Monday, May 25th, 1891
One Hundredth Performance
As produced at the
Royal English Opera
by R. D’Oyly Carte
A Souvenir of “Ivanhoe”
A Souvenir of “Ivanhoe”
With Twenty-one Illustrations from Drawings
Herbert Railton, John Jellicoe, and others
Published for the Proprietor of the Royal English Opera
J. S. Virtue & Co., Limited, “Art Journal” office, Ivy Lane
Paternoster Row, London
|Ivanhoe: A Romantic Opera|
|Music by Arthur Sullivan||Words by Julian Sturgis|
|Produced at the Royal English Opera.|
|Sole Proprietor and Manager||R. D’Oyly Carte|
|Saturday, Jan. 31, 1891||Monday, Feb. 2, 1891||Wednesday, Feb. 4, 1891|
|Richard Coeur de Lion|
King of England
|Disguised as the
|Mr. Norman Salmond.||Mr. Franklin Clive.||Mr. Norman Salmond.|
|Prince John||Mr. Richard Green.||Mr. Richard Green.||Mr. Richard Green.|
|Sir Brian de|
|Commander of the Order
of Knights Templars
|Mr. Eugene Oudin.||Mr. Eugene Oudin.||Mr. François Noije.|
|Maurice de Bracy||Mr. Charles Kenningham.||Mr. Charles Kenningham.||Mr. Charles Kenningham.|
|Lucas de Beaumanoir||Grand Master of
|Mr. Adams Owen.||Mr. Adams Owen.||Mr. Adams Owen.|
|Cedric the Saxon||Thane of Rotherwood||Mr. Ffrangcon Davies.||Mr. Ffrangcon Davies.||Mr. W. H. Burgon.|
|Wilfred, Knight of|
|His son, disguised as
|Mr. Ben Davies.||Mr. Ben Davies.||Mr. J. O’Mara.|
|Friar Tuck||Mr. Avon Saxon.||Mr. Avon Saxon.||Mr. Avon Saxon.|
|Isaac of York||Mr.Charles Copland.||Mr.Charles Copland.||Mr.Charles Copland.|
|Locksley||Mr. W. H. Stephens.||Mr. W. H. Stephens.||Mr. W. H. Stephens.|
|The Squire||Mr. F. Bovill.||Mr. F. Bovill.||Mr. F. Bovill.|
|The Lady Rowena||Ward of Cedric||Miss Esther Palliser.||Miss Lucille Hill.||Miss Esther Palliser.|
|Ulrica||Miss Marie Groebl.||Miss Marie Groebl.||Miss Marie Groebl.|
|Rebecca||Daughter of Isaac of York||Miss Margaret Macintyre.||Miss Thudichum.||Miss Margaret Macintyre.|
The Royal English Opera
Saturday, January 31st, 1891, was a memorable day in the musical history of this country. That evening at eight o’clock, before an audience representing the flower of British intelligence and birth, a new grand opera by a British composer, set to a libretto founded on, and following closely, a story by the chief among British romancers, was produced at the Royal English Opera.
Sir Arthur Sullivan had long been the most distinguished and the most popular musician in these islands; for a decade of years, crowds had nightly carried the fame of his merry melodies from the Savoy Theatre to the four quarters of the land. Opera had followed opera, the last of the number had been no less delightful than its forerunners, till it seemed as if the fountain would prove inexhaustible, and that the Gilbert and Sullivan combination would go on for ever. It was no secret, however, that Sir Arthur did not rest quite content with his mastery of the lighter forms of music; indeed, by The Martyr of Antioch and The Golden Legend, he had proved that his genius was not unfriendly to more serious work. But a grand opera! Till this year each spring had but emphasised the old convention of grand opera—a star cast, some half-dozen performances, a taste of patronage, then the end of the season—and with it finis to the dreams of composer and impressario. Who will deny that such has been the experience of the handful of Englishmen who have essayed to match themselves against the Italian octopus.
Left to his own resources, it is probable that Sir Arthur would never had climbed this slope of Parnassus—strewn with so many anxieties—there to do battle. He had found his métier; both the man in the street and the specialist were at his feet, shekels were raining into his lap—why trouble to woo the other difficult goddess? But the fates were working in his favour—the hour and opportunity had arrived. The busy brain of Mr. D’Oyly Carte, who had done so much for light opera, was planning a conquest of its elder brother.
Not a day passes but the face of London changes. Houses are razed to the ground; roads are cut through human warrens straight as the crow flies; dingy purlieus are made fragrant with grass and trees. Chief among recent good works of this character are the splendid arteries that have made it possible for North London to visit South London, without assimilating the odours and the evils of the Dials—i.e. Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road. In these thoroughfares many theatres have risen, but the most splendid of them all is the Royal English Opera House, in Cambridge Circus, which Mr. D’Oyly Carte began some three years ago. Hardly were the foundations laid, when it was whispered that the doors would be opened for the first time to a grand opera by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Many seasons have come and gone since then, and to-day the production of the Sullivan Grand Opera, housed in the most luxurious and most complete theatre of any time, and staged equally royally, is a fait accompli. There are no pillars to worry the audience; the seats of the circles rise gradually to the middle, thus enabling the whilom unfortunates at either end to see as well as those in the centre; there are many feet less of space between the walls at the back of the pit and gallery than across the proscenium, thus making hearing a pleasure and not an effort.
The proscenium is of marble, with a height of thirty-four feet three inches, and a width of thirty-four feet; above, behind the curtain, there is a space of seventy feet, and below, a pit of thirty feet; thus enabling the scenery to be raised or lowered without trouble and stored in the same amount of room it occupies when before the audience.
The house, which is a model of delicate and harmonious colour in design and arrangement, is due to a trio working together, Mr. G. H. Holloway, Mr. T. E. Colcutt, and Mr. D’Oyly Carte, while many firms of reputation have produced the decorations, furniture, carving and other details.
Criticism of the music, or of the libretto, which Mr. Julian Sturgis has written, does not come within province of this souvenir. Neither do the merits of the artists call for any acknowledgement here; that has been done voluminously elsewhere; but an expression of indebtedness is due Mr. Maurice Greiffenhagen, who undertook the difficult task of illustrating this souvenir at a time of considerable pressure from other work, and to the proprietor of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, for permission to make reproductions from Messrs. Railton and Jellicoe’s drawings. For a like courtesy we are indebted to the proprietors of the Illustrated London New, the Pall Mall Budget, and the Pictorial World.
Act I.—Scene I.
The Hall of Cedric.—Evening
To “Ivanhoe” there is no overture—only twenty-nine bars of orchestral introduction; when the last notes are reached, the gorgeous yellow satin curtains that cloak the stage part asunder, and swiftly gather themselves out of sight. That moment you are the guest of Cedric the Saxon, the truculent Thane of Rotherwood. It is supper-time, and in the splendid simplicity of the hall of Cedric the retains are preparing supper—that jolly meal, the nightcap of the day’s labours. So varied, so crowded with ever-shifting figures, so lurid with flaring candles and blazing cressets is the scene, that at first the eye is too dazzled for due appreciation of details; but from the first glance, one knows that this is indeed that Saxon hall the great Sir Walter imagined in the third chapter of “Ivanhoe.”
Here, in very truth, is Cedric’s mansion, with rude roof of beams and rafters, grimed with smoke, and rough irregular walls, part plastered, and part hung with sombre tapestry. At one side is a huge open fire-place of burning logs, whose red reflections play about the rafters, glinting on shield and lance and striking into the far recesses of the hall, where the light of the moon steals timorously through a little oriel window. On the same side as the fire-place, but hidden from the spectator, stretches the door that leads to the courtyard, and on the other side of the hall another entrance, tapestry-hung, that points through tortuous ways to the private apartments. Athwart the scene stands the table of honour, distinguished by high-backed chairs for the Master and Lady of Rotherwood. This table is draped with scarlet cloth, and is higher than the others of rough unhewn planks, that jut forth from either end of it. Yet another table runs down the length of the right wall. Piled high in a corner are bows, shields and spears, and other implements of war and the chase, while grizzly old hounds, tired with labour, yawn before the roaring fire. Retainers glide through the doors with haunches of venison, rounds of beef, huge dishes and pasties held high above their heads. As the eye grows accustomed to this kaleidoscope of colour and movement, one becomes aware that Cedric the blue-eyed, the yellow-haired, has swung to the front, and is singing of the unhappy state to which England has fallen. King Richard is a wanderer in an alien land, and his Norman knights—thieves, and robbers—spoil this fair England. Then the sturdy Thane recalls him of his son Ivanhoe, mourning the lad’s absence, although he himself has banished him, disinherited him for daring to raise his eyes to the Lady Rowena. As the old man sings—
“Alone am I; I have no son,”
a loud knocking is heard at the gate.
While the summons is being answered, the men fall to at the table, trolling at the same time a rollicking supper song that culminates in a fine outburst to the words “Was hael!”
The new-comer is only a Jew—Isaac of York, bent grizzly, fawning, piteous—who craves a shelter for the night. It is in a niggardly manner granted to him, and hardly has he slunk into a corner, when again a knocking, “something louder than before,” rings through the hall. This time a squire boldly struts down the floor and cries that Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Knight of the Holy Order of the Temple, and the most valiant Lord Maurice de Bracy, who are journeying to the tournament to be held at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, crave lodging for the night.
Much as he hates these Norman knights, the laws of hospitality are plain. So Cedric chants acquiescence.
Then the trumpets blare, servants bring in more mountains of food and more flagons of wine, in the midst of which, to an advance guard of retainers with flaring cressets and men valiant in mail and arms, the famous knights stalk into the Saxon’s house. Humble, among this brave throng, enters also a Palmer, with rude cross towering above him, his features hidden by his hood. Unnoticed, he seats himself in the lee of the heavy-browed fire-place.
The knights sit at the table, and the gay De Bracy, without invitation, sings the charms of the Saxon rose, Lady Rowena, whose presence, he proclaims, is the one thing lacking. To him answers Brian, dark, sinister of aspect, furrowed with battle, and most picturesque in his white robe, with the symbol of his order blood-red on his breast, chain armour, and flowing scarlet cloak. He will hear of no woman but one maid who has crossed his path, Jewess born, with soft almond eyes like those of the Syrian girls. Hearing which, Isaac shivers, and from his sequestered place prays Jehovah to guard the daughters of Judah from the Temple.
Suddenly the great doors are thrown wide, and the Lady Rowena enters. All rise, and she takes her place at the high table, drawing her veil across her face before the bold eyes of the too demonstrative Templar. He pleads for forgiveness, but the extravagant words in which his contrition is couched only draw a request for less florid compliments from Rowena’s lips.
Fuming at this incident, such talk being little to his liking, Cedric starts to his feet and bursts forth into a drinking song:—
“Drink, drink, ye all,
In this our ancient hall”—
a spirited air, to a tumultuous accompaniment from the strings. Male voices take up the strain of
“Glory to those who fight for the true Cross,”
while the band surges into notice.
In the midst of the enthusiasm the Palmer steals forwards from his corner by the huge fire-place, the sombre dress and hood that cloak him looming the one dark spot in the brilliant ensemble. Unnoticed is the ominous figure, for the light-hearted De Bracy has caught the strain, and all listen while he chants of the ineffable honour in store for the happy soldiers whose privilege it is to fight shoulder to shoulder in this sacred cause:—
“Glory to those who battle for the Cross,
And most to those, the bravest and the best,
Wonder of land and sea, of east and west,
Knights of the Holy Order of the Temple.”
And, as De Bracy sings, the object which, from Grand Master down to humblest Crusader, inspires their zeal—a cause that can make old hearts young again and weak arms strong—so enthrals the Palmer that, forgetting his lowly part in this paean of joy, he strides to the front and ecstatically raises his rude cross till it towers high above the gorgeous pageant. The retainers now lift their voices in praise of those who battle for the Cross, for whom there is glory whether they fight or whether they fall. Their defiant “Drink hale! Was hael!” is hardly ended, when the maiden Rowena, mindful of her English birth, and still more mindful of Ivanhoe, her fair-haired lover, asks from her seat at the high table if there were no /English knights, “no children of our happy woods and hills,” whose brave deeds could compare with the deeds of the Knights of the Temple.
To her replies, with a courtesy that sits well on his swarthy, evilly handsome face, Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert. Says this splendid villain, “Yes, Lady, many a gallant knight throve with King Richard—knights most worthy of minstrelsy and love—most gallant knights, and second only to our Temple Knights.”
At this a voice rings out—high and clear, waking echoes in the old rafters, the defiant words “Second to none.” A deep silence falls. Then there is a movement and a murmur of excitement and the retainers shout, “The Palmer! The holy Palmer! Hear him! hear him!”
Cedric compels his thralls to silence, and Ivanhoe sings bravely of good King Richard’s men who made obeisance to none. Moreover, he tells how one day after the taking of St. Jean d’Acre the King and six picked knights held tourney against all comers; how the Templars, and among them Brian de Bois-Guilbert (at which revelation fury seizes the evil knight and his hand feels for his sword), were vanquished by the six Englishmen.
“Good Palmer, their names, their names!” cries Cedric.
Of five, the hooded Palmer speaks, then he pauses.
“The last I cannot call to mind,”
he sings sadly,
“Perchance he was of meaner fame—
Some nameless knight whom happy chance
Made one of that high company.”
A nameless knight, indeed! Sir Brian is furious at the thought. Every face is turned to the Palmer, and Cedric but echoes the question rioting in every mind, when he shouts “His name? His name?” Swiftly and savagely Sir Brian replies:—“Wilfred of Ivanhoe.” At the familiar name, there rises a murmur of hoarse voices, a scuffling of warlike feet and the harsh clash of steel.
Then follows Sir Brian’s challenge to his conqueror; the Palmer’s acceptance of the challenge on behalf of Wilfred of Ivanhoe, and his prayer that God may defend the right. It is a striking picture, the Templar, drawn to his full height, his scarlet cloak flying about his shoulders, hurling defiance at the banished son of Cedric, and shouting that if he meet him not in combat, coward and traitor is he to the name of Knight.
To this taunt delivered by Brian, standing with firm, folded arms, there is at first no response, till Rowena, in a beautiful passage lamenting that there is nobody to say a word for Ivanhoe, takes the duty and pledges herself to his bravery. “And if he come again,” she sings to the Templar, who has turned towards her, “and if he come again he will abide thy challenge in the lists.” With that, her right hand held high above her upturned head, she passionately invokes God to defend the right.
Such a champion of a Saxon in a Saxon home rouses Cedric’s men to enthusiasm. “Rowena! Rowena! All hail to our Lady Rowena!” they shout, almost in the same breath the rafters ring to cries for “Wilfred! Wilfred! Our lord of Ivanhoe!”
Whatever joy Cedric may feel in the triumph of his disinherited son, his rugged face reveals nothing. He bids his men to silence, and turning from the dangerous subject, calls to the Normans to drink deeper. But they are in poor mood for further frivolity, and De Bracy vows he’ll drink no more. It is bed-time. “Then fare ye well! Good rest be yours!” sings Cedric, and the Lady Rowena, rising, bids them all a kind good night.
The curtains at the back are parted, and Normans and Saxons stand, as Cedric’s ward sweeps from the hall. Guests and retainers mingle in the room; the tables are cleared; all are astir preparing for rest, except the Palmer, who sits solitary before the fire, and De Bracy and Brian, who put their heads together and hatch a plot to seize Rowena on her way home from the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The proposal is De Bracy’s, who has little difficulty in obtaining the assistance of Brian and his dusky knaves. Then the knights depart, the stage grows darker and darker, till blackness like a pall falls about Cedric’s hall, and the men who sing the lullaby are voices and little more.
Act I.—Scene II.
An Ante-room in Cedric’s House.
The custom, which till recently had almost become a dramatic convention, of dropping the curtain between each scene does not obtain at the Royal English Opera. Before the audience have had time to grow weary of the darkness which developed, naturally, from the pianissimoto which the music had sunk at the close of the last act, the lights of the orchestra pick themselves from the gloom. A few seconds later, and an ante-room in Cedric’s house is revealed. The story is but a few moments older. It is an apartment somewhat high in the Castle, with a huge, semicircular window set in the massive stone wall, through which is seen the quiet sky dipping down to pasture. From another window the white moonlight streams across the stage. Rowena’s maidens enter with lamps, and are followed by the lady herself, prettily pale. She raises her face and her hand to the window through which the beams steal, and to the accompaniment chiefly of muted strings and the harp, sings:—
“O moon, art thou clad in silver mail
Like armour of my true knight?
O moon, is my lover’s face so pale
As thy wan light?
Shine fair on my lover’s tent, that is white by the whiter foam,
And woo him away from the South to the woods of his island home.”
When the last notes of this beautiful air have died away, Ivanhoe is brought into the presence of Rowena. The maidens retire and the Palmer kneels at her feet, but he is bidden to rise, and then follows a duet containing some exquisite passages. Rowena, timid, gracious, longs to know if her knight is much changed, to which the Palmer sings response that he is burnt by the Syrian suns, and worn by war—and also, that he bears some sorrow at the heart. “Thou knowest best his chance of happiness,” he says.
A couple of exquisite phrases follow: “God keep him safe and bring the wanderer home,” Rowena sings, to which the Palmer murmurs, “Amen to that sweet prayer.”
The ward of Cedric sends a message to the knight she loves, and after giving voice to her conviction that she knows her knight will return, Rowena bids him farewell, and retires wholly unconscious, as in the romance, of the Palmer’s identity. But not so Ivanhoe.
She drops a flower as she departs, and he, pressing it to his lips, bursts into a rapturous song,
“Like mountain lark my spirit upward springs,”
to a rushing accompaniment of the violins. Having thus relieved his passion he sinks to earth again—to Isaac. Softly he opens the door of the Jew’s chamber, calls him from his couch to tell him that if he would avoid being seized and robbed by the Templar on the morrow they must away at once together. The grateful, fawning Jew promises the knight in Palmer’s frock a horse and armour in return for his good offices, and together they steal away, as the curtain falls, “on to the lists as Ashby.”
Act I.—Scene III.
The Lists at Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
The music now takes a jubilant turn in keeping with the splendid spectacle of the lists at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. This is a brave scene, with its part-coloured tents stretching away to the distant grass-crowned hills; its poles festooned with laurel bearing the shields of the various champions; its men in armour; its archers; its Royal dais with throne for the Prince and for the lady chosen the Queen of Beauty. Towering above the crowd of holiday makers is the burly, stalwart figure of the Friar, and hard by that King of Archers and boldest of yeomen—Locksley. The crowd are singing the praises of the challengers who have vanquished all comers, when lo! The Black Knight appears—King Richard in disguise. They greet him with:
“Hail to the Black Knight!
Hail to the great unknown!
Hail to the sable warrior!”
and the Friar taunts the lithe dark figure with the epithet, Sir Sluggard, to which the King replies, “What bullfrog croaks to loud?” A most humorous duet follows, wherein the Friar gets somewhat the better, after which the trumpets blare, the crowd press forward, and Prince John appears, followed by De Bracy with a bevy of gay companions, and Rowena, the Queen of Beauty, escorted by maidens in dainty dresses of green and pink. As the brilliant procession advances the crowd join in the Plantagenetsta chorus, which falls into a sweet melody,
“Fair and lovely is the May.”
That ended, we have the first sight of Rebecca, following Isaac, pushing his way through the crowd.
“Hail, King of Brokers,” sings the Prince, who at the same time perceives Rebecca. The impressionable John is smitten. Out of pure devilry he cries to the Saxons to make room among them for the King of the Brokers and his child. De Bracy, shrewd enough for all his merry heart, urges the folly of offending so influential a Saxon as Cedric, whereat John, appreciating his courteous wisdom, hedges with the words,
“The Rose of Sharon, she shall choose the place
Where she may bloom most fair;”
to which Rebecca, bowing humbly to the ground, replies,
“Most gracious Prince,
Nearest the earth best fits our hapless race.”
Just then John’s attention is drawn from these frivolities by the appearance of a messenger with the news that his brother, the Lion-Hearted, has broken loose. With an effort he puts his fears aside and orders the sport to begin.
The challenge is sounded, then again, and at the second defiance, the silence is broken by a faint response, and Ivanhoe, on horseback in complete steel, with vizard down, bearing on his shield the motto, “Il Desdichado,” “the Disinherited,” rides down the lists. He lowers his lance to the Prince, and then, oh brave youth, challenges the Templar himself by tilting against his shield.
Brian rushes from his tent, which is guarded by swarthy Easterns, springs on his horse, while the people surge forward to watch the combat. We hear the tramp of horses, the clash of steel, and the excited shouts of the onlookers, in ecstasy at the sport.
“By heaven,” cries the Friar, “the Templar’s down!” and in another minute the two knights, one with a white, the other with a red robe over his armour, rush into view fighting on foot. The Prince stops the combat, and the nameless knight is proclaimed conqueror.
A procession of maidens bearing the victor’s crown advances to the Queen of Beauty, and the nameless knight is ordered to lift his helmet. He protests; but the heralds, under the Prince’s commands, do so for him. Then the disclosure. Amazement seizes all.
“My son! My son!”
sings the astonished Cedric, while the crowd, overjoyed at the denouement, shout:
“Wilfred! Ivanhoe! Hail!
Saxon cheer for Saxon knight,
Hero of the gallant fight!
Joy to the Saxon stout and good,
Joy to the House of Rotherwood,
Saxon arm for strongest blow,
Hail, Lord of Ivanhoe!
Wilfred of Ivanhoe!
Dazed by the clamour, the happy knight stares about him like one in a dream. Then the wound that he has received in the combat conquers him; he reels, gasps, faints, falls prone to the ground, and so ends the tourney.
Act II.—Scene I.
Outside the Friar’s Hut in the Forest.
Peace has descended. We now see nothing more warlike than a glade in the forest, with the rough hut that houses the burly Friar. King Richard, still disguised, has discovered the holy man’s retreat, and the scene that follows is conceived in the truest comedy. The Friar, to keep up his character, will have nothing of the pasty and the wine which he places before his guest; but after awhile the old Adam waxes strong within him, and from greedily watching the King eating and drinking at the table, which they have dragged forth and placed on the green sward, he joins in, falling to with an easy heartiness that shows he is no stranger to good things. They decide to postpone the fight, which is the raison d’être of the King’s visit to the Friar’s woodland home, and, instead, to contend in the peaceful art of minstrelsy. Forthwith the King breaks out into the delightful ballad, the refrain of which we hear again and again through the opera—
“I ask nor wealth nor courtier’s praise,
That woos a weary king,
If I may ride the woodland ways,
And breath the airs of spring.”
which is followed by the Friar’s jovial and irresistible,
“The wind a roaring song may sing
In crashing wood or frightened town;
It whirls the mantle of a king
As ’twere a beggar’s gown;
But caring not a jot,
We sing and drain the pot,
With our ‘Ho, jolly Jenkin!
I spy a knave in drinkin’,’
And pour the good drink adown.”
As he sings the head of an outlaw appears over the crest of the hill, followed by a body, and another, and another, and another, till the whole band of merry men, keeping time with heads and feet to the irresistible refrain, foregather in the glade, and much to the holy man’s amazement join in the chorus to his rollicking song:
“So ho, Jolly Jenkin!
I spy a knave in drinkin’;
Then trowl the brown bowl to me.”
A bout of old English fun follows, the King and the Friar seeing which can give the other the soundest buffet, and just as the Friar is rolling on the ground from the King’s blow, Locksley appears with the dire news that Cedric, Rowena, and Ivanhoe, too, have been captured by the Normans and lie perdu in the dark walls of Torquilstone. It is now no time for fun. The season of singing is past. The Friar casts away his habit, and he, the King and the merry men, straighten themselves, and to the belligerent sound of bugles hurry off to Torquilstone.
Act II.—Scene II.
A Passage Way in Torquilstone.
It is a mournful passing form the pleasant woods and the outlaws in the gloomy passage way in Torquilstone, with its uninviting outlook on the castle courtyard and portcullis gate. The scene is ominous of the tragic event at hand. Here are the proud Cedric and the dainty Rowena in the power of De Bracy, who treats the matter as a good joke, willingly unmasking himself when dared to do so by the indignant Saxon. Deaf is he to the old man’s threats, and deaf also to the prayers of Rowena, whose devout lover he proclaims himself, and whom, with the sanction of Prince John, he declares he will have for his bride. Cedric taunts and threatens, till De Bracy, to quiet him, plays his trump card. He explains how, by the fortune of war, Ivanhoe is at that moment within the castle walls, as also are the Jew and Jewess. The identity of the wounded knight is known alone to him.
“And if I breath the name of Ivanhoe,
Short were his shrift. So, good my friend, be patient,
And, if the lady fair will smile on me,
Then will I save thy son,”
Cedric will not buy his son’s life by a foul bargain, and Rowena, kneeling at De Bracy’s feet, entreats him to be deaf to his own worse thoughts,
“And save this wounded knight of Ivanhoe.”
Then the captives are led away under escort as Brian enters.
Here the Templar, whose music throughout is of a most strenuous, emotional character, has a royal chance. With the stage to himself, for the little scared page who stands by is soon motioned off, he sings the passionate,
“Woo thou thy snowflake till she melt for thee,”
and with this splendid song the scene ends.
Act II.—Scene III.
A Turret Chamber in Torquilstone.
We are still at Torquilstone, but high up in a turret chamber. As the curtain rises, the Jewess is seen reclining distraught on a couch, ’neath the lee of the parapet, her hair all loose about her neck, her head supported by her hand. As she lies there, with grief, midway between sleeping and waking, the voice of Ulrica, the white, withered crone, rises in a legendary song. It is a weird screed, but effectless on Rebecca, who, when it is over, only turns wearily and prays of the old hag to let her know her fate. “Evil and dark thy fate shall be!” retorts the crazed beldame. She croaks at some length of her own sufferings, her own indignities, and asks what hope there can be for Rebecca, when she herself, who was once proud and fair, has fallen to such degradation. Rebecca learns that there is no escape save through the easy gates of death, and then, with a muttering that her task is done, her thread spun, Ulrica totters viciously away, pointing, as she goes, to a rude image of the Virgin, and crying that not even the presence of the Mother of God can avert the doom.
The horror of loneliness falls on Rebecca. She tries the door, it is locked; she springs to the parapet, the depth is death. After a passionate and most touching cry,
“For the wings
Of which the Psalmist sang, that I might fly,
And hide me from all eyes,”
her young voice surges forth into the solemn and majestic prayer,
“Lord of our chosen race
In hour of deep distress
And utter loneliness,
I lift weak hands and pray Thee of Thy grace;
Guard me, Jehovah, guard me.”
The prayer is hardly ended, when Brian, like another Tarquin, enters, holding his mantle, which has been changed from red to black, before his face. Rebecca offers all her jewels for freedom, and promises thousands more when she shall be quit of the castle walls. But it is not spoil the Templar wants. “Not for all the wealth of all thy tribe will I resign thy beauty!” he cries. The duet that follows—when Rebecca defies him, when she springs on the parapet, choosing death before dishonour; when the Templar in admiration of her imperious spirit, swears he will not wrong her, but dropping to entreaty, cajoles her with the splendid vision of himself, the head of the Order, and she the Empress of the East—sweeps majestically onward. Rebecca spurns his offer, crying:
“Rather would I go forth to mourn my life
With Jephthah’s daughter on the lonely hills,
Than sit with thee on thy imperial throne.”
At that moment a loud bugle call from without warns the Templar that there are things more important than the wooing of a pretty Jewess.
Hastily he departs, and so this, the chiefest number of the opera, rushes to an end with Rebecca’s final defiance of her oppressor, through the might of God, by whom her weakness is made strong.
Act III.—Scene I.
A Room in Torquilstone.
A chamber dimly lighted by a single window, unfurnished save for a couch on which Ivanhoe lies, slowly recovering from his wound. At the head of the couch stands his shield, and as the curtain rises he breaks forth into a charming slumber song, “Happy with wingèd feet,” the principal tenor air of the opera. Still weak from his wound he invokes sleep that will let him see his lady’s face, his eyes closing even as he sings.
Rebecca, clothed all in white, enters with Ulrica, who stays just long enough to tell the Jewess to tend the knight she loves, and to offer her the ominous warning to look for her bridal torches. Rebecca confesses her love for the wounded man, and sings of it till he awakes. Hardly has he recognised her when the tramp of men and other beginnings of combat are heard outside, and Rebecca, holding Ivanhoe’s shield before her for protection, goes to the window, thence elaborately describing to him the progress of the fight. The shouts of the warriors, the clatter of arms, the cries of the wounded, grow louder and louder; the red reflection of fire glows through the window, while Ivan hoe moans his fate that with such a fight at his very door he must be prone and useless like a palsied monk. The murmur of the combat increases, the invaders storm the outworks, and Rebecca, agonised by the sight, lets fall the shield and hurries from the window with her hands before her eyes. A passionate duet is interrupted by hoarse shouts from many throats, and in the midst of the din Rebecca shouts that the castle is burning. Hardly has she spoken when the door flies open, Brian rushes in and easily mastering Ivanhoe, triumphantly seizes Rebecca and drags her away, adamant to her cry—
“In mercy save him!
The events that follow are surprising indeed. The castle-walls tumble about Ivanhoe’s ears, bricks are hurled in all directions, and through the breach the invaders rush in with shouts of triumph, while at the same time the flames shoot up, and Torquilstone is a blazing ruin. In the van of the invaders the Black Knight is seen hurling blows right and left. Ivanhoe falls at his feet with a cry of
“The king! The king!
Long live the king!”
The outlaws stand aghast at learning the identity of their leader. As they uncover, a piercing shout is heard, and high above their heads, on the summit of the tower, Ulrica is seen waving a lighted torch (see frontispiece) She sings an ecstatic song of triumph, and then leaps down into the flames, and on that lurid spectacle the curtain falls.
Act III.—Scene II.
In the Forest.
Once more we are with the merry outlaws. They trip gaily over the green to a graceful measure, to the chorus of “Our bows are made of English yew.”
To them the King enters, lute in hand, none the worse for the part he took in the capture of Torquilstone, and after our late experience of blood and fire, it is delightful to hear this merry monarch tell us once again that he would be an outlaw bold and strike the flying deer. He affectionately bids Ivanhoe sit by his side and “while the time away with dainty lute and jocund roundelay.” The outlaws fling themselves down on the greensward, and king and subject sing prettily to one another. Presently a prisoner, De Bracy, is brought in, prepared to meet death with a jest on his lips. The King pronounces his doom, which, to the knight’s astonishment, is nothing more dreadful than to get to horse, strike spur and ride away. De Bracy is off in a trice, and the story is further advanced by a quartette, wherein Cedric becomes reconciled to his son, and also consents to the lad’s marriage with Rowena. The departure of the King, with the “outlaw bold” motifon his lips, affords opportunity for a lovely duet between Rowena and Ivanhoe,
“How oft beneath the far-off Syrian skies.”
But this pleasant, pastoral love-making is not destined to last long. To the happy pair enters Isaac, pale and travel-stained, followed by a troop of curious children, with the news that his daughter has been doomed by the Order of the Templars to death, for casting a spell of witchcraft over Brian de Bois-Guilbert. The death is by fire, and for the girl there is no hope, unless a champion shall arise to do battle for her. “Thou wilt come—I pray thee, at thy feet,” cries Isaac, piteously, and Ivanhoe in spite of his weakness at once consents. Rowena, seeing her duty clearly, looses him from her arms; but as her lover rushes away, followed by Isaac, she falls fainting to the ground.
Act III.—Scene III.
The Preceptory of the Templars.
The last solemn scene of the opera rises before us. Gradually the frowning towers of the Preceptory of Templestow, clear beneath the lurid sunset sky, dawn from the gloom, and to the solemn strains of a hymn, “Fremuere principes,” the procession of Templars, in full canonicals, marches majestically from the castle-doors to an enclosure, in the centre of which a stake stands horridly forth from a nest of faggots.
“Fremuere principes” sing the Templars, winding down, their red-crossed banner borne aloft. Midway in the procession Brian, armed, but without his helmet, moodily stalks, his dark face the seat of a world of savage protest, and behind him follows Rebecca, with the executioners bearing the brazier of fire. She stands helplessly in front of the stake, Brian, with folded arms and averted head, hard by her.
The Grand Master urges her to confess, for no champion has appeared, and with the end of the day must come her doom. Rebecca asserts her innocence; then the trumpets sound, but no champion appears.
Brian, awaking from his lethargy, calls his companions fools and dotards, crying that the burning must not be, that the Jewess is innocent. Then he advances to her, and in a low, exquisite passage of supplication, whispers that, even now, if she will but swear to be his, he can save her, that his horse is nigh at hand, his horse that never failed him yet, who will bear them to life and love. He pleads for one word.
Rebecca answers only with the prayer:
“Guard me, Jehovah, guard me!”
Therewith, Brian covers his face, the executioners bind her to the stake, the firing of the pile is imminent, when suddenly there is a wild exultant cry, and Ivanhoe, pale, dusty, is seen, with drawn sword, forcing himself through the crowd, his approach being heralded by the motif that we have learnt to associate with his appearance.
Furiously the two knights fight before the rapt gaze of the Templars and the people. Richard, in kingly array, Cedric, Rowena, and Isaac appear on the scene, and also stand gazing. Ivanhoe is being worsted. He is beaten to his knees. Brian raises his heavy sword for a last blow. The people shudder. And then, once more it is shown that victory is not always to the strong. In the moment of success, Brian feels a horrid pain at his heart. He reels, staggers, and falls dead, while the awe-struck crowd murmur “A judgement! A judgement!”
Rebecca is unbound; she moves timidly towards Ivanhoe, but he has eyes for nobody but Rowena, and so Rebecca, with whom are all our sympathies, is left unsatisfied. For so the great Sir Walter ordered it.
But little remains. King Richard orders the Master of the Templars and his traitorous knights to be up and gone from England, to which the knights reply vaingloriously:
“The Temple stands above the wrath of kings;
We will appeal to Rome.”
The King scorns their threat, again bids them begone, and points to the Preceptory tower, where the banner of England now floats high above the prostrate Temple pennants.
The Knights, worsted but still defiant, shout—
“Wide as the world our Temple stands,
To mock the pride of kings.”
Rebecca’s fresh young voice soars in—
“Our Temple was not made with hands;”
and, finally, all join in a final burst of triumphant song:
“O love, that hold’st the world in fee,
And strongest knights in thrall,
Our joyous hymns we raise to thee,
And hail thee lord of all.”
Printed by J. S. Virtueu and Co., Limited, City Road, London
Transcribed from an original in the New York Public Library by
John W. Kennedy, November 19, 2000
Illustrations scanned and added, July 2, 2003