Zarewitsch, Der (‘The Tsarevich’)
- Andrew Lamb
Operette in three acts by Franz Lehár to a libretto by Heinz Reichert and Béla Jenbach , after the play by Gabriele Zapolska; Berlin, Deutsches Künstlertheater, 16 February 1927.
Written for Richard Tauber, with Rita Georg as his partner, the work is in the more serious style of Lehár’s later works, with an unhappy ending. The music is dramatic for the leading couple, offset with lighthearted dance numbers for the subsidiary couple. It is set at the end of the 19th century, and opens in St Petersburg, where the Tsarevich (tenor) is an austere, isolated and lonely young man (Volga Song: ‘Allein! wieder allein!’). His antagonism towards women is so great that even his valet Iwan (buffo) has to conceal the existence of a wife, Mascha (soprano). The Tsarevich’s lack of interest in women worries his uncle, the Grand Duke (spoken), who wishes to see him marry. To break down his reserve, a plan is hatched whereby Sonja (soprano), a dancer in a Cossack troupe, is brought to him disguised as a boy to join him in a gymnastic work-out. She agrees to the plan with some trepidation (‘Einer wird kommen’). By the end of Act 1 the Tsarevich has discovered her true sex, but already she has begun to break down his isolation. By Act 2, indeed, the relationship has developed into genuine love (‘Hab’ nur dich allein’), much to the concern of the Grand Duke, who has a royal bride in mind. Thus, in order to dispel the Tsarevich’s interest, Sonja is persuaded to tell him of a supposed string of previous lovers. However, she cannot maintain the deception, and they fall afresh into each other’s arms. By Act 3 they have escaped to Naples together, where they enjoy a bliss they sense may be all too short (Napolitana: ‘Warum hat jeder Frühling, ach, nur einen Mai?’). News comes of the Tsar’s death, and the Tsarevich realises that he must leave the heartbroken Sonja, to do his duty in St Petersburg....