[Met Performance] CID:6120
United States Premiere
Der Trompeter von Säkkingen {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/23/1887.
 (United States Premiere)
(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 23, 1887
United States Premiere


DER TROMPETER VON SÄKKINGEN {1}
Nessler-Bunge/Scheffel

Werner..................Adolf Robinson
Maria...................Auguste Seidl-Kraus
Conradin................Johannes Elmblad
Baron...................Emil Fischer
Countess................Louise Meisslinger
Count...................Rudolph Von Milde
Damian..................José Ferenczy
Major-domo..............Otto Kemlitz
Rector..................Emil Sänger
Dance...................unknown

Conductor...............Anton Seidl

Director................Theodore Habelmann
Choreographer...........Giovanni Ambroggio

Der Trompeter von Sakkingen received seven performances this season.


Review in The New York Times:

A singer of the sunlight was Victor von Scheffel. Buoyant and joyous of mood, tender and playful in fancy, rhythmic in verse as the waltzes of his native soil, he was a poet of the people for the people. The music of his verse was not for the softlight of the exclusive study, but for the broad glare of the day, for the high roads and the open fields, for the men and women of the work-a-day world. For 25 years he made German hearts warm and his "Trompeter" reached the marvelous sale of a quarter of a million copies. He was a child of true comedy. The people as he found them, their homely vocations, their quarrels and their feasts, their sorrows and their loves - these were the materials his fancy molded into the happiest songs that Germans know. This life and the daily walk and conversation of the good Rhine burghers and their families Scheffel, using as a basis one of those dear old Rhine tales that have wandered up and dawn the enchanted valley for generations, wove into the poem which Germany has laughed and wept over, and which the nation read anew with tears when Seheffel died on the very eve of the live hundredth anniversary of his beloved Heidelberg University. That Scheffel's "Der Trumpeter von Säckingen" should be utilized for the operatic stage was inevitable. Victor K Nessler, proved to be the musician whose simple measures were suited to Scheffel's poetry. For the last five years the opera has been sung throughout the Iron Chancellor's empire, and it has been a source of joy to the hearers and of profit to the managers. And this is the work which the judicious director of the Metropolitan Opera House produced last evening to give his patrons relief from a surfeit of the serious productions of Richard Wagner. We cannot stand roast beef for every course at dinner, nor can we digest a musical feast composed entirely of "Tristans" and "Siegfrieds." We must have a little Roman punch in the shape of light opera; and here it is. It may be unkind to remind the extreme wing of the Germanists that much of Scheffel's best poetry was written in an Italian mountain village, while the "Trompeter" was put into verse in that hotbed of Italian art - Rome. The atmosphere of Italy had something to do with this poetry of the German people, which has more of the sweet humor and wide humanity of Jean Paul than of the gloom and tragedy of the Eddas. To the fashionable world whose wealth keeps opera alive the Rhine and its Heidelberg are places to be "done" in the Summer with the aid of Baedeker and a bank account. To the unfashionable world of moderate means the Rhine and Scheffel's poetry are somewhat unfamiliar. Hence the opera produced last night must, save among the large German population or this metropolis, stand or fall on its own merits; and the indications are that it will stand.

The story of the opera is as simple as a nursery tale. The curtain rises on the courtyard of Heidelberg Castle at night. The students and a body of troopers are engaged in drinking the rich products of the Rhine Valley. The students sing one of the songs of Scheffel, who wrote it long after these particular students were moldering in the grave. The troopers jeer at the students, and the major domo appears, begging them to cease their noise as they disturb the rest of the electress. The students immediately propose to serenade her, and Werner Kirchof, borrowing a bugle from one of the soldiers, Conradin by name, blows a mellow blast under her windows, while the chorus sings the serenade. The major domo threatens to bring the Rector of the University. The students laugh him to scorn. The soldiers try to induce Werner to join them. A wrangle ensues and swords are drawn. The Rector appears and expels the students without further parley, whereupon the young men join the army and march gayly off with the troopers. Thus ends the prologue.

The second act takes place before the church of St. Fridolin, at Säckingen. The peasants are celebrating the feast of the saint, and Conradin, the trooper, is making love to the pretty maidens with true military ardor. The peasants become jealous and high words pass between them and Conradin, but Werner appears and calms the troubled waters. A boat appears on the Rhine bearing a freight of beauty. Werner's fancy is at once caught by the beautiful Maria von Schönau. The boat comes to the landing place, but the peasants, who hate the Baron von Schönau, refuse to make room for his daughter, Werner clears a path for her and is rewarded with a smile and a forgot-me-not, which settles the fate of the gallant young trumpeter then and there. After a brief scene between Maria and Werner, in which the latter's love becomes manifest, the peasants move toward the church in the festival procession of St. Fridolin, and the scene ends. The second scene of the first act passes in an apartment in the Baron's castle. The Baron bewails his gout and rejoices over a letter announcing the approach of the Count Wildenstein and his son Damian with a proposition that the latter shall become Maria's husband. The Baron is in sore need of a valiant bugler, and Maria, entering, shyly suggests Werner as a candidate for the post. The Baron's cousin, the Countess, opposes him, but the Baron has him in, is pleased with his appearance and account of himself, and appoints him to the vacant post, much to the joy of Maria and the disgust of the Countess. And this ends the first act.

The second act is taken up largely with the lovemaking of Werner and Maria in the Baron's garden. The Countess detects them and informs the Baron, who promptly declines to receive the young trumpeter as his son-in-law. Count Wildenstein and Damian arrive, and the betrothal of Maria to the latter is announced by the Baron. Werner sings his farewell, one of Scheffel's songs, and departs. The third and last act opens with the May festival, choruses, marching. Pantomime, and dancing in the Baron's grounds. In the midst of the festivities the disaffected peasants make a descent on the castle. The young Damian is sent forth to lead a sortie, and proves an arrant coward. Werner, with an eye to his own interests, turns up at the right moment, rescues every one, turns out to be the long-lost son of the Countess and the rightful heir to Wildenstein, is accepted with pride by the Baron, and turned over to the tender care of Maria to live happily ever afterward.

It is a pretty tale and prettily told. Werner is a gallant young scapegrace with a sound heart: Maria is an extremely proper heroine; the Baron is a model stern and proud parent; the youthful Damian is a most competent poltroon, and the Countess a genuine old-fashioned Rhine lady with a mystery concealed on her premises. The feasting and fighting, the drinking and the lovemaking, the superstition and the bravery of the peasantry, are depicted in bright colors, and there is an atmosphere of good-nature and human affection about the whole thing which makes it truly delightful to the well-regulated soul.

Nessler's music is admirably adapted to the story. It is, first of all, melodious in the commonly accepted meaning of that abused word. It would perhaps be more precise to call it tuneful. The measures are light, airy, and graceful, with a captivating rhythmic quality. People who want to be amused by their music, and not instructed or made to think, will fall in love with this dainty comic opera - for such it truly is. The [beginning] student song: "Oh, Heidelberg, thou fairest," is delightful in its sentimental melody, and the fanfares of Werner's trumpet under the windows of the electress, accompanied by the chorus, are passing sweet and full of grace. The [first] chorus of the first act is breezy and light and the processional music at the close of the first scene full of merit.

The whole of the music of the second scene of the first act is delightful. Werner's song, "Ihr heisset mich wllikommen," receiving an emphatic encore last evening. The trumpet strains in the distance as the act closes are effective. In the third act the love duet is almost cloying in its sweetness, and Werner's farewell is a lovely song. The lateness of the hour at which the presentation closed precludes the possibility of further notice at this time, Suffice it to say that the music is of the kind that the public ear loves - full of melody and sentimental grace, admirably scored for both the orchestra and the voices. The use of the trumpet is especially good throughout, though it was sadly marred at times last night by abominable playing. Herr Robinson made a distinct hit by his performance of Werner. He looked well, acted in a manly style, and sang with deep earnestness, albeit, with a trifle too much elaboration. His vocalization, however, was in general so good that it gave the Wagnerites pain. Herr Fischer, as the Baron, was admirable, and his singing of his solo in the second act was one of the features of the evening. Herr Elmblad was absurdly noisy and unmusical as Conradin. Herr Ferenz's bad singing helped him to be funny as Damian. Frau Seidl-Kraus was altogether unsatisfactory as Marla, a part which calls for a more extended range of voice and more skill in singing than she possesses. Fräulein Meisslinger, a new mezzo-soprano, displayed a clear and fresh, if rather acid voice, and sang tolerably as the Countess; but her acting was insufferable. The production of the opera was the most slovenly yet seen at the Metropolitan Opera House. Some of the scenery was passable, but most of it was strongly reminiscent of the Academy in its worst days. But the opera distinctly pleased the audience. There was plenty of applause during its progress, and at the close of each act long-continued plaudits and numerous recalls. The Wagnerites said it was a failure, but they appeared to take it dreadfully to heart, and there was quite as much enthusiasm in the house as on the first night of that noble work "Siegfried."



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