Hedda Gabler - Chamber Opera Act I

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Year of composition
Marc Stauch
Difficult (Grades 7+)
25 minutes
Modern classical music
License details
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HEDDA GABLER. Chamber Opera by Marc Stauch (b. 1967) in Four Acts

Libretto – adapted by the Composer from the Henrik Ibsen Play (in the translation by Edmund Gosse and William Archer)


GEORGE TESMAN. (Tenor) HEDDA TESMAN, his wife. (Soprano) AUNT JULIA (MISS JULIANA TESMAN), his aunt. (Contralto) [takes part of Berta too] MRS. ELVSTED. (Soprano) JUDGE BRACK. (Baritone) EILERT LÖVBORG. (Tenor) BERTA, servant at the Tesmans. (Contralto) [Doubled by Aunt Julia soloist]


Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Piano, Violin, Violoncello


1. Instrumental Prelude

Scene: A spacious, tastefully decorated drawing room, whose furnishings include a writing-table, sofa, armchair, and stove; at the back, a wide doorway with curtains drawn back, leading into a smaller room decorated in the same style, with an upright piano, sofa and table. In the right-hand wall of the front room, a door leading out to the hall. In the wall on the left, a glass door, also with curtains drawn back, through which autumn foliage can be glimpsed. TESMAN stands in the doorway between the rooms.

2. Duet: Aunt Julia, Tesman

[AUNT JULIA enters from the hall door.] AUNT JULIA. Good morning, good morning, George. TESMAN. Aunt Julia! Dear Aunt Julia! Come all this way so early! Eh? AUNT JULIA. Why, of course I had to come and see how you were getting on. What a delight it is to have you again, George! My poor brother's own boy! TESMAN. And it's a delight for me, too, to see you again, Aunt Julia! You, who have been father and mother in one to me. AUNT JULIA. Oh yes, I know you will always keep a place in your heart for your old aunts. TESMAN. And what about Aunt Rina? No improvement, eh? AUNT JULIA. Oh, no–we can scarcely look for any improvement in her case, poor thing. There she lies, helpless, as she has lain for all these years. [Changing her tone.] And to think that here are you a married man, George! And that you should be the one to carry off Hedda Gabler, the beautiful Hedda Gabler! TESMAN. [Contentedly hums a little] Yes, I fancy I have several good friends who would like to stand in my shoes, eh? [AUNT JULIA. And then this fine long wedding-tour you have had! – nearly six months. – But listen now, George; have you nothing –nothing special to tell me? Haven't you any–any– expectations? TESMAN. Why, of course I have expectations. I have every expectation of being a professor one of these days. - But my dear Auntie, you know all about that already! AUNT JULIA. Yes, of course I do. You are quite right there. And the people who opposed you –who wanted to bar the way for you– They have fallen, George. Your most dangerous rival–his fall was the worst. TESMAN. Have you heard anything of Eilert? Since I went away, I mean. AUNT JULIA. Only that he is said to have published a new book. … Heaven knows whether it can be worth anything! Ah, when your new book appears–that will be another story, George! What is it to be about? TESMAN. It will deal with the domestic industries of Brabant during the Middle Ages. AUNT JULIA. Fancy–to be able to write on such a subject as that! TESMAN. I am looking forward eagerly to setting to work at it; especially now I have my own delightful home to work in. AUNT JULIA. And, most of all, now that you have got the wife of your heart, my dear George. TESMAN. Oh yes, yes, Aunt Julia! Hedda–she is the best part of it all! I believe I hear her coming–eh? [HEDDA enters from the left through the inner room.]

3. Trio: Hedda, Aunt Julia, Tesman

AUNT JULIA. Good morning, my dear Hedda, and a hearty welcome. HEDDA. Good morning, dear Miss Tesman. So early a call! That is kind of you. AUNT JULIA. Well–has the bride slept well in her new home? HEDDA. Oh yes, thanks. Passably. Of course, one has always to accustom one's self to new surroundings, Miss Tesman, little by little. But, won't you sit down, Miss Tesman? AUNT JULIA. No, thank you. Now that I have seen that everything is all right here – thank heaven! – I must be getting home again. My sister is lying longing for me, poor thing. TESMAN. Give her my very best love, Auntie; and say I shall look in later in the day. But Auntie, take a good look at Hedda before you go! See how handsome she is! How she has filled out on the journey? HEDDA. Oh, do be quiet! I am exactly as I was before I started. TESMAN. So you insist; but I'm quite certain you are not. Don't you agree with me, Auntie? AUNT JULIA. Hedda is lovely – lovely – lovely. God bless and preserve Hedda Tesman –for George's sake. HEDDA. Oh–! Let me go. AUNT JULIA. I shall not let a day pass without coming to see you. Good-bye, good-bye! [She goes out by the hall door. TESMAN accompanies her; presently, TESMAN returns and closes the door behind him.]

4. Duet: Hedda, Tesman

TESMAN. What are you looking at, Hedda? HEDDA. I am only looking at the leaves. They are so yellow–so withered. TESMAN. Well, you see, we are well into September now. HEDDA. Yes, to think of it! –already in September. - These flowers were not here last night when we arrived. – A visiting-card. "Shall return later in the day." Can you guess whose card it is? TESMAN. No. Whose? Eh? HEDDA. The name is "Mrs. Elvsted." TESMAN. Is it really? Sheriff Elvsted's wife? Miss Rysing that was. HEDDA. Exactly. The girl with the irritating hair, that she was always showing off. It's odd that she should call on us. I have scarcely seen her since we left school. –Tell me, Tesman, isn't it somewhere near her that he –that Eilert Lövborg is living? TESMAN. Yes, he is somewhere in that part of the country. [BERTA enters by the hall door.]

5. Duet: Hedda, Berta

BERTA. That lady, ma'am, that brought some flowers a little while ago, is here again. … HEDDA. Ah, is she? Well, please show her in. [BERTA opens the door for MRS. ELVSTED, and goes out herself.]

6. Trio: Hedda, Mrs Elvsted, Tesman

HEDDA. How do you do, my dear Mrs. Elvsted? It's delightful to see you again. MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, it's a very long time since we met. TESMAN. And we too, eh? HEDDA. Thanks for your lovely flowers. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, not at all. I would have come straight here yesterday afternoon. Oh, I was quite in despair when I heard that you were not at home. HEDDA. In despair! How so? I hope that you are not in any trouble? MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, I am. And I don't know another living creature I can turn to. TESMAN. Well? What is it, Mrs. Elvsted? HEDDA. Has anything particular happened to you at home? MRS. ELVSTED. Yes –and no. –Well then, I must tell you –if you don't already know– that Eilert Lövborg is in town, too. HEDDA. Lövborg! But, my dear Mrs. Elvsted, how does he concern you so much? MRS. ELVSTED. He was the children's tutor. HEDDA. Your children's? MRS. ELVSTED. My husband's. I have none. TESMAN. Then was he –I don't know how to express it –was he regular enough in his habits to be fit for the post, eh? MRS. ELVSTED. For the last two years his conduct has been irreproachable. Perfectly irreproachable. But all the same–now that I know he is here in this great town, and with a large sum of money in his hands, I can't help being in mortal fear for him. — And now I beg and implore you, Mr. Tesman, receive Eilert Lövborg kindly if he comes to you. You see you were such great friends in the old days. TESMAN. I assure you I shall do all I possibly can for Eilert. HEDDA. You ought to write to him, Tesman. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, if you only would. TESMAN. Yes, I will. MRS. ELVSTED. But please, please don't say a word to show that I have suggested it. TESMAN. No, how could you think I would, eh? [He goes out to the right, through the inner room.]

7. Duet: Hedda, Mrs Elvsted

HEDDA. Well? Now tell me something about your life at home. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, that is just what I care least to speak about. HEDDA. But to me, dear. Why, weren't we schoolfellows? MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, but you were in the class above me. Oh, how dreadfully afraid of you I was then! HEDDA. Afraid of me? MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, dreadfully. For when we met on the stairs you used always to pull my hair. HEDDA. Did I, really? MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, and once you said you would burn it off my head. HEDDA. Oh, that was all nonsense, of course. MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, but I was so silly in those days. And since then, we have drifted so far, far apart from each other. HEDDA. Well then, we must try to drift together again. You must call me Hedda. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, how good and kind you are. I am not used to such kindness. HEDDA. There, there, there. And I shall call you my dear Thora. MRS. ELVSTED. My name is Thea. HEDDA. Why, of course, I meant Thea. So you are not accustomed to goodness and kindness, Thea? Not in your own home? MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, if I only had a home! But I haven't any; I have never had a home. HEDDA. I almost suspected as much… MRS. ELVSTED. No, I may just as well make a clean breast of it at once. My husband did not know that I was coming. Oh, I could bear it no longer, so utterly alone as I should have been. So I put together some of my things and then I left the house. HEDDA. Without a word? Why, my dear, good Thea, think of you daring to do it! But what do you think people will say of you, Thea? MRS. ELVSTED. They may say what they like. I only know this, that I must live here, where Eilert Lövborg is, if I am to live at all. HEDDA. My dear Thea, how did this –this friendship– between you and Eilert Lövborg come about? MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, it grew up gradually. I gained a sort of influence over him. He gave up his old habits. Not because I asked him to. But, of course he saw how repulsive they were to me; and so he dropped them. HEDDA. Then you have reclaimed him, as the saying goes, my little Thea. MRS. ELVSTED. So he says himself, at any rate. And he, on his side, has made a real human being of me–taught me to think, and to understand so many things. And then came the lovely, happy time when I began to share in his work–when he allowed me to help him! Oh, I ought to feel perfectly happy; and yet I cannot; for I don't know how long it will last. HEDDA. Are you no surer of him than that? MRS. ELVSTED. A woman's shadow stands between Eilert Lövborg and me. HEDDA. Who can that be? MRS. ELVSTED. I don't know. Some one he knew in his past. He said that when they parted, she threatened to shoot him with a pistol. HEDDA. Oh nonsense! No one does that sort of thing around here. MRS. ELVSTED. No. And that is why I think it must have been that red-haired singing-woman whom he once–- HEDDA. Yes, very likely. MRS. ELVSTED. [Wringing her hands.] And now just fancy, Hedda, I hear she is in town again! Oh, I don't know what to do–- HEDDA. Hush, here comes Tesman. [GEORGE TESMAN, with the letter, comes from the right through the inner room.]

8. Trio: Hedda, Berta, Tesman

TESMAN. There now–the epistle is finished. HEDDA. That's right. And now Mrs. Elvsted is just going. [BERTA enters from the hall.] BERTA. Judge Brack wishes to know if Mrs. Tesman will receive him. HEDDA. Yes, ask Judge Brack to come in. [BERTA opens the door for JUDGE BRACK and goes out herself.]

9. Trio: Hedda, Tesman, Judge Brack

JUDGE BRACK. May one venture to call so early in the day? HEDDA. Of course one may. TESMAN. You are welcome at any time. But what do you think of Hedda, eh? Doesn't she look flourishing? She has actually–- HEDDA. Oh, do leave me alone. … But here stands Thea all impatience to be off –so ‘au revoir’ Judge. I shall be back again presently. [She leaves with MRS ELVSTED through the hall door.] BRACK. There is something I wanted to speak to you about, my dear Tesman. TESMAN. Well? BRACK. Your old friend, Eilert Lövborg, has returned to town. TESMAN. I know that already. And fancy, I'm delighted to hear that he is quite a reformed character. BRACK. So they say. TESMAN. And then he has published a new book, eh? But I cannot imagine what he will take to now. How in the world will he be able to make a living, eh? HEDDA [who has re-entered through the hall door]. Tesman is for ever worrying about how people are to make their living. TESMAN. Well you see, dear–we were talking about poor Eilert Lövborg. I really can't see what is to become of him. BRACK. Perhaps I can give you some information on that point. TESMAN. Indeed! BRACK. You must remember that his relations have a good deal of influence, and then this book he has published–- TESMAN. Well well, I hope to goodness they may find something for him to do. I have just written to him. I asked him to come and see us this evening, dear. BRACK. But my dear fellow! You are booked for my bachelor's party this evening. HEDDA. Had you forgotten, Tesman? TESMAN. Yes, I had utterly forgotten. BRACK. My dear Tesman, and you too, Mrs. Tesman, I think I ought not to keep you in the dark about something that, that–- TESMAN. That concerns Eilert? BRACK. Both you and him. You must be prepared to find your appointment deferred. The nomination may depend on the result of a competition–- TESMAN. Competition! Think of that, Hedda! But who can my competitor be? Surely not–-? BRACK. Yes, precisely–Eilert Lövborg. … In any case, Mrs. Tesman, it is best you should know how matters stand. HEDDA. This can make no difference. BRACK. Indeed! Then I have no more to say. Good-bye! [To TESMAN.] I shall look in on my way back from my afternoon walk, and take you home with me. [JUDGE BRACK goes out by the hall door.]

10. Duet: Hedda, Tesman

TESMAN. Oh Hedda–one should never rush into adventures, eh? HEDDA. Do you do that? TESMAN. Yes, dear–there is no denying it was adventurous to go and marry and set up house upon mere expectations. HEDDA. It was part of our compact that we were to go into society –to keep open house. TESMAN. Yes, if you only knew how I had been looking forward to it! Fancy– to see you as hostess–in a select circle, eh? Well, well, for the present we shall have to get on without society, Hedda. Only to invite Aunt Julia from time to time. Oh, I intended you to lead such a different life, dear! HEDDA. Well, I shall have one thing at least to kill time with in the meanwhile. TESMAN. Oh thank heaven for that! What is it, Hedda. Eh? HEDDA. My pistols, George. TESMAN. Your pistols! HEDDA. [Exiting towards inner room] General Gabler's pistols. TESMAN. [Rushes up to the middle doorway and calls after her:] No, for heaven's sake, Hedda darling–don't touch those dangerous things, for my sake, Hedda! Eh?

–- End of Act I –-

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