The Merry Wives of Windsor (opera)

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Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor
Singspiel by Otto Nicolai
Otto Nicolai.jpg
The composer in 1842
TranslationThe Merry Wives of Windsor
Librettist Salomon Hermann Mosenthal
LanguageGerman
Based on The Merry Wives of Windsor
by Shakespeare
Premiere
9 March 1849 (1849-03-09)

The Merry Wives of Windsor (in German: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor) is an opera in three acts by Otto Nicolai to a German libretto by Salomon Hermann Mosenthal based on the play The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium and Liechtenstein. It is one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages that are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch, including Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Opera Artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Otto Nicolai German composer and conductor

Carl Otto Ehrenfried Nicolai was a German composer, conductor, and one of the founders of the Vienna Philharmonic. Nicolai is best known for his operatic version of Shakespeare's comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor as Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor. In addition to five operas, Nicolai composed lieder, works for orchestra, chorus, ensemble, and solo instruments.

Contents

The opera is a Singspiel , containing much spoken dialogue between distinct musical numbers. The opera remains popular in Germany, and the overture is sometimes heard in concert in other countries.

Singspiel opera genre

A Singspiel is a form of German-language music drama, now regarded as a genre of opera. It is characterized by spoken dialogue, which is alternated with ensembles, songs, ballads, and arias which were often strophic, or folk-like. Singspiel plots are generally comic or romantic in nature, and frequently include elements of magic, fantastical creatures, and comically exaggerated characterizations of good and evil.

Overture in music was originally the instrumental introduction to a ballet, opera, or oratorio in the 17th century. During the early Romantic era, composers such as Beethoven and Mendelssohn composed overtures which were independent, self-existing instrumental, programmatic works that presaged genres such as the symphonic poem. These were "at first undoubtedly intended to be played at the head of a programme".

Composition history

Otto Nicolai composed the music from 1845 to 1849. He had previously achieved great success with a few Italian operas, but this opera was to become his masterpiece in the German language. The composer himself made some changes to the libretto.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Performance history

It was difficult at first to find a stage that was willing to mount the opera, but following the premiere at the Königliches Opernhaus (Royal Opera House, now Berlin State Opera) in Berlin on 9 March 1849 under the baton of the composer, it achieved great success and its popularity continues to this day. Though the libretto and the dramaturgy may seem old-fashioned to today's audiences, the music is of such high quality that the work is nevertheless performed with increasing regularity.

Berlin State Opera opera house

The Berlin State Opera is a German opera company based in Berlin. Its permanent home is the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, commonly referred to as Lindenoper, in the central Mitte district, which also hosts the Staatskapelle Berlin orchestra. Originally the Hofoper from 1742, it was named Königliches Opernhaus in 1844, and Staatsoper Unter den Linden in 1918. From 1949 to 1990 it housed the state opera of East Germany. Since 2004, the State Opera company belongs to the Berlin Opera Foundation, like the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Komische Oper Berlin, the Berlin State Ballet, and the Bühnenservice Berlin.

Conducting Directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures

Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.

23 performances of four productions were planned in four German cities between March and July 2012. [1]

Overture

The overture inspired the short musical film, Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor . Edwin Lemare also made a transcription for organ. In addition, Peter Richard Conte transcribed the score for the Wanamaker Organ.

Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor is a 1953 American short musical film produced by Johnny Green. It won an Oscar in 1954 for Best Short Subject (One-Reel). The film consists of the MGM Symphony Orchestra playing the Overture to Otto Nicolai's opera The Merry Wives of Windsor, conducted by Johnny Green.

Edwin Lemare British musician

Edwin Henry Lemare was an English organist and composer who lived the latter part of his life in the United States. He was the most highly regarded and highly paid organist of his generation, as well as the greatest performer and one of the most important composers of the late Romantic English-American Organ School.

Organ (music) musical keyboard instrument

In music, the organ is a keyboard instrument of one or more pipe divisions or other means for producing tones, each played with its own keyboard, played either with the hands on a keyboard or with the feet using pedals. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria, who invented the water organ. It was played throughout the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman world, particularly during races and games. During the early medieval period it spread from the Byzantine Empire, where it continued to be used in secular (non-religious) and imperial court music, to Western Europe, where it gradually assumed a prominent place in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Subsequently it re-emerged as a secular and recital instrument in the Classical music tradition.

Roles

RoleVoice typePremiere cast,
9 March 1849
(Conductor: Otto Nicolai)
Frau Fluth (Alice Ford) soprano Leopoldine Tuczek
Frau Reich (Meg Page) mezzo-soprano Pauline Marx
Sir John Falstaff bass August Zschiesche
Fenton tenor Julius Pfister
Herr Fluth (Ford) baritone Julius Krause
Anna Reich (Anne Page)sopranoLouise Köster
Herr Reich (Page)bassAugust Mickler
Spärlich (Slender)tenorEduard Mantius
Dr. CajusbassA. Lieder
Robinspoken
The innkeeperspoken
A waiterspoken
First citizentenor
Second, third, and fourth citizensspoken
Two servants of Herr Fluthsilent
Chorus of men and women of Windsor, neighbors, elves, spooks, and insects

Synopsis

Act 1

Scene 1

Two married ladies, Frau Fluth and Frau Reich, discover that they both received love letters from the impoverished nobleman Falstaff at the same time. They decide to teach him a lesson and withdraw to hatch a plan. Now the husbands of Frau Fluth and Frau Reich come in. Anna, Frau Reich's daughter, is of marriageable age and three gentlemen seek her hand in marriage: Dr. Cajus, a French beau, is her mother's favorite, and her father wants the shy nobleman Spärlich as his son-in-law, but Anna is in love with the penniless Fenton.

Scene 2

Frau Fluth has invited Falstaff to a supposed tryst, and he enters with grand romantic gestures and clumsily attempts to ensnare her. As Frau Reich reports the return of the distrustful Herr Fluth, which had been previously arranged, the old gentleman is hidden in a laundry basket, the contents of which are quickly emptied into a ditch. Herr Fluth has searched the whole house in the meantime without success and is forced to believe his wife, who protests her innocence.

Act 2

Scene 1

At the inn, Falstaff has recovered from his bath and sings bawdy drinking songs. A messenger brings him a letter, in which Frau Fluth proposes another rendezvous. Her husband appears in disguise and presents himself as Herr Bach to get Falstaff to talk about his trysts. He unsuspectingly brags about his affair with Frau Fluth, which provokes her husband's rage.

Scene 2

Spärlich and Cajus sneak around Anna's window, but before they attempt to go near, they hear Fenton's serenade and hide in the bushes. From there they observe a passionate love scene between the two lovers.

Scene 3

Falstaff is again with Frau Fluth, and Frau Reich again warns them both that Herr Fluth is on his way home. This time they dress the fat knight in women's clothes to try and pass him off as the maid. Herr Fluth enters and finds only the old maid, whom he angrily throws out of the house.

Act 3

Scene 1

Fluth and Reich are finally let in on the plan by their wives and the four of them decide to take Falstaff for a ride one last time. The knight is expected to show up at a grand masked ball in Windsor Forest. Additionally, Herr and Frau Reich each plan to take advantage of the confusion to marry Anna off to their preferred suitor. Instead, however, she has arranged a nighttime meeting with Fenton in the forest.

Scene 2

After the moonrise, depicted by the chorus and orchestra, the masked ball in the forest begins. At first, Falstaff, disguised as Ritter Herne, is lured by the two women, but then he is frightened by various other guests disguised as ghosts, elves, and insects. After the masks are removed and Falstaff is mocked by everyone, Anna and Fenton, who got married in the forest chapel, appear. In a cheerful closing number all of the parties are reconciled.

Music

The opera follows the Singspiel tradition, in which musical numbers are connected by spoken dialog. Nicolai referred to the work as a "komisch-fantastische Oper" ("comic/fantasy opera"), reflecting its fusion of romantic opera in the style of Carl Maria von Weber and the comic operas of Albert Lortzing, which were very popular at the time. On the romantic side are the love scenes between Anna and Fenton, the ghost and elf music and, naturally, the moonrise. The opera buffa element comes into play with the figure of Falstaff, the husbands, and both of the suitors spurned by Anna.

Noted arias

Instrumentation

The opera is scored for two flutes (second doubling piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, tenor drum, triangle, harp, strings, plus offstage harp and offstage bell in G.

Adaptations

Recordings

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References

Notes

  1. Performance listed on Operabase .com
  2. Lamb, Andrew, Review of recording of Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (1977). The Musical Times, 118 (1615): p. 737.
  3. Lamb, Andrew, Review of recording of Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (1978). The Musical Times, 119 (1628): p. 866.

Sources