In three Acts. Music by MAX SCHILLINGS.
Libretto by EMIL GERHAEUSER, founded on HEBBEL'S fragment "MOLOCH".
The first representation of this opera took place on December 8th 1906
in the Dresden Royal Opera.
It is the production of a highly esteemed German composer, who, though
independant in his musical invention follows in Wagner's steps.
"Ingwelde" and the "Pfeiffertag" have already made him a
name amongst modern composers; his last, "Moloch" is however the best
in orchestration and invention.
The Moloch music, if somewhat heavy and loud, is altogether noble and
interesting. The first Act is steeped in gloom, the second is more
fascinating and especially the choral accompaniment to the
quartette is as striking as it is beautiful.
But the culminating point is reached in the last Act, where we find
passages of extreme beauty.
The scene is laid on the island of Thule (otherwise Germany, perhaps
Ruegen), at the time after the destruction of Carthage.
In the first Act Hiram, a Carthaginian priest emerges from a cave,
where he has found a refuge. He has brought Carthage's famous idol
Moloch to Thule, with the intention of subjecting the inhabitants to
its power, in which he himself no more believes since the downfall of
his native city.
The inhabitants of Thule do not as yet worship any particular god, and
Hiram hopes to gain enough ascendancy over them, to use them as a means
of revenge against Carthage's great enemy Rome.
When the people of Thule catch sight of the fearful idol, they are
frightened, and Hiram intensifies their terror by taking advantage of
natural causes. A terrific thunderstorm comes on and the lightning
striking the hollow brass figure, sets light to the wood inside and
makes the figure become red hot.
The King's son Teut is one of Hiram's first converts. Moloch, he says,
has appeared to him in his dreams, and in spite of the remonstrances of
Wolf, his father's friend, in spite of Theoda's and his mother's tears,
he worships at Moloch's feet together with the majority of his
Velleda, his mother, a somewhat mystic personage, who foresees every
misfortune, prophetically sees her son in the fearful monster's
jaws; she veils herself shuddering and withdraws into the woods.
Theoda, who loves Teut hopelessly tries all her simple wiles and
allurements on him in vain. When Hiram sacrifices a pair of doves and
a ram to the idol, the people all join in his exulting cry of "Moloch
is King, he is Lord over all", with which grand and impressive chorus
the first Act closes.
The second Act takes place near the sacred yew of the Thuleans. Wolf
meets Theoda, and tells her, that Teut is alienating the people with
the new religion, and that he must be slain. Theoda opposes him, but
he turns from her, and goes to summon the old King to pronounce
Meanwhile Hiram approaches the yew, accompanied by the labourers, who
are returning from their work. He has taught them to plough the
ground, to sow, to till the soil, and now he deems it time to fell the
old tree, which they have hitherto held sacred, and under the branches
of which the King is wont to pronounce judgment.
Hiram is about to lay the axe to its roots, when the King appears.
Seeing his son bearing a foreign sword, he bids him lay it down at his
feet. But Teut declares, that he has received the sword for the
protection of Moloch, and audaciously summons his father to dedicate
his own ancestral weapon to the new god.
Hiram joins him in this demand, and rouses the anger of the King, who
would have stabbed the priest but for Teut, who throws himself between
the two. Then the outraged monarch turns his sword against his son,
whose sense of duty however hinders him from attacking his father,
before whom he bends his knee. Yet he only meets with scorn and
sneers, and stung by these he seizes his sword. Theoda now intervenes,
and Teut throws down his weapon. The King does likewise, and both
begin to wrestle. Teut overcomes his father, who, overpowered either
by the shock or by shame, becomes unconscious. When Teut perceives
what he has done, he is struck with sorrow, but seizing the royal sword
he hands it to Hiram, to be taken to Moloch.
When the King comes to his senses, he is so humiliated by his defeat,
that he begs his son to kill him. Teut refuses to do so, and the King,
cursing his son, turns away, to bury his grief in the wilderness.
Theoda follows him into exile, while Teut joins in the solemn
procession to Moloch's temple.
Hiram is triumphant; but suddenly cries of woe are heard. Teut's
mother, in despair at her son's apostasy, has precipitated herself from
the rocks into the sea, and filled her son's heart with bitter sorrow
and pangs of remorse.
Hiram however succeeds once more in recalling him to his allegiance to
Moloch by telling him sternly, that all human feelings must be
sacrificed to the god.
When the people return, he orders them to cut down the sacred yew, the
timber of which is to be used for building the first ships known in
Thule, and that are destined for the war against the Romans.--
The third Act takes place some months later. A bountiful harvest has
been gathered in. With a charming chorus and dance the reapers
celebrate their first harvest festival.
Hiram's power has grown immensely; he has fostered the people's
superstitious dread by forbidding them to approach the temple of Moloch
at night, as death would be the inevitable fate of any mortal, wo
should dare to be present at Hiram's nightly converse with the god.
Hiram hails the reapers and after having sacrificed corn and bread to
the idol, he describes to his breathless hearers all the wonders of
Italy. They decide to sail on the following morning,--the ships lying
ready at anchor,--to conquer the greatest city of the world.
After they have left Wolf appears with some warriors. Their time of
revenge is near; Wolf delivers the King's shoulder belt to one of the
soldiers and orders him to rouse the country with the cry "Thule is in
danger", and to summon all the King's loyal subjects against Hiram and
Teut the apostate.
Night sets in and the priests of Moloch march forth from the temple,
warning everybody away from its door.--
Teut keeping guard sits before it in deep thought. Suddenly he hears a
well known voice. A roe appears and springs into the grove of the
temple followed by Theoda, who with her spear leaps lightly over the
For a moment Teut stands spell bound, but remembering the awful warning
he darts after her.
When Theoda emerges from the grove alone, she suddenly recognizes the
fatal place. Seeing Teut she implores him to save her from death. In
his first mad impulse he is about to stab both himself and her, but his
love restrains him and in their mutual embrace they forget death and
fear. When they awake from their trance and find themselves still
alive and unharmed, Teut in a flash realizes Hiram's falseness and the
hollowness of his religion.
He awakens Hiram, the ever sleepless, who, distraught at the prospect
of losing all he has schemed and worked for hurls himself from the
cliffs into the sea.
In the mean time Wolf and his companions have set fire to the ships.
The priests come out in the dawning morning and are horror struck to
hear, that Hiram is dead. The priests' chant to Moloch is drowned by
the wild cry of the people.
All now turn against Teut, and Wolf, unaware of his sudden conversion,
stabs him in the side.
Thus Theoda finds her lover. She comes, adorned with red berries and
garlands, bringing the old King, who sees in bitter grief that
his son is the victim of the creator of a new world of beauty and
fertility, which he sees around him. Theoda bends down to her lover,
who dies in her arms, while the King orders to destroy Moloch.