Wednesday, December 1, 2010
August von Kotzebue's play "Die Ruinen von Athen" premiered at the opening of a new royal theater in Pest (now Budapest) in Hungary. The plot is as follows:
"Die Ruinen von Athen (The Ruins of Athens) tells the story of Minerva, who, after sleeping for 2,000 years, awakens to find the Parthenon destroyed and Athens occupied by the Turks. Culture and reason have disappeared from what was the ancient Greek world, but these human qualities have been preserved in Pest by the enlightened Emperor Franz." (Allmusic)
The Emperor Franz happened to be the reigning emperor at the time, so you can see how appropriate this plot was to the occasion....
Beethoven wrote the music for "Ruins" as well as music for another play for the same occasion ("King Stephen") in 3 weeks while at the hot springs at Teplitz to cure some stomach pains. Altogether he wrote 17 pieces (!).
The Chorus of Dervishes scene is about how Pest has now been invaded by the Dervishes and the Greeks have become slaves. Despite the dark nature of the text, it's a pretty exciting and dramatic choral work - it would fit nicely with a chase scene in a vampire film perhaps.
Du hast in deines Ärmels Falten
Den Mond getragen, ihn gespalten.
Du hast den strahlenden Borak bestiegen
Zum siebenten Himmel aufzufliegen,
Großer Prophet! Kaaba!
In the folds of your sleeves
you have carried the moon and shattered it.
You mounted the radiant Borakand, flew up to seventh heaven,
great Prophet! Kaabah!
Here's a fascinating arrangement for violin and piano by Auer performed by Georges Enescu: