The Piper Of Hameln

In five acts by VICTOR NESSLER.

Text by FR. HOFMANN from JULIUS WOLFF'S legend of the same name.

Without any preliminary introduction to the musical world Nessler wrote

this opera and at once became, not only known, but a universal

favorite; so much so that there is scarcely a theatre in Germany, in

which this work of his is not now given.

The subject of the libre
to is a most favorable one, like that of

Nessler's later composition, "the Trumpeter of Saekkingen"; the

principal personage Singuf, being particularly well suited for a

first-rate stage hero.

Then Wolff's poetical songs are music in themselves, and it was

therefore not difficult to work out interesting melodies, of which as a

matter of fact we find many in this opera.

The scene of the following events is the old town of Hameln on the

Weser in the year 1284. The citizens are assembled to hold council, as

to how the rat-plague of the town is to be got rid of. No one is able

to suggest a remedy when suddenly the clerk of the senate, Ethelerus,

announces a stranger, who offers to destroy all the rats and mice in

the place, solely by the might of his pipe. Hunold Singuf, a

wandering Bohemian, enters and repeats his offer, asking one hundred

Marks in silver as his reward and forbidding anybody listen or to be

present, while he works his charm.

The senators comply with his request, promising him in addition a drink

from the town-cellar, when the last rat shall have disappeared, which

is to be when the moon is full.

In the following scene the Burgomaster's daughter Regina is with her

old cousin Dorothea. She expects her bridegroom, the architect of the

town and son of the chief magistrate, Heribert Sunneborn, who has just

returned home from a long stay abroad. While the lovers greet each

other, Ethelerus, who has wooed Regina in vain, stands aside greatly


The second act opens in an inn, where Hunold makes the people dance and

sing to his wonderful melodies. There he first sees the maid, who has

appeared to him in his dreams. She is Gertrud, a fishermaiden and: To

look is to love--they are attracted to each other as by a magic spell.

Wulf, the smith, who loves Gertrud, sees it with distrust, but Hunold

begins to sing his finest songs. In the evening the lovers meet before

Gertrud's hut, and full of anxious forebodings, she tries to turn him

from his designs and is only half-quieted, when he assures her that no

fiendish craft is at work and that he will do it for the last time.

In the third act Ethelerus holds council with magister Rhynperg as to

the means, by which they can best succeed in teasing and

provoking the proud Sunneborn. Hunold enters, and agreeable to an

invitation of theirs, sits down to drink a bottle of wine. They make

him drink and sing a good deal, and he boasts of being able to make the

maidens all fall in love with him, if he chooses. Rhynperg suggests

that he must omit the Burgomaster's daughter Regina, and he succeeds in

making Hunold accept a wager, that he will obtain a kiss from her

before his departure.

The following night Hunold accomplishes the exorcism of the rats, which

may be seen running towards him from every part of the town and

precipitating themselves into the river. Unhappily, Wulf, standing in

a recess, has seen and heard all and coming forward to threaten Hunold,

the latter hurls his dagger after him, upon which Wulf takes flight.

In the fourth act the whole town is assembled to rejoice in its

deliverance from the awful plague, but when Hunold asks for his reward,

the Burgomaster tells him, that a so-called rat-king, a beast with five

heads, has been seen in his (the Burgomaster's) cellar, to which

complaint Hunold replies, that it is the smith's fault, who listened

against his express prohibition. He promises to destroy the rat-king

on the same day and once more claims his due, together with the

promised parting gift, which he begs to be, not a drink of wine, but a

kiss from Regina's lips. Of course everybody is astounded at his

insolence, and the angry Burgomaster bids him leave the town at

once, without his money. But Hunold, nothing daunted, begins to sing

so beautifully that the hearts of all the women yearn towards him, he

continues still more passionately, addressing himself directly to

Regina, and never stops, till the maiden, carried away by a passion

unconquerable, offers her lips for a kiss, swearing to be his own for

ever. A great tumult arises and Hunold is taken to prison,

notwithstanding the remonstrances of Ethelerus, who bitterly repents

having had anything to do with Rhynperg's bad joke.

The fifth act takes us to the banks of the Weser, where Gertrud sits in

despair. She deems herself betrayed by Hunold, but resolves

nevertheless to save his life.

Hunold is brought before the judges and condemned to be burnt alive as

a sorcerer, when Gertrud steps forth, claiming his life. In pursuance

of an old privilege, Hunold is free when a maid of the town claims him,

but he is banished from the country and Gertrud with him.

Hunold promises never to return, but Gertrud throws herself into the


Then Hunold swears to avenge the death of his bride. While the

citizens are in church, he lures away their children by playing on his

pipe; all follow him, both great and small. When he has led them

safely over the bridge, he calls the people from church. All gather on

the banks of the stream, but they are only just in time to see

the bridge fall into the river, while the mountain opposite opens,

swallowing up Hunold and the children for ever.