DAS WUNDER DER HELIANE
(The miracle of Heliane)
SYNOPSIS

Libretto by Hans Muller , after Hans Kaltneker

Setting: In the realm of a ruler , in a unspecified period

 

Act one
The Ruler exercises a grim and despotic power over his country. Since he is unable to win the love of his wife Heliane , he feels that his subjects,too,hould suffer, and will not tolerate them living in happiness. A Stranger has appeared in the land and attempted to bring joy to the people.but has been thrown into prison as a result. Sentenced to death for stirring up trouble, he is due to be executed the following day. The ruler visits him in his cell,wishing to find out the reasons for his actions. The Stranger's pleas for reprieve go unheard, although he is permitted to spend his last night on earth unchained. After the Ruler has left,Heliane comes into the cell,wishing to comfort the Stranger. Her feelings of pity gradually turn to those of love. Responding to the Stranger's entreaties for last taste of beauty,Heliane reveals to him first her golden hair,then her small white feet,and finally her naked body. He begs her to give herself to him on this last night of his life; this she refuses,but instead goes into the adjacent chapel to pray for him. The ruler returns to the cell. He now proposes that if stranger can teach Heliane to love him,her husband,he will offer the Strange not only his life,but also Heliane herself. At this point Heliane returns,still naked. The Ruler orders the Stranger's death and Heliane's immediate trial.

Act two

The ruler and the woman Messenger (once briefly the Ruler's lover,but now rejected by him) await the arrival of the executioner,six judges and the blind Chief Justice. Heliane in on the trial for her life. The Ruler accuses his wife of adultery with the Stranger. Heliane cannot deny that se was found standing naked in front of the Stranger,but insists that she gave herself to him in thought only. The Ruler presses a dagger on Heliane and order that she should kill herself. The stranger is the brought in to testify,but he refuses to speak and insists on being left alone for some moments with Heliane. He kisses her,then takes the dagger and kills himself: It is now impossible for the Ruler to discover what really happened in the prison. He decides to put Heliane to the test before God: If she in not guilty,as she claims,then,she will be able to bring the Stranger back to life. Half in a trance,Heliane says that she is willing to undergo this trial.

Act three

A vast crowd of people has gathered before the castle,waiting for the Ruler,the Judges and the blind Chief Justice,who arrive to witness Heliane's attempt to bring the dead Stranger back to life. The Messenger incites the people to violence against Heliane. When put to the test,Heliane cannot lie: she breaks down and admits that she did indeed love Stranger. The Ruler is anxious to save Heliane-but on the condition that she will finally be his. Heliane refuses this last chance,and people now lead her away to the stake. The excited crowd is startled by a clap thunder. Stars begin to appear in the sky. Everyone is astounded to see the corpse of the Stranger rise up,transfigured,from the funeral bier. Heliane runs into his arms and the Ruler beside himself,plunges his sword into her breast. The Stranger blesses the people and dismisses the Ruler,whose power has now been broken. Heliane and the Stranger united in the unshakeable love,rise to heaven and bliss

 

DECCA 1993