Mathis der Maler (‘Mathis the Painter’)
- Geoffrey Skelton
Opera in seven scenes by Paul Hindemith to his own libretto; Zürich, Stadttheater, 28 May 1938.
The action takes place at the time of the Peasants’ War in 16th-century Germany. In Scene 1, Mathis (baritone) is working on a fresco in a monastery when the peasants’ leader, Schwalb (tenor), who is wounded, bursts in with his young daughter Regina (soprano). Schwalb reproaches Mathis for spending his time painting while his fellow beings are fighting for their lives. A cavalry group led by Sylvester (tenor) comes in search of Schwalb, and Mathis helps him and Regina escape. In Scene 2, the citizens of Mainz, Catholics and Protestants, are quarrelling as they wait in the Martinsburg for the cardinal archbishop’s return. Cardinal Albrecht (tenor), after acknowledging their greetings, dismisses them, retaining only Riedinger, a rich Protestant citizen (bass), and Ursula, Riedinger’s daughter (soprano). Mathis joins them and, while the cardinal is engaged with Riedinger, he and Ursula reveal their love. Riedinger complains to the cardinal of a Catholic order to burn Lutheran books, and Albrecht, who is dependent on Riedinger for money, countermands the order. After Riedinger’s departure, however, he is persuaded by the dean of Mainz cathedral, Pommersfelden (bass), to allow the burning. Sylvester enters and, recognizing Mathis, denounces him for letting the peasant leader escape. When Mathis pleads for the peasants, Albrecht tells him not to meddle in political matters. Mathis, asserting that he cannot paint while his fellow men go in fear, demands his release from Albrecht’s service. Pommersfelden orders Mathis’s arrest, but Albrecht decides he should be allowed to go in peace....