Om Meyerbeer Libretti
Giacomo Meyerbeer, one of the most important and influential opera composers of the nineteenth century, enjoyed a fame during his lifetime hardly rivalled by any of his contemporaries. This ten volume set provides in one collection all the operatic texts set by Meyerbeer in his career. The texts offer the most complete versions available. Each libretto is translated into modern English by Richard Arsenty; and each work is introduced by Robert Letellier. In this comprehensive edition of Meyerbeer's libretti, the original text and its translation are placed on facing pages for ease of use. The seventh volume presents Meyerbeer's German operas, Ein Feldlager in Schlesien (1844) and Vielka (1847). When the Royal Opera House in Berlin was burned down in 1843, Meyerbeer, in his capacity as Generalmusikdirektor, was asked to write a new opera for the opening of the new house. He secretly asked Eugene Scribe to prepare an effective scenario which was then rendered into German by the Berlin critic and litterateur Ludwig Rellstab. The resulting patriotic Festspiel (festival play) was based on an episode in the life of King Frederick the Great, the great hero of the Prussian state. While on campaign during the Seven Years' War with Austria (1756-63), the king is saved by the ingenuity and self-sacrifice of the retired army captain Saldorf, his niece Therese, his foster son Conrad, and the Gypsy girl Vielka-a role Meyerbeer composed especially for the brilliant Swedish soprano Jenny Lind. The opera has its own very specific mood and character, indeed its own very gentle charm as a Singspiel. The scenario presents three overlapping worlds: the bourgeois domesticity of Saldorf and his family, the Gypsy realm of the alien Vieka, and the militarism associated with Frederick the Great and his kingdom. Each of these spheres is represented musically. The first and third acts participate in the world of the Singspiel and opera comique. The atmosphere is calm and relaxed, the music direct and simple in its appeal. Vielka's music shares in the more elevated genre of the opera seria and grand opera.Meyerbeer's penchant for the grandiose emerges in act 2, the Camp Scene. The story exalts qualities of simplicity, generosity and self-sacrifice. Patriotic or national issues are actually given a secondary place in the scheme of values, with the king becoming the father of the extended family of the nation Two years later, Ein Feldlager was revised for production in Vienna as Vielka. The Prussian origins and emphasis of the story were hidden: King Frederick the Great was now tranmuted into a duke. The first and second acts were hardly altered, but the third was completely reconstituted, with a tragic denouement. The opening night on 18 February 1847 at the Theater an der Wien was another triumph for Meyerbeer and Jenny Lind.