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Maskarade (Masquerade) is an opera in three acts by Carl Nielsen to a Danish libretto by Vilhelm Andersen, based on the comedy by Ludvig Holberg. It was first performed in 1906.

Announcement of plans to turn Holberg’s classical comedy into an opera buffa met with dismay in Danish literary circles, but the opera quickly gained popularity, surpassing that of the play itself. Nielsen was not entirely satisfied with the opera, citing structural weakness in the final two acts; but he never got around to revising the work. The overture and the ballet from the third act ("Dance of the Cockerels") are performed frequently, as noted by the Carl Nielsen Society, which states that the overture is one of Nielsen's most widely performed works at concerts in Europe and North America.[1]

Performance history[edit]

The first performance was at Det Kongelige Teater, Copenhagen, 11 November 1906. The United States premiere was conducted by Igor Buketoff, with St' Paul Opera, Minnesota and the first reported New York performance was by the Bronx Opera Company in 1983.[2] The Chicago premiere took place on 18 January 2014 at the Vittum Theater by the Vox3 Collective.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere cast[4]
11 November 1906
(Conductor: Carl Nielsen)
Jeronimus, a citizen of Copenhagen bass baritone Karl Mantzius
Magdelone, his wife alto or mezzo soprano Johanna Neijendam
Leander, their son tenor Hans Kjerulf
Henrik, Leander's valet bass baritone Helge Nissen
Arv, Jeronimus' servant tenor Lars Knudsen
Leonard, a citizen of Slagelse tenor or baritone Peter Jerndorf
Leonora, his daughter soprano Emilie Ulrich/Ingebord Norregaard-Hansen
Pernille, Leonora's maid soprano or mezzo-soprano Ida Møller/Margrethe Lindrop
Mask Vendor baritone
Doorman at the Playhouse bass
A Tutor bass
Night Watchman bass
Master of the Masquerade bass Albert Petersen
Masqueraders, Students, Girls, Officers


Time: Spring 1723
Place: Copenhagen

The story revolves around Leander and Leonora, two young people who meet fortuitously at a masquerade ball, swear their undying love for each other and exchange rings. The following day, Leander tells his valet Henrik of his newfound love. He becomes distraught when reminded by Henrik that his parents have betrothed him in marriage to Leonhard's daughter. Things get complicated when Leonard from remote Slagelse, whose daughter is the other part of this arrangement, comes complaining to Leander’s father that his daughter is in love with someone she met at the masquerade the previous night. In the third act, all is resolved when the various parties slip off to the night's masquerade, where all is revealed to everyone's mutual satisfaction.

Cultural significance[edit]

Maskarade has become the Danish national opera. The masquerade of the title is a place where the characters can leave behind the oppressed lives they lead in a rigid society; it represents liberty and the Enlightenment, and even more, perhaps, a sense of joie de vivre in a land where weather (and duty) is often cold and gloomy. The patriarch Jeronimus, Leander's father, rails against the masquerade and all it represents; but a thread of the plot explores how all his authority and his antipathy toward the masquerade fail to prevent his son's (not to mention his own) progress toward freedom and happiness. The final scene of the opera is colored by a bitter-sweet recognition of human mortality, and the urgent importance of finding happiness to brighten it.



  1. ^ "Performances", Carl Nielsen Society. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
  2. ^ John Rockwell (16 January 1983). "Maskarade, by Carl Nielsen". New York Times. Retrieved 30 Oct 2010. 
  3. ^ "Festival | VOX 3 Collective". Retrieved 21 Sep 2014. 
  4. ^ "Almanacco 11 November 1906" (in Italian). AmadeusOnline. Retrieved 26 Oct 2010. 


  • Notes and libretto accompanying the 1998 Decca recording 460 227–2.
  • Warrack, John and West, Ewan, The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, (1992) ISBN 0-19-869164-5

External links[edit]