Der Schatzgräber

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Der Schatzgräber
Opera by Franz Schreker
Schreker 1912.jpg
The composer in 1912
Translation The Treasure Hunter
Librettist Schreker
Language German
Premiere 21 January 1920 (1920-01-21)
Frankfurt Opera

Der Schatzgräber (The Treasure Hunter) is an opera in four acts, with a prologue and an epilogue, by Franz Schreker, libretto by the composer.

Composition history[edit]

Schreker composed the opera between 1915 and 1918. He dated the completed manuscript full score 12 November 1918.[1] The score is published by Universal Edition Vienna.[2]

Performance history[edit]

The opera house in Frankfurt 1880–1945

The opera was first performed on 21 January 1920 by the Frankfurt Opera, conducted by Ludwig Rottenberg.[3] It was Schreker's most (but also his last) successful opera.[1] It received 354 performances in over fifty cities between 1920 and 1924/1925, but after the change in the cultural and political climate in Germany, only a further 31 performances took place until 1932,[1] by which time Schreker's music had been banned due to his Jewish ancestry.

The first performance at the Vienna State Opera took place on 18 October 1922, conducted by Franz Schalk, with a cast including Nikolaus Zek, Fritz Krenn, Karl Norbert, Richard Schubert, Richard Tauber and Gertrud Kappel.[4]

In 1922, Schreker prepared a Symphonic Interlude for concert performance, mainly drawn from the orchestral interlude from act 3. This was premiered by the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg in October 1923.

The opera was revived in a concert performance in Vienna in 1985, followed by a fully staged production at the Hamburg State Opera in 1989.[3]

The Netherlands Opera, Amsterdam staged a completely new Pierre Audi production, under Marc Albrecht in late 2012.


Role[2] Voice type Premiere cast[5] 21 January 1920
(Conductor: Ludwig Rottenberg)
The king high bass Hans Erl
The queen silent part Marta Uersfeld
The chancellor tenor Hermann Schramm
The count baritone Rudolf Brinkmann
The schoolmaster bass
The fool (der Narr) tenor Erik Wirl
The bailiff (der Vogt) baritone Robert vom Scheidt
The young nobleman baritone or high bass
Elis, a minstrel tenor John Gläser
The mayor bass Carl Bauermann
The scribe tenor Otto Weindel
The innkeeper bass Josef Gareis
Els soprano Emma Hol
Albi lyric tenor Franz Wartenberg
A soldier low bass Arthur Simon
First citizen tenor Hermann Schramm
Second citizen baritone Robert vom Scheidt
Third citizen bass Arthur Simon
First old maid mezzo-soprano
Second old maid mezzo-soprano (or contralto)
A woman contralto (or mezzo-soprano)


The opera is set in legendary medieval times.


The queen has lost her jewels, and with them her beauty and fertility. The king seeks the advice of his fool who knows about Elis, a wandering minstrel whose magic lute has the ability to hunt down hidden treasure. The king promises the fool that he will be allowed to have a wife of his choice as a reward, if Elis can find the jewels.

Act 1[edit]

Els, daughter of the innkeeper, has to marry a brutal but rich young nobleman she despises. She therefore sends him away to find the queen's jewels, and has him murdered by Albi, her servant, who is in love with her. The minstrel Elis has meanwhile found his way to the inn and presents Els with an ornament he has found in the woods. Els falls in love with the young minstrel, but then the body of the dead nobleman is found in the woods; the bailiff, who wants Els for himself, arrests Elis on suspicion of murder.

Act 2[edit]

Elis is to be hanged for his crime. Els asks the fool for help, who assures her that all will turn out well. The king's messenger stops the execution at the last moment, so Elis can go in search of the jewels. To avoid being exposed as the thief, Els orders Albi to steal the minstrel's magic lute.

Act 3[edit]

During a night of love, Els presents herself to Elis in the full beauty of the jewels. She hands over the jewellery to him, on condition that he will never ask her about their provenance, and will always trust her.

Act 4[edit]

Elis has returned the jewels to the queen. During a celebration, the bailiff intervenes and announces that Albi has confessed to the murder. Els is denounced as the instigator of the murder, and the bailiff demands her immediate execution. But the fool, reminding the king of his promise, chooses Els as his wife and thus saves her from being executed. They go off together.


It is one year later and Els is dying. Only the fool has remained with her. He fetches Elis, who sings his most beautiful ballad for Els about a fairy-tale palace where they will be welcomed as Prince and Princess. Consoled, she dies in the minstrel's arms. The Fool mourns her death.


The orchestral score requires:


  • In 1968, a Studio performance (with many cuts) was broadcast on Austrian Radio (ORF), conducted by Robert Heger (who had also conducted the first performance of the work in Nuremberg in 1920). Elis was sung by Fritz Uhl, and Els by Doris Jung. Although the whole recording has not been released on CD, extracts were issued on the CD accompanying the book Franz Schreker: Grenzgänge, Grenzklänge (Hailey and Haas; Mandelbaum, 2004)
  • In 1990 the German record label Capriccio released a live recording made in May/June 1989 at the Hamburg State Opera, with Gerd Albrecht conducting the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, with Josef Protschka (de) in the title role and Gabriele Schnaut as Els. The score was heavily cut.
  • In 2013, the Dutch label Challenge Classics released a live recording from performances at Netherlands Opera in September/October 2012 with Marc Albrecht conducting the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra featuring Manuela Uhl as Els and Raymond Very as Elis. The score was uncut, apart from a short sequence in Act II.



  1. ^ a b c Der Schatzgräber (CD liner). Franz Schreker. Capriccio. 1990. 60010-2. 
  2. ^ a b c "Franz Schreker: Der Schatzgräber". Universal Edition. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Christopher Hailey: Franz Schreker: A cultural biography (Cambridge University Press, 1993)
  4. ^ Neue Freie Presse, 18 October 1922, p. 13
  5. ^ "Musical Events 21 January 1920". AmadeusOnline. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 


  • Batta, András, Opera - Komponisten, Werke, Interpreten. Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2000, (Dutch translation)
  • Hailey, Christopher, Franz Schreker: A cultural biography. Cambridge University Press, 1993

See also[edit]