1892. It has met with unanimous

approval from all those, who understand fine and spiritual music.

The plot is soon told.

Count Hartung has seven sons, all grown up after his own heart except

the youngest, Hans, called the Idle, who prefers basking in the

sunshine and dreaming away his life to hunting and fighting. He is a

philosopher, and a true type of the German, patient, quiet and

phlegmatic, who does not deem it worth his while to move a finger for

all the shallow doings of the world in general, and his brothers in

particular. The son's idleness so exasperates his father, that he

orders him to be chained like a criminal to a huge oaken post standing

in the courtyard, forbidding anybody under heavy penalty, to

speak to him. His brothers pity him, but they obey their father.

Left alone, Hans sighs after his dead mother, who so well understood

him, and who had opened his eyes and heart to an ideal world, with all

that is good and noble. Far from loathing his father, he only bewails

the hardness of him, for whose love he craves in vain. At last he

falls asleep. Seeing this the maid servants come to mock him (by the

bye a delightful piece of music is this chatter-chorus). When Hans has

driven away the impudent hussies, his brother Ralph the Singer

approaches to assure him of his unvarying love.--He is the only-one who

believes in Hans' worth, and now tries hard to rouse him into activity,

for he has heard, that the Queen is greatly oppressed by her enemies,

the Danes. But Hans remains unmoved, telling him quietly to win his

laurels without him. In the midst of their colloquy the Herald's voice

announces that the battle is lost, and that the Queen is coming to the

castle, a fugitive. The old Count descends from his tower to assemble,

his sons and his vassals. Hardly are they ready, when the Queen rides

up to ask for protection. The gate closes behind her and the old Count

does homage, while Hans, still lying idle on his straw, stares at her

beauty with new awakened interest. But the enemy is coming nearer; all

the Count's well-trained soldiers are defeated, and already Harald, the

Danish King peremptorily orders them to surrender. Now Hans

awakes. His effort to break his chain excites the Queen's attention,

who asks the old Count, for what crime the beautiful youth is punished

so severely. The father disowns his son but at this moment the gate

gives way and in rushes Harald, who is met by old Hartung. Alas the

Count's sword breaks in pieces. With the cry, "Now it is worth while

acting" Hans breaks his fetters and brandishing the oaken post to which

he was chained, he fells Harald to the ground with one mighty stroke.

Konrad the valet fetters the giant, and Hans slays every one, who tries

to enter; then rushing out, delivers his brothers and puts the whole

army to flight. Then he returns to the Queen who has witnessed his

deeds with a heart full of deep admiration and swears allegiance.

Heartily thanking him, she only now hears, that the young hero is

Hartung's son, and full of gratitude she offers him one half of her

kingdom. But Hans the Idler does not care for a crown; it is her own

sweet self he wants, and boldly he claims her hand. Persuaded to have

found in him a companion for life as true and loyal as ever lived, she

grants him her heart and kingdom.