Opera Scotland

Queen of Sheba The Queen of Sheba; Die K├Ânigin von Saba

Music

Karl Goldmark (born Keszthely, 18 May 1830; died Vienna, 2 January 1915)

Text

Salomon Hermann Mosenthal.

Source

Original.

 

Premieres

First performance: Vienna (Hofoper), 10 March 1875.

First UK performance: Manchester (), 12 April 1910.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 10 March 1911.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

None of Goldmark’s subsequent operas repeated the success of The Queen of Sheba, which circulated widely within a few years of its premiere, with particular popularity in America. There is a successful application of exotic effects, perhaps following the recent example of Aïda, though the grand operas of Meyerbeer are clearly also a significant influence. One particular highlight is Assad’s aria, which was recorded with great success by Caruso. This may have been one reason for the work to be belatedly introduced to Britain by the Carl Rosa. However, in spite of the lavish nature of the staging, it only remained in their repertoire for a couple of seasons, and no British company has mounted it since.

 

Characters

King Solomon (bass)

Baal Hanan, the Palace overseer (baritone)

Assad, a courtier (tenor)

High Priest (bass)

Sulamith, the High Priest’s daughter (soprano)

Queen of Sheba (mezzo-soprano)

Astaroth, the Queen’s slave (mezzo-soprano)

 

Plot Summary

Sulamith, the High Priest’s daughter, loves Assad, a favourite officer of King Solomon, who has sent him to escort the Queen of Sheba to his Court. When Assad returns he fights shy of Sulamith, and, when pressed by Solomon, confesses that he has been so fascinated by a lady whom he discovered bathing in a forest well that he feels he cannot justly marry Sulamith.  But Solomon dismisses this incident, and advises him to go ahead with the wedding as planned.

When the Queen of Sheba arrives Assad recognises in her the forest lady but she denies knowing him, and the marriage with Sulamith is hurried forward.  But the Queen, who is herself obsessed with Assad, lures him to a beautiful moonlit garden, where they confess their mutual love.  Next we are in the Temple, where the wedding of Assad and Sulamith proceeds.  When the Queen makes her presence known, Assad is so distracted that he flings away the ring with which he was to wed Sulamith, and behaves in an almost hysterical fashion. He is condemned to death for his profanation of the Temple. 

In the third act the Queen pleads with Solomon for Assad’s life, and is enraged at his refusal to help. Then Sulamith appears, having decided on life as a hermit. She, too, pleads for Assad’s life, this time successfully.  Assad is banished to the desert.  In the final act, exhausted after wandering in the desert and being caught in a sandstorm, Assad is found by Sulamith and her maidens. He dies in her arms.

The Cast

Assad
 a courtier, and favourite of the King
Astaroth
 the Queen's slave
Baal Hanan
 the palace overseer
High Priest
 
King Solomon
 
Queen of Sheba
 
Sulamith
 the High Priest's daughter

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