Des Teufels Lustschloss
«Des Teufels Lustschloss»
Opera in three acts
(b. Vienna, 31 January 1797 – d. Vienna 19 November 1828)
Franz Peter Schubert was the master of the 19th Century German song; an inexhaustible melodic genius. No other composer was as lyrical, as humanistic, as in love with the voice, as was Schubert. Of his more than 950 works, approximately 600 of them are songs. This vast output of Lieder in tandem with the fact that the bulk of his larger works were not published during his lifetime – some were first performed after his death – may lead one to conclude, erroneously, that Schubert was merely a composer of songs. Until recently, his operas/Singspiele were considered secondary works and of little importance. The recent revival of and interest in these works (stage, radio and CD) calls for a reappraisal of their place within his oeuvre. The number of Singspiele (works with spoken texts) by Schubert numbers between twelve and twenty, according to scholars. In 1950, the renowned musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch (1883-1967) published his thematic catalog Schubert – Thematic Catalogue of all his Works in Chronological Order, which was more than fifty years in the making. When it comes to Schubert scholarship that of Deutsch is seminal. The Deutsch or “D” numbers are the standard method for identifying works of Schubert.
The son of a schoolmaster, Franz Peter Schubert showed an extraordinary aptitude for music early in his life. Amid his studies of piano, violin, organ, singing and harmony, the young Franz studied composition with court-composer Antonio Salieri (1750-1825). Nikolaus Harnoncourt noted, «Franz Schubert was a born musician who knew everything intuitively. All of his teachers attested that they could teach him nothing except the names of what he was producing.»
By age 17, the work catalog of Schubert included his Mass No. 1 in F Major (D. 105); seventeen songs, including Der Taucher (D.77) and Gretchen am Spinnrade (D. 118); compositions for piano; string quartets; and his first Singspiel in three acts, a «magic opera,» with libretto by August von Kotzebue (1761-1819), Des Teufels Lustschloss (The Desire Palace of the Devil) D. 84 (1813/14), which premiered after his death on 12 December 1879 in the Musikverein Saal in Vienna. Legend has it that Schubert dismissed himself from his music lessons until he finished the opera, after which, he presented the full score to an astonished but delighted Salieri in May 1814. Apparently the critique and/or suggestions offered by the court composer, were taken to heart by the young Franz, as there is a revised or second version of the opera, dated five months after the completion of the original score (October 1814). The revised score is that which appears here in print.
Lustschloss has all the enchantment, charm, and earmarks of Schubert, even amid its similarities with Mozart’s Magic Flute and Abduction from the Seraglio. The hallmark of Schubert’s music is his intense lyricism, which he imbues with a hint of pathos. In his opera orchestrations as in the accompaniment of his songs, Schubert skillfully and creatively takes an interesting word and renders it in a musical figuration. The use of “nature music” (e.g., wind, thunder, storms, birdsongs, and night and morning scenes) is abundant, painted by Schubert’s rich, tonal palate and orchestral colors. The opera orchestrations are bold and without limitation, even in the early works, in which scoring is for full woodwinds and three trombones. In a twist on the practice of the times, Schubert created most of his distinctive opera roles for the baritone voice.
The story of Der Teufels Lustschloss takes place within the castle of the same name. The leading character, Oswald, is put through all manner of trials by his father-in-law, in an effort to test his character and worthiness. Oswald comes through his ordeals and is re-united with Luitgarde in a happy ending. The opera consists of 23 numbers. The Overture is perhaps the most familiar to modern day audiences, as it is frequently performed in concert and on recordings.
Schubert’s circle of friends included members of the new middle class: educated and musically aware. They gathered for musical evenings – Schubertiads – in which an appreciative audience and influential contacts—notably the baritone, Johann Michael Vogl – were Schubert’s delight, as well as his encouragement to become a full-time composer and leave behind his position as a schoolmaster. In 1823, a draft of a newspaper article by Joseph Hüttenbrenner predicted the following: “«If one were to judge what Schubert might achieve in opera by what he has accomplished in song, and comparing him to Mozart and Beethoven in these two genres … we would certainly see in him a composer of equal merit.» At the time of his death at age 31, it is believed that Schubert stood poised on the threshold of becoming a recognized composer of opera.
Geraldine M. Rohling, 2005
For performance material please contact the publisher Bärenreiter, Kassel. Reprint of a copy from the Musikbibliothek der Münchner Stadtbibliothek, München.