Hoffmann's Undine Opera

From the valley of the mists came the wave, To seek happiness; The sea held its place, It can't flow back again (Undine, p.23)

Friedrich De La Motte Fouque, French writer of Norman descent, came to be known in 1804 with the publication of Dramatische Spiele, which he wrote under the pseudonym Pellegrin. Fouque, who likes to deal with Nordic mythology, medieval legends, chivalry and heroism in his works, wrote Undine in 1809. In a short time, the popular work was carried to both opera and cinema. It is also known that the author's work Der Zauberring (novel of the great knight) inspired JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

Undine is a mythological novel about the love, impossibility and sublimity of a water nymph with a knight. Found and adopted by the fishing family, her superisi Undine gets a soulmate by marrying her true love, the knight Huldbrand. When the knight scolds her by the river and treats her like a witch, Undine's spirit is shattered and she is forced to return to the Water Kingdom. The knight realizes that what he has done is an irreversible mistake, but as it is too late, he marries Bertalda, the stepchild of King Kühleborn, after a few days. On their wedding night, Undine comes out of the well and gives the knight a fatal kiss.

"If so indeed," the knight sighed, "let me die with your kiss." Undine said, "I am glad, my darling," and unbuttoned her veil. The knight bent towards her, trembling with love and fear of approaching death. The woman kissed him with a divine kiss, but never letting go. She was hugging him tighter and crying. He was crying as if he wanted to rip out his soul.' (Undine, p. 102)

Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, often abbreviated as ETA Hoffman. The tombstone of the composer, who said that he used the name Amadeus to express his respect to Mozart, has his other name, Wilhelm. He is known as a German writer, lawyer, composer, music critic and artist. by Jasques Offenbach Hoffmann's Tales in his opera ETA Hoffmann as the hero, Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King that his story is combined with Tchaikovsky's composition, Schumann's KreislerianaWe know that ' is based on the character of Hoffman. While most artists have been influenced by Hoffman's writing, we'll take a look at Hoffman's triumph in major works in his musical career and his most magnificent work in the fantasy world, Undine Opera.

Entering the world of music by learning piano and counterpoint at a young age, Hoffmann tried to develop his versatile talent by dealing with different disciplines and started writing novels at the same time. Hofmann, who was constantly trying to protect his art by changing countries during the war, got a job in Berlin after Napoleon's defeat and made Undine play.

Undine Opera

Undine is an opera in three acts by German composer ETA Hoffmann. Carl Friedrich Schinkel designed the stage sets and tried to depict the German Middle Ages. A total of 3 scenes were supported by gothic architecture and costumes.

Undine, which was played for the first time at the Königliches Schauspielhaus in Berlin on 3 August 1816, was interrupted by a fire on 29 July 1817, when valuable decorations and decorations of Carl Friedrich Schinkel burned. It has been played 13 times in total until this unfortunate event. It is thought that this great success of Hofmann contributed to the development of romantic opera. Undine was played by soprano There Eunicke -Schwachhofer, Huldbrand was played by baritone Heinrich Blume and Bertalda was played by Emilie Willmann (soprano). Choir; It consists of nobles, ambassadors, knights, ladies, squires, hunting pursuers, villagers, fishermen, ghosts, and water spirits.

Ringstetten Castle
Market place

When the libretto is examined, the first act opens in a fisherman's hut, and the other characters slowly enter the game. It is told how Undine came to the family of fishermen. The second act opens with a pool decoration consisting of small waterfalls and a sea god in the middle. It is in this episode that he meets Bertalda and it is revealed that Bertalda is actually the real daughter of the fishing family. With the learned facts, the statue of the sea god in the pool turns into ruins. Everyone is running away. Except for Undine. The curtain is closing. The final act opens with a hunting camp in the evening. With Undine and Huldbrand's conversations and Undine's departure, the courtyard of Ringstetten Castle and a well covered with a large stone open in the middle. Huldbrand's death and disappearance with Undine.

'Huldbrand and Undine sink under a second thunder and the chorus of water spirits is heard'.

About Undine Music

When Hoffmann read Undine, he felt the essence of the characters deeply and thought that he could express the mysterious language of this distant soul realm only with romantic music, and asked for help in writing the libretto. It aims to 'make visible the effect of high mountains on us' for the audience, thus closing the gap between this wonderful world.

Although it is said to be a romantic opera for Undine, it is actually a transitional work. Adding innovations in terminology, Hoffmann used terms such as 'stage and aria', 'chorus and stage'. According to Hoffmann, the knight should be a baritone and passive hero, not a tenor.

It does not have its own aria. He treated Hoffmann's King, known as Kühleborn, as a more dominant figure. Kühleborn's revenge aria (no.12) differs from other works with its character and leaps. In No. 2, Huldbrand is told about Undine, while a grove of water spirits plays and the ripple of the viola and violins is heard in the background.

Hoffmann tried to use new motifs as well as traditional in the creation process of the works and tried to reveal the real and imaginary world from this aspect. Although it is said that the voices of Mozart and French revolutionary opera are heard in the criticisms of Undine opera, we listen to the German opera's shift to the romantic period in his works. In his great success with Undine, he managed to open the door of the spirit world through music.

Music sheets in Hoffmann's handwriting
Music sheets in Hoffmann's handwriting

In Undine Opera, where Hoffmann composed two alternative endings, he deals with Huldbrand's death and collapse to the ground after the kiss, adhering to the book in the first alternative. In the second alternative ending he used on stage, after Huldbrand Undine sank into the depths of the well in his arms, it is seen that the water choir is next to them, and Kühleborn is at the top. The depiction here is that Kühleborn does not appear as a vengeful spirit, as in the book, but as an elemental being who appears to be taken to the water palace by two souls in love.

Stage design for Undine

'These unhappy souls, ready to leave their homeland for the sake of human love, have become an indispensable part of the German romantic opera between ETA Hoffmann's Undine, Heinrich Marschen's Wamoyr and Hans Heiling and Richard Wagner's Lohengrin'.

Undine Overture
Aurora Overture

Everyone collapsed. So did the gravediggers. When the burial was finished and they looked up, they realized that the strange woman in the white dress had disappeared. Where he had knelt down, a silver spring had appeared on the grass. It was shimmering. And so it flowed until it completely covered the knight's tomb. Even in much later times, the inhabitants of the village continued to believe, looking at the source, that she was that poor, undesirable Undine, that with her loving arms she had thus embraced her beloved.

Undine pp.105

Undine, Frederick De La Motte Fouque


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