Euryanthe

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Euryanthe is a German "grand, heroic, romantic" opera by Carl Maria von Weber, first performed at the Theater am Kärntnertor, Vienna on 25 October 1823.[1] Though acknowledged as one of Weber's most important operas, the work is rarely staged because of the weak libretto by Helmina von Chézy (who, incidentally, was also the author of the failed play Rosamunde, for which Franz Schubert wrote music). Euryanthe is based on the 13th-century romance "L'Histoire du très-noble et chevalereux prince Gérard, comte de Nevers et la très-virtueuse et très chaste princesse Euriant de Savoye, sa mye."

Only the overture, an outstanding example of the early German Romantic style (heralding Richard Wagner), is regularly played today. Like Schubert's lesser-known Alfonso und Estrella, of the same time and place (Vienna, 1822), Euryanthe parts with the German Singspiel tradition, adopting a musical approach without the interruption of spoken dialogue characteristic of earlier German language operas such as Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Beethoven's Fidelio, and Weber's own Der Freischütz.[2]

Performance history[edit]

Euryanthe premiered on 25 October 1823, in a year marked by Vienna's interest in Italian operas, particularly those of Rossini. Although the initial reception was enthusiastic, the opera lasted only 20 performances,[1] with complaints about the libretto and the length of the opera. Franz Schubert commented that, "This is not music ..."[3]

In spite of this, the opera has since had several champions. Victor Hugo in Les Misérables calls the huntsman's chorus in Act 3 "perhaps the most beautiful piece of music ever composed".[4] During his term as director of the Vienna State Opera, Gustav Mahler mounted a new production of Euryanthe in 1903. Despite amendments in the libretto by Mahler himself (who described von Chézy as a "poetess with a full heart and an empty head") and Max Kalbeck and a few changes in the score by Mahler, there were only five performances. Mahler realised the weaknesses of the libretto and the absurdities of the plot; in particular, in the third act, the ludicrously implausible meeting of all the characters in the middle of a rocky waste, a scene which he always alluded to as 'the merry folk reunited'. Leo Slezak played Adolar, Leopold Demuth played Lysiart.[5]

The composer and musicologist Donald Francis Tovey regarded Euryanthe as musically superior to Wagner's better-known opera Lohengrin (whose plot and music echo Euryanthe in several respects, especially with regard to the use of Leitmotiv technique) and made a new performing version, while Arturo Toscanini conducted the La Scala premiere in 1902. Carlo Maria Giulini conducted a performance in May 1954 at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and a recording is available, along with other historic live recordings. Euryanthe has also been staged more frequently in recent years.

Grove notes Weber's use of chromaticism to depict the evil characters, the fine orchestration, and the careful blend of recitative, arioso and set piece.[1]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast, October 25, 1823[6]
King Louis VI bass Joseph Seipelt
Euryanthe of Savoy soprano Henriette Sontag
Eglantine von Puiset soprano Therese Grünbaum
Adolar, Count of Nevers tenor Anton Haizinger
Lysiart, Count of Forest baritone Anton Forti
Rudolf, a knight tenor Jakob Wilhelm Rauscher
Bertha, a country girl soprano Henriette Theimer-Forti
Ladies, knights, soldiers, hunters, pages, heralds, peasants

Synopsis[edit]

Time: 1110
Place: Prémery and Nevers, France

Act 1[edit]

Euryanthe is betrothed to Count Adolar. In a hall of the palace of King Louis of France in Prémery, the count sings the praises of his promised bride. Lysiart, Count of Forest and Beaujolais, challenges the fidelity of the maiden and asserts that he can win her should he care to try. Adolar stakes his lands and fortune on the faithfulness of Euryanthe and demands that his friend shall show some proof of his victory should he win one.

In her castle at Nevers, Euryanthe has given refuge to Eglantine de Puiset, the daughter of a mutineer. Eglantine is enamoured of Adolar, and under the pretence of friendship for her benefactor, she secretly determines to effect Euryanthe's downfall and rupture her attachment to Adolar. Lysiart, who has unsuccessfully attempted to gain the favor of Euryanthe, assists Eglantine. After questioning by Eglantine, Euryanthe confides a secret given to her by Adolar to Eglantine. The latter's sister Emma had lost her lover in battle, and had killed herself by drinking poison from a ring (the 'ghost' music from the overture is heard). Her soul can find no rest until the ring, lying in her tomb, should be moistened with the tears of an injured and innocent maiden. Euryanthe, who has been praying each night at Emma's tomb, had promised Adolar to keep this secret, and, too late, she repents having told it to Eglantine. After Euryanthe leaves, Eglantine sings how she will denounce Euryanthe to Adolar; Lysiart arrives in order to take Euryanthe to the palace.

Act 2[edit]

At night, Lysiart sings both of his guilt and his love. Eglantine visits the tomb, abstracts the ring, and gives it to Lysiart, who had almost given up on his wager with Adolar. She lets him know the secret behind the ring, and he proposes marriage with Eglantine.

Before an assembly in the hall at Prémery, Adolar reveals his anxiety while still longing for his bride, who then arrives. Lysiart displays the jewel to Count Adolar, claiming that Euryanthe had told him about it. Adolar is convinced that his betrothed is unfaithful, since she must have betrayed the secret known to him and her alone. Euryanthe protests her innocence, Adolar gives up his possessions to Lysiart, and rushes off into the forest with Euryanthe.

Act 3[edit]

The forest scene with the serpent, performed at the Royal Theatre in Dresden with Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient in the title role.

In a rocky gorge, Adolar intends to kill Euryanthe, still protesting her innocence, and then himself. They are suddenly attacked by a serpent and the girl throws herself between her lover and the monster; Adolar kills the serpent. He cannot find the heart to kill the one who would have given her life for his, and he goes off, leaving her to her fate. Euryanthe longs for death, but the king and his hunters arrive on the scene, and she recounts the story of her woe and the treachery of Eglantine. Although joyful that she might see Adolar again, she collapses as they lead her away.

Meanwhile, Eglantine has become engaged to Lysiart, and the wedding is about to take place in the Castle of Nevers, when she is stricken with remorse. Adolar has entered in black armour with his visor down. Eglantine, struck by the silence of the courtiers, and still in love with Adolar, thinks that Euryanthe appears to her as a ghost. Adolar shows who he is, and challenges Lysiart to fight. The king appears, and to punish Adolar for his distrust of Euryanthe, tells him that she is dead. Eglantine, triumphant at the supposed death of her rival, makes known the plot and is slain by the furious Lysiart. As Eglantine dies Euryanthe enters and rushes to Adolar. Lysiart is led off, and Adolar's sister finds peace at last because her ring was moistened by the tears of the innocent Euryanthe.[7]

Recordings[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Brown, p. 88
  2. ^ Elizabeth Norman McKay, "Alfonso und Estrella", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed October 30, 2007)
  3. ^ Otte and Wink, p. 157
  4. ^ Hugo, V., Les misérables, Volume 2, Penguin Books, 1 Dec 1980, p.103.
  5. ^ De La Grange, P. ?
  6. ^ amadeusonline.eu
  7. ^ Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1911). Program Notes. Orchestral Association. , and updated with Kobbé 1954 edition.

Sources

External links[edit]