Dantons Tod (‘Danton’s Death’)
- Erik Levi
Opera in two parts (six scenes) by Gottfried von Einem to a libretto by Boris Blacher and the composer after Georg Büchner’s drama of 1835; Salzburg, Festspielhaus, 6 August 1947.
The action takes place in Paris in 1794 against the background of the French Revolution. In Part 1 scene i, various deputies sit with their female accomplices at a gambling table. Camille Desmoulins (tenor) brings news that Robespierre (tenor) has instigated the arbitrary execution of 20 people. An attempt is made to persuade Danton (baritone) to attack the tyrannical moral preacher in the Convention, but Danton, though no friend of Robespierre, shows little inclination to do so. In the street outside, the prompter, Simon (buffo bass), beats his wife for allowing their daughter to consort with rich cavalrymen. A quarrel ensues and a young man, taken for an aristocrat, is nearly hanged by a howling mob. Robespierre appears and tries to mobilize public feeling for his own ends. Danton, who is also present, cannot conceal his distaste for Robespierre’s methods. After Danton leaves, Saint-Just (bass) advises Robespierre to destroy his rival and his supporters. Robespierre agrees but wants his youthful friend Desmoulins saved. However, when he finds out that Desmoulins has publicly attacked him in a newspaper article, he has no alternative but to plan his conviction. In scene iii Danton, who is staying as a guest at the house of Desmoulins and his wife Lucile (soprano), discovers that he will be arrested. He declines an offer to escape, claiming that he is weary. Lucile has a premonition that her husband will also be caught up in Danton’s overthrow despite his youthful friendship with Robespierre....