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Schuhu und die fliegende Prinzessin, Der (‘The Bird-Man and the Flying Princess’)locked

  • Detlef Gojowy

Extract

Opera by Udo Zimmermann to a libretto by Eberhard Schmidt and the composer after Peter Hacks’s fairy-tale; Dresden, Staatsoper, 30 December 1976.

Zimmermann’s fourth opera, written in 1976, was commissioned by the Dresden Staatsoper, and first performed by them under Max Pommer with Harry Kupfer as director. The ‘Schuhu’ is a bird-man who can ‘see by night, solve all riddles and give advice’. His actions ‘are like those of a man who accepts things as he finds them but does not seem to be quite of this world’. The fable, which was taken as criticism of the utopian ideas of social realism, runs thus: a Tailor (tenor) and his Wife (soprano) produce an egg as their tenth child. With great difficulty, a Smith breaks it open and a Schuhu (baritone) is born. He has magic powers and tries to use them for his parents’ good, but those around him are suspicious and cast him out. He travels widely, hoping to put his great gifts to the service of a strong lord, as did St Christopher, but finds himself always distrusted and rejected. At last he obtains a humble position as a nightwatchman in the imperial gardens at Ctesiphon. Here the Princess of Tripolis (soprano), who can also fly, notices him when he plays his horn and falls in love with him; consequently, she refuses offers of marriage from her powerful suitors. Although previously at odds with each other, the suitors now form an alliance to catch, roast and eat the Schuhu. However, he succeeds in destroying their fleets in the manner of cunning Odysseus. Now husband of the Princess, he seems to have all he could desire, but she falls in love with a nobleman from Holland (bass-baritone) and leaves the Schuhu. In the end they are reunited in resignation, to fly away to a promised land far off in the Caucasus....

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