Hedda Gabler - Chamber Opera Act III

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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 English translation from the Danish original by Edmund Gosse and William Archer)


19. Instrumental Prelude

Scene: The rooms at the TESMANS'. The curtains are drawn over the middle doorway, and also over the garden door. Lamp burning dimly. HEDDA, fully dressed, lies sleeping upon the sofa, with a sofa-blanket over her. MRS. ELVSTED, sits close to the stove, sunk back in the arm-chair. After a pause, she slowly sits up.

20. Duet: Mrs Elvsted, Berta

MRS. ELVSTED. Not yet… Oh God, not yet! [BERTA slips in by the hall door, carrying a letter.] –-Well–has any one come? BERTA. Yes, a girl has just brought this letter. MRS. ELVSTED. A letter! Give it to me! BERTA. No, it's for Dr. Tesman, ma'am. – I think I had better put out the lamp. It's smoking. MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, put it out. It must soon be daylight now. BERTA. [Extinguishing the lamp.] It is daylight already, ma'am. MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, broad day! And no one come back yet–-! [Berta goes softly out by the hall door.]

21. Duet: Hedda, Mrs Elvsted

HEDDA [Awakened by the door closing]. What's that–-? MRS. ELVSTED. It was only the servant. HEDDA. Oh, we're here! Yes, now I remember. What time is it, Thea? MRS. ELVSTED. It's past seven. HEDDA. When did Tesman come home? MRS. ELVSTED. He has not come. No one has come. HEDDA. Think of our watching and waiting here till four in the morning–- MRS. ELVSTED. And how I watched and waited for him! HEDDA. There there there! There's nothing to be so alarmed about. Why, of course it has been a very late affair at Judge Brack's–- And then, you see, Tesman hasn't cared to come home and wake us up in the middle of the night. MRS. ELVSTED. But in that case, where can he have gone? HEDDA. Of course he has gone to his Aunts' and slept there. MRS. ELVSTED. No, he can't be with them, for a letter has just come for him from Miss Tesman. HEDDA. Well then, he has remained at Judge Brack's. And as for Eilert Lövborg, he is sitting, with vine leaves in his hair, reading his manuscript. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, Hedda, you are just saying things you don't believe a bit. HEDDA. You really are a little blockhead, Thea, and how mortally tired you look. MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, I am mortally tired. HEDDA. Well then, you must do as I tell you. You must go into my room and lie down for a little while. MRS. ELVSTED. Well, but you husband is certain to come soon now; and then I want to know at once- HEDDA. Yes, rely on me. Just you go in and have a sleep in the meantime. MRS. ELVSTED. Thanks; then I'll try. [She goes off to the inner room and draws the curtains. After a pause, HEDDA opens the curtains of the garden door. GEORGE TESMAN enters from the hall; he steals on tiptoe towards the middle doorway and is about to slip through.]

22. Duet: Hedda, Tesman

HEDDA. Good morning. TESMAN. Hedda! Good heavens, are you up so early, eh? HEDDA. Yes, I am up very early this morning. Well, did you enjoy yourselves at Judge Brack's? TESMAN. Oh yes, for once in a way. Especially near the beginning of the evening; for then Eilert read me part of his book. Oh, Hedda, you can't conceive what a book that is going to be! I believe it is one of the most remarkable things that have ever been written. Fancy that! I must make a confession to you, Hedda. I felt jealous of Eilert for having had it in him to write such a book. Only think, Hedda. HEDDA. Yes, yes, I am thinking. TESMAN. And then how pitiful to think that he–with all his gifts–should be irreclaimable, after all. HEDDA. I suppose you mean that he has more courage than the rest? TESMAN. No, not at all–I mean that he is incapable of taking his pleasure in moderation. HEDDA. And what came of it all–in the end? TESMAN. Well, to tell the truth, I think it might best be described as an orgy, Hedda. HEDDA. Had he vine-leaves in his hair? TESMAN. Vine-leaves? No, I saw nothing of the sort. But he made a long, rambling speech in honour of the woman who had inspired him in his work. HEDDA. Did he name her? TESMAN. No, he didn't; but I can't help thinking he meant Mrs. Elvsted. You may be sure he did. HEDDA. Well–where did you part from him? TESMAN. On the way to town… But now comes the strange part of it, Hedda; or, I should rather say, the melancholy part of it. I declare I am almost ashamed–on Eilert's account–to tell you–- HEDDA. Oh, go on–-! TESMAN. Well, as we were getting near town, you see, I happened to drop a little behind the others … And then, as I hurried after them… Fancy, dear–I found this. [Takes a packet from his coat pocket and places it on the writing table.] HEDDA. Is that not the parcel he had with him yesterday? TESMAN. Yes, it is the whole of his precious, irreplaceable manuscript! And he had gone and lost it, and knew nothing about it. HEDDA. Indeed! And what have you been doing with yourself since? TESMAN. Well, I and some of the others went home with one of the party, a jolly fellow, and took our morning coffee with him. But now, when I have rested a little, I must take this back to Eilert. HEDDA. No–don't give it to him! Not in such a hurry, I mean. Let me read it first. TESMAN. No, my dearest Hedda, I mustn't, I really mustn't, for you can imagine what a state of despair he will be in when he wakens and misses the manuscript. He has no copy of it! He told me so. HEDDA. Can such a thing not be reproduced? Written over again? TESMAN. No, I don't think that would be possible. For the inspiration, you see–- HEDDA. Yes, yes–I suppose it depends on that–- [Changing her tone.] But, by-the-bye, here is a letter for you. TESMAN. It's from Aunt Julia! What can it be? Oh, Hedda–she says that poor Aunt Rina is dying! HEDDA. Well, we were prepared for that– TESMAN. –And that if I want to see her again, I must make haste. I'll run to them at once–- Oh, my dearest Hedda, if you could only make up your mind to come with me, just think–- HEDDA. No, no don't ask me. I will not look upon sickness and death. I loathe all sorts of ugliness. TESMAN. Well, well, then–-! My hat–-? My overcoat–-? Oh, in the hall–-. I do hope I mayn't come too late, Hedda, eh? HEDDA. Oh, if you run–- [BERTA appears at the hall door.]

23. Trio: Hedda, Berta, Tesman

BERTA. Judge Brack is at the door and wishes to know if he may come in. TESMAN. At this time, no, I can't possibly see him! HEDDA. But I can. Ask Judge Brack to come in –-the parcel, Tesman. TESMAN. Yes, give it to me! HEDDA. No, no, I will keep it till you come back. [TESMAN hastens out; HEDDA takes the parcel and places it in the writing table drawer; JUDGE BRACK enters from the hall.]

24. Duet: Hedda, Judge Brack

HEDDA. You seem to have made a particularly lively night of it at your rooms, Judge Brack. BRACK. As you may see. But what has Tesman been telling you of the night's adventures? HEDDA. Oh, some tiresome story. Only that they went and had coffee somewhere or other. BRACK. I have heard about that coffee-party already. Eilert Lövborg was not with them, I fancy. Do you know where he and one or two others finished up, Mrs. Hedda? HEDDA. If it is not quite unmentionable, tell me. BRACK. Well, you see, Mrs. Hedda, unhappily the spirit moved him last evening–- To make a long story short, he landed at last in Madam Diana's rooms. HEDDA. Is she a red-haired woman? BRACK. Precisely. HEDDA. A sort of singer? BRACK. Oh yes, in her leisure moments. And moreover, a mighty huntress of men. HEDDA. And, how did all this end? BRACK. Far from amicably, it appears. After a most tender meeting, they seem to have come to blows–- He accused her or her friends of having robbed him. –-His pocket-book had disappeared, and other things as well. It came to a general fracas. –Fortunately, the police at last arrived upon the scene. HEDDA. The police too? BRACK. Yes, I fear this will be an expensive frolic for Eilert Lövborg. They had to march him off to the police-station with the rest. HEDDA. Then he had no vine-leaves in his hair. BRACK. I thought that, as a friend of the family, it was my duty to supply you and Tesman with a full account of his exploits. HEDDA. Why so, Judge Brack? BRACK. Henceforth, as before, every respectable house will be closed against Eilert Lövborg. HEDDA. And so ought mine, you mean? BRACK. Yes, I confess it would be more than painful to me if this personage were to make free of your house. –It would simply mean that I should find myself homeless. HEDDA. So you want to be the ‘cock of the roost’ –that is your aim. BRACK. Yes, that is my aim. And for that I will fight with every weapon I can command. HEDDA. I see you are a dangerous person, when it comes to the point. BRACK. Do you think so? HEDDA. I am beginning to think so. And I am exceedingly glad that you have no sort of hold over me. BRACK. Well well, Mrs. Hedda–perhaps you are right there. If I had, who knows what I might be capable of. Well, now I have said all I had to say; and had better be getting back to town. Good-bye, Mrs. Hedda. [He goes out of the garden door, which HEDDA closes behind him.

25. Trio: Hedda, Mrs Elvsted, Lövborg

[HEDDA remains looking out pensively for a moment. BERTA is heard speaking loudly in the hall. EILERT LÖVBORG tears open the hall door. He looks confused and irritated.] LÖVBORG. –-And I tell you I must and will come in! There! HEDDA. Well, Mr Lövborg, this is rather a late hour to call for Thea. LÖVBORG. You mean rather an early hour to call on you. Pray pardon me. … [MRS. ELVSTED enters from the inner room.] MRS. ELVSTED. Ah, Lövborg! At last–-! LÖVBORG. Yes, at last. And too late! It is all over with me. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh no, no, don't say that! LÖVBORG. I want to say that now our ways must part. MRS. ELVSTED. Part! HEDDA. I knew it! LÖVBORG. You can be of no more service to me, Thea. MRS. ELVSTED. How can you stand there and say that! No more service to you! Am I not to help you, as before? Are we not to go on working together? LÖVBORG. Henceforth I shall do no more work. Thea–our book will never appear. HEDDA. Ah! MRS. ELVSTED. Never appear! LÖVBORG. Can never appear. MRS. ELVSTED. Lövborg–what have you done with the manuscript? HEDDA. Yes, the manuscript–-? LÖVBORG. The manuscript–-. Well then, I have torn the manuscript into a thousand pieces. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh no, no! Oh God, oh God, Hedda, torn his own work to pieces! LÖVBORG. I have torn my own life to pieces. So why should I not tear my lifework too? MRS. ELVSTED. And you did this last night? LÖVBORG. Yes, I tell you! Tore it into a thousand pieces–and scattered them on the fiord–far out. There there is cool sea-water at any rate. Let them drift upon it–drift with the current and the wind. And then presently they will sink–-deeper and deeper–as I shall, Thea. MRS. ELVSTED. Do you know, Lövborg, that what you have done with the book–I shall think of it to my dying day as though you had killed a little child. LÖVBORG. Yes, you are right. It is a sort of child-murder. MRS. ELVSTED. How could you, then! Did not the child belong to me too? HEDDA. Ah, the child–- MRS. ELVSTED. It is all over then. Well, well, now I will go, Hedda. I see nothing but darkness before me. [She goes out by the hall door.]

26. Duet: Hedda, Lövborg

HEDDA. So you are not going to see her home, Mr. Lövborg? LÖVBORG. I? Through the streets? Would you have people see her walking with me? It will not end with last night– And now I have no taste for that sort of life either. I won't begin it anew. She has broken my courage and my power of braving life out. HEDDA [Looking straight ahead]. So that pretty little fool has had her fingers in a man's destiny. [To LÖVBORG.] But, all the same, how could you treat her so heartlessly. LÖVBORG. Oh, don't say that I was heartless. HEDDA. To go and destroy what has filled her whole soul for months and years. You do not call that heartless? LÖVBORG. To you I can tell the truth, Hedda. HEDDA. The truth about the manuscript? LÖVBORG. Yes. I have not torn it to pieces; nor thrown it into the fiord. I have destroyed it nonetheless, utterly destroyed it, Hedda. HEDDA. I don't understand. LÖVBORG. Thea said that what I had done seemed to her like child-murder. Suppose now, Hedda, that a man came home to his child's mother after a night of debauchery, and said: ‘Listen–I have been here and there–in this place and in that. And I have taken our child with me to this place and to that. And I have lost the child, utterly lost it. The devil knows into what hands it may have fallen; who may have their clutches on it’. HEDDA. Well–but when all is said and done, you know this was only a book–- LÖVBORG. Thea's pure soul was in that book. For her and me together no future is possible. HEDDA. What path do you mean to take then? LÖVBORG. None. I will only try to make an end of it all–the sooner the better. HEDDA. Eilert Lövborg–listen to me. Will you not try to do it beautifully? LÖVBORG. Beautifully? With vine-leaves in my hair, as you used to dream in the old days? HEDDA. No, no. I have lost my faith in the vine-leaves. But beautifully nevertheless. For once in a way. Good-bye! You must go now–and do not come here any more. … No, wait! I must give you a memento to take with you. LÖVBORG. This? Is this the memento? HEDDA. Do you recognise it? It was aimed at you once. LÖVBORG. You should have used it then. HEDDA. Take it–and use it now. And beautifully, Eilert Lövborg. Promise me that. LÖVBORG. Good-bye, Hedda Gabler. [He goes out by the hall door. HEDDA listens for a moment. Then she goes up to the writing-table, takes out the packet of manuscript. Presently she opens the stove door.] HEDDA. Now I am burning your child, Thea! Burning it, curly-locks! Your child and Eilert Lövborg's! I am burning –I am burning your child!

[End of 3rd Act]

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