In five acts by GIACOMO MEYERBEER.
Text by SCRIBE.
Though Meyerbeer never again attained the high standard of his
Huguenots, the "Prophet" is not without both striking and
powerful passages; it is even said, that motherly love never spoke in
accents more touching than in this opera. The text is again
historical, but though done by Scribe, it is astonishingly weak and
The scene is laid in Holland at the time of the wars with the
Fides, mother of the hero, John von Leyden, keeps an inn near
Dortrecht. She has just betrothed a young peasant-girl to her son, but
Bertha is a vassal, of the Count of Oberthal and dares not marry
without his permission.
As they set about getting his consent to the marriage, three
Anabaptists, Jonas, Mathisen and Zacharias appear, exciting the people
with their speeches and false promises. While they are preaching,
Oberthal enters, but smitten with Bertha's charms he refuses his
consent to her marriage and carries her off, with Fides as companion.
In the second act we find John, waiting for his bride; as she delays,
the Anabaptists try to win him for their cause, they prophesy him a
crown, but as yet he is not ambitious, and life with Bertha looks
sweeter to him than the greatest honors. As the night comes on, Bertha
rushes in to seek refuge from her pursuer, from whom she has
fled.--Hardly has she hidden herself, when Oberthal enters to claim
her. John refuses his assistance, but when Oberthal threatens to kill
his mother, he gives up Bertha to the Count, while his mother, whose
life he has saved at such a price, asks God's benediction on his
head. Then she retires for the night, and the Anabaptists appear once
more, again trying to win John over. This time they succeed. Without
a farewell to his sleeping mother, John follows the Anabaptists, to be
henceforth their leader, their Prophet, their Messiah.
In the third act we see the Anabaptists' camp, their soldiers have
captured a party of noblemen, who are to pay ransom. They all make
merry and the famous ballet on the ice forms part of the amusements.
In the back-ground we see Muenster, which town is in the hands of Count
Oberthal's father, who refuses to surrender it to the enemy. They
resolve to storm it, a resolution which is heard by young Oberthal, who
has come disguised to the Anabaptists' camp in order to save his father
and the town.
But as a light is struck, he is recognized and is about to be killed,
when John hears from him that Bertha has escaped. She sprang out of
the window to save her honor, and falling into the stream, was saved.
When John learns this, he bids the soldiers spare Oberthal's life, that
he may be judged by Bertha herself.
John has already endured great pangs of conscience at seeing his party
so wild and bloodthirsty. He refuses to go further, but hearing, that
an army of soldiers has broken out of Muenster to destroy the
Anabaptists, he rallies. Praying fervently to God for help and
victory, inspiration comes over him and is communicated to all his
adherents, so that they resolve to storm Muenster. They succeed
and in the fourth act we are in the midst of this town, where we find
Fides, who, knowing that her son has turned Anabaptist, though not
aware of his being their Prophet, is receiving alms to save his soul by
masses. She meets Bertha, disguised in a pilgrim's garb. Both
vehemently curse the Prophet, when this latter appears, to be crowned
His mother recognizes him, but he disowns her, declaring her mad, and
by strength of will he compels the poor mother to renounce him. Fides,
in order to save his life, avows that she was mistaken and she is led
In the last act we find the three Anabaptists, Mathisen, Jonas and
Zacharias together. The Emperor is near the gates of Muenster, and they
resolve to deliver their Prophet into his hands in order to save their
Fides has been brought into a dungeon, where John visits her to ask her
pardon and to save her. She curses him, but his repentance moves her
so, that she pardons him when he promises to leave his party. At this
moment Bertha enters. She has sworn to kill the false Prophet, and she
comes to the dungeon to set fire to the gunpowder, hidden beneath it.
Fides detains her, but when she recognizes that her bridegroom and the
Prophet are one and the same person, she wildly denounces him for his
bloody deeds and stabs herself in his presence. Then John decides to
die also and after the soldiers have led his mother away, he
himself sets fire to the vault.
Then he appears at the coronation-banquet, where he knows that he is to
be taken prisoner. When Oberthal, the Bishop and all his treacherous
friends are assembled, he bids two of his faithful soldiers close the
gates and fly. This done, the castle is blown into the air with all
its inhabitants. At the last moment Fides rushes in to share her son's
fate, and all are thus buried under the ruins.