Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/428

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412

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��mutual recognition, Riibezahl standing by and making his reflections. The manner in which he has treated this scene indicates very clearly the state of Weber's development at the time. The phantoms evoked from the turnips sing like mortals, in strains differing in no degree from those of the princess. Twenty years later such a scene would inevitably have produced a series of the most individual tone-pictures, contrasting sharply with everything of mortal interest. As it is, the future dramatist and composer is but in the chrysalis-stage, and the quintet is merely a very lively and effective stage- scene, with some clever passages in it (the middle subject 'schb'n sind der sterblichen Gefiihle,' particularly fine), but with no traces of Weber's individuality.

4. With the next opera, 'Silvana,' we take leave of boyish compositions, and reach a higher stage of development. Silvana and Abu Hassan form the middle group of Weber's dramatic works, while Freischiitz, Preciosa, Euryanthe, and Oberon, constitute the third and last. We have stated already that in Silvana he used some material from Das Waldmadchen, the libretto of which has been lost, except the few verses pre- served in the score. Hiemer's story is as follows :

Two German knights in the Middle Ages have fallen in love with the same nohle maiden. Her rejected suitor, Bitter von Kleeburg, takes his revenge on her and his favoured rival, Count Adelhart, by stealing their baby-daughter. He intends her to be killed, but the old servant who carried her off relents, and brings up the child in secret Feeling his end to be near, he sets out with the intention of restoring his daughter, long believed to be dead, to the Count, the Countess having died of grief long before. Having arrived in the neighbourhood of Adelhart's castle, he hides Silvana in a grotto in the forest, enjoining her not to speak a word to any one, and goes to inform Adelhart. He cannot, however, then speak with him, Adelhart being busy with preparations for the marriage of his other daughter, Mechthilde, to Count Rudolf von Halfenstein. Mechthilde is in love, not with Rudolf, but with Albert von Kleeburg, the son of her father's late enemy, and Rudolf himself has nothing but esteem for his destined bride. He goes out hunting with his men from Adel- hart's castle, in the forest finds Silvana, who pretends to be dumb, and having lost his heart to her, brings her back to the castle. Adelhart gives a tournament in honour of the marriage between Rudolf and Mech- thilde, and the prize is carried off by Albert, fighting with closed visor. Encouraged by the demonstrations he receives, he makes himself known and asks her father for Mechthilde's hand. Adelhart is furious, nd is going to have him imprisoned and put to death, but Albert and his men fight their way through to the forest. Here he finds the old servant, seeking Silvana, and learns the true state of affairs : but Adel- hart's knights fall upon him, and drag him back to the castle, the old servant following. Meanwhile Adel- hart has learned that Rudolf is in love, not with Mechthilde, but with Silvana, and is going to put her to death, believing her to be some rival who has used witchcraft. Just as the fatal stab is about to be given the prisoner Albert enters with the old servant, and informs Adelhart that Silvana is his daughter. A reconciliation takes place between Adelhart and Albert, and the two pairs of lovers are united.

This opera, with its medieval romanticism, is the precursor of Euryanthe, and therefore of great interest in Weber's development. In- dependent of this, however, its merit as a work of art is considerable, and I believe the time will come when it will again find a home in the

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theatres of Germany. To ridicule the piece as hyper-romantic and old-fashioned is a mis- take, arising chiefly from our habit of looking down upon the romanticism so much in vogue at the beginning of the century. We forget that an opera-libretto is something very dif- ferent from the long-drawn-out romance of chivalry, and that the falsity and childishness which repel in a novel need find no place in a libretto, even though it be founded on the same situations. The story of Silvana deals with emotions which are natural, true, and intelligibly expressed, and the situations are not less fitted for musical treatment because they belong to a bygone period seen through a le- gendary haze, but still an heroic period of great and lasting interest. Another point in favour of Hiemer's poem is that the plot develops itself naturally and intelligibly, the interest is well kept up, and there is the necessary variety of sensation. That Weber transferred to it musical ideas from Das Waldmadchen can be verified in two in stances only, one being the overture, the autograph of which is docketed 'renovata il 23 Marzo, 1809,' a term which must necessarily apply to the Waldmadchen overture. The ' renovation ' cannot have been of a very startling nature, judging by the music, which is neither interesting nor original. The second case is the air assigned to Krips the Squire, ' Liegt so ein Unthier ausgestreckt ' (No. 2), the opening of which is identical Avith a ritornel in one of the ' Waldmadchen' fragments. It may therefore be assumed that the adaptation of old material was of a \ery limited description. The fact of there having been any adaptation at all may partly ex- plain the extreme inequality between the separate numbers in Silvana, but we must also take into account the inevitable distractions and interrup- tions among which it was composed at Stuttgart. The opera undoubtedly does not give the impres- sion of having been conceived all at once, and this damages the general effect.

The progress in dramatic characterisation made by Weber since Riibezahl and Peter Schmoll is obvious. The knights of the period are more or less typical personages, and do not require much individualising. A com- poser's chief difficulty would lie in maintain- ing the particular tone adapted to each charac- ter consistently throughout the drama, and in this Weber has succeeded thoroughly. Count Adelhart especially, and Krips the Squire, are drawn with a master hand. The power of indicating a character or situation by two or three broad strokes, afterwards so remarkable in Weber, is clearly seen in Silvana. For instance, the very first bar of the duet between Mech- thilde and Adelhart, ' Wag' es, mir zu wider- streben' (Act ii. No. 9), seems to put the violent, masterful knight bodily before us. Another crucial point is the winding up of a denouement, by massing the subjects together in a general movement which shall keep the interest of the spectator at a stretch ; and of this we have an excellent specimen in the Finale of Act ii.

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