The Alpine King And The Misanthrope

In three acts by LEO BLECH.


The young composer, who is already conductor of the orchestra of the

German Opera in Prague made his debut last year in a small one-act

opera, called "That was I"--, the music of which is pretty and shows

remarkable talent. There is however enormous progress to be observed

in "The Alpine King". Blech, although following in Wa
ner's footsteps,

has a style of his own. His modulations are bold, often daring; his

dissonances are frequent but they are fully compensated for by the most

charming folk-songs. He has the courage to introduce melodies freely,

in this respect he is one among a thousand. In his modern style of

orchestration too he shows himself to be full of resource, while

more especially in those passages, where the spirit-world comes into

play, there is a display of tone-effects of great beauty, which are

perhaps too elaborate for the simple subject, but the Cottage scene,

and the simple Tirolean-songs of the peasants are all the more graceful

by contrast; one of the most charming songs in the Polka-air in f:

"Fair are Roses and Jessamine".

Batka, the writer of the libretto, has taken his subject from Raimund's

beautiful folk-story of the same name. He has done it with skill but

not without some weak passages.

The scene opens in a Tirolean mountain district. Marthe, Rappelkopf's

daughter, and her servant Lieschen, while making a nosegay of wild

flowers, are waiting for Marthe's lover Hans, a poor musician, who

after having been rejected by his sweetheart's father has absented

himself for some time, in order to make himself perfect in his art by

studying under the great masters in Italy. Lieschen is much afraid of

the Alpine King on whose ground they are sitting, and of whom the

legend says, that he turns young girls into old women, if they dare to

look at him. Marthe has more sense, she is sure that the lord of these

grand mountains must be good and just. While the girls are busy wilh

their garlands, Hans comes up the steep path and is joyously greeted by

his fiancee. He has become a man and is full of hope that he will now

be able to satisfy Herr Rappelkopf, but Marthe sadly tells him,

how morbid and misanthropic her father has become, so that she does not

even dare to mention her lover's name. Suddenly a shot is heard and a

bird falls dead at their feet. Turning to look at the unwelcome

intruder they find themselves face to face with a strange old man; who,

when they ask him who he is, replies quickly: "I am the King of the

Alps". Dreadfully frightened Lieschen and Marthe look at each other in

consternation, but finding that their sweet young faces are unchanged,

they take courage, and kneeling before the majestic traveller they

implore his help and blessing, which the latter willingly promises.

The second scene takes place in Rappelkopf's house. Lieschen comes to

look for the man servant Habakuk, who is very much in love with her.

She treats him rather scornfully, being averse to his peculiar style of

love-making, and the French phrases with which he adorns his speeches

and which she does not understand. He takes the greatest pride in the

fact that he has lived for two years in Paris, and he continually

refers to that glorious time. Rappelkopf taking his servants by

surprise pours forth a volley of abuse upon them; he is interrupted by

the appearance of his daughter and Hans, whom he receives just as

badly. In vain his wife Sabine implores him to listen to reason; in

his wrath he abuses her too, so that she leaves him broken-hearted,

sighing, that she would rather see him dead than in such a state of

mind. Shortly after Habakuk comes forward with a kitchen-knife,

with which he is going to cut chiccory in the garden. Rappelkopf no

sooner perceives the knife that his wits take leave of him altogether;

and he actually believes that Habakuk has been sent by his wife to

murder him. Making for one door he meets Hans and Marthe, turning to

another he sees Habakuk, and at last trying to escape by the garden

door his wife stops him, but he pushes her aside, and with frantic

vociferations he rushes away.

The second act opens in front of a cottage in the Alpine regions; Veit

the joiner is busy at his bench singing all the while and rejoicing in

the prospect of the coming Festival. His wife Katherine is busy

washing and his daughter is sitting at her wheel spinning and singing,

while his son is playing about merrily. At last the joiner throws down

his plane disregarding the remonstrances of his wife, who still goes on

with her washing and complains bitterly of her light hearted and lazy

family. Thus they are found by Rappelkopf, whose fancy is at once

struck by position of the solitary little cottage. He desires to buy

it and offers three hundred thalers for it on condition that he shall

enter in immediate possession. The astonished workman consents to this

bargain without more ado, too happy at this unexpected piece of good

luck to think of anything else. Rappelkopf gruffly orders the whole

family to pack off instantly. Father and children prepare to depart

laughing and singing, but Katherine takes leave of her humble home with

bitter tears.

When Rappelkopf finds himself alone he is quite delighted by the

complete solitude and grandeur of the surrounding mountains and

glaciers, but soon darkness comes over the scene and with it uneasiness

and fear take possession of the lonely man. At last he can stand the

loneliness no longer and on his cry for help, Astragalus the Alpine

King appears frightening him almost to death. Astragalus however

merely advises him to return to his family, whom he left in sorrow and

anxiety. But Rappelkopf's hatred of mankind knows no bounds; he

remains deaf to the good king's remonstrances. At last the latter

determines to make Rappelkopf see his behaviour in its true light. To

this end he promises to metamorphose the misanthrope into the exact

likeness of his own brother in law, in which form he is to return home

on the following morning in order to test the real feelings of his wife

and daughter.

Astragalus makes him swear that he will not persist in his obstinacy

should he find out his error, and Rappelkopf consents, making the king

promise in his turn to destroy all the inhabitants of the place, should

his hate for them be justified. Both take solemn oaths, after which

Astragalus touches Rappelkopf's forehead, making him fall asleep while

a sweet chorus of fairies lulls the unhappy man into sweet slumber.

The third act opens in Rappelkopf's house. Marthe and Lieschen are

waiting for the return of the neighbours who have gone in search of the

lost father. Marthe is in great anxiety, she has almost ceased

to hope for the Alpine King's help. Suddenly the stage-coach arrives

bringing Sabine's brother, whom his sister had summoned in her despair.

It is Rappelkopf himself in the likeness of uncle Joseph. He is

greeted with enthusiasm, but remarking his wife's sad looks, he

observes that she ought to be glad to be rid of the maniac who has

treated her so badly. Sabine however stands up for her husband,

affirming that she loves him as much as ever, though a strange

alienation of mind has sadly changed him. Rappelkopf does not believe

her; he asks why she should suppose such a thing. Sabine relates the

scene with Habakuk, who, having been sent by her into the garden with a

kitchen-knife to cut some vegetables, was regarded as a murderer by her

insane husband, who had fled at once. This explanation moves

Rappelkopf deeply, and when Marthe begs him earnestly to assure her

father when he sees him of her deep filial love, and to speak in favour

of Hans without whom she cannot live, he kisses her tenderly and then

begs to be left alone for a short time. They all leave him, but almost

immediately afterwards Rappelkopf hears a great uproar, which Habakuk

explains by announcing the return of his master, who seems to be in a

more frantic state than ever.

Astragalus now enters transformed into the appearance of Rappelkopf.

He pushes Hans before him overwhelming him with a volley of abuse. The

real Rappelkopf, coming forward to greet his brother-in-law, is

received no better. When Rappelkopf mentions Sabine, Astragalus speaks

of her exactly in the same way as Rappelkopf had formerly done, calling

her a murderess, a dragon etc.; in fact he behaves in such a manner

that Rappelkopf begins to be afraid of his own (Rappelkopf's) image.

Astragalus having shut himself up in his own room now rings violently;

both servants rush forward at his call, but neither of them dares to

enter the tyrant's apartment. Rappelkopf, already heartily ashamed of

himself now asks the servants what their opinion is about their master

and receives the instant reply, that he is a madman, of whom everybody

is afraid.--They confess their attachment to each other, and entreat

the supposed uncle Joseph to try to bring their master back to reason,

and to put in a good word for them about their wedding. The uncle

promises everything, and having got a knife from Habakuk he goes into

the garden to cut some roses for Sabine. Habakuk and his sweet-heart

are left alone and exchange a few words, but they timidly separate when

Astragalus enters. However he takes no notice of them, but looking out

of the window he perceives Rappelkopf, returning from the garden with

the knife and a bunch of roses. Rappelkopf no sooner sees his double,

than he tries to slink off unobserved, but Astragalus detains him and

pointing to the knife in his hand abuses him in the very language which

Rappelkopf had formerly used, calling him murderer, robber, monster


The poor misanthrope screams for help and the whole family rushing in

Astragalus turns his wrath upon them, cursing them one and all. This

is too much for Rappelkopf. "Enough of the play" he cries, "I was a

madman and a sinner, not he, but I am Rappelkopf, and I freely confess

that my hatred towards mankind in general and especially against my own

dear family was as wicked as it was unfounded!" At these word a peal

of thunder is heard and the room becomes dark. When the light returns,

Astragalus has vanished and Rappelkopf stands before his family in his

own form. Deeply moved, he begs pardon of every one, he embraces his

faithful wife and daughter and unites the two pairs of lovers, Martha

and Hans--Lieschen and Habakuk.