Jun. 26, 2003 - 2:08 p.m.
i'm excited about this new production coming to the Chicago civic opera house...
Der Turbaldenung (the Deadbeat), Richard Wagner, 1854
July 1 -- September 1
Set in the Harz Mountains of Central Germany, Der Turbaldenung is Wagner's least-staged opera. He again looks back to Germany's pastoral mythology (a la "Tristan und Isolde") and the tale of Ulfen, younger brother of Heindrich, first king of Upper Saxony.
Ulfen, a woodsman, loses a game of droughts with a group of tree fairies, and forfeits his stewardship of the fabled Gutschtimt Forest, given to him by his brother, King Heindrich. Despondent, Ulfen, moves in with Friedhanna, the seamstress and object of Heindrich's affections.
Friedhanna permits Ulfen to sleep on her settee. The woodsman spends his days bemoaning his foolishness for losing his woods to the tree fairies ("Did Gunter not tell me that they use loaded dice?"), and revealing his half-baked schemes for quick fortune ("With Uncle Ott's inheritance, I can start my spear sharpening business."). Friedhanna takes Ulfen's complaints with good humor, but his constant presence in her home is a source of frustration for his brother the King, who attempts several unsuccessful trysts with the seamstress, replacing his throne at court with a stuffed likeness.
King Heindrich tempts Ulfen with lesser jobs at the castle ("Perhaps you'd fancy the head curtain detailer's position. I just had the last man hanged."), but his brother refuses.
Frustrated and desiring the lovely Friedhanna, the King arranges a meeting with her in the woods, but both are captured by the tree fairies. Ulfen hears the seamstress' cries and runs into the forest to rescue her. There, the fairies challenge him to another game of droughts for the lives of his friends. This time, Ulfen simply slays the fairies and frees Heindrich and Friedhanna.
In gratitude, the King offers Ulfen the Gutschtimt Forest to tend again, but Ulfen refuses, saying he will travel all the known lands, telling those he meets of his experiences ("I was once like you, a non-working schlub, but I harnessed the power of 'self-actualization' and turned my life around... and now you can, too.").