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Herz, Das (‘The Heart’)locked

  • Peter Franklin

Extract

Drama für Musik in three acts, op. 39, by Hans Pfitzner to a libretto by Hans Mahner-Mons; Berlin, Staatsoper, and Munich, Nationaltheater, 12 November 1931.

Pfitzner’s last opera is set in southern Germany in about 1700. Dr Daniel Athanasius (baritone) invokes the power of black magic to restore life to the duke’s son (spoken) for one year, at the price of a human heart. After the year goes by, the celebrated doctor is horrified to discover that the forfeit heart is that of his wife Helge (soprano). He is condemned for sorcery but rejects the offered reprieve should he again restore the boy to life and is redeemed by his adamant desire to atone. A glowing heart returns to the astral body of Helge, who leads Athanasius into a heavenly vision; after it fades the executioners find that their victim, the doctor, is already dead....

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