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Don Perlimplín's love for Belisa in his Garden

Wolfgang Fortner 1907–1987

4 scenes from an Erotic Drama with texts by Federico García Lorca

First performed May 10 1962, Schlosstheater Schwetzingen

Sung in German with German surtitles
Introductory talks (in German) in the Bockenheimer Depot 30 minutes before performances begin

No longer in his prime Don Perlimplín lives in a world of books. Worried she might die and not be able to look after him any longer; his housekeeper Marcolfa urges him to marry a girl she has found for him, the young, beautiful Belisa, whose singing’s so beguiling. Belisa’s mother consents, because the Don’s a good catch. Scene 1: They’re quickly married. The wedding night begins. Don Perlimplín takes a quick furtive peep at his bride’s body and feels love, but can’t show it physically; Belisa waits in vain. Five mysterious whistles are heard outside, but we never find out what happened that night: curious house spirits – goblins – conceal it from us. Next morning the balcony doors are open. Don Perlimplín finds five ladders and five hats. Jealousy simmers inside him, but he seems satisfied by his new wife’s explanations. His love for her grows stronger and stronger. He makes a decision. Scene 2 Some time later. Marcolfa complains that Belisa cheated on Don Perlimplín with five lovers on their wedding night. And she recently saw her with another man. But the Don seems quite happy about this and sends her off on an assignment. Belisa’s crazy about an unknown young man she’s never seen up close. Whenever she tries to approach him, he gives her the slip. When Don Perlimplín, who was listening to her talking to herself, makes his presence known, a letter’s thrown through the open window. He hands it to his visibly flustered wife and asks her quite openly about the mysterious young man, who always wears a red cape. He doesn’t reproach her, on the contrary, he intensifies her love. Then he announces that he’ll do something that no other man before him has ever done. Scene 3: Don Perlimplín’s making final preparations in the cypress and orange garden at night. Marcolfa told Belisa, as instructed, that the young man in the red cape will be in the garden tonight. The Don responds to Marcolfa’s conscientious objections with irony, although he’s filled with elation: He wants to turn what he experiences in his imagination into reality; it seems Belisa has made his fantasies boundless. Belisa appears in the garden to the sound of a serenade, eagerly awaiting the lover she’s never met face to face. He’s seen briefly in the distance in his red cape. Don Perlimplín comes out of hiding and speaks to her. Belisa confirms that she loves the unknown man. Her husband pulls out a dagger, threatening to kill his rival. He disappears into the bushes. Belisa’s terrified. Who then appears, in the red cape and mortally wounded, is none other than Don Perlimplín himself. He invented the young man and acted him out for his wife; his fantasy man dies with him, brutally reducing Belisa’s passionate feelings to absurdity. He paid with his own life. Marcolfa can’t help him now.

An old man and a young woman: a hackneyed excuse for a laugh, with a surprising twist!

Bookworm Don Perlimplín’s been living as a recluse for years with his dedicated housekeeper Marcofa, who urges the bachelor to take a wife in later life. His neighbour’s daughter, the lovely Belisa, seems an obvious choice. Her mother immediately gives her consent because the wealthy Don's a good catch. We don’t get to see what actually happens on the wedding night; two goblins draw a curtain, telling us: »Things you don’t hide, can’t be discovered later on!« The new husband apparently couldn't sate the young woman’s unquenchable longing for physical love. Didn’t she cheat on him that very night with five men? And who’s the mysterious admirer who keeps vanishing round the corner before Belisa can see his face?

The Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca created a poetic enigmatic mixture of farce, the surreal and deep tragedy for which Wolfgang Fortner composed twelve-tone music, which indulges in seductive sound colours leaving the grotesque and mysterious up in the air, tracing the sensual sides of Lorca’s poetry. Instruments like the vibraphone, celeste and harp, guitar and cembalo create an unconventional world. A chance to discover a very rarely performed work!