Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/434

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418

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��Turandot, which has a Chinese melody running all through, and in the Freischiitz peasants'-march. In Oberon an Arabian and a Turkish melody are used in the same way. It is hardly necessary to remark that this use of foreign rhythms in no way detracts from the essentially German character of the music. Indeed, the Preciosa is just as distinct and faith- ful a reflection of the German character as Der Freischvitz, and in no respect inferior to it in popularity. It is less often performed be- cause of the difficulty of finding an actress for the part of Preciosa ; but the music has become the property of the German people, with whom the part-songs, Im Wald,' Die Sonn' erwacht,' 'Es blinken so lustig die Sterne' (the well- known gipsy chorus), and Preciosa's pathetic song, * Einsam bin ich, nicht alleine,' are prime favourites. The instrumental pieces too are popular, as Weber's music only is popular in Germany, and the melodrama ' Lachelnd sinkst du, Abend, nieder,' is justly considered one of the finest pieces of the kind that has ever been written. We may add that the Preciosa music has lately been augmented by a little dance, intended as an alternative to the first of the three contained in No. 9. True, this charming little piece does not exist in Weber's own hand, but its origin is betrayed by the resemblance to it of the first chorus in the 3rd act of Marschner's ' Templer and Jiidin.' When writing his first great opera Marschner was strongly under the influence of Weber's music which he had been hearing in Dresden, and reminiscences from it not unfrequently cropped up in his own works. Moreover, he knew the little valse to be Weber's. 1

9. The original source of the libretto of Eury- anthe was the ' Roman de la Violette,' by Gibert de Montreuil (i3th century), reprinted textually by Francisque Michel (Paris, 1834). The subject was used several times by early writers. Boccaccio borrowed from it the main incident of one of the stories of the Decameron (Second day, Ninth tale), and thence it found its way into Shakespere's 'Cymbeline.' Count Tressan remodelled it in 1780 for the 2nd vol. of the ' Bibliotheque universelle des Romans,' and in 1804 it was published at Leipzig, under the title 'Die geschichte der tugendsamen Eury- anthe von Savoyen,' in the collection of mediae- val romantic poems edited by Schlegel. The translator was Helmina von Chezy, who compiled the libretto for Weber. After completing the latter she republished her translation, with many alterations. 8

The libretto has been much abused, and when we consider that it was remodelled nine times, and at last brought into shape only by Weber's own vigorous exertions, it is evident that the

1 The first two editions of the score of Preciosa ' were full of mistakes. A third, which has been prepared with great care by Ernst Rudorff (Berlin, Schlesinger, 1872). contains this previously unknown dance in au appendix.

2 Kuiyanthe von Savoyen,' from a MS. In the Royal Library at Paris called Hlstolre de Gerard de Movers et de la belle et vertueuse Kurvaii t de Savoye, sa mle' (Berlin, 1823). Michel's edition of the Roman, de la Violette ' is in verse.

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authoress was not competent to create a dramatic masterpiece. It does not follow that with the help of Weber's ability and experience she was not able to concoct something tolerable for the purpose. The utter inadequacy of her poem having been reiterated ad nauseam, the time seems to have arrived for setting forth the opposite view, and maintaining that it is on the whole a good, and in some respects an excellent, libretto. It is curious to see the naif way in which for the last hundred years German critics have been in the habit of considering the libretto and the music of an opera as two distinct things, the one of which may be condemned and the other extolled, as if a composer had no sort of responsibility with regard to the words he sets, ' Do you suppose that any proper com- poser will allow a libretto to be put into his hand like an apple ? ' are Weber's own words. It is moreover obvious that a libretto which satisfied a man of such high culture, and a composer of so eminently dramatic organisation, could not have been utterly bad. Nevertheless, till lately the verdict against Euryanthe was all but unanimous. The first who ventured to speak a decided word in its favour is Gustav Engel. He says, 'Euryanthe is an opera full of human interest. Truth and a fine sense of honour, jealousy and envy, mortified love and ambition, above all the most intense womanly devotion such are its leading motives. There is indeed one cardinal mistake, which is that when Euryanthe is accused of infidelity in the 2nd Act, she remains silent, instead of ex- plaining the nature of her comparatively small offence. This may however arise from the confusion into which so pure and maidenly a nature is thrown by the suddenness of the fate which overwhelms her. In the main, however, the story is a good one, though it starts with some rather strong assumptions.' The ' cardinal error,' however, is no error at all, but a trait in perfect keeping with Euryanthe's character. It is more difficult to understand why she does not find the opportunity to enlighten Adolar, when he has dragged her off" into the wilderness in the 3rd Act. Other plausible ob- jections are the too great intricacy of the story, and its being partly founded on events which do not come within the range of the plot, viz. the story of Emma and Udo. Weber was aware of this defect, and intended to remedy it by making the curtain rise at the slow movement of the overture, and disclose the following tableau : 'The interior of Emma's tomb; a kneeling statue is beside her coffin, which is surmounted by a 1 2th - century baldacchino. Euryanthe prays by the coffin, while the spirit of Emma hovers overhead. Eglantine looks on.' This excellent idea has unfortunately been carried out at one or two theatres only. The degrading nature of the bet on Euryanthe's fidelity can only be excused on the score of the manners of the period (about mo). The lan- guage is occasionally stilted and affected, but much of the verse is as melodious as a composer

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