Hans Heiling

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This article is about the opera. For the legendary person, see Hans Heiling (mythology).

Hans Heiling is a German Romantic opera in 3 acts with prologue by Heinrich Marschner with a libretto by Eduard Devrient, who also sang the title role at the première which occurred at the Königliche Hofoper (now Berlin State Opera), Berlin on 24 May 1833, and went on to become his most successful opera.[1] The opera brought the composer a considerable reputation, although this did not materially affect his position in Hanover, where he was music director of the Court Theatre.[2] Like Marschner's other great success, Der Vampyr, the plot of Hans Heiling makes great use of supernatural elements. As with several of his operas, Hans Heiling is based on a folk legend.[3]

Roles[edit]

Hans Heiling score
Role Voice type Premiere cast,
24 May 1833
(Conductor: H. Marschner)
Queen of the Erdgeister soprano Maria Theresia Lehmann-Löw
Hans Heiling, her son baritone Eduard Devrient
Anna, his bride soprano Therese Grünbaum
Gertrud, her mother alto Henriette Valentini
Konrad, a hunter and Anna’s sweetheart tenor Karl Adam Bader
Stephan, a blacksmith bass ?
Niklas, a tailor tenor Gustav Becker

Synopsis[edit]

Place: Bohemian ore mountains
Time: 14th century.[4]

Prologue[edit]

After falling in love with the mortal Anna, Hans Heiling plans to leave the underworld empire of Erdgeister to wed her. Ignoring the attempts of his mother the Queen to persuade him to stay, he takes some jewels and a magic book enabling him to retain power over his underworld subjects.

Act 1[edit]

Scene 1

Heiling ascends to the earth to find his would-be bride. Heiling finds Anna and her mother, who encourages Anna to accept the advances of the rich stranger. During a moment alone Anna looks inside his book, which immediately fills her with terror. Heiling burns the book on her demand and reluctantly accompanies Anna to the village festival.

Scene 2

There are many people in the tavern drinking, dancing and singing. Stephan and Niklas are joined by Konrad, who has loved Anna for a long time. Anna and Heiling arrive and Konrad asks to dance with Anna. Heiling objects angrily but Anna ignores him; and reminding him that they are not yet married, walks away with Konrad.

Act 2[edit]

Scene 1

Anna wanders through a forest on her way home. She has realised that she loves Konrad, but she remains Heiling's bride to be. Suddenly the Queen appears and beseeches the girl to release her son, who is not a human being but a prince of the underworld. Anna faints and upon discovering her, Konrad takes Anna home.

Scene 2

Heiling approaches Anna in her house, offering his jewellery to win her over, but it is returned by Anna who now knows of its origin. In a rage, Heiling stabs Konrad before running away.

Act 3[edit]

Scene 1

Heiling returns to Erdgeistern. He summons his former subjects, only to be reminded that without his book he has lost his power. He then finds out that Konrad is not dead, and is to be wed to Anna the next day. In his despair, he throws himself on the ground, and seeing that Heiling has lost so much, his subjects swear fealty to him again. With the news of the wedding in his mind, he returns to the earth to take revenge with his new-found powers.

Scene 2

Konrad and Anna are wed in a forest chapel. Heiling approaches and seizes the hand of Anna, who pleads for mercy. Konrad rushes to help his wife, but his knife shatters as he strikes Heiling. Heiling summons the Erdgeister to destroy all the people, but then the Queen appears. She persuades Heiling to reconcile, and they then return to the underworld.

Music[edit]

A pivotal opera between Weber and Wagner,[5] Hans Heiling's structure is highly original.[6] The overture to act 1 does not open the opera as it conventionally would — there is instead a prologue before the overture begins after which the curtain descends, and the overture is played during a change of scenery.

Heiling's aria from the first act, An jenem Tag (On that fair day), still has recordings and performances in concert both in Germany and abroad and is generally regarded as the gem of the score. Also of worth are the Queen's aria, O bleib bei mir (O stay with me); the first act finale; Anna's scena and aria, Einst war so tiefer Freude (Once was such deep contentment); Conrad and Anna's duet, Ha! dieses Wort (Ha! Such a word) and Heiling's conjuration, Herauf (Appear).[7]

It is worth to mention here that the theme from the Queen's aria in 2nd act (to the words: Sonst bist du verfallen...) was later on used by Wagner in his Die Walküre, act 2, when that silightly modified leitmotif is repeated many times in the scene of Brünnhilde's apparition to Siegmund, their mutual questions and answers. Albeit very rare example of borrowing in the case of Wagner, even he was not always absolutely unique.

Recordings[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
Sources
  • Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
  • Booklet accompanying the Dynamic DVD

External links[edit]