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Photo: Komische Oper / Arwid Lagenpusch
Komische Oper Berlin 1994, Harry Kupfer, dir

Goldschmidt, Berthold

Der gewaltige Hahnrei (1929-30)

(The Magnificent Cuckold)
Duration: 105 minutes
A Musical Tragi-comedy in 3 Acts

Libretto by the composer after Fernand Crommelynck's 'Le Cocu Magnifique' (G,E)

2S,2A,3T,Bar,2B;chorus 3(I,II,III=picc).2.corA.1.Ebcl.bcl.2ssax(ad lib).2.dbn- timp.perc(4):xyl/glsp/BD/SD/TD/chinese dr/wdbl/cyms/tam-t/tgl-harp- strings-stage band:
Abbreviations (PDF).

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Nationaltheater, Mannheim
Richard Hein, director
Conductor: Joseph Rosenstock
Company: Nationaltheater Mannheim


BRUNO, her husbandTenor
PETRUS, Stella's cousinBaritone
MEME, Stella's old nurseMezzo-Soprano
ESTRUGO, Bruno's secretaryTenor
CORNELIE, a neighbourSoprano
FLORENCE, a neighbourMezzo-Soprano
Neighbours, TownsfolkSATB

Time and Place
Bruno's house, inside and outside


Bruno irrationally suspects his wife, Stella, of having a lover, because her beauty turns every male head in the village and even provoked one, an oxherd, to attempt a rape. When their old friend, Petrus, a sea-captain, visits them, Bruno tries to justify his obsession by forcing Stella to expose her breast and then in a rage strikes Petrus to the ground and throws him out. As the disease takes hold, Bruno forces Stella to wear a mask and drab clothes. He then decides that the only way to end his uncertainty is for Stella to sleep with Petrus. But when they emerge from the bedroom, Bruno says with a wild laugh: "They think they can fool me." When the villagers hear of this they surround Bruno’s house and taunt him as a cuckold. Bruno, more obsessed than ever, offers Stella to the men of the village in the hope at last of finding her lover. Outraged at the sight of their menfolk queueing to enjoy Stella’s services, the village women raise a commotion and threaten to throw her into the river. When the oxherd intervenes to protect her, Stella at first slaps his face but when he refuses to let go, she relents crying out : "Take me then, but swear that I must stay true forever". Bruno laughs in contempt as Stella and the oxherd leave: "Another of your tricks, but it won’t catch me again".

Repertoire Note
Composed to his own libretto on a play by Fernand Crommelynck and described by Goldschmidt as a ‘tragi-comedy’, Der gewaltige Hahnrei is one of the most remarkable of those operas whose performance momentum was cruelly cut short by the rise of Nazism in Germany in the early 1930s. The story of how Bruno irrationally suspects his wife Stella of being unfaithful and then forces her to sleep with his best friend to end his uncertainty is open to interpretation on several levels. Since its rediscovery and the acclaimed first recording on Decca’s ‘Entartete Musik’ label, the opera has enjoyed highly successful stage productions in Berlin, Bern and Darmstadt, confirming its status as a gripping piece of music drama. An orchestral suite from the opera is also available for performance (see works for Full Orchestra).

Press Quotes
"One of the great operas of the 20th century."
Frankfurter Rundschau

"... this is a highly energetic piece of music theatre. Crommelynck’s play, set by Goldschmidt in a version shortened by himself, offers a series of confidently-set situations, highly effective on stage in a plot which intensifies to the point of absurdity. Goldschmidt was able to exploit these with his clear, strongly-accented use of rhythm and mechanistic-machine-like tonal constructions in the style of New Objectivity."

"It’s easy to understand why the ‘Magnificent Cuckold’ was one of the most important German-language operas of its time. With this work, Goldschmidt succeeded in achieving something exceptional… A skilful development of Schreker’s musical language and with it, a late Romantic starting point, combine with influences from Hindemith, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Weill and even Italian opera."
Der Opernfreund

Comic, Tragic

Ethics, Relationships, Society, Literary

Recommended Recording
Roberta Alexander/Robert Wörle/Michael Kraus/Claudio Otelli/Helen Lawrence/Rundfunkchor Berlin/Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Lothar Zagrosek
Decca Entartete Musik 440 850-2

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