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Friedrich von Flotow 1812–1883

Romantic-comique opera in 4 acts
Libretto by Wilhelm Friedrich
First performed November 25 1847, Vienna

This production first seen October 16 2016
Sung in German with German & English surtitles

Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin

Lady Harriet, maid of honour to the Queen of England, is bored. Her assistant and confidante Nancy suggests she should fall in love. Lord Tristan Mickleford, who's officially courting her, is clearly not a very promising prospect. The sound of girls singing on their way to Richmond Market gives Harriet an idea: she'll mingle, incognito, with the people at the fair, Nancy and a reluctant Tristan must accompany her. Richmond Market's very lively. Plumkett and his stepbrother Lyonel, whose descent is unclear, are there too. A mysterious ring, which Lyonel inherited from his father, promises to rescue him if he should ever find himself in danger. According to an old tradition, the rules of which are announced by the judge, girls are committed to an employer once they've accepted an advance on their wages. Harriet, Nancy and „farmer Bob“, alias Tristan, appear in folkloristic attire. Plumkett and Lyonel are immediately attracted to the two women. After plucking up courage to speak to them, everything moves quickly: the two women accept the money, just for fun; but find themselves expected to work as servants for a year. Tristan can't do anything to help: the judge seals the deal. Act 2 All four are have arrived at the gentlemen's home – a somewhat provisional dwelling. The girls, calling themselves „Martha“ and „Julia“, are clearly unable to carry out any kind of household chore. When, at Lyonel's request, the Lady sings „The Last Rose of Summer“, he's lost: he immediately asks for her hand in marriage, which she turns down. Lyonel doesn't understand her mocking rejection. It's midnight, time for bed. Tristan helps the women escape through a window. Lyonel and Plumkett can't stop them. Act 3 In the countryside, a few weeks later: Plumkett praises the merits of porter's ale. Then he sees Nancy, who manages to get away from him with help from a group of loud girlfriends. Lyonel's bemoaning how much he suffers since his adored „Martha“ disappeared, when he suddenly sees her: taking part in a country outing for the nobility, she has briefly distanced herself from her friends. Lyonel professes his love for her again, but she disowns him. When Lord Tristan and the other aristocrats get nearer she declares that Lyonel, insisting she owes him an explanation, is mad. Lyonel is arrested. Deeply hurt, he gives his friend Plumkett his father's ring, in the hope that it really might save him. The Lady regrets her behaviour; she secretly loves Lyonel no less than he loves her. Act 4 The ring empowers the Queen to proclaim that Lyonel is the son of the Count of Derby, who was wrongfully banished and died incognito. Because of his henceforth aristocratic ancestry, nothing now stands in the way of a union between the Lady and Lyonel; she seeks him out and asks him to forgive her. But Lyonel can't forget how she insulted him, and refuses to take her hand. The Lady, now horribly aware of her snobbery, tries to think of a way to convince Lyonel of the sincerity of her feelings. Meanwhile, Nancy and Plumkett are hitting it off nicely. Lyonel is surprised to see the Lady, now as „Martha“ again, at a Richmond Market themed party. This time she gladly acknowledges him. So, they become a couple after all. Nancy and Plumkett complete the Happy Ending.

Martha Martha, you  just vanished

Lots of people used to know this song but this once popular work is rarely performed today, which is a shame because, especially in Katharina Thoma’s production, it’s very much alive and proves that opera can be fun – while taking the protagonists' feelings seriously. It's funny and romantic. The love story between Lady Harriet, lady-in-waiting to the Queen, and tenant farmer Lyonel plays out with wit and deep emotions. They meet when Harriet, on a whim, offers her services with her friend Nancy as maids at the market. Lyonel and his step-brother Plumkett take the supposed maids »Martha« and »Julia« back to their farm and ...