Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern (Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus) is a play by Helmina von Chézy, which is primarily remembered for the incidental music which Franz Schubert composed for it. Music and play premiered in Vienna's Theater an der Wien on 20 December 1823.
The text version of von Chézy's original play, in four acts, as premiered with Schubert's music, is lost. However, a later modified version of the play, in five acts, was discovered in the State Library of Württemberg, and was published in 1996. Fragmentary autograph sources relating to the first version of the play have been recovered too.
The story concerns the attempt of Rosamunde, who was brought up incognito as a shepherdess by the mariner's widow Axa, to reclaim her throne. The long-established governor Fulgentius (Fulvio in the revised version), who already has Rosamunde's parents on his conscience, attempts to thwart Rosamunde, initially by intrigue, then by a marriage proposal and finally by an attempt at poisoning. Rosamunde, whose claim is backed by a deed in her father's hand, enjoys the support of Cypriots and the Cretan Prince Alfonso, her intended husband. Finally, all the attempts of Fulgentius fail; he dies by his own poison, and Rosamunde ascends the throne.
Schubert's incidental music
Schubert's incidental music is scored for orchestra, and for some of the numbers diverse combinations of singers.
See also: Alfonso und Estrella § Overture
There are two overtures associated with Rosamunde:
- The overture used for the stage production was the overture Schubert had originally composed for Alfonso und Estrella, but Schubert thought it less suitable for that opera.
- The first publication that linked the overture of Die Zauberharfe (The Magic Harp) with the Rosamunde incidental music was a 1855 publication of the score parts of that overture, indicating it as overture to the drama Rosamunde. There is however no proof it was ever Schubert's intention to associate that overture with the rest of the Rosamunde music.
The ten numbers of the Rosamunde incidental music, D 797, are:
- Entr'acte No. 1, in B minor (Allegro molto moderato), which may have been originally intended as the finale to Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony.
- Ballet music No. 1, really two pieces in one. The first is a march in B minor (Allegro moderato) beginning with a modified version of the opening theme of the first entr'acte. Like the entr'acte, this ends in B major. A bridge passage leads to a lyrical piece in G major bearing the tempo marking of Andante un poco assai.
- a. Entr'acte No. 2 in D major (Andante), the outer sections of which have the same thematic material as those of No. 5, the "Chorus of Spirits." The central sections of both, though different, are in a similar mood.
- b. Romanze, "Der Vollmond Strahlt auf Bergeshöh'n" (The Full Moon Shines on the Mountain Height) (Andante con moto) in F minor and major for alto and orchestra.
- Geisterchor (Chorus of Spirits), "In der Tiefe wohnt das Licht" (In the Deep Dwells the Light) in D major (Adagio), accompanying the brewing of the poison.
- Entr'acte No. 3 in B♭ major (Andantino) is one of the two best-known pieces in the score. The main theme was used again in the Impromptu in B♭, Op. 142 (D 935), No. 3. Schubert used an almost identical theme in the second movement of his String Quartet in A minor, D 804.
- Hirtenmelodien (Shepherds' Melodies) in B♭ major (Andante), a sextet for clarinets, bassoons and horns.
- Hirtenchor (Shepherds' Chorus), "Hier auf den Fluren" (Here on the Fields) in B♭ major (Allegretto).
- Jägerchor (Hunters' Chorus), "Wie lebt sich's so fröhlich im Grünen" (How Merry Life is in the Country) in D major (Allegro moderato).
- Ballet No. 2 an Andantino in G major.
No. 3b was published in 1824 as Op. 26, in a version with piano accompaniment. Nos. 8, 4 and 7 were possibly first published in the same series. Other publications with one or more numbers followed. By 1867 all numbers except 3a and 6 had been published in one or more versions.
George Grove and Arthur Sullivan rediscovered the original manuscript parts of the music when they visited Vienna in 1867 specifically to research Schubert. Grove wrote: "I found, at the bottom of the cupboard, and in its farthest corner, a bundle of music-books two feet high, carefully tied round, and black with the undisturbed dust of nearly half-a-century. … These were the part-books of the whole of the music in Rosamunde, tied up after the second performance in December, 1823, and probably never disturbed since. Dr. Schneider [the curator] must have been amused at our excitement; but let us hope that he recollected his own days of rapture; at any rate, he kindly overlooked it, and gave us permission to take away with us and copy what we wanted."
It was not until Series XV, Volume 4 of the Breitkopf & Härtel Gesammtausgabe was published in 1891 that all the numbers of the incidental music were joined in one publication, with the full orchestration.
Excerpts from the Rosamunde music are frequently performed, and are some of Schubert's most performed pieces. They have been recorded several times, including versions conducted by Kurt Masur and Claudio Abbado.
The complete score, which lasts an hour, is seldom heard. In one rare performance, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, performed the full score at the Styriarte festival in Graz, Austria, in June 2004. The Arnold Schoenberg Choir sang the vocal parts with soloists Elisabeth von Magnus and Florian Boesch.
Other uses of the music
The Overture was used for a ballet sequence in the 1952 Samuel Goldwyn film Hans Christian Andersen, starring Danny Kaye. The ballet sequence was danced by Zizi Jeanmaire. A fragment of Entr'acte #2 was used in many episodes of Wings of the Red Star. Another excerpt was incorporated into the Christmas carol Mille cherubini in coro, a song made popular by Luciano Pavarotti in a 1980 TV Christmas programme. The piece is also played in Marvel's film The Avengers in the German opera house scene.