Opera: Lurline – William Vincent Wallace

“Lurline,” a romantic opera in three acts with music by William Vincent Wallace and words by Edward Fitzball, was first produced at Covent Garden Theatre, London, Feb. 23, 1860. Its story is very similar to the famous legend of the Lorelei.


Count Rudolph, a young nobleman. Adolphe, his friends. Wilhelm, The Baron Truenfels. Conrad. Zelieck, a gnome. Ghiva, the Baron’s daughter. Liba, the spirit of the Rhine. Lurline, nymph of the Lurlei-Berg. Vassals of Rudolph, attendants of the Baron, conspirators, pages, water-spirits, naiads, nymphs.

The action of this opera takes place in the waters and on the banks of the Rhine. Count Rudolph is an extravagant young fellow residing in an ancestral castle. He is generous as well as extravagant and his patrimony has been dissipated, largely by the graceless followers by whom he is surrounded. Like some other young spend-thrifts, he hopes to mend his fortunes by marriage. His fiancée, Ghiva, is the pretty, but vain and mercenary daughter of a neighboring baron. The Baron and Rudolph both discover, however, that they are alike in need of replenishing each his income. The marriage treaty is summarily dissolved, the once cordial Baron fairly showing the young Count the door.

Meantime, Lurline, the nymph of the Rhine, has seen Count Rudolph in his boat and has fallen in love with him. At a revel held by him and his companions at the castle, Lurline attends and, surrounding the host with spells, places her magic ring upon his finger. Upon recovering his reason he finds that he is in love with the bautiful water-queen. Her enchanted voice and harp lure him to the river in which he is engulfed and in which he is supposed to perish.

The second act shows the coral cavern of the Rhine, where Lurline makes her dwelling. The form of Rudolph is seen wrapt in sleep which the father of Lurline means to be eternal. But while he is temporarily absent, Rudolph is resuscitated. To his ears comes the sound of the voices of his companions singing a requiem for the loss of their chief. This moves him so deeply that he desires to return to them for a short time. Lurline consents to his absence for three days and agrees to await his return on the summit of the Lurlie-Berg at the rising of the moon on the third evening. To augment his happiness, she prevails on her father, the Rhine-King, who has become reconciled to an earthly son-in-law, to give him a cargo of wealth for the fairy boat on which he embarks. Lurline with strange dread watches him depart. She fears the nonfulfilment of his promise to return.

Rudolph at home again is greeted with joy. He discloses to the Baron and his daughter the secret of his enormous wealth, the news producing a remarkable change in their manner toward him. The Baron again courts an alliance with him, and Ghiva, displeased to find that his heart is engaged to Lurline, hopes to break her influence by stealing the enchanted ring from his finger and casting it into the Rhine. All this time poor Lurline sits disconsolate upon the Lurlei-Berg lamenting to the mournful tones of her harp. A gnome in the service of the Rhine-King confirms her belief that she is deserted by bringing to her the ring. Like any earthly woman, the evidently scorned nymph finds her fury aroused and resolves to visit her unfaithful lover to upbraid him.

The castle on the Rhine is now the scene of great festivity and among the revelers the Count alone is sad, for his heart is away on the Lurlei-Berg with Lurline. But he dares not present himself to her without the ring. When he is alone for a moment, Lurline appears to him and demands the troth-token. An interview takes place, which ends in Lurline’s denouncing the treachery of the companions in whom he most confides. They are envious of his wealth and have plotted to destroy him and plunder the castle. Their plan has been overheard by Ghiva and her father, who urge him to instant flight. Even now the assassins rush upon Rudolph but he prefers death at the feet of Lurline to safety without her. Lurline’s affection returns and, seizing her harp, by the spell of music she causes the destruction of the assassins. The Rhine-King again appears, to give Rudolph’s hand to his daughter.

The principal numbers in this rarely given opera are Lurline’s songs to the accompaniment of her harp, ” Flow on, flow on, O silver Rhine ” and ” When the night winds sweep the wave ; ” the chorus, ” Sail on, sail on, the mid-night gale ; ” Rudolph’s romanza, ” Our barque, in moon-light beaming; ” the chorus of gnomes and spirits, ” Vengeance, Vengeance; ” the ” Behold! Behold! wedges of gold,” sung by the gnome at the commencement of the second act; Lurline’s song with Liba and the chorus, Take this cup of sparkling wine ; ” ” Troubadour enchanting,” for the contralto ; Rudolph’s ballad, beginning the third act, ” My home ! My heart’s first home ;” Lurline’s ” Great Spirit ! hear my prayer,” the one number of the opera which found universal popularity and which is still sung occasion-ally; the incantation, ” Wild waters, from your fountains rise ” and the final chorus, ” Flow on, thou lovely Rhine.”