The Philosopher's Stone

Mozart, Henneberg, Schack, Gerl and Schikaneder

Information

(Der Stein der Weisen oder Die Zauberinsel)
Singspiel with music by W.A. Mozart, J.B. Henneberg, B Schack, F.X. Gerl and E. Schikaneder, 1790
Libretto by E Schikaneder; English translation by Barry Millington

Cast

Cast 2005

Astromonte, a beneficient god
Benjamin Hulett
Eutifronte, his brother, evil god of the underworld
Mark Saberton
Sadik, ruler of an arcadian land
Nicholas Merryweather
Nadir, Sadik's adopted son, in love with Nadine Mark Wilde
Nadine, Sadik's daughter, in love with Nadir
Amanda Pitt
Lubano, forester for Sadik, husband of Lubanara Thomas Guthrie
Lubanara, wife of Lubano
Gillian Keith
Genie, messenger of Astromonte Rachel Bickerton
   
Conductor Alexander Briger
Director Jeremy Gray
Chorus Morag Crowther, Gilly French, Daphne Harvey, Annabel Molyneaux, Harriet Molyneaux, Amy Russell, Jerome Finnis, Ben Linton, Andrew Hichens, Alan Poppleton, Mike Probert, Damian Riddle
The Bennelong Ensemble Martha Riley, Neil McTaggart, Mark Wilson, Heather Burnley, Eloise Prouse, Cliodhna Rian, Emil Echigakov violin; Morgan Goff, Miriam Eisele viola; Laura Fairhurst, Nicki Davies 'cello Ben Griffiths double bass; Lisa Osmialowski, Anne Allen flute; Natascha Briger, John Lewis clarinet; Carolyn King, Sheila Nichols oboe; Simon Payne, Ian McCubbin bassoon; Martin Grainger, Catherine Dawkins horn; Duncan McNaughton, Steve Cutting trumpet; Andrew Cole, John Wells trombone; Charles Giddings timpani

 

Synopsis

Act I
The Philosopher's Stone (Der Stein der Weisen) begins in an Arcadian land where the priest Sadik leads a ceremony to the guardian spirit, Astromonte. Sadik’s two foster children, the lovers Nadir and Nadine soon appear with their rustic friends, Lubano and Lubanara, a newly-wed couple. Lubanara’s presence desecrates a ceremony reserved for maidens. The audacious and untamed Lubanara persuaded Lubano to bring her to the sacred ceremony, as she dreams of riding in Astomonte’s flying machines. Lubano warns her of the dangers of displeasing Astromonte and the terrible subterranean spirit Eutifronte. But Lubanara has no fear of spirits. Sadik metes out a mild punishment to them and warns of terrible consequences if there are future incidents. Astromonte’s Genie then arrives in a cloud chariot and presents a cage that contains a magic bird. The bird will identify the most virtuous and innocent maiden by its song, and Astromonte will then take her with him. Sadik and Nadir fear that this will be Nadine. In subsequent comic scenes Lubano locks up his wife; she invokes Eutifronte and the demon comes and frees her; when the husband protests, Eutifronte takes Lubanara into the abyss. Lubano discovers antlers on his head, the sign of cuckoldry, and he is chased by hunters. The ceremony starts and each maiden holds the bird; it remains silent until Nadine holds it. Astromonte descends in his chariot and accepts the sacred offerings. As he is about to leave he hears the bird singing and sees Nadine. He takes them both in his chariot and departs. All implore Astromonte to return Nadine, and Lubano cries out for his Lubanara. In the final chorus they decide to set sail to the magic island to find Nadine.

 

Act II
Eutifronte causes a storm to wreck the ships as they approach the island, but Nadir and Lubano swim ashore. Eutifronte enlists Nadir’s anger at Astromonte for his own evil purposes, as he narrates his story to the young man: Astromonte and he are brothers, the sons of a powerful sorcerer who imparted his magic to them. Their father discovered the greatest of all secrets, the Philosopher’s Stone. He offered his sons an equal share of his wealth but Astromonte, as the first-born, was to receive the stone. Eutifronte vowed bloody vengeance, and the sorcerer decided that the stone would be given to the more worthy of their sons. At that time the two brothers loved the same princess. She chose Astromonte, and they had a son. Realising that this son may some day receive the stone, Eutifronte ordered that the boy be killed. Soon after learning of her child’s disappearance the princess died of grief. To assuage his unhappiness, his father gave Astromonte a magic bird that would identify the most virtuous maiden. Eutifronte now tells Nadir that he must murder Astromonte in order to rescue this maiden, his own Nadine. Lubano then receives instructions from the Genie: be steadfast, patient and obedient. He is soon tested by Eutifronte’s creatures, who offer him food and drink. Lubanara appears and stops Lubano, telling him of Eutifronte’s evil plans. Before she can warn Nadir, Eutifronte bewitches her so that she can only miaow like a cat. He brings them to a subterranean vault where a magic sword is being forged with the power to kill Astromonte. Declaring that this ceremony is only for men, Lubanara is led outside; the Genie arrives and rescues her. Nadir takes the sword and a magic bow with lethal arrows and sets out to Astromonte’s palace. When he hears the bird, Nadir accidently kills Nadine. Nadine’s corpse is brought before Nadir, who is rescued by the Genie before he is overcome by despair. Eutifronte now puts Lubano in a birdcage; he tricks Nadir into believing it an illusion, hoping Nadir will kill his friend. Suddenly Astromonte appears disguised as an old man and holding the bird. He asks for Eutifronte’s sword, promising Nadir that Nadine will return, along with Sadik and all his companions he believed were dead. He reveals that Nadir is Astromonte’s son, who was saved after Eutifronte’s spirits threw him into the sea. Eutifronte appears and tries to persuade Nadir that Astromonte is the enemy, but Nadir gives the sword to the old man. He is awarded the Philosopher’s Stone which brings Nadine back to life, and Astromonte removes his disguise. Eutifronte curses them and sinks with his spirits down into the abyss. The scene is then transformed into a splendid temple; all are reunited as they sing of the marriage of Nadir and Nadine.

Reviews

It's out of this world (preview)
The Independent 27 July 2001

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It's out of this world (preview)

The Independent 27 July 2001

A second Magic Flute? A tenor Queen of the Night? Yet another madcap opera by Emanuel Schikaneder, co-composed by members of the original Magic Flute cast, with a storm, a shipwreck, dwarves, magic birds and astral beings, and Mozart's name writ large upon it?

The Philosopher's Stone (Der Stein der Weisen, or Die Zauberinsel, 1790) is a Singspiel with spoken comic dialogue, jointly attributed to Mozart, Schikaneder, Franz Gerl, Benedikt Schack and Johann Henneberg. The young Sydney-born conductor Alexander Briger will deliver the UK stage premiere this weekend for Bampton Classical Opera in Barry Millington's spirited new translation. It was first heard in this country in a concert performance at last summer's Hampstead and Highgate Festival.

The Stone's links with The Magic Flute (staged in 1791) were numerous. Both operas draw on Wieland's collection of folk tales. Both involved higher and lower-order comic pairs, and confrontational supra-beings. And they starred the same team, with Schikaneder (Papageno) as the comic Lubano; Schack (Tamino) as the benevolent god Astromonte; Gerl (Sarastro) as the malicious Eutifronte; Gerl's wife (Papagena) singing Lubanara; and the original Pamina (Anna Gottlieb) as the heroine, Nadine.

It was the Iowa-based scholar David Buch who drew attention to three Mozart attributions on a Hamburg manuscript. They include a cat duet ("Nun, liebes Weibchen") already known from a Paris source, in which Lubanara is metamorphosed by the evil Eutifronte (to prevent her letting the cat out of the bag): shades of the "gagged" Papageno.

"People tend to think of The Magic Flute as a bizarre one-off piece," explains the director, Jeremy Gray, who with his wife is the moving force behind Bampton's outdoor revivals of rare repertoire ranging from Paisiello (Nina) and Storace (Gli equivoci) to Gazzaniga (a rival Don Giovanni). "In fact, it's possible to trace a whole genre in the popular productions staged by Schikaneder around that time.

"On The Philosopher's Stone there are only three fairly minor mentions of Mozart. If it had been an attempt at forgery, his name would have cropped up more frequently. The copyist has been linked with the Theater auf der Wieden outside Vienna where it was produced; so the attributions are likely to be authentic.

"It's quite a problematic opera to put on: like The Magic Flute, it's preposterous, it's bitty. It has serious characters, noble music and noble themes, but also slapstick humour and fantastic effects: gods who come down from heaven in chariots, scenes under the earth, singing birds, all difficult to pull off [despite Bampton's tangibly magical setting, a rook-filled deanery garden in Oxfordshire]. We're treating it to a great extent as science fiction, so that Astromonte becomes a character from space, and the second act is set on a comet," says Gray.

"Often it's impossible to say exactly who did what," explains the ebullient Briger, who has worked with his fellow Australian Sir Charles Mackerras on several Mozart productions, directs the Bennelong Ensemble and is just back from overseeing Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen at Aix-en-Provence. "Some argue that the part of the Act II finale attributed to Mozart isn't by him at all. Mozart always wrote in a very specific way, with oboes at the top, strings and flute underneath, and often the brass on a separate piece of paper.

"The Genie's command and 'Du schwarzer Teufel' are supposedly by Mozart; neither is overly impressive. But then Lubano launches into 'The wife is a cat' and suddenly he adds octave oboes, then an oboe and horn, then these amazing crescendos in consecutive fifths with the singer – and it's just the greatest orchestration: there's no way it could be by anyone but Mozart. It's too extreme.

"The cat duet (listed in Kochel's catalogue, K625/592A) really is Mozart, it's beautifully orchestrated – the way he uses the wind as Lubanara starts miaowing, or the open strings and horns near the end, as everything starts to double up. My theory is, whenever a cat's mentioned in the opera Mozart, being the wit that he was, thought 'Ah, that looks fun, but the orchestration's not good, I'll make it really interesting.'"

Gray adds: "It's not as if Mozart played around with the whole opera, but there are just moments where his voice comes through. In a couple of duets for Lubano and Lubanara (dead ringers for Papageno and Papagena) there's a child-like fun which makes for delightful theatre. And in Act I, four maidens vie, just like the three women at the beginning of The Magic Flute. Both overtures are stronger than the conventional 18th-century overture, and the choruses are extensive and often very fine."

Briger says: "The second chorus during Astromonte's aria is out of this world; one almost feels that's by Mozart. Nadir's part is incredibly demanding – I mean, what tenor encompasses a coloratura top D? His aria has a beautiful introduction with strings, and then trumpets and tymps seem to come out of nowhere. And the end of Act II sounds almost Wagnerian!

"Astromonte himself sounds so like the Queen of the Night that many think his role was intended for Mozart's sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer, who was on maternity leave. The beginning is typical Mozart, paired clarinets against flutes and bassoons. It's as if Mozart was trying it out – we know he liked to play around with Schack's music, they were close friends – and said 'Hey, that doesn't look very good, why don't you put this in?' and it's literally perfect for four bars."

Gray says: "There's an interesting twist when Astromonte makes off with Nadine: everyone is horrified, and the demon manipulates things to imply that Astromonte is not as benign as people believed. Finally he is proved to be good, and the father of Nadir. He pardons his brother and all ends predictably and happily.

"Despite varying quality and colour I do think it's remarkable the way the opera actually holds together. There's a real sense of shape and many genuine delights. It would be fascinating to know how the whole thing was managed; the master figure must have been Schikaneder, who was obviously trying to lure an audience and create a big financial success – as indeed it was." Gray, a modern-day Schikaneder who runs Bampton on a shoestring, deserves a similar satisfaction himself.

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Roderic Dunnett

 

If you thought the Magic Flute had a weird plot, you should see its daddy...
The Times 31 July 2001

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If you thought the Magic Flute had a weird plot, you should see its daddy...

The Times 31 July 2001

If you thought The Magic Flute had a weird plot, you should see its daddy. The Philosopher’s Stone, which was given its UK-staged premiere by Bampton Classical Opera amid the golden stone of a Cotswold village at the weekend, as a collaboration between the Flute’s librettist Emanuel Schikaneder and a number of drinking chums, including Mozart. It is tempting to hear a special genius in Mozart’s three little duets but, in truth, beyond a certain sophistication of scoring, they do not advertise themselves.

The ‘story’ of The Philosopher’s Stone comes from the same sources as the Flute, concerns a power-struggle between two estranged brothers, who also happen to be demi-gods, and the complicated effect this has on the Arcadian flower-children who live under their influence: in other words, the kind of jolly nonsense familiar from all supernatural fairytales. Jeremy Gray’s uncomplicated staging brought all this bang up to date with, er, a Maharishi-type guru, Star Trek togs and a Delek performing a stately march.

Thomas Guthrie’s proto-Papageno, Lubano, carried the evening, a natural hangdog comic whose marital problems with his determindly coquettish wife (Gillian Keith) glue the show together. Mark Saberton’s Eutifronte (the naughty brother), bad to the bone in biker gear, was excellently hissable. The show lacked the joyous ensemble of last year’s Comedy of Errors, but the principals were all in good form and the hammy chorus didn’t hurt too badly.

The music chugs along with nods to every style of the period – a spot of Sturm und Drang, some rather unfair Queen of the Night-style coloratura for the tenors – with the occasional genuine highlight: Nadine’s caressing minuet, A Woman Who has Felt Love’s Dart; Lubano’s downbeat little song, To Trust a Girl Would Not be Wise, accompanied by neat woodwind; the Mozart duet Now my sweet darling, artlessly affecting, the orchestra batting motifs about like seals juggling beachballs.

A bitty drama comes together musically and dramatically in a few ensemble scenes, and the extended Act I finale is cleverly paced, with the melting moments and sudden cloudings-over of real opera.

Alexander Briger’s Bennelong Ensemble is a huge improvement on last year’s scratch orchestra, with some lovely horn and oboe work.

Bampton is good clean fun, and this is a work which tells us a lot about Mozart and the Flute. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it.

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Robert Thicknesse

 

Tweeting swallows, passing ducks
The Independent 1 August 2001

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Tweeting swallows, passing ducks

The Independent 1 August 2001

Tweeting swallows, passing ducks, an unscripted chanticleer – pure music-hall, you might think – resolutely failed to faze Bampton Classical Opera's British- premiere production of The Philosopher's Stone. Credited to "Mozart and others" (Mozart supplied the catty bits), and dating from a year before The Magic Flute, The Philosopher's Stone, strong on chorus though thinner on ensembles, enjoyed a similar Viennese popularity. Its plot, by Schikaneder, is less high-minded but comparably zany, and Barry Millington's tongue-in-cheek translation – apt, funny and sensitive to the vocal line – enters slap-bang into the spirit of the original.

So, too, does Jeremy Gray's production. Gray, who both directs (with Gillian Pitt) and designs, has built up both a composite team and his own intelligent directorial style, informed by a wry sense of humour. You never know what trompe l'oeil will impinge next: outrageous colours, Escher-esque structures, bizarre trappings. Gray can pull off importing a silver bird, a spaceman, a Dalek, neo-Copernican paraphernalia (the subtitle could have been Die Silberinsel), because he sustains each visual leitmotif (Lubano has a silver bottle; even the villain is a silver-black villain).

The scarlet-orange-yellow garb of the ubiquitous space-worshipping chorus gets recycled as a fringe to each principal's costume, in the heavenward trajectory of votive balloons, and in the lighting coup at the close of Act I that signposts the static, brassy, ghoulish male chorus of Act II, "Astromonte dies" (shades of Trinculo-Caliban). Nothing – even the make-up – feels haphazard: everything fits.

At last, Bampton has resolved its musical side. The woodwind (richly counterpointed for Astromonte's entry) is better than ever; the horn obbligati, top- notch; the Bennelong Ensemble strings vigorous, if less punchy than a period band – although the violas (for Nadir) gave a good imitation.

I found myself grass-tapping to Alexander Briger's Mozartian pacings: the spirited hunting vignette (the chorus, including male and female quartets, was terrific); Lubano's strophic "To trust a girl would not be wise" (more glorious translation jingles); and surpassing all, the fabulously paced Act II overture, and prolonged Act I finale. The true hero was Mozart's colleague, the 21-year-old newly fledged theatre composer Johann Henneberg, soon to be conductor of The Magic Flute, who delivered the lion's share of the music: a stunning talent.

The cast did well, with reservations: the odd exit prompted unnecessary musical pauses. Neither Sadik (Nicholas Merryweather) nor the central Sarastro figure, Astromonte (Ben Hulett), whose space-suited arrival climaxes Act I, calculated their moves (or identities) adequately.

Gillian Keith's well-sung Lubanara over-egged the feline. Nadir (Mark Wilde) is a tenor of real calibre ("Can I be dreaming?" is pure Tamino), but slightly fudged – like Hulett's Astromonte – his fearsome Queen of the Night-style coloratura.

Amanda Pitt, ever-restrained, made an appealing Nadine. Mark Saberton, a wide-ranging baritone of marked potential in the Pizarro-Scarpia mould, made a strong if pantomimically villainous Eutifronte. The Devil doesn't get the best tunes; Rachel Bickerton's Genie had some of them.

None seemed much of an actor-improviser apart from Thomas Guthrie, whose janitor-Lubano, laced with quirky gesture and sidling nuance, produced convincingly good singing in aria and duet alike.

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Roderic Dunnett

 

Joy, nimbleness and irony in Bampton’s Mozart rarity
The Oxford Times 3 August 2001

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Joy, nimbleness and irony in Bampton’s Mozart rarity

The Oxford Times 3 August 2001

The Philosopher’s Stone, which received its first English staged performance at Bampton last weekend, directed by Jeremy Gray, leads you a merry dance if you try to track the plot too closely, or divert yourself in spotting he bits that Mozart wrote. One of a succession of often co-operatively-written, 'fairy-tale' Singspiele which Schikaneder put on at his Theatre auf der Wieden after 1789 ( The Magic Flute was soon to follow), it gestures affectionately towards the Plautine comic usages, and makes its tangle of complexities a running joke.

How to treat an opera like this, awash with make-believe, in ways to charm away our modern taste for blunt reality? Answer: ensure your singing, acting and orchestral strengths are faultlessly in place, and then have as much joy as you can. It works. The squirting Roman-candle shower that signalled finis to the first part of the work, and shed its lustre on the twilit garden of the Bampton Deanery last week, was emblem of the champagne-flavoured chutzpah of a very funny, pacey show.

But 'fun', perhaps, is not the mot juste here. A kindly irony pervades this piece. All personae are, in some way, in the frame of only from the clownish situations that the plot inspires. Astromonte (Benjamin Hulett) is 'a beneficent god' but his descent dressed as an astronaut, his NASA gear in place, pokes ridicule at everyone, not least himself. And there, among the characters, a to-and-fro of clashing values moderates our loyalties; if Nadir and Nadine (Marke Wilde, Amanda Pitt) seem a shade too solemn in their mutual love, the roguish conduct of their mirror images, Lubano and Lubanara (Thomas Guthrie, Gillian Keith) accounts for it.

On stage, the spread of singing expertise, all young, but all extremely watertight, meshed with the gilded swiftness of events, the choral moves, the witty aptness of the chinking rhymes by Barry Millington. Gillian Keith, embracing her first operatic part with quality and vocal zest, also acted fearlessly; her portrait of the ruthless flirt, condemned by Eutifronte’s spell to sing 'just like a cat', (and how endearingly) was done with every sign of spontaneity.

Yet picking out your leading players here is fairly odious. Mark Saberton, arrayed in evil biker’s kit as Burtifronte, deployed a fine-grained bass. The high jinks Thoms Guthrie brought to sharpen up his role, were matched, likewise, by keen-edged tenor nimbleness. And finally Amanda Pitt, her haunting mezzo right in tune, on two occasions stole the show. No-one, though, displaced the general focus and momentum of events. It was an enterprise shared equally by all – and by the watchers too.

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Derek Jole

 

...a vivacious performance
Opera, November 2001

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...a vivacious performance

Opera, November 2001

The Philosopher 's Stone isn't actually by Mozart: much of it is the work of his young colleague Johann Baptist Henneberg, aged 2I, who rehearsed Die Zauberflöte and took over the conducting from Mozart after the first two performances. But it bears Mozart's imprimatur: at least three passages are known to be by him; and (to judge by some natty touches) he may well have tinkered with the orchestration elsewhere. Yet this Wieland-based tale has enough of the Flute - magic creatures, a philosopher-king, a pair of higher and lower order lovers, a gagged 'cat' duet, concealed paternity and a botched murder plot - to reveal something of the quality of this spirited collaborative genre which Schikaneder had just begun galvanizing at the Theater auf der Wieden.

It was premièred on 11 September 1790, and key members of the Zauberflöte cast composed bits and/or sang in it. It was, in effect, a dress rehearsal for Mozart's masterpiece the following year. The first recent stage production was in Augsburg; its first UK (concert) performance was at last year's Hampstead and Highgate Festival.

Jeremy Gray's outdoor productions for Bampton Classical Opera grow sharper year by year. Here, with co-director Thomas Guthrie, who also sang a mellifluous Lubano (the baritone Papageno role), plus a forceful chorus, a new young orchestra (the capable British-Australian Bennelong Ensemble) plus lively props and space-age stage effects, Gray served up a vivacious performance. Two rising young tenors, Mark Wilde and Benjamin Hulett, made a good stab at the demanding coloratura roles of Nadir and Astromonte. As the villainous brother, Eutifronte, Mark Saberton (another strong baritone) had the right pantomimic frightfulness. Second-half lighting lent additional colour, and the Australian-born conductor, Alexander Briger, inspired some pithy period-manner playing. Once again Bampton has shown how imaginative repertoire can be married with audience-friendliness and fun. Barry Millington's entertaining translation served the piece well.

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Roderic Dunnett

 

Programme notes

Historical notes on The Philosopher's Stone by David Buch

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Historical notes on The Philosopher's Stone by David Buch

When the actor, singer, playwright and composer Emanuel Schikaneder assumed the artistic management of the Theater auf der Wieden in suburban Vienna in the summer of 1789, he initiated a new direction for his company. To attract a large audience he commissioned a series of fairy-tale singspiels based on the popular writing of Christoph Martin Wieland. To accommodate the pressing schedule of new singspiels, he employed a team approach to the musical composition, and to improve the quality of the performance, he hired a skilled music director and several new virtuoso singers.

The first fairy-tale opera at this theatre, Oberon, King of the Elves (November 1789), used a libretto adapted by Karl Ludwig Giesecke, a member of the company. Schikaneder himself wrote the subsequent fairy-tale librettos, turning to Wieland’s Dschinnistan collection when he wrote Der Stein der Weisen (The Philosopher’s Stone, September 1790), followed by Der wohltätige Derwisch (The Beneficent Dervish) and The Magic Flute, both in 1791.

The collaborative approach to musical composition was first discussed in 1794, in an anonymous Viennese article titled ‘Über den Stand der Musik in Wien’. Citing Benedikt Schack and Franz Xaver Gerl’s collaborations, the author notes that ‘with the…..Beneficent Dervish and with The Philosopher’s Stone, several individuals composed them at the same time; one works on these operettas like one builds a house; and it cannot be denied that this is the very best way when an opera has to be created in a short amount of time.’

Mozart had been acquainted with Schikaneder since 1780, and his association with the Theater auf der Wieden certainly antedated Schikaneder’s arrival in 1789. Mozart’s sister-in-law, Josefa Hofer (née Weber), was already singing in the company under its previous manager. Schikaneder brought in Schack and Gerl, two skilled composers and leading singers, both with connections to the Mozart family in Salzburg. Schack quickly became a close friend who sought out Mozart’s advice in composition.

Sometime in the late spring or early summer of 1790 Mozart participated in the composition of the music for the new ‘heroic-comic opera’ in two acts, The Philosopher’s Stone, based on the tale ‘Nadir und Nadine’ from Dschinnistan. The other composers included the new Kapellmeister, Johann Baptist Henneberg, Schack, Gerl and Schikaneder. The evidence for Mozart’s involvement is compelling: a score of the cat duet, mostly in Mozart’s handwriting, survives in Paris. This duet comes from the original performing score. Mozart’s name also appears in two contemporary Viennese manuscript copies of the score now in Hamburg and Berlin (the Frankfurt copy indicates no composers) as well as in other contemporary sources. Besides the cat duet there are two additional segments attributed to Mozart in the Hamburg manuscript, brief but skilful duets in the second-act finale. While these attributions have no corroborating source, they appear to be in the hand of the chief music copyist, Kasper Weiss. Weiss’s attributions are further strengthened by the fact that he indicated five composers who were active in this theatre during this brief period of time (1790-91), and he correctly indicated the one attribution that can be verified, that of the cat duet. Michael Lorenz’s research has demonstrated that he was on intimate terms with Gerl, Schack and Schikaneder. The very modesty of the other Mozart attributions argues for their authenticity: had this been an attempt simply to capitalise on Mozart’s fame, his name would most likely not have been confined to such brief episodes so late in the second act. Finally, the forensic evidence of the paper and handwriting, analysed by musicologist Dexter Edge, provides further support for the attributions.

Just one year after The Philosopher’s Stone, the same playwright, singers and actors created parallel roles in The Magic Flute: Schack (Astromonte) sang Tamino, Gerl (Eutifronte) Sarastro, Urban Schikaneder (Sadik) was the first priest, Kistler (Nadir) the second priest, Anna Gottlieb (Nadine) Pamina, Emanuel Schikaneder (Lubano) Papageno, Barbara Gerl (Lubanara) Papagena. The same Kapellmeister, Henneberg, led the orchestra from the piano. The surprising number of textual and musical parallels between these two operas (and between The Beneficent Dervish and The Magic Flute) establish an intimate link in this series of fairy-tale operas. The parallels also provide an important insight into Mozart’s use of pre-existing musical materials and his interest in fairy-tale opera well over a year before The Magic Flute.


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Reception and performance history

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Reception and performance history

The Philosopher’s Stone premièred on 11 September 1790 and enjoyed a relatively long period of popularity, at least 24 years (1790-1814). After the first run at the Theater auf der Wieden in 1790, the work was revived there frequently. The opera was mounted in Brno (1794), Prague (1795, in Czech), Frankfurt (1795-6), and in Graz (1796). The Schantor theatre troupe performed the opera in Trieste in June 1799, as did the Albrecht company at the Nationaltheater in Altone in August 1800. There was a run of performances in 1802: a songbook from that production is preserved in Tegenburg. An additional contemporary songbook that attributes the music to Mozart survives in the Bavarian State Library in Munich, but no date or location is indicated. Schikaneder revived Der Stein der Weisen when he returned to Vienna as the director of the Theater an der Wien in 1804. The last known performance of the opera, recently documented by Michael Lorenz, took place in Linz on 28 February 1814.

While no reviews of Wiednertheater performances of The Philosopher’s Stone have survived, the evidence suggests that the opera was highly successful. Shortly after the première, the Lausch music shop advertised vocal numbers in the local newspaper. Schikaneder printed texts of six vocal numbers, along with three copper engravings of staged scenes, in his 1791 Allmanach fur Theaterfreunde. Four independent commentators discussing the Viennese revival of the opera at the Theater an der Wien (1804) recalled that it had been a favourite with the public in past years.

A reviewer of a production of the opera in Altona (1800) praised the music as ‘rich in ideas, true-to-life in its characterisation, and diverse in its expression. The ear will often be gently flattered, the songs are extremely pleasing, and both finales have 'an abundance of ceremonial solemnity'. Listeners today should find this assessment as valid as it was in 1800.


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The discovery of The Philosopher’s Stone
David J. Buch

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The discovery of The Philosopher’s Stone

I was not searching for undiscovered Mozart when in 1993 I first heard from Jurgen Neubacher, the manuscript librarian at the Hamburg City and University Library, about the City Theatre Collection. The collection, which had been returned from St Petersburg, had suffered water damage in Russia and was undergoing a lengthy restoration process. At the time I was examining fairy-tale or supernatural opera, the genre to which The Philosopher’s Stone and The Magic Flute both belong. I made a list of opera manuscripts I wanted to look at, and at the top was the score for The Philosopher’s Stone, a fairy-tale opera that was first staged one year before The Magic Flute at Emanuel Schikaneder’s Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna.

When I returned to Hamburg three years later and examined the score, I was surprised to see the names of individual composers written above most of the numbers. That is not what one would expect to see in a theatre copy. Would the famous ‘cat duet’, attributed to Mozart in Kochel’s catalogue, be attributed to Mozart here? It was. As I continued to turn the pages, Mozart’s name appeared for a second time, above the beginning of the second-act finale, yet another ‘cat duet’. Some pages further on, Mozart’s name appeared again above the duet Fort, armer Jüngling, sung by the Tamino-like hero Nadir and a Genie.

Knowing that this might be a valuable discovery, I began searching for independent corroborative evidence to authenticate the attributions. What was there in the Mozart literature? Constanze Mozart mentions on three occasions that Mozart collaborated with the tenor-composer Benedikt Schack, one of the composers of The Philosopher’s Stone. Schack was not in Vienna very long while Mozart lived – only about two and a half years. There are not many operas written by him during this period, so the Stone would be a prime candidate. Michel Noiray located a short essay dating from 1801 by Theophile-Frederic Winkler that states that Mozart wrote ‘plusieurs morceaux in La Pierre philosophale’. There is also a contemporary songbook on whose title-page one reads ‘in Musik gesetzt von Mozart’. Clearly false, but the association is there. But it was the musicologist Dexter Edge that provided the essential clue – he determined that the Hamburg manuscript originated in the Viennese copy shop of Schikaneder’s Theater auf der Wieden – right where the opera was first produced. Since then I have located many of the manuscripts produced by this copy shop and this has helped to establish the lineage of the precious Hamburg score.

David J. Buch

© 2000 David J. Buch. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Recent performances

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Recent performances

Following Professor Buch's discovery and edition of the Hamburg manuscript, The Philosopher's Stone was performed and recorded by Boston Baroque, conducted by Martin Pearlman, for Telarc (CD-80508). The modern European concert première was at the Hampstead and Highgate Festival on 27 May 2000, given by Collegium Musicum 90 and The New Company, conducted by Harry Bicket, in Barry Millington's translation; this performance was subsequently broadcast on Radio 3. The modern European staged première was at the Theater Augsburg, Germany, on 5 May 2001, conducted by Peter Leonard in a production by Dominik Wilgenbus. Bampton Classical Opera is grateful to David J. Buch for permission to give the first UK staged production.

Who composed what?

Act 1  
1. Overture Henneberg
2. Introduction, You maidens, you young folk! Henneberg
3. Aria (Lubano), Well, I never! Did you ever? Henneberg
4. Aria (Lubanara), Thus a pretty maiden can Henneberg
5. Chorus and accompanied recitative,
Hark, beautiful harmony
Schack
6. Duet (Lubanara and Lubano), Tralleralara Gerl
7. Acc. recit and aria (Eutifronte and Lubanara), At your command I come Gerl
8. Chorus and solo (Lubano), Look there, a stag runs by! Henneberg
9. Aria (Nadine), A woman who has felt love's dart Henneberg
10. Acc. recit and aria (Nadir and Astromonte), You'll ne'er do that, I swear to you! Schack
11. Finale, Say why, Nadine, you run from here Henneberg and Schikaneder
   
Act II  
1. Overture no attribution
2. Chorus and recitative (Eutrifonte and Genie),
O Astromonte, be thou nigh
Henneberg
3. Aria (Lubano), To trust a girl would not be wise Henneberg
4. March no attribution
5. Duet (Lubano and Lubanara), Now, my sweet darling Mozart
6. Aria (Eutifronte), Nadir, you'll triumph! no attribution
7. Aria (Nadir), Ye gods show mercy Gerl
8. Chorus, Astromonte dies through us Schack
9. Aria (Lubano), Yes, love is a funny thing no attribution
10. Aria (Nadine), My darling, my dearest Nadir! Schikaneder
11 . Finale, Miaow, miaow! Mozart and Schack
 

 


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