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Fennimore und Gerda (subtitled Two Episodes from the Life of Niels Lyhne in Eleven Pictures, RT I/8) is a German-language opera with four interludes, by the English composer Frederick Delius. It is usually performed and recorded in English, as Fennimore and Gerda in a translation by Philip Heseltine. The German libretto, by the composer himself, is based on the novel Niels Lyhne by the Danish writer Jens Peter Jacobsen. In neither German nor English is the libretto highly regarded; rather, the work is considered an "orchestral opera," limited in its dramatic appeal but voluptuous and engaging in its instrumental texture.
Delius began writing Fennimore und Gerda in 1908; he finished in 1910, but the premiere, intended for the Cologne Opera, was delayed by the First World War and did not take place until 21 October 1919, and then at the Opernhaus in Frankfurt. It was the composer's last opera. The United States premiere of the work was staged by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 1981 with Kathryn Bouleyn as Fennimore and Kathryn Gamberoni as Gerda.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 21 October 1919|
(Conductor: Gustav Brecher)
|Consul Claudi||bass||Walter Schneider|
|The Consul's wife||mezzo-soprano|
|Fennimore, their daughter||mezzo-soprano||Emma Holt|
|Niels Lyhne, Claudi's nephew||baritone||Robert von Scheidt|
|Erik Refstrup, Niels's cousin||tenor||Erik Wirl|
|A Tax Collector||baritone|
|A Brandy Distiller||baritone|
|Gerda, his daughter||soprano||Elisabeth Kandt|
|Ingrid, his daughter||soprano|
|Lila, his daughter||soprano|
|Marit, his daughter||soprano|
|Maidservants, girls and farmhands|
- Place: Denmark
- Time: Around 1860
Two cousins, the writer Niels Lyhne and the painter Erik Refstrup, are in love with the consul's daughter, Fennimore. She chooses Erik but the marriage begins to break down as a result of the artist's drinking and Fennimore embarks on an affair with Niels. Erik is killed in an accident and, overwhelmed with guilt, Fennimore breaks off the affair. The rejected Niels spends years travelling before he settles down and marries his neighbour's daughter, Gerda.
- Fennimore and Gerda – Elisabeth Söderström, Brian Rayner Cook, Robert Tear, Birger Brandt, Danish National Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Meredith Davies (HMV, 1976; reissued on EMI CD, 1997)
- Fennimore and Gerda – Randi Stene, Judith Howarth, Mark Tucker, Peter Coleman-Wright, Danish National Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Hickox (Chandos, 1999)
- Cited sources
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