Music with Ease > 19th Century German Opera (except Wagner) > Euryanthe (Weber)
An Opera by Carl Maria von Weber
Opera in three acts by Weber. Book, by Helmine von Chezy, adapted from "LHistoire de Gérard de Nevers et de la belle et vertueuse Euryanthe, sa mie." Produced, Vienna, Karnthnerthor Theatre (Theatre at the Carinthian Gate), October 25, 1823. New York, by Carl Anschutz, at Wallacks Theatre, Broadway and Broome Street, 1863; Metropolitan Opera House, December 23, 1887, with Lehmann, Brandt, Alvary, and Fischer, Anton Seidl conducting.
EURYANTHE DE SAVOIE
EGLANTINE DE PUISET
.. Mezzo Soprano
LYSIART DE FORET
ADOLAR DE NEVERS
Time: Beginning of the twelfth century.
Act I. Palace of the King. Count Adolar chants the beauty and virtue of his betrothed, Euryanthe. Count Lysiart sneers and boasts that he can lead her astray. The two noblemen stake their possessions upon the result.
Garden of the Palace of Nevers. Euryanthe sings of her longing for Adolar. Eglantine, the daughter of a rebellious subject who, made a prisoner, has, on Euryanthes plea, been allowed the freedom of the domain, is in love with Adolar. She has sensed that Euryanthe and her lover guard a secret. Hoping to estrange Adolar from her, she seeks to gain Euryanthes confidence and only too successfully. For Euryanthe confides to her that Adolar's dead sister, who lies in the lonely tomb in the garden, has appeared to Adolar and herself and confessed that, her lover having been slain in battle, she has killed herself by drinking poison from her ring; nor can her soul find rest until some one, innocently accused, shall wet the ring with tears. To hold this secret inviolate has been imposed upon Euryanthe by Adolar as a sacred duty. Too late she repents of having communicated it to Eglantine who, on her part, is filled with malicious glee. Lysiart arrives to conduct Adolars betrothed to the royal palace.
Act II. Lysiart despairs of accomplishing his fell purpose when Eglantine emerges from the tomb with the ring and reveals to him its secret. In the royal palace, before a brilliant assembly, Lysiart claims to have won his wager, and, in proof, produces the ring, the secret of which he claims Euryanthe has communicated to him. She protests her innonence, but in vain. Adolar renounces his rank and estates with which Lysiart is forthwith invested and endowed, and, dragging Euryanthe after him, rushed into the forest where he intends to kill her and then himself.
Act III. In a rocky mountain gorge Adolar draws his sword and is about to slay Euryanthe, who in vain protests her innocence. At that moment a huge serpent appears. Euryanthe throws herself between it and Adolar in order to save him. He fights the serpent and kills it; then, although Euryanthe vows she would rather he slew her than not love her, he goes his way leaving her to heavens protection. She is discovered by the King, who credits her story and promises to vindicate her, when she tells him that it was through Eglantine, to whom she disclosed the secret of the tomb, that Lysiart obtained possession of the ring.
Gardens of Nevers, where preparations are making for the wedding of Lysiart and Eglantine. Adolar enters in black armour with visor down. Eglantine, still madly in love with him and dreading her union with Lysiart, is so affected by the significance of the complete silence with which the assembled villagers and others watch her pass, that, half out of her mind, she raves about the unjust degradation she has brought upon Euryanthe.
Adolar, disclosing his identity, challenges Lysiart to combat. But before they can draw, the King appears. In order to punish Adolar for his lack of faith in Euryanthe, he tells him that she is dead. Savagely triumphant over her rivals end, Eglantine now makes known the entire plot and is slain by Lysiart. At that moment Euryanthe rushes into Adolars arms. Lysiart is led off a captive. Adolars sister finds eternal rest in her tomb because the ring has been bedewed by the tears wept by the innocent Euryanthe.
The libretto of "Euryanthe" is accounted extremely stupid, even for an opera, and the work is rarely given. The opera, however, is important historically as another stepping-stone in the direction of Wagner. Several Wagnerian commentators regard the tomb motive as having conveyed to the Bayreuth master more than a suggestion of the Leitmotif system which he developed so fully in his music-drama. Adolar, in black armour, is believed to have suggested Parsifals appearance in sable harness and accoutrements in the last act of "Parsifal." In any event, Wagner was a close student of Weber and there is more than one phrase in "Euryanthe" that finds its echo in "Lohengrin," although of plagiarism in the ordinary sense there is none.
While "Euryanthe" has never been popular, some of its music is very fine. The overture may be said to consist of two vigorous, stirringly dramatic sections separated by the weird tomb motive. The opening chorus in the Kings palace is sonorous and effective. There is a very beautiful romanza for Adolar ("Neath almond trees in blossom"). In the challenge of the knights to the test of Euryanthes virtue occurs the vigorous phrase with which the overture opens. Euryanthe has an exquisite cavatina ("Chimes in the valley"). There is an effective duet for Euryanthe and Eglantine ("Threatful gather clouds about me"). A scene for Eglantine is followed by the finale -- a chorus with solo for Euryanthe.
Lysiarts recitations and aria ("Where seek to hide?"), expressive of hatred and defiance -- a powerfully dramatic number -- opens the second act. There is a darkly premonitory duet for Lysiart and Eglantine. Adolar has a tranquil aria ("When zephyrs waft me peace"); and a duet full of abandon with Euryanthe ("To you my soul I give"). The finale is a quartette with chorus. The hunting chorus in the last act, previous to the Kings discovery of Euryanthe, has been called Webers finest inspiration.
Something should be done by means of a new libretto or by re-editing to give "Euryanthe" the position it deserves in the modern operatic repertoire. An attempt at a new libretto was made in Paris in 1857, at the Théâtre Lyrique. It failed. Having read a synopsis of that libretto, I can readily understand why. It is, if possible more absurd than the original. Shakespeares "Cymbeline" is derived from the same source as "Euryanthe," which shows that, after all, something could be made of the story.