Heroic-romantic opera in three acts.
Libretto by Josef Kupelwieser after the old French epic Fierabras (ca. 1170), Pedro Calderón de la Barca's play La puente de Mantible (1630) and the legend of Eginhard and Emma
In the early years of the nineteenth century it was still the world of opera that offered a composer the best opportunity to reach out to the widest possible audience and to find the quickest route to fame and fortune. As a young man, Franz Schubert, too, harboured operatic ambitions, an aim in which he was encouraged by his teacher Antonio Salieri, but in the event it proved to be the start of a long and hapless chapter in his career. Of the eleven stage works that he completed, the majority were singspiels, and only three were actually staged in his lifetime. One reason for this low percentage is that most were written without a specific commission: as his contemporary, Josef von Spaun, noted, Schubert wrote them ‘because he felt the urge to compose them and because applause and money were never a stimulus for him to live for his art’.
In the case of his most important work for the theatre, Fierrabras, there were, conversely, grounds for hope, for the libretto was the work of Josef Kupelwieser, the influential secretary of the Theater am Kärntnertor, who was keen to promote German-language operas, while the subject matter was drawn from the then fashionable world of the chivalric romance.
The story takes place during religious wars between Christians and Muslims. Eginhard, a valiant knight, and Emma, daughter of the great King Karl (Charlemagne) live their love in secret. One day, Eginhard captures Fierrabras, son of the King of the Moors. They become friends, until Fierrabras falls in love with Emma. Roland, another knight, falls in love with Fierrabras's sister, Florinda. After many rebounds, lies, promises and quarrellings, all these stories have their happy endings, and the kings make peace.
Julia Kleiter, Emma
Dorothea Röschmann, Florinda
Marie-Claude Chappuis, Maragond
Michael Schade, Fierrabras
Georg Zeppenfeld, King Karl
Markus Werba, Roland
Benjamin Bernheim, Eginhard
Peter Kálmán, Boland
Manuel Walser, Brutamonte
Peter Stein, stage director
Philharmonia Chor Wien
Ernst Raffelsberger, chorus master
Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus
Ingo Metzmacher, conductor