Hedda Gabler - Chamber Opera Act IV

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Hedda Gabler - Chamber Opera Act IV


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Year of composition
Marc Stauch
Difficult (Grades 7+)
25 minutes
Modern classical music
License details
For anything not permitted by the above licence then you should contact the publisher first to obtain permission.

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)


27. Instrumental Prelude

Scene. The same rooms at the TESMANS'. It is evening. HEDDA, dressed in black, walks to and fro. AUNT JULIA, in mourning, comes in from the hall.

28. Duet: Hedda, Aunt Julia

AUNT JULIA. Yes, Hedda, here I am, in mourning and forlorn; for now my poor sister has at last found peace. HEDDA. I have heard the news already, as you see. Tesman sent me a card. AUNT JULIA. Yes, he promised me he would. But nevertheless, I thought that to Hedda, here in the house of life, I ought myself to bring the tidings of death. HEDDA. That was very kind of you. She died quite peacefully, did she not, Miss Tesman? AUNT JULIA. Oh, her end was so calm, so beautiful. And then she had the unspeakable happiness of seeing George once more–and bidding him good-bye. Has he not come home yet? HEDDA. No. He wrote that he might be detained. But won't you sit down? AUNT JULIA. No thank you, my dear, dear Hedda. I should like to, but I have so much to do. I must prepare my dear one for her rest as well as I can. She shall go to her grave looking her best. HEDDA. Can I not help you in any way? AUNT JULIA. Oh, you must not think of it! Hedda Tesman must have no hand in such mournful work. Nor let her thoughts dwell on it either; not at this time. HEDDA. One is not always master of one's thoughts–- AUNT JULIA. Ah yes, it is the way of the world. At home we shall be sewing a shroud; and here there will soon be sewing too, I suppose –but of another sort, thank God! [GEORGE TESMAN enters by the hall door.]

29. Trio: Hedda, Aunt Julia, Tesman

HEDDA. Ah, you have come at last! TESMAN. You here, Aunt Julia? With Hedda? Fancy that! AUNT JULIA. I was just going, my dear boy. Well, have you done all you promised? TESMAN. No; I'm really afraid I have forgotten half of it. To-day my brain is all in a whirl. AUNT JULIA. Why, my dear George, you mustn't take it in this way. Even in your sorrow, you must rejoice as I do; rejoice that she is at rest. Well well, I dare say you two want to talk to each other. And perhaps Hedda may have something to tell you too, George. Goodbye. I must go home to Rina. [AUNT JULIA goes out by the hall door.]

30. Duet: Hedda, Tesman

HEDDA. I almost believe your Aunt Rina's death affects you more than it does your Aunt Julia. TESMAN. Oh, it's not that alone. It's Eilert I am so terribly uneasy about. HEDDA. Is there anything new about him? TESMAN. I looked in at his rooms this afternoon, intending to tell him the manuscript was in safe keeping. He wasn't at home. But afterwards I met Mrs. Elvsted, and she told me that he had been here early this morning. HEDDA. Yes, directly after you had gone. TESMAN. And he said that he had torn his manuscript to pieces, eh? … Why, he must have been completely out of his mind! – Let me have the manuscript, Hedda! I will take it to him at once. Where is it? HEDDA. I have not got it. TESMAN. Have not got it? What in the world do you mean? HEDDA. I have burnt it, every line of it. TESMAN. Burnt! Burnt Eilert's manuscript! HEDDA. Don't scream so. The servant might hear you. TESMAN. But how could you do anything so unheard-of? What put it into your head? What possessed you? HEDDA. I did it for your sake, George. TESMAN. For my sake? HEDDA. This morning, when you told me about what he had read to you; you acknowledged that you envied him his work. I could not bear the idea that any one should throw you into the shade. TESMAN. Hedda! Oh, is this true? But—but, I never knew you show your love like that before. Fancy that! HEDDA. Well, I may as well tell you that–just at this time. No, no; you can ask Aunt Julia. She will tell you, fast enough. TESMAN. Oh, I almost think I understand you, Hedda. Great heavens! do you really mean it, eh? HEDDA. Don't shout so. The servant might hear. TESMAN. The servant! Why, how absurd you are, Hedda. It's only my old Berta! Why, I'll tell Berta myself. HEDDA. Oh, it is killing me, –it is killing me, all this! TESMAN. What is, Hedda, eh? HEDDA. All this–absurdity–George. TESMAN. Absurdity! Do you see anything absurd in my being overjoyed at the news! And yet the manuscript! Good God! it is terrible to think what will become of poor Eilert now! [MRS. ELVSTED enters by the hall door.]

31. Trio: Hedda, Mrs Elvsted, Tesman

MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, dear Hedda, forgive my coming again. HEDDA. What is the matter with you, Thea? TESMAN. Something about Eilert Lövborg again, eh? MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, I am dreadfully afraid some misfortune has happened to him. I heard them talking of him at my boarding-house. Oh, the most incredible rumours are afloat about him to-day. TESMAN. We must hope that you misunderstood them, Mrs. Elvsted. MRS. ELVSTED. No, no; I am sure it was of him they were talking. And I heard something about the hospital–- TESMAN. The hospital? HEDDA. No–surely that cannot be! [JUDGE BRACK, with his hat in his hand, enters by the hall door, which BERTA opens, and closes behind him. He looks grave and bows in silence.]

32. Quartet: Hedda, Mrs Elvsted, Tesman, Judge Brack

TESMAN. Oh, is that you, my dear Judge, eh? BRACK. Yes. It was imperative I should see you this evening. TESMAN. I can see you have heard the news about Aunt Rina? BRACK. Yes, that among other things. TESMAN. Isn't it sad, eh? BRACK. Well, my dear Tesman, that depends on how you look at it. TESMAN. Has anything else happened? BRACK. Yes. HEDDA. Anything sad, Judge Brack? BRACK. That, too, depends on how you look at it, Mrs. Tesman. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, it is something about Eilert Lövborg! BRACK. What makes you think that, Madam? Perhaps you have heard something–-? MRS. ELVSTED. No, nothing at all, but–- TESMAN. Oh, for heaven's sake, tell us! BRACK. Well, I regret to say Eilert Lövborg has been taken to the hospital. He is lying at the point of death. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh God, oh God! TESMAN. To the hospital, and at the point of death! HEDDA. So soon then–- MRS. ELVSTED. I must go to him. I must see him alive. BRACK. It is useless, Madam. No one will be admitted. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, at least tell me what has happened to him. –-What is it? TESMAN. You don't mean to say that he has himself–- eh? HEDDA. Yes, I am sure he has. BRACK. Unfortunately, you have guessed quite correctly, Mrs. Tesman. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, how horrible! TESMAN. Himself, then! Fancy that! HEDDA. Shot himself! BRACK. Rightly guessed again, Mrs. Tesman. He had shot himself in the breast. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, how terrible that he should die like that. HEDDA. Was it in the breast? BRACK. Yes, as I told you. HEDDA. Not in the temple? BRACK. In the breast, Mrs. Tesman. HEDDA. Well, well–the breast is a good place, too. BRACK. How do you mean, Mrs. Tesman? HEDDA. Oh, nothing–nothing. TESMAN. But tell me, how have you learnt all this? BRACK. Through one of the police. A man I had some business with. HEDDA. At last a deed worth doing! TESMAN. Good heavens, Hedda! what are you saying? HEDDA. I say there is beauty in this. MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, Hedda, how can you talk of beauty in such an act! HEDDA. Eilert Lövborg has himself made up his account with life. He has had the courage to do the one right thing! MRS. ELVSTED. No, you must never think that was how it happened! It must have been in delirium that he did it. Just as when he tore up our manuscript! BRACK. The manuscript? Has he torn that up? MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, last night! TESMAN. [Softly to HEDDA] Oh, Hedda, we shall never get over this. [To all] To think of Eilert going out of the world in this way. And not leaving behind him the book that would have immortalised his name! MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, if only it could be put together again! TESMAN. Yes, if only it could! MRS. ELVSTED. Perhaps it can, Mr. Tesman. [Pulling some papers from her dress.] Look here. I have kept all the loose notes he used to dictate from. … But they are all mixed up. TESMAN. Fancy, if we could make something out of them, after all–- We must! I will dedicate my life to this task. –-Hedda–you understand, eh? I owe this to Eilert's memory. HEDDA. Perhaps. TESMAN. And so, my dear Mrs. Elvsted, we will give our whole minds to it. MRS. ELVSTED. Yes, yes, Mr. Tesman, I will do the best I can. TESMAN. Well then. –-Excuse me, my dear Judge. Come with me, Mrs. Elvsted. [TESMAN and MRS. ELVSTED go into the inner room. They sit at the table and examine the papers.]

33. Duet: Hedda, Judge Brack

HEDDA. Oh, what a sense of freedom it gives one, this act of Eilert Lövborg's. BRACK. Freedom, Mrs. Hedda? Well, of course, it is a release for him–- HEDDA. I mean for me. It gives me a sense of freedom to know that a deed of deliberate courage is still possible in this world, –a deed of spontaneous beauty. Ah! that he should have the will and the strength to turn away from the banquet of life, so early. BRACK. I am sorry, Mrs. Hedda, but I fear I must dispel an amiable illusion. HEDDA. Illusion? BRACK. Eilert Lövborg did not shoot himself–voluntarily. HEDDA. Not voluntarily? Have you concealed something? What is it? BRACK. For poor Mrs. Elvsted's sake, I idealised the facts a little. HEDDA. What are the facts? BRACK. First, that he is already dead. HEDDA. What more have you concealed? BRACK. Eilert Lövborg was found shot in Madam Diana's boudoir. HEDDA. That is impossible, Judge Brack! He cannot have been there again to-day. BRACK. He was there this afternoon. He went there, he said, to demand the return of something which they had taken from him. Talked wildly about a lost child–- I thought probably he meant his manuscript; but now I hear he destroyed that himself. So I suppose it must have been his pocketbook. HEDDA. Yes, no doubt. And there he was found? BRACK. Yes, there. With a pistol in his breast-pocket, discharged. The ball had lodged in a vital part. HEDDA. In the breast–yes? BRACK. No–in the bowels. HEDDA. That too! Oh, what curse is it that makes everything I touch turn ludicrous and mean? BRACK. There is one point more, Mrs. Hedda–another disagreeable feature in the affair. HEDDA. And what is that? BRACK. The pistol he carried–- HEDDA. Well, what of it? BRACK. He must have stolen it. –-Hush! [TESMAN and MRS. ELVSTED re-enter the drawing room with their papers.]

34. Trio: Hedda, Mrs Elvsted, Tesman

TESMAN. Hedda, dear, it is almost impossible to see under that lamp. Think of that! HEDDA. Yes, I am thinking. TESMAN. Would you mind our sitting at your writing-table, eh? HEDDA. If you like. No, wait! Let me clear it first! I will take these things and put them on the piano. [She removes a small case covered with music papers] There! Well, my sweet Thea, how goes it with Eilert Lövborg's monument? MRS. ELVSTED. Oh, it will be terribly hard to put in order. TESMAN. We must manage it. I am determined. And arranging other people's papers is just the work for me. [HEDDA moves away again and speaks just to BRACK.]

35. Duet: Hedda, Judge Brack

HEDDA. What did you say about the pistol? BRACK That he must have stolen it. HEDDA. Why stolen it? BRACK. Because every other explanation ought to be impossible, Mrs. Hedda. Of course, Eilert Lövborg was here this morning. Was he not? HEDDA. Yes. BRACK. And where was your pistol-case during that time? HEDDA. The case stood there on the writing-table. BRACK. Have you looked since, to see whether both the pistols are there? HEDDA. No. BRACK. Well, you need not. I saw the pistol found in Lövborg's pocket, and knew it at once as the one I had seen yesterday–and before that, too. HEDDA. Have you it with you? BRACK. No; the police have it. HEDDA. What will the police do with it? BRACK. Search till they find the owner. HEDDA. Do you think they will succeed? BRACK. No, Hedda Gabler–not so long as I say nothing. HEDDA. And if you do not say nothing– what then? BRACK. There is always the possibility that the pistol was stolen. HEDDA. And supposing the pistol was not stolen, and the owner is discovered? What then? BRACK. Well, Hedda–then comes the scandal! HEDDA. The scandal! BRACK. Yes, the scandal of which you are so mortally afraid. You will, of course, be brought before the court–both you and Madam Diana. She will have to explain how the thing happened; whether it was an accidental shot or murder. You will have to answer the question: why did you give Eilert the pistol? HEDDA. That is true. I did not think of that. BRACK. Well, fortunately, there is no danger, so long as I say nothing. HEDDA. So I am in your power, Judge Brack. You have me at your beck and call, from this time forward. BRACK. Dearest Hedda, believe me, I shall not abuse my advantage. HEDDA. I am in your power nonetheless. Subject to your will and your demands. A slave, a slave then! No, I cannot endure the thought of that! Never! [She re-crosses to the others, suppressing a slight smile as she imitates TESMAN.]

36. Quartet: Hedda, Mrs Elvsted, Tesman, Judge Brack

HEDDA. Well? Are you getting on, George, eh? TESMAN. Heaven knows, dear. In any case it will be the work of months. HEDDA. Fancy that! Doesn't it seem strange to you, Thea? Here you are sitting with Tesman, just as you used to sit with Eilert Lövborg? MRS. ELVSTED. Ah, if I could only inspire your husband the same way! HEDDA. Oh, that will come too–in time. Is there nothing I can do to help you two? TESMAN. No, nothing in the world. I trust to you to keep Hedda company, my dear Brack. BRACK. With the very greatest of pleasure. HEDDA. Thanks. But I am tired this evening. I will go in and lie down a little on the sofa. [HEDDA goes into the inner room (taking the case covered with music papers) and partly draws the curtains. After a short pause, suddenly a wild dance on the piano is heard.] MRS. ELVSTED. [Starts from her chair] Oh, what is that! TESMAN. Why, my dearest Hedda, don't play dance-music to-night! Just think of Aunt Rina, and of Eilert too! HEDDA. [Through the gap in the curtains] And of Aunt Julia. And all the rest of them! After this, I will be quiet. TESMAN. It's not good for her to see us at this distressing work. I'll tell you what, Mrs. Elvsted, you shall take the empty room at Aunt Julia's, and then I will come over in the evenings, and we can sit and work there, eh? HEDDA. I hear what you are saying, Tesman. But how am I to get through the evenings out here? TESMAN. Oh, I daresay Judge Brack will be so kind as to look in now and then, even though I am out. BRACK. Every blessed evening, with all the pleasure in life, Mrs. Tesman! We shall get on capitally together, we two! HEDDA. Yes, don't you flatter yourself we will, Judge Brack? Now that you are the cock of the roost! [A shot is heard] TESMAN. Oh, now she is playing with those pistols again. [Rushes into the inner room, followed by MRS ELVSTED, finds HEDDA lifeless on the sofa, and shrieks to BRACK in drawing room.] Shot herself! Shot herself in the temple! Fancy that! BRACK [Half-fainting in the armchair]. Good God! –people don't do such things! [Lights out immediately on final chord]


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