Die gute Mutter
When the two-act Singspiel Die gute Mutter ('The good Mother') premiered at the Kärntnertortheater on 11 May 1795, it marked the return of German-language opera productions at the Viennese court theatres after a six-year hiatus. The new management had high ambitions in providing a 'morally correct' German-language entertainment, as an alternative to the more risqué productions offered by the suburban theatres.
n his libretto, Johann Baptist von Alxinger (1755-1797) adapted Chevalier de Florian's play La Bonne mère , moving it to the Austrian countryside. Befitting the special occasion, Wranitzky provided an impressive score containing large-scale arias, ensembles, and extended finales. To add local colour, Wranitzky makes use of some unusual instruments. Among them is the Cimbalom (dulcimer), which is used in concertante fashion in one aria.
by Daniel Bernhardsson
The location has been changed from a French to an Austrian village.
It is a festival day in the village and the young people are dressed in their finest Sunday clothes. The sound of fiddles tuning for the merry round dance can be heard in the distance. Rosalia, her brother Georg, and Hauptmann von Edelsee relish the pleasures of this, the most beautiful day in the year. Georg and Rosalia discuss her daughter, Mariandel. Her uncle is disturbed by the change in her since her coming out (Mamsellwerdung). She has even changed her simple Austrian name to the more fashionable French Nannette. To make matters worse, she is in love with Monsieur Rosenhügel, a citified dandy and has broken the heart of Christel, the boy next door who truly loves her. Though her mother refuses to force her to marry Christel, she will help him devise a plan to win her heart.
Rosenhügel’s attentions are hard to resist for they make Marianne the envy of all the girls in the town. But Rosalia is not fooled by his faux façade. Later, Rosenhügel contemplates his dangerous financial situation, deciding that even if the butcher’s daughter is not as rich as Nannette, she just might have to do. After all, Rosalia does not seem the sort to understand the honor it would be to pay off his debts after the wedding! One way or another he will have a rich bride that very day.
Meanwhile, Frau von Erthal, a new arrival in town, tells Georg the reason for her visit. She has bene separated three years from the man she rejected. She now knows she loves him but has lost contact with him. She vows to find him. Nannette begins to feel pangs of remorse over her tratement of Christel, and sensing that his plans may be threatened, Rosenhügel proposes, enticing her with promises of a rich life in Vienna. They joyfully run to tell Rosalia of their wedding plans, but Rosalia is stunned at their haste. Suddenly uncle Georg breathlessly enters, ready to thrash Rosenhügel, announcing that poor Christel has gone and enlisted in the army. Nannette feels responsible for this tragedy and begs them all to go to the Hauptmann to try to reverse the situation. Frau von Erthal enters, and hearing Hauptmann Edelsee’s name, knows she has found her long lost love.
Alarmed by the setback of Christel’s enlistment, Rosenhügel attempts to blackmail Rosalia, demanding that she increase her daughter’s dowry or he will see to it that his powerful relatives relieve her of her property. He also expects that Rosalia would turn over her business affairs to her new son-in-law. Rosalia reminds him that she is only thirty-six years old and may wish to remarry and turn over all her assets to her new lover. Just then, she throws her arms around Rosenhügel, who suddenly has an epiphany: Why waste his time on the daughter when the mother controls the purse strings?
Later, the Hauptmann sadly muses about the woman he fell in love with three years earlier, and fears that poor Christel will suffer the same fate. Georg approaches him about Christel's release from duty and proposes a trade: He will bring another recruit who is burning with desire to serve and tells the Hauptmann that he has already met this person three years ago. Georg brings Frau von Erthal to the Hauptmann dressed as a man in a cloak, her face hidden by her hat. The Hauptmann tells the tiny unwanted recruit to be off, but Frau von Erthal suddenly casts off her cloak, revealing her true identity as they joyfully embrace.
Christel is prepared to hurry off to meet the enemy in battle, but he has a letter to deliver to Rosalia, his last will and testament, leaving Marianne all his dearest possessions and money. Marianne is moved to tears and love and swears she will spend her whole life trying to make things right. She throws her arms around him and then runs off. Christel vows that he can no longer allow himself to be shot, and departs to ask the Hauptmann to excuse him from service. When Rosalia's shocking wedding plans are revealed, Nannette runs into Christel's arms and Rosalia announces that she has given her whole fortune over to her daughter and son, Christel. Rosenhügel is trapped in his own game. Just then a court officer arrives from Vienna to take Rosenhügel into custody for his failure to pay his debts, but Rosenhügel volunteers instead for military service, turning himself over to the Hauptmann. He is saved from prison and they all live happily ever after... except Rosenhügel, who must now leave his life of comfort for a life in the military.
by Marisa Solomon
Scoring: 2 Fl, 2 Ob, 2 Bsn, 2 Hn, 2 Tpt, Timp & Strings
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