The Kennedy Center

Overture to Euryanthe

About the Work

Karl Maria von Weber Composer: Carl Maria von Weber
© Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Following the great success of Der Freischütz in 1820, Weber spent some time casting about for a libretto for his next opera. He rejected Le Cid and Dido, Queen of Carthage, as subjects, and settled instead on a scenario by Wilhelmina von Chezy based on a 13th-century French tale that had also been treated by Boccaccio in his Decameron and by Shakespeare in Cymbeline. "The plot," related Sigmund Spaeth, "concerns the noble Adolar, who wagers all his possessions with the villainous Lysiart that his intended bride, Euryanthe, is faithful to him. Euryanthe is a victim of the duplicity of Eglantine, herself in love with Adolar. A ring is stolen from the tomb of Emma, Euryanthe's sister, and Lysiart produces this as evidence of Euryanthe's guilt. When Emma's ghost appears, Eglantine confesses the plot and is stabbed by Lysiart, who is led away to execution, as Adolar and Euryanthe are reunited." Weber received the first act of this dramatic labyrinth from von Chezy on December 15, 1821, and immediately began composing the music for it. The remainder of the libretto, however, arrived slowly, and he was not able to finish the score until October 19, 1823.

Weber utilized several themes from the opera in the Overture. After an introductory flourish by the full orchestra, a phrase from Adolar's aria Ich bau' auf Gott und meine Euryanth' ("I trust in God and my Euryanthe") is presented and elaborated. The lyrical second theme, initiated by the violins, derives from Adolar's aria, O Seligkeit, dich fass' ich kaum! ("O bliss, I scarce can fathom!"). Preceding the development section, an eerie passage for eight muted violins presages the scene in which the ghost of Emma appears. The brilliant recapitulation represents, according to Sigmund Spaeth, "the triumph of virtue."