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An Opera by Richard Strauss

Music-drama in three acts; music and words by Richard Strauss. Produced: Weimar, May 10, 1894.


THE OLD DUKE………………………………… Bass
FREIHILD, his daughter…………………………. Soprano
DUKE ROBERT, her betrothed………………….. Baritone
GUNTRAM, a singer…………………………….. Tenor
FRIEDHOLD, a singer…………………………… Bass
THE DUKE’S CLOWN………………………….. Tenor
Time: Thirteenth Century
Place: A German duchy.

Act I.
Guntram has been brought up to manhood as pupil of the religious knightly Band of the Good. This band has set for itself the realization of the Christian idea of love for the soul. The brotherly union of all men, who shall be brought through love to world peace is the aim of the band, the noble art of song its means of obtaining recruits. Guntram seems to his teacher Friedhold ready for the great work and so he is assigned to a difficult task. The Old Duke has given the hand of his daughter Freihild, and also his estate, to Duke Robert. The latter, the only one of the powerful tyrants left, through his oppression had so stirred up the peaceful people that they rose against his rule. Then he had put down the rising cruelly and had burdened the unfortunate people so heavily that they were burdened the unfortunate people so heavily that they were thinking of leaving their homes. Freihild most deeply sympathizes with the people and had given her hand to the Duke only unwillingly, and she seeks in the happiness of the people consolation for her loveless life. But the Duke has forbidden her this work of love and she seeks release from life in a voluntary death in the waters of the lake. Guntram rescues her. The Old Duke, out of gratitude for saving his daughter, promises pardon to the rebels and invites the singer to the feast that is to be given in the ducal palace in celebration of the putting down of the rebellion.

Act II. At the festive banquet Guntram, relying upon the power of the thought of love as presented by him, will make use of the occasion to win the Duke’s heart for peace. The Duke whose clown has just irritated him, in a rage interrupts Guntram. But the latter is protected by the vassals, all of whom at heart are angry at the cruel ruler. When a messenger brings news of a new revolt, a vote is taken and they all decide for war. Then Guntram reminds them anew of peace in inspired songs. In a rage the Duke scorns him as a rebel, assaults him and, after a brief wrestle, Guntram strikes down the tyrant. Then the Old Duke has him thrown into a dungeon and goes off with the vassals to put down the rebellion again. But Freihild, whose heart is inflamed with love for the bold, noble singer, conspires with the clown to save him and flee with him.

Act III. In the gloomy dungeon in which Guntram is awaiting his punishment, the young hero has plenty of leisure to meditate on his deeds and their motives. The Band on the Good has sent Friedhold to him in order that he may ask of him an account of his sinful deed. For such an act is considered as murder in every case. Guntram feels that he is not guilty in the opinion of the Band but is self-convicted in the opinion of the highest humanity. For he cannot conceal from himself that the passionate love for Freihild, wife of the Duke, which burns in his heart, led him to his deed. Therefore, he can certainly reject the reproach of the Band, but he charges himself with renunciation as expiation for his deed. He has taught himself that true freedom cannot be attained unless it is acquired by one’s own power and victory over one’s self. So the Band of the Good is caught in an error and Guntram renounces his connection with them. But Freihild, who has succeeded to the duchy since the Old Duke has fallen on the field, he refers to the godly message which calls her to promote the happiness of the people. In this noble task she will find indemnification for the personal sacrifice of her lost love. The singer withdraws thence into solitude.

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See also:
Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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