Will O' The Wisp

In one act by KARL GRAMANN



With "Irrlicht" the composer takes a step towards verisme; both,

subject and music are terribly realistic, though without the last shade

of triviality. The music is often of brilliant dramatic effect,

and the fantastic text, well matching the music, is as rich in

thrilling facts as any modern
talian opera. Indeed this seems to be

by far the best opera, which the highly gifted composer has written.

The scene is laid on a pilot's station on the coast of Normandy. A

pilot-boat has been built and is to be baptized with the usual

ceremonies. Tournaud, an old ship-captain expects his daughter

Gervaise back from a stay in Paris. He worships her, and when she

arrives, he is almost beside himself with joy and pride. But Gervaise

is pale and sad, and hardly listens to gay Marion, who tells her of the

coming festival.--Meanwhile all the fisher-people from far and near

assemble to participate in the baptism, and Andre, who is to be captain

of the boat, is about to choose a god-mother amongst the fair maidens

around, when he sees Gervaise coming out of the house, where she has

exchanged her travelling garb for a national-dress. Forgotten are all

the village-lasses, and Andre chooses Gervaise, who reluctantly

consents to baptize the boat, and is consequently received very

ungraciously by the maidens and their elders. She blesses the boat

which sails off among the cheers of the crowd with the simple words:

"God bless thee". Andre, who loves Gervaise with strong and

everlasting affection turns to her full of hope. He is gently but

firmly rebuked, and sadly leaves her, while Gervaise is left to her own

sad memories, which carry her back to the short happy time, when she

was loved and won and alas forsaken by a stranger of high

position. Marion, who loves Andre hopelessly, vainly tries to brighten

up her companion. They are all frightened by the news of a ship being

in danger at sea. A violent storm has arisen, and when Maire Grisard,

the builder of the yacht pronounces her name "Irrlicht," Gervaise

starts with a wild cry. The ship is seen battling with the waves,

while Andre rushes in to bring Gervaise a telegraphic dispatch from

Paris. It tells her, that her child is at death's door. Tournaud,

catching the paper, in a moment guesses the whole tragedy of his

daughter's life. In his shame and wrath he curses her, but all her

thoughts are centered on the ship, on which the count, her child's

father is struggling against death. She implores Andre to save him,

but he is deaf to her entreaties. Then she rushes off to ring the

alarm-bell, but nobody dares to risk his life in the storm. At last,

seeing all her efforts vain, she looses a boat, and drives out alone

into night and perdition. As soon as Andre perceives her danger, he

follows her. At this moment a flash of lightning which is followed by

a deafening crash shows the Yacht rising out of the waves for the last

time, and then plunging down into a watery grave forever.--The whole

assembly sink on their knees in fervent prayer, which is so far

granted, that Andre brings back Gervaise unhurt. She is but in a deep

swoon, and her father, deeply touched, pardons her. When she opens her

eyes, and shudderingly understands that her sacrifice was fruitless,

she takes a little flask of poison from her bosom and slowly

empties it. Then, taking a last farewell of the home of her childhood

and of her early love, she recommends Marion to Andre's care. By this

time the poison has begun to take effect and the poor girl, thinking

that in the waving willow branches she sees the form of her lover,

beckoning to her, sighs "I come beloved" and sinks back dead.