Die Tote stadt
Paul’s housekeeper, shows Frank, Paul’s visiting friend,
the “Shrine from the Past,” a room in which Paul keeps the
portrait and mementos of his deceased wife, Marie. Paul enters,
exclaiming that he has met a woman who uncannily resembles Marie and
that he has invited her to visit him. This woman, Marietta, a dancer
from Lille, arrives. Accompanying herself on the lute, she sings a
nostalgic song and then performs a seductive dance. She accidentally
dislodges a curtain, exposing Marie’s portrait, and is startled
by its resemblance to her. She then leaves for her rehearsal of
Robert le diable. Paul is torn between his loyalty to Marie and his
desire for Marietta. When Marie appears in a vision, Paul vows his
fidelity. Marie bids him “see and understand.” The
apparition vanishes, replaced by an image of Marietta dancing.
Paul is spying
outside Marietta’s house, where he encounters Brigitta, who has
left his service to become a nun, and then Frank, who has arrived for
a tryst with Marietta. The two men jealously struggle, and Paul
wrests from Frank the key Marietta gave him. Frank runs off. When
members of Marietta’s troupe appear in boats, Paul hides.
Marietta is serenaded and then enters with the dancer Gaston. After
Fritz, the troupe’s Pierrot, sings a sentimental love song,
Marietta proposes a toast and suggest an impromptu performance of
Robert le diable. Portraying Helene, she rises from a mock bier and
flirtatiously dances toward Gaston. Paul, outraged by this burlesque
of resurrection, emerges to stop the proceedings. Marietta is left
alone with Paul. Berating her, he reveals the reason for his bizarre
attraction to her, and declares that he never loved her. Marietta,
challenging her dead rival, seduces Paul. She insists they go to his
house to banish the phantom forever.
morning, Paul finds Marietta in the "Shrine of the Past".
She refuses to leave, for she wants to watch Bruges’ annual
religious procession from the window. Paul becomes engrossed in the
ancient ceremony, finally falling to his knees in religious fervor.
Marietta attempts to regain Paul’s attention by again seducing
him. Haunted by his guilty conscience, Paul imagines that the
procession is menacingly entering the room. When Marietta ridicules
his superstition and accuses him of hypocrisy, Paul orders her to
leave. But Marietta again challenges Marie—”life against
death.” She seizes Marie’s golden braid and begins an
alluring dance. Paul, furious, strangles her with the braid.
returns to the darkened room, Marietta’s body is gone and the
braid is untouched. Brigitta announces Marietta, who has returned
because she forgot her umbrella and roses, suggesting that this is an
omen that she should stay. When Paul does not respond, Marietta
exits. Frank enters, and Paul tells him he will never again see
Marietta; a dream of reality has destroyed his dream of fantasy.
Frank asks Paul to go with him, and Paul agrees to leave Bruges,
“the dead city.”
York Opera http://www.nycopera.com