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date: 05 December 2019

Abu Hassanlocked

  • Clive Brown

Extract

Singspiel in one act, j106, by Carl Maria von Weber to a libretto by Franz Carl Hiemer after Antoine Galland’s story Le dormeur éveillé; Munich, Residenztheater, 4 June 1811.

Hiemer based his libretto on the second part of Galland’s version of the well-known tale of ‘Abu Hassan, or The Sleeper Awakened’ from the Arabian Thousand and One Nights. In the opera Abu Hassan (tenor), cup-bearer to the Caliph, and his devoted wife Fatime (soprano) are being pressed for payment of debts by the moneylender Omar (bass), who is also unsuccessfully making advances to Fatime. Abu Hassan hits on the idea of pretending that his wife has died and claiming money from the Caliph (speaking role) for her funeral, while Fatime does the same with the Caliph’s wife, Zobeide (speaking role). They succeed in their plot, but when the Caliph and Zobeide try to discover which of them is really dead they both feign death. Abu Hassan, however, leaps up and reveals the subterfuge when he hears the Caliph offer 10 000 gold dinars to anyone who can clear up the mystery. For about half the opera Omar is imprisoned in a cupboard, where he has been forced to hide because of the unexpected return of Abu Hassan while Omar was trying to make love to the reluctant Fatime. Fatime explains to her husband, in an undertone, what has happened, and they decide to punish Omar by leaving him there in fear of discovery. When the Caliph is informed of Omar’s activities by Abu Hassan, at the end of the opera, he orders the cupboard to be taken to the city prison....

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