Lurline, Nymph of the Rhine, lures boats to a
dangerous whirlpool in the river by singing and playing her enchanted
harp. She has fallen in love with the extravagant and penniless Count
Rupert,who lives in a riverside castle. Rupert is planning to marry Ghiva, the
daughter of a supposedly wealthy baron who it is hoped will restore the empty castle
coffers. Unfortunately, the baron also happens to be poor and supposes that Rupert
will restore his fortunes. On
discovering the true state of affairs the baron calls off the match. Rupert holds a banquet at his castle,
where Lurline appears and, after putting everyone
under a trance, places a magic ring on Rupert's finger before disappearing.
Entranced by this beautiful apparition, Rupert follows her to the banks of the river,
attracted by the sounds of her fairy harp, with his guests following.
Hypnotised, they are overcome by tiredness. Rupert drops asleep on a
nearby rock, which then sinks into the Rhine: he is
assumed to have drowned.
In coral caves under the river, we find Lurline her father,
King Rhineberg and Rupert sleeping. He has escaped drowning by the power of the
ring and is now awoken by Lurline. He hears his friends singing a requiem for
him in the boat above and asks to rejoin them briefly. Lurline
agrees and arranges to meet him at the rising of the moon on the third
evening. At Lurline's request, the King gives Rupert some of his gold to
take with him. Rupert appears at the castle laden with treasures much
to the baron's surprise who immediately tries
to reopen the question of marriage.
Ghiva, realizing Rupert's infatuation with Lurline, fears losing him and
steals the ring, which she throws into the Rhine.
A gnome finds the ring and returns it to the sad Lurline as evidence that
Rupert has discarded her. She appears at the castle and in a
scene of recrimination asks for the ring, while also denouncing the treachery
of his greedy "friends". These "friends"
plan to seize and plunder the castle but are overheard by the baron and Ghiva
who warn Rupert of a plot to destroy him. Lurline's relents and seizing her harp leads the evil crew to their drowning by the
spell of her music.
performed on February 23,
1860 at Covent Garden, London
Rupert (a young nobleman)
.. .. .. ..
(his Friend) .. ..
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .
(the River King) ..
.. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Truenfels .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
(a Gnome) ..
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .
.. .. .. .. .. .. .... .. .. .. .. .. .... .. .. ...
.. .. .. .. .. .. .... .. .. .. .. .. .... .. ...
(Nymph of the Lurlei-Berg)
.. .. ....
(the Baron's Daughter)
.. .. .. .. ...
Liba (a Spirit of the Rhine) .. .. .. .. .. .. ....
Mr. W. Harrison
Mr. C. Santley
Mr. G. Honey
Mr. H. Corri
Miss Louisa Pyne
In Lurline, there is an
important change of style from Maritana,
in that it is through-composed. The work has a strengthened chorus and
orchestra to produce grander scenes and effects. The music is melodically
graceful and bright. Reports on the first London performances were good and critics felt
that Wallace's music surpassed his earlier Maritana
and Matilda of Hungary.
Reviewers suggested that
the Germanic theme removed 'any English connection', and as a result
disappointed those who were trying to promote a new English Opera tradition
that was prevalent in the mid 1800's.
The overture was
described as 'chivalrous' and instrumentally superb, while a tender barcarolle,
'Our barque in the moonlight' as 'romantically engaging' and the
excellent cavatina, Sweet
form that on my dreamy gaze as 'graceful in melody and ingenious in
accompaniment'. A drinking chorus, Drain
the cup of pleasure was deemed to appeal in the 'Verdian style' and the Hunting chorus to
introduce a new
orchestral effect. The ensemble, Ah! dare
I hope was so animated that it 'could provide the character and stage
business for a complete opera by Balfe'! Thus
Lurline provides moving songs
with a strong touch of passion and feeling.
Wallace's skill as an orchestrator is
strong. One critic remarked that 'the Act II finale is a
cleverly-written imitation of the Italian
School' and he praises Wallace for his skill.
The inclusion of occasional ballads (fashionable for the time) is effective,
but in providing these Wallace never overshadows those by Balfe. Nevertheless,
Wallace proved to be a skilled writer of surprising passion in this score. He
carries undercurrents of Weber, as he did in Maritana, and here communicates an effective characterization of
the swirling waters of the Rhine. The influence of Mendelssohn is also
clearly evident as well as an endearing characteristic style that is
essentially Wallace's own.
© Victorian Opera
Northwest, 2005 - 2013.